Are Smart Meters Bad For Your Health? Part 3

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Are Smart Meters Bad For Your Health? Part 3

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“And Stan Hartman, an engineer in Colorado with a different, but similar smart meter installed by Xcel, measured his meter and said it rapidly transmitted four or five signals in a short period, and then sat idle for fifteen minutes. “”There’s a lot that’s not known about them, because it’s hard to get information about them,”” Hartman said. “”But I do know there are some really high spikes that go through the walls, I do know that.””

Stephen Scott measured a SmartMeter in the basement of a downtown Oakland apartment that pulsed erratically, several times a minute.

Why the discrepancy? Brian Seal, senior project manager for the Electric Power Research Institute, a nonprofit, science and technology research organization that has studied automatic meters, said a SmartMeter firing more frequently than the PG&E estimate of once every four hours is likely acting as a relay, or a go-between. It transmits data from houses whose SmartMeters cannot reach all the way to the “”access point”” where the information is gathered before it’s sent back to PG&E. The smart grid is set up so that if, for some reason, one SmartMeter cannot transmit data all the way to the end goal, it can pass the information off to another SmartMeter. Any well-positioned SmartMeter can pass along the information of up to 1,000 homes, if necessary. But a single SmartMeter carrying too large a load would be a flaw in the smart grid design, Seal said, and too many “”bottleneck”” meters would indicate the mesh isn’t functioning in proper mesh fashion.

PG&E’s Moreno says he does not know why independent electromagnetic-fields consultants are measuring pulses at greater far frequency than once every four hours. Moreno also insists that that SmartMeters pose less of a threat than practically any other appliance in your house. The Electric Power Research Institute seconds that assertion. Senior Technical Executive Rob Kavet said a typical SmartMeter transmits data only 1 percent of the day, at an average power of 1/100th of a watt, and falls way below FCC standards. Furthermore, following the inverse square law, radiation strength rapidly drops off. So positioning your body a foot away from the source dramatically reduces your exposure.

However, it gets a bit more complicated than that.

FCC safety standards are calculated through a complex formula, but are based entirely on thermal affects — meaning: How high can radiation go before body tissue literally starts cooking? (Think of a small man in a microwave. How long will it take for that man to heat up?). So take that number, reduce it by a lot, and the FCC says you’re safe.

But Sage, co-editor of the BioInitiative Report, a self-published study co-authored by fourteen scientists, researchers, and health policy professionals, has been insisting for years that studies have shown electromagnetic fields damage DNA at levels well below the FCC limit — possibly 6,000 times below the limit. Such studies have prompted medical professionals like UC Berkeley School of Public Health director Joel Moskowitz to suggest FCC standards might be woefully inadequate.

The standards also are time-averaged, which means the peak pulse is considered over a thirty-minute period. So if a SmartMeter pulses for a fraction of a second, and that pulse is averaged over all the time the meter is not pulsing, the average will be far lower than the peak. Sage says this calculation gives an inaccurate “”safety”” reading. Sage likens SmartMeters to radio-frequency nail guns. “”It’s an enormous, short pulse,”” she said. “”It goes right through walls and it only stops when it hits something juicy. You become a walking antenna.””

Though the utility company in Santa Barbara where Sage lives is Southern California Edison — not PG&E — she says SmartMeters are pretty much the same across the country. And Edison’s SmartMeters carry a peak power density of 229,000 microwatts per centimeters squared at 8 inches away, according to data provided to Sage by the utility that she shared with the Express. By comparison, a cellphone usually emits a power density of around 250 to 300 microwatts per cm squared when pressed to your head.

So in the fraction of a second that the SmartMeter is transmitting data, it’s almost 1,000 times more powerful than a cellphone, though a cellphone emits a lower radio frequency over an extended period. Sage said that because of the intensity of the pulses, it’s crucial to accurately count how often the meters are firing.

But tracking pulses is difficult because complicated time-averaging calculations inaccurately suggest peak pulses are far less frequent than they really are. Morgan says he calculated the peak power density to be 288,184 times larger than the average power density calculated by PG&E.

When asked for a comment on these numbers, PG&E declined. But spokesman Moreno did say concerned customers are welcome to call PG&E, and that comparing Southern California Edison’s meters to PG&E’s was like comparing “”apples to oranges.””

It’s nearly impossible for consumers to accurately measure for themselves the magnitude of SmartMeter pulses, because high-end testing equipment is prohibitively expensive. Even Scott, a professional with a $5,000 instrument, couldn’t get an accurate reading of the meter in the basement of the downtown apartment building. He did find the transmissions were weak — closer to PG&E’s estimates than Sage’s. But he worries that the people with the skills and the expensive equipment needed to measure the full extent of a meter’s activity are already working for the telecom and power industries.

“”More research is needed, more people with instruments are invited to measure this phenomenon,”” he said. “”And hopefully, people will generously share their information so we can get a big picture of what’s going on.”” Scott says he will continue to investigate SmartMeters in single and multiple configurations around neighborhoods and apartment complexes. “”I have the feeling this is just the beginning of this issue,”” he said.

In the meantime, people like Annie Mills say they will take matters into their own hands. Mills plans to test the method of wrapping her SmartMeter in aluminum foil to obstruct its transmissions, until PG&E “”comes out to see why it’s not working.””

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Are Smart Meters Bad For Your Health? Part 2

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Lafayette resident Alan Marks is a prime example of an early cellphone adopter/brain cancer victim. His wife Ellie, his greatest advocate, says Marks has been on the phone for at least an hour a day since the late 1980s. Marks suffered a grand mal seizure in 2008 and was diagnosed with a malignant glioma a month later. Ellie sent her husband’s cellphone and medical records to experts around the world and says she got a collective “absolutely” — absolutely his cellphone use could have contributed to his brain tumor. Ellie has filed a large lawsuit against The Wireless Association and others. She has testified before Congress and appeared on Larry King Live. As a side note, she says she received a phone call from Erin Brockovich.

Consequently, Ellie Marks was extremely upset to find a SmartMeter installed on her property. She called PG&E, explained her husband’s condition, and the company soon agreed to come out and remove the SmartMeter. Ellie says by doing so, PG&E acknowledged there was cause for concern. She has since received a letter stating her SmartMeter will be reinstalled, along with a packet of what she called, “propaganda,” stating that there is no known health risk associated with exposure to electromagnetic fields.

So how do SmartMeters compare to cellphones? Cellphones, cell towers, and other electronic devices emit a near-constant stream of radio frequencies that can vary in strength, while SmartMeters emit short, fraction-of-a-second-long bursts called “pulses.” In addition, most health studies on electromagnetic fields have focused on cellphones and other sources that cause constant, low-level exposure — but not on electronic devices that pulse. Moreover, there’s disagreement about how strong the SmartMeter pulses are, and how often they pulse in the first place.

For example, PG&E spokesman Paul Moreno said that electric SmartMeters emit low-level radio frequency bursts that last a fraction of a second, and occur only once every four hours.

But Dan Mattson, an independent electromagnetic-fields consultant and a former Navy technician in North Oakland discovered that a client in San Leandro had a SmartMeter that pulsed about 100 times in fifteen minutes. And Cindy Sage, a Santa Barbara-based environmental consultant and an outspoken critic of SmartMeters and the utility companies that install them, has measured several SmartMeters in the Bay Area: one in Berkeley pulsed about six times in one minute. Another just north of Berkeley pulsed between eight and fifteen times a minute.

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