Electric “smart” meters were installed in Cindy deBac’s Scottsdale, Arizona, neighborhood in 2012. She recalls the day a new meter was mounted on her home as a sort of digital Pearl Harbor attack. “I’ve never been so sick in my life,” she says. “Nausea, a crushing migraine headache, and painful heart palpitations laid me low right away.”
Healthy and exuberant before the installation, deBac became unable to sleep normally. She soon became exhausted and tearfully anxious as she struggled with rashes and a chronically racing heart. For respite she spent nights away in her car. One of her dogs died of cancer within six months of the meter’s installation and the other developed large tumors. Today Cindy leads a global educational crusade to warn others about the myriad devastating health effects that electromagnetic radiation can unleash.
Across the U.S. installers continue to replace comparatively safe analog (mechanical) utility meters with digital “smart” meters for electrical, gas and water services. Most of the new meters are wireless two-way transmitters that pulse signals to communicate continuously between your home, school, or workplace and utility companies miles away. The new meters are part of a nationwide project dubbed Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI). Most folks call this evolving make-over the “smart grid.”
The AMI “smart” meter below records electrical consumption data and sends the information wirelessly to energy system managers. “Smart” meters can be programmed to read and transmit data monthly, or up to every fifteen seconds. Data may be relayed by systems similar to mobile phones or Wi-Fi. Or information may be relayed via fiber optics (thin, transparent cables that carry signals by pulsing light). Of these methods, fiber optics may offer the safest transmission.
AMI is nested within the American Recovery and Investment Act of 2009, and the Obama Administration has shoveled an estimated eleven billion dollars into incentive programs for utilities that participate. “Smart” grid advocates insist that the new two-way meters will reduce national energy consumption and allow consumers to make better choices about their energy needs.
The Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are among federal heavyweights behind the thundering AMI rollout. Several universities and corporations stand to profit hugely by providing AMI equipment, software and expertise. These include General Electric, IBM, Hewlett Packard, Siemens, Toshiba, Microsoft, Cisco, Verizon, Google, Itron and Tantalus.
With a financial and political engine of this magnitude, the AMI meter replacement project has moved at lightning speed. According to the Institute for Electric Efficiency (IEE), nearly 40 percent of U.S. households had an electric “smart” meter installed by August 2013. A total of sixty-five million “smart” meters are projected to be installed by 2015, covering more than half of all U.S. households.1 Among states hit hardest so far have been Oregon, Idaho, California, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, Maryland, Virginia, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Vermont, Florida, Georgia and Alabama.
PRELIMINARY REPORTS ON “SMART” METERS
Over the last three years, strong-arm installation tactics, fires caused by meters, skyrocketing utility bills, privacy concerns and disabling health effects have given momentum to a broad coalition of “smart” grid opponents. Many, including some government officials, say that the touted benefits of “smart” systems have not materialized, while the negative ramifications have proven disastrous.
