A small but vocal number of consumers in Northern California
and Maine claim that smart meters present a health risk due
to their radio frequency (RF) emissions.
It’s important to respect the views of people who are
concerned with the health effects of new technologies.
However, in this case, decades of scientific evidence
indicates that the type of RF emissions from smart meters
are highly unlikely to affect human health.
RF health effects have been studied extensively for many
decades, since US federal agencies are legally required to
do so under the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act.
Beyond the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) — whose
job it is to set RF safety guidelines — many other
organizations including the the World Health Organization
and the National Research Council have studied RF health
What to make of the evidence?…
The National Consumer Advocacy Commission advises: “There is
a cacophony of information on RFs… Learn to employ critical
thinking to everything you read and hear on the subject.”
Here are two facts that I find compelling.
First, RF health risks appear to be insignificant, or at
least not reproducible. The thousands of studies conducted
over decades have found either that RF emissions do not
cause a significant risk to human health, or (in cases where
a health effect was seen) the effect could not be reproduced
by other doctors and scientists attempting to repeat the
In 1996, a prestigious 16-member committee the National
Research Council (an affiliate of the National Academy of
Sciences) announced the results of a Congressionally
commissioned major study of low-frequency emissions in
residential areas. In Possible Health Effects of Exposure to
Residential Electric and Magnetic Fields (a 384-page 1997
book), NRC summarized its analysis of approximately 500
previous studies of low-frequency emissions health effects
conducted over 17 years. NRC concluded that exposure to
residential emissions does not cause cancer or otherwise
threaten human health.
Second (and more to the point of this post): across the US,
there are over 50 million wireless electric, gas, and water
meters in operation today — many dating back to 1990 when
large-scale installations first began. Among all those
existing installations, there has been not a single
documented case of harm to any person’s health.
Most recently (in November), Maine’s Center for Disease
Control published the results of its own analysis of recent
research on possible smart meter health effects. The
conclusion: “Our review of these agency assessments and
studies do not indicate any consistent or convincing
evidence to support a concern for health effects related to
the use of radio frequency in the range of frequencies and
power used by smart meters.”
The FCC provides an excellent primer on radio frequency
safety, answering common questions such as, “What biological
effects can be caused by RF energy?
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