Can Smart Meter Radiation Endanger Your Health?

A smart meter measures how much electricity (or it could be water or gas) you use. It also sends the information to the utility or company that supplies it, usually by microwave radio signal.

Smart MeterThe smart meter is generally installed on the outside wall of your house (or it could even be inside) in place of the old type of revolving disk meter.

The original idea was to automate the monthly meter reading, and save the high cost of this manual work.

The smart meter would record the electricity consumption at the end of each month, then automatically send that figure to the utility company for billing purposes.

Great idea! And it would have required just one radio transmission (about 1 second) every month. That would be like a cell phone sending just 1 SMS per month.

Unfortunately, this original concept has been greatly expanded.

Smart meters are now like small computers, able to detect every change in electricity consumption whenever any appliance is switched on or off. They store this data in their memory, waiting to upload it.


They may also continuously monitor power quality (for voltage spikes and harmonics).

How Often Do Smart Meters Emit Radiation?

Smart Meter InstallationAll of this information is uploaded to the utility company by the smart meter.

Exactly how often this happens depends on the type of smart meter, and how it has been programmed by the utility.

Utility officials started off by suggesting that a smart meter transmission would only take place once every 4 hours, or so.

But in many instances it happens much more frequently than that – up to thousands of times a day.

Utility companies prefer not to be too specific about this. They rather speak of duty cycles, for example 1% or 2%, which means that the smart meter is only transmitting (and therefore emitting microwave radiation) for that small percentage of the time. That doesn’t sound like too much of a problem, does it?

But if it takes just one second to make one transmission, a smart meter transmitting 1500 times a day would be active for 1500 seconds (= 25 minutes) which would equate to a duty cycle of 1.7%.


Smart Meters May Damage Your Health

Electromagnetic Radiation HazardCould this be enough to damage to your health? It is very possible, especially on top of all the other radiation that we are already exposed to.

When challenged to provide evidence of smart meter safety, utilities say that the amount of radiation emitted does not justify any health concerns.

They generally say something like “the radiation from smart meters is only 1% of the maximum allowed by FCC (Federal Communications Commission) regulations.”

Cell phone service providers have used the same tactic for years.

Unfortunately, what the FCC thinks is a suitable EMF maximum level for public safety may already be a thousand times too high.

Right now there is no way to prove or disprove the safety of smart meters by scientific argument. Researchers would have to do studies and record how often people get sick and how seriously. Then they could compare the health experience of people who live with smart meters over a long period of time, and people who don’t.

Such studies take many years to achieve a result, and even longer to convince everyone that the result is valid. Meanwhile, very little hard evidence has yet been collected concerning smart meter health effects, and none published.

So how can anyone be so sure that your smart meter poses no threat to your health?

Most smart meters use radio-frequency electromagnetic radiation to communicate. In 2011 the World Health Organisation reclassified radio frequency electromagnetic radiation as a “possible carcinogen” (WHO-IARC Report May 2011).

That means they think it might cause cancer.


EMF Units of Measure

When a utility company does quote the actual radiation exposure levels of their smart meters, it usually chooses to use the units mW/cm2, which is milliwatts per square centimeter.

These units are difficult for most people (or is it just me?) to understand.

For example, you might think that an EMF of 0.000009 mW/cm2 is a trivial exposure, a tiny amount.

What about 90 uW/m2 (microwatts per square meter)? That sounds like a lot more, doesn’t it?

Actually, both represent the same EMF power density, because 90 uW/m2 is equal to 0.000009 mW/cm2.

So don’t think, because the numbers are small, that your concerns over smart meter radiation emissions are trivial. They are not.

The important thing is that no one has yet been able to show conclusively that smart meter radiation is safe.

So the smart thing to do would be to act with caution and minimise exposure to smart meter radiation.

How Smart Meters Could Communicate

Radio signals are not the only way smart meters could communicate. Non-radio smart meters are also viable, and have actually been used by some utility companies for their smart meters.


For example, some smart meters transmit their usage information via the power lines themselves. (Broadband Power Line or BPL technology uses the power line’s alternating current as a carrier wave, and then overlays the electricity usage information on top of the carrier.

This avoids broadcasting the radio signal into the air. But some electro-hypersensitive people can be distressed even by these BPL signals.

Utility suppliers could opt for fibre optic communication systems which create no EMF pollution.

But most suppliers have chosen the easiest and cheapest solution (for them) which is radio transmission. So naturally it suits them to promote the idea that smart meter radiation is not a health hazard.

But let us wait for them to back their claims with reliable evidence, before we accept their assurances.

Smart Meters Can Easily be Re-Programmed

A smart meter in your house may work in one way now, but in a different way later.

A smart meter’s program is proprietary (which means the public will not be told how it works or exactly what it does). It could be updated automatically, at any time, and it is unlikely that consumers would be informed of these changes.