The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) has proposed a moratorium on “smart” meters as an “issue of the highest importance.” This international association of physicians and public health experts warns that it is unacceptable to implement radiation-emitting technology before serious medical and environmental concerns have been properly addressed.2
AMI is calibrated to expose all Americans to three new and powerful sources of microwave radiation: “smart” meters, “smart” appliances, and a ubiquitous network of antennas on utility poles and cell towers in urban and rural neighborhoods. Neither the federal government nor grid profiteers have undertaken a single public health study about the long-term health effects of exposure to electromagnetic radition (EMR) from “smart” meters. Yet medical literature is now loaded with peer-reviewed studies about the non-thermal biological effects of exposure to EMR. Peer-reviewed studies report DNA damage, abnormal genetic and hormonal changes, sperm damage, pregnancy complications, weakening of the blood-brain barrier, disturbance of voltage-gated calcium channels (for example, in the heart), degradation of immunity, and certain types of cancers.3
Especially worrisome, says AAEM, is mounting evidence that inescapable electromagnetic fields exposure from smart meters places children at particular risk for altered brain development and for impaired learning and behavior. These concerns are corroborated by the blockbuster BioInitiative Report 2012. Produced by twenty-nine medical and public health experts from ten countries, the BioInitiative Report offers a meta-analysis of over eighteen hundred new scientific studies showing that chronic exposure to both ELF and microwaves poses a serious health hazard. At highest risk are the most vulnerable of our population: children, pregnant mothers, the elderly and the immunecompromised.4
Health ramifications aside, AMI technology is good for the corporate bottom line. “Smart” meters eliminate the need for human meter readers. They allow utilities to turn services on and off remotely. The meters identify consumption of a product and automatically send those data to headquarters for monitoring and billing. They allow water utility companies to monitor and control consumer usage closely. Because electricity is delivered most efficiently in an even, steady flow, “smart” grid enthusiasts aim to encourage residential customers to use less electricity during daytime working hours and more during evenings and weekends. Eventually, customers may be charged by time-of-use. “Smart” grid promoters claim that by 2030, the system will reduce nationwide electricity usage by about four percent.5
But at what price? The cost of the “smart” meter program is breathtaking. By some estimates, utility consumers will pay at least two hundred twenty-five billion dollars to blanket the nation with AMI meters. A “smart” electric meter can cost hundreds of dollars per household. The attorney general of Massachusetts projected the cost of each meter in that state at almost three thousand dollars.6 Some AMI equipment manufacturers suggest that meters may need to be replaced as often as every three years to keep up with technical innovations.7 This would force consumers to continually pay for new hardware that they are coerced to accept. Critics say that when time-of-use pricing goes into effect, utility bills could become insurmountable for many customers (unless they learn to direct their peak energy usage to the middle of the night).
CANARIES ON THE WEST COAST
Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) of California was among the first U.S. utilities to deploy AMI meters. Its 2010-2012 “smart” meter rollout caused a state-wide furor. Some older “smart” meter systems (AMR) send their data through existing utility lines. A few newer AMI systems communicate through fiber optics. But like many other utility companies, PG&E has deployed a mesh networking system, which broadcasts pulsed radio frequency signals (microwaves) into homes and across outdoor spaces. PG&E’s “smart” grid emits EMR from the meters and from a state-wide support network including:
• Thousands of new utility antenna communications towers and relay/repeater poles;
• Thousands of new mobile data base stations with fixed and mobile radios for utility workers;
• Thousands of crossband repeater stations, each broadcasting radiation in the 900 megahertz range;
• Thousands of broadband access points emitting the license-exempt Wi-Fi frequency bands of 2.45, 3.65, and 5.8 gigahertz;
• Thousands of point-to-point microwave links providing backhaul for the system;
• Thousands of integrated service routers handling security and network management through wireless signals.8
The new smart grid signal infrastructure is a duplication of the massive cellular communications build-out which, over the last thirty years, has spawned over three hundred thousand microwave towers and rooftop antenna arrays from coast to coast. There are at least a dozen published epidemiological studies reporting that populations living within five hundred meters of cellular microwave antennas suffer high rates of adverse health effects including headaches, skin rashes, vision/hearing problems, dizziness, sleep disturbances, hormonal abnormalities and chronic fatigue. There are also many reports of cancer clusters among people living near cell towers or in buildings directly under them.9
The “smart” grid network inflicts an incalculable increase in hazardous EMR at a time when the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has designated all RF/microwave electromagnetic frequencies as a Group 2B carcinogen (possibly cancer-causing).10
CANARY SICKNESS AND MEDIA FALLOUT
A group of concerned medical doctors in Eugene, Oregon, reports: “PG&E’s approach to the AMI rollout didn’t involve a lot of public education. They just switched out the meters. And some people found that they were having trouble sleeping, or experiencing headaches, ringing in the ears, vertigo or other symptoms that hadn’t been bothering them before. Soon the Internet was awash with anecdotal reports and commentary about these adverse effects. . . Finally PG&E was served with a court order to provide clearer documentation of what the meters were actually doing. In response to that court order, PG&E provided documentation from the manufacturer of the meters that the average meter in the mesh network transmitted data signals to the utility six times a day, network management signals fifteen times a day, timing signals three hundred sixty times a day and beacon signals to the mesh network nine thousand six hundred times a day….This penciled out to roughly seven transmissions per minute, twenty-four hours a day, coming out of every meter in the community.”11
Since microwaves easily flow through most construction materials, “smart” meters attached to the outside of homes (or huge banks of them on multi-unit dwellings) broadcast a perpetual barrage of Group 2B radiation directly into the interior of inhabited buildings and right through all human flesh within range.
