- My utility says “smart” meters emit less than my cell phone or WiFi. Is this true?
- What frequency do they operate at, and what sort of radiation do they emit?
- My utility says they will shut off the “radio” part for a fee. How will I know if they really did?
- Why do the utility websites say that “smart” meters have low RF emissions?
- I see videos online of “smart” meters pulsing a lot. But my utility says they only emit for about a minute a day? Which is true?
- How high are the pulses on “smart” meters?
- How often do “smart” meters pulse?
- Why is RF radiation bad for people (and animals and plants)?
- My cell phone doesn’t bother me, but the “smart” meter gives me headaches (or insomnia or heart palpitations). Why is it different?
_____________________________________________BACK TO FAQ INDEX
Q: My utility says “smart” meters emit less than my cell phone or WiFi. Is this true?
In some cases this is true, and in some cases not true. The figures for RF exposure given by utilities are time-averaged numbers which hide the peak power of the “smart” meter, and disguise the fairly continuous nature of the pulses. “Smart” meters are unlike cell phones or WiFi in their bizarre pattern of sharp spikes of RF.
Both of those consumer devices (cell phones and WiFi) can be strong RF emitters. But people are becoming increasingly aware of the potential harm done by chronic exposure to RF radiation-emitting devices and are taking steps to change how they use them. Growing public awareness of RF exposure has led people to choose a wired internet connection or use a wired phone at home. But most people are not offered a wired “smart” meter. And you can’t turn it off once it’s installed.
A “smart” meter is a device you cannot turn off or move, so your exposure to this source of RF is out of your control. The rate and intensity of the RF radiation is also not under your control, and we are coming to learn, it is not under the utility’s control. Recent information “off the record” from PG&E confirms our suspicion that at least 90% of the RF emitted by the “smart” meters is NOT transmitting your electrical usage data, but is part of the “mesh network” talking to itself, and includes a lot of redundant “chatter” between your meter and other meters. This is for the convenience of your utility, and its effects on you (and other living things) apparently were not even considered when they were designing the mesh network.
Q: What frequency do they operate at, and what sort of radiation do they emit?
The PG&E Silver Springs Network “smart” meter operates in the 902-928 MHz range, near the range of most cell phones, and in the radio-frequency microwave range (300 MHz to 3 GHz). The 2-millisecond spikes of RF (radio-frequency) it emits are randomly assigned to a pattern of alternating frequencies—the pulses keep shifting which frequency they are using. At least 90% of the pulses are not your data, but the “mesh network” talking to itself—also known as network “chatter.”
The spiked pulses are like a strobe light, which also emits spiked pulses, about 1/2 millisecond each. The “smart” meter pulses can go off at a rate of 2 to 20 per second. Strobe lights are known to have neurological effects, and are not allowed to be sold if they strobe at a rate above 10 pulses per second. Some people cannot be around strobe lights, they set off visually triggered seizures. The “smart” meter RF emissions constitute an all-new, bizarre pattern, unlike the pattern of emissions from your cell phone or any other RF-emitting device. And to date there have been no studies published on the effects of ‘smart’ meter radiation on animals, plants or humans. However, some research indicates that pulsed radiation induces a greater biological effect than constant radiation. Based on countless firsthand reports it is clear that some people are vulnerable to serious ill effects.
Q: My utility says they will shut off the “radio” part for a fee. How will I know if they really did?
Unless you buy a RF measuring device, you won’t know for sure. Many people are buying these devices, so there may be someone in your community who can measure. Also, there are EMF consultants in some areas of the country who can help you assess your levels.
Q: Why do the utility websites say that “smart” meters have low RF emissions?
The calculations used to arrive at the low RF exposure numbers that most utilities published are arrived at by time-averaging. “Smart” meters have an unusual, unpredictable pattern of RF emissions, usually referred to as “pulses”—sudden high levels of RF followed by no emissions. Each pulse is about 2 milliseconds (2/1000th of a second) long.
By time averaging, they can bring down the total peak level that they claim the meters emit. This is bogus science. If you time-average the strong millisecond pulses of a strobe light, they “equal” a low-wattage light bulb continuously on; but no one would legitimately make such a claim. Strobe lights have distinct neurological effects in many people—headaches, dizziness, and for some- epileptic seizures.
Q: I see videos online of “smart” meters pulsing a lot. But my utility says they only emit for about a minute a day? Which is true?
Let’s take an example from PG&E’s claim that the meters emit only 45 seconds a day. Since each pulse is about 2 milliseconds long, that comes out to 22,500 pulses a day, which can be going off at any rate, even 2 to 20 pulses per second. At the rate of twice per second—which is as “constant” as anything could reasonably be considered to be—the pulses would be going off for a total of about 3 hours per day—spread over the whole day, at times you neither choose nor are aware of.