In addition, some residents within AMI mesh networks may also have “Medusa” meters on their property. One investigator reports: “A utility whistle blower told us about a special smart meter—a mini cell phone tower. This collection device receives data and more radiation from five hundred to seven hundred surrounding meters and uses the customer’s premises to serve as a relay station to transmit other neighbors’ data along the mesh network to collection points. These Medusa meters are deployed upon properties without the owner’s knowledge or consent. The utilities select a property for this meter based upon easy meter access to the street, no locked gates or dogs and good customer payment history. . . Utilities reward good customers with a Medusa meter and bathe their homes with additional toxic radiation.”12
By early 2011, the California Public Utilities Commission had received over two thousand health complaints from PG&E customers and the complaints escalated from there. By the end of 2011, multiple California cities had either banned smart meters or had placed a moratorium on continued installation. Currently, many California communities are still in AMI limbo, while communities in other states also struggle to find their way.
THE PROBLEMS WITH EXPOSURE TO MAN-MADE EMR
“Smart” meters are “hot,” in terms of broadcast power density, and can emit microwaves at levels many times higher than those reported by medical studies to cause serious adverse health effects. Film producer Josh del Sol reported in his documentary Take Back Your Power that testing shows a single “smart” meter can produce eight microwatts per centimeter squared (cm2). A bank of smart meters can generate up to 19.8 microwatts/cm2 of whole-body radiation exposure. Meantime, modern medical science confirms that a microwave transmission power of only .05 microwatts/cm2 can cause children to suffer headaches, behavioral problems and inability to learn and concentrate.13
In a study conducted by chiropractic physician Dr. Frank Springob, “smart” meter radiation exposure quickly produced almost instant blood abnormalities in human test subjects.14 Volunteers had their blood examined as normal, then stood within one foot of a transmitting “smart” meter for only two minutes. A post-exposure examination with dark field microscopy showed that all volunteers had developed one of these blood pathologies:
• Marked degradation of cells with some cell walls broken;
• Corrugated formation in which blood cells become crimped like bottle caps;
• A rouleaux condition in which the red blood cells clump abnormally together. Dietrich Klinghardt, MD, PhD, who practices medicine in Washington State, says, “It is our experience as doctors that everybody is equally electro-sensitive.” Dr. Klinghardt finds the same inflammatory markers in the blood of every EMR-exposed person, both those who feel bad from exposure and those who notice no preliminary ill effects.15
“Smart” grid proponents routinely insist that the meters emit RF radiation at levels far below maximum exposure standards set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). FCC is the federal agency with sole authority to regulate wireless antennas. But environmental consultant Cindy Sage, co-editor of the BioInitiative Report, has determined that the emissions from “smart” meters installed across California likely exceed FCC’s guidelines.16
Meanwhile, BioInitiative Report scientists recommend that the FCC reduce allowable emissions by thousands-fold in order to protect public health. Cindy Sage explains that EMR emitted by “smart” meters reaching the interior of a home can be comparable to radiation levels found within two hundred to six hundred feet of a cell tower. She warns: “If you think of a strobe light or a laser in the eyes, it is intermittent but powerfully disabling if you are forced to endure it. [“Smart” meter] signals may be short bursts of RF (this depends on the meter and how utilities choose to operate) but… it is a continual 24/7 battering of the body with cellular insults.”17
THE PAY-US-NOT-TO-HURT-YOU RACKET
Due to public uproar, some utility companies unleashing “smart” meter systems are offering opt-out programs. Opt-out often requires those who refuse “smart” meters to pay one or more fees for the right to keep their older and safer analog meters. Some complain that the fees are reminiscent of extortion from old-time protection thugs.