It is only by the specious, unscientific manipulation of the facts that utilities can claim the short emission periods that they do.
Thanks to the work by several citizen-scientists who take it upon themselves to buy equipment, measure “smart” meters, and post documentation online, we have some truly independent data to counterbalance the load of propaganda that the utilities would have us swallow.
Q: How high are the pulses on “smart” meters?
The peak power density varies depending on a large number of factors: distance from the meter, type of meter, environment, measuring device, position, and perhaps even whether the pulse is sending data or just “chirping” to its neighbors to maintain the mesh network. It is their high variability, combined with the rash of complaints, that by itself raises questions about possible effects on people’s neurological systems.
There are individuals who have measured peak power density on pulses on single meters that are more than 300 microwatts per centimeter squared (µW/cm2), but we are unable to confirm this as a reference figure. Here is a post we did on this. The FCC guidelines says you shouldn’t be subjected to a field of about 600 microwatts per centimeter squared (µW/cm2) for more than 30 minutes, but as noted in a previous answer these extraordinary levels are based in outdated science and in urgent need of revision. And your “smart” meter is 24/7. To give the issue context, the Bioinitiative Report recommends a level of 0.1 microwatt per centimeter squared (µW/cm2) for human exposure, about 10,000 times less than the FCC number.
There are some videos online, though we can’t confirm their accuracy.
Q: How often do ‘smart’ meters pulse?
One thing that has been revealed by people who’ve tracked “smart” meter pulses: they are highly variable. Other descriptors: unpredictable, random, very erratic, and even bizarre. One EMF consultant has told us that it is impossible to extract meaningful conclusions about the fields created by the pulses.
PG&E’s own documents revealed last year that their meters pulse 10,000 times a day.
SF Chronicle article: http://blog.sfgate.com/energy/
The *median* was 10,000 pulses/day—that means half the meters emit MORE than this. The reason they didn’t use a different and more usual statistical figure–the average–is because it’s likely that figure would have been higher. The highest meter they measured emitted 190,000 pulses/day.
“Smart” meters seem to pulse a lot at certain times, and less at other times. PG&E for one says that data about the ratepayer’s electrical usage is only broadcast 6 times per day. Another PG&E executive told us “off the record” that at least 90% of the emissions from a “smart” meter are NOT user data, but mesh-network “chatter.” Those pulses have nothing to do with your home.
If you are wondering about meters in used by other utilities, consider this: If they claim the meter only emits “60 seconds a day”, then you can calculate the approximate number of pulses. Sixty seconds of of 3-millisecond pulses (typical) equals about 20,000 pulses. There about 85,000 seconds in a day. If the rate of pulsing were consistent (though it never is) that would be about one pulse every 4 seconds, for the whole 24 hours Depending on the rate of pulsing, the meter is very likely to be emitting something during most of the day.
Q: Why is RF radiation bad for people (and animals and plants)?
The effects of low-level non-thermal exposure to radio-frequency microwaves has been studied since the 1950s. A range of subtle effects have been identified over the decades, from an auditory sensation to infertility to sleep disturbance to irregularities in the heart rhythm, depending on exposure type, level, and duration. See the links page (under construction) for more information about RF science.
The current focus on brain cancer caused by cell phones hides a wider, more pervasive issue: the ways in which exposure to microwave RF can erode human health by disrupting a number of basic systems like sleep and immunity, resulting in ill health from a number of conditions.
For the military in the 1950s and 1960s, for the wireless industry in the 1990s, and for utilities deploying “smart” meters now, these biological effects are not convenient to their purposes, and have been dismissed. “The FCC sets the guidelines,” has been the cry of utilities commissions. But those guidelines were set largely without regard to the subtler effects or the consequences of long-term exposure, and before much of this research was done.
In May 2011, the World Health Organization, which is a notably conservative and slow-moving organization regarding public health precaution, finally declared that RF radiation is a “possible human carcinogen,” placing it in Class 2B, along with engine exhaust, lead, and DDT. So far, however, the FCC does not look set to make any changes in allowable levels, and in fact has complained about recent state and local government objections to new cell antenna installations, for instance.
Q: My cell phone doesn’t bother me, but the “smart” meter gives me headaches (or insomnia or heart palpitations). Why is it different?
As we discussed above in questions about the power of the pulses and how often they happen, it might be possible that it is the very bizarre and erratic nature of the emissions that are making people ill. We are not medical experts or scientists, and so don’t make claims about the reasons for your distress. But the complaints and stories received by this website and elsewhere make it clear that, for whatever reason, these meters make some people sick, and often in quite similar ways.