Requesting an opt-out is definitely a first step to protecting one’s own home from harmful, microwave emissions. But it does not address exposure to EMR from neighboring meters, or from mesh pole transmitters on the grid. EMR from some meters can be measured over three hundred feet away. A single-family home in a residential community can be well within three hundred feet of several near and next-nearest neighbors. Thus, even at the distance of a football field, EMR from many surrounding meters could prove biologically significant, even for those who retain their analog meters. Residents of townhouses, condos and apartment buildings may be especially vulnerable when ten or twenty meters or more are installed on one wall.
Also, an opt-out does not resolve the hazards of dirty electricity polluting a neighborhood loaded with AMI meters. Nor does it protect people who don’t have enough information to request an opt-out, but who may one day develop illnesses from EMR exposure.
Living in rural areas does not solve the problem. Some rural utilities serving mountainous and/or forested areas may choose to deploy AMI metering solutions like those provided by Tantalus Systems Corp. Tantalus creates hybrid “smart” antenna systems, utilizing a variety of frequency signals that can travel through and around obstacles in their quest to “connect.”18 As with other frequency fields deployed by AMI, no studies of the biological effects of such public exposure have been conducted.
BIG BROTHER IN THE CLOTHES DRYER
The smart meter roll-out is only the first phase of a federal master plan that will deeply penetrate American homes with smart radiation. Some appliance manufacturers are now gearing up to market antenna-embedded appliances capable of linking to the “smart” grid through the Internet. Such appliances can transmit and receive data to and from utilities. Such appliances make people vulnerable to hackers.19
Most upcoming smart appliances will be using the Wi-Fi frequencies of 2.4 or 5 GHz. They will create a wireless home access network (HAN) similar to residential Wi-Fi systems. Smart appliance HANs will broadcast microwave radiation 100 percent of the time. Within a typical house full of radiating appliances, there will be no location out of broadcast range. It is anticipated that smart appliance turn-off will be available only at the circuit breaker.
The EMF Safety Network says: “Smart meters are a surveillance device. They are a search without a warrant. They collect detailed energy usage, for instance when you cook, watch TV, whether you are at home or not, when you turn on a light or when you have guests. This data is valuable because it can reveal patterns about what you do and when. California utility companies admitted they are providing smart meter data to the government and third parties.”20
Those with access to “smart” meter and “smart” appliance data, including government officials, law enforcement agents, and professional hackers/thieves, can review a permanent history of household activities, then complete a calendar with time-of-day metrics to gain a highly invasive and detailed view of occupants’ lives. Because smart meters can individually identify electrical devices, personal information made obvious to snoopers can include medical conditions, sexual activities, the physical location of persons within the house, and vacancy patterns.
Even the new digitized “smart” water meters can transmit surveillance information. Describing such meters installed in Minnesota, one report notes: “If you stop using water for the night at 10 p.m. the city will know because they will get signals during the night of no water usage. If the city gets a signal at 2 a.m. for 1.5 gallons, the city knows you just flushed your toilet.” For the privilege of involuntarily supplying such data to nameless overseers, the owner of the toilet must endure invasive and continuous exposure to electromagnetic radiation.21
A SYSTEM SMACKING OF HACKING
There is a smart grid initiative in almost every industrialized nation. The fact that AMI has been deployed worldwide makes the entire “smart” power grid especially vulnerable to cyber attacks. As AMI progresses, the vulnerability of the Internet is being transferred to entire national grids.
In January 2014, two large utility companies in Massachusetts, known collectively as Northeast Utilities, informed their state Department of Public Utilities that there is no cost justification for implementing a one billion dollar AMI system statewide. They said: “Many customers have a deep aversion to technology that links them to the grid in a way that they perceive as an invasion of their privacy and/or detrimental to their health.” Northeast Utilities also complained: “AMI introduces a brand new portal into the companies’ information systems, significantly increasing the cyber-security risk.”22
Former CIA director James Woolsey agrees. He said in an interview: “They’re constructing what they call a ‘Smart Grid.’ And they’re going to make it easier for you and me to call our homes on our cell phones and turn down our air conditioning. . . Great, but that may well mean that a hacker in Shanghai with his cell phone could do the same thing or worse. And a so-called Smart Grid that is as vulnerable as we’ve got—it’s not smart at all, it’s a really, really stupid grid.”23
Individual “smart” meters themselves are vulnerable to hacking because the meters can easily be removed and re-programmed, or hacked into wirelessly from laptops. The Associated Press reports: “Computer security researchers say new smart meters that are designed to help deliver electricity more efficiently also have flaws that could let hackers tamper with the power grid in previously impossible ways. At the very least, the vulnerabilities open the door for attackers to jack up a stranger’s utility bills. These flaws could also move hackers a key step closer to exploiting one of the most dangerous capabilities of the new technology which is the ability to remotely turn someone else’s power on and off.”24
That scenario is grim enough. But since smart technology may open the door to malicious hacking and cyber-attacks on a national scale, it becomes a critical issue of national security. Woolsey has disclosed that virtually no agency in the federal government has ultimate responsibility for survivability and protection of the U.S. electrical grid as a whole. He says that if a foreign power ever attacks the grid, through either a physical attack or cyber-terrorism, times will be tough: “. . . When it goes down, we are not in the 1970s pre-web, we’re in the 1870s pre-grid, and we don’t have enough plow horses or pump handles.”25
ALTERNATIVE GREEN ENERGY SYSTEMS SUPPRESSED?
The documentary film Take Back Your Power introduces evidence that the vested interests coercing the AMI systems upon our nation are the very same forces which are suppressing cleaner and more sustainable energy technologies.
One path to the suppression of competitive technologies is apparently through the U.S. Patent Office. The Commissioner of Patents can order inventions and technologies to be kept secret indefinitely. At his discretion, he can deny any patent or withhold the publication of any patent application. By the end of fiscal year 2011, there were over five thousand Patent Office secrecy orders in effect, according to the Federation of American Scientists.26 It is believed by some scholars that among these many submerged patents are several clean and viable energy technologies which are perceived as a threat by the powerful oil, gas and fracking networks.
Germany is said to be producing almost 50 percent of its energy from solar photovoltaic panels. A large amount of this solar energy is produced by individuals and small businesses who feed their excess energy back into the grid. The German system is reported to be generating clean energy equivalent to that generated by twenty nuclear power stations operating at full capacity. Advanced solar technology has allowed Germany to announce that it may abandon dangerous nuclear energy, a welcome development following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdown.27
Mounting evidence demonstrates that “smart” meter systems will not significantly curtail U.S. electricity use. Several pilot programs across the nation have shown little or no energy reduction or savings. In 2011, Connecticut Attorney General George Jepson announced that “smart” meter pilot results showed no beneficial impact on total energy usage in his state. He said that the benefits of advanced meters would not merit the five hundred million dollar cost of their implementation.28
Ironically, the “smart” meters themselves use considerable energy in order to perpetually signal the mesh system. In addition, millions of “smart” appliances will be always “on” and always communicating with meters, thereby causing more use.
A report in Consumer’s Digest muses: “What’s discouraging about the all-but-mandatory dynamics of the smart-meter transition is that it’s appealing only if you are willing to pay a lot of money to save a little electricity…. If the success of the smart meter transition is based on consumers saving money and energy in the long run, we can’t help but imagine that it could take decades for that to happen—if it ever does.”29
REFLECTIONS ON OUR PRIORITIES
The formidable challenges presented by AMI smart technology lead back to the dilemma of national priorities. How much money and wellbeing should we sacrifice to achieve a tiny reduction in national energy consumption fifteen years from now?
Media sources continually report on many people suffering from electro-hypersensitivity (EHS) who have fled their smart-metered homes in desperate search of habitation that does not cause heart palpitations, rashes, severe tinnitus and/neurological disabilities. Electro-sensitivity appears to be a sort of auto-immune condition developed by a growing number of victims, usually after acute exposure to electromagnetic radiation.
Sandi Aders of Idaho has been debilitated since a “smart” meter was installed on her home. Unaware of any hazard, she and her husband used a bedroom where a transmitting digital meter was mounted on an outside wall directly opposite their bed. Day by day after the meter’s installation they grew sicker and more exhausted. They tried to cope with rashes and odd nerve disorders. Simultaneously they developed the symptoms of glaucoma. They finally hit the road to seek relief from a house that made them cruelly sick, but the damage has proven irreversible. Sandi is now so electrosensitive that she lives without electricity, phones or computers. No physician has found a solution to the low, pulsed radio frequency hum and droning sounds that she hears constantly, especially when she is near electrical power lines. Due to the nerve damage she says she acquired after her “smart” meter exposure, Sandi endures the same audio-torture being reported by many other people nationwide from similar exposures.30
Dr. Andrew Goldsworthy, British biologist and expert on the bio-effects of microwave radiation, explains: “The duration of the radiation seems to be more important than its strength, with the effects being cumulative as more and more cells are damaged. Interestingly, DNA damage from cell phone radiation is greater when the exposure is intermittent (five minutes on, ten minutes off) than when continuous (Diem et al., 2005). This may be because the cells are constantly adapting and using energy to defend themselves; they drop their guard during the off period and are caught unawares when it goes on again….“Smart” meters, which operate 24/7 and radiate modulated microwaves intermittently, can therefore be expected to be particularly harmful to DNA.”31
The National Institutes of Health confirms the fact that all cancer begins with damaged DNA. In a nation with fourteen million cancer victims and 1.6 million new cancer cases diagnosed each year (not counting millions of skin cancers), exposure to EMR from wireless technologies matters to everyone’s health.
Surely the welfare of pregnant women and children is of utmost importance to our society. EMR from “smart” meters and other electronics has the potential to damage the entire human reproductive system. This was already reported in 1971 by the Naval Medical Research Institute (NMRI) at Bethesda, Maryland, which collected over twenty-three hundred studies to document the impacts of non-ionizing radiation on human health. Dr. Zorach R. Glaser, Ph.D., compiled these studies. Among deleterious effects listed in Dr. Glaser’s report are altered menstrual activity, male impotence, altered sex ratio of births (more girls), and decreased lactation in nursing mothers.32
Today, medical science offers much additional confirmation that EMR emissions from AMI meters and their support infrastructure have the potential to damage ovaries and ova cells, harm the fetus, cause low birth weight, and even induce premature delivery.33 There is also increasing evidence that EMR emissions may be linked to America’s epidemic of autistic spectrum disorders.34
Public awareness is a first step toward forging solutions to the many challenges of the “smart” grid conundrum. We need citizens, legislators and regulators concerned about health. We need “smart” meters recalled and analog mechanical meters restored. We need to stop deploying any new technologies until they are proven harmless.
In its scathing letter to the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities, Northeast Utilities has stated that achievement of gridmodernization objectives “does not require the implementation of AMI, despite the Department’s suggestion that it does.” This letter contains sensible alternative recommendations for cost-effective grid modernization, fully achievable without noxious AMI radiation hazards.35
It is truly wise to become educated on all of these vital issues. We must be proactive in order to understand what utility companies are planning for our individual neighborhoods and for our states.
In these challenging times, vigilance and reliable information empower us to prevent suffering and protect everyone’s health.