One example of how a program might be changed: a transmission which was originally scheduled to occur every 4 hours could be re-programmed to occur every 3 minutes.

As consumers, we have no control over how the supplier might decide to use his smart meters, what information about us might be collected, who it might be sold to, or how it might then be used.


Other Smart Meter Developments

Smart Meter RadiationNew developments could increase the amount of smart meter radiation in future.

For example, it has been proposed that all appliances in our homes should be required to inform the smart meter when they are switched on and when they are switched off.

If this were also to be implemented by means of radio transmissions, it would create a huge increase in radio-frequency EMF pollution in your home. (There are also privacy issues.)

Another cause for concern is that your smart meter may not just be used to tell the utility about YOUR electricity consumption, but about your neighbour’s too. And your neighbour’s neighbour, and his neighbour, and so on.

You see, your neighbour’s smart meter may be out of radio range, his signal strength too low to reach the supplier’s antenna. But your smart meter would be nearby. So his smart meter could talk to yours, and yours could pass the message on to another neighbour’s smart meter, and so on.

All of this means that smart meter transmissions could become much more frequent.

Privacy Concerns about Smart Meters

Smart meters are now being installed in every continent, and in many countries. In most cases, consumers have not welcomed them.

Privacy issues are a grave concern. But even consumers’ security could be compromised.

For example, smart meters are readily able to detect whether anyone is at home, or not. Do we really want this kind of information being broadcast all over the neighbourhood, even though it is encrypted?

Criminals can hack into just about anything these days. What if someone hacks into these smart meter transmissions? Could they use the information to decide when it is safe to break into your house?

Computers could further interpret the smart meters’ raw data, to deduce what kinds of appliances you are using, when you use them, and for how long. This kind of personal information has value to appliance manufacturers and you can bet they are willing to pay for it.

But here at EM Watch we are concerned with the health implications of electromagnetic radiation, so let’s stick to that.

Smart Meter Radiation – Brief but Intense?

Individual smart meter transmissions are generally very brief, sometimes only a few thousandths of a second.

But many investigators have tested the strength of smart meter emissions, and some have reported that the intensity of EMF from a smart meter, while it is transmitting, can be as high, or even higher than that of a cell phone.

Unlike a cellphone or any other wireless appliance in our home – which can be switched off when not in use – we have no control whatsoever over how much EMF is generated by a smart meter, or how often.

So if you are given the option, you may want to consider keeping your old meter and saying no to a new smart meter!

Whatever type of meter you have on your property, they all emit low-frequency radiation – which is also a health hazard.

But low frequency radiation from an old-fashioned electricity meter penetrates only a short distance, perhaps 2 metres (6 or 7 feet). Further away than that it is generally too small to measure.

How Close is Too Close?

Radio frequency radiation travels much further – which is why it is used for communication.

What is certain is that EMF from a smart meter is most intense when you are closest to it. The EMF rapidly fades with increasing distance.

It is not possible to say just how far away you need to keep from your smart meter. Every installation will be different. The only way to be sure of safety is to measure the radiation levels inside your own house, at various distances from the smart meter.

I would not expect to find significant EMF from an unscreened smart meter that was 50 feet or more away. Closer than that, it would depend on walls and other obstructions.

If you are concerned, get an EMF survey done of your property, or consider purchasing a radio-frequency EMF meter – one that can display peak readings, because smart meter transmissions may be very brief.

Smart Meter Radiation Shielding

If you find yourself with no option but to accept a smart meter, you may be able to block off the electromagnetic radiation from your house with a metal sheet or mesh (preferably grounded) inserted between the smart meter and the outside wall. This will reduce the amount of radiation inside your house.

The screen can be made of any metal. Even a heavy-duty kitchen foil will work, or a very fine mesh screen. The metal foil, mesh or sheet works by reflecting the electromagnetic radiation, like a mirror reflecting light. But if the metal is grounded, much of the signal will be absorbed and carried to earth.

Most smart meters already have a metal backing plate which should obstruct the radiation that would otherwise exit directly out of the back of the meter, but plenty of reflections will occur from nearby structures, so radiation will still find its way into the house.

Which is why many smart owners of properties with smart meters have taken further measures, to screen off almost all the radiation, leaving just enough for the signal to get through.

Here is a video that shows a commercial solution to the problem, but if you are a do-it-yourself kind of person you can make your own screen to provide protection for your household.

Other solutions are shown on You-Tube. Just search for Smart Meter Shield.

It would be wise NOT to damage the meter or its installation when you screen it! Also you would want to be able to give the utility company access to the meter on request. (So they could read the meter!)

If the screening guard was totally effective, the smart meter might be unable to communicate its information to the power utility. That might cause a bit of a rumpus, but I don’t see how the power utility could legally require a person to remove screening – installed on a person’s own property for the purpose of protecting his or her health. (I am not a lawyer!)

You don’t want to rely on the wall of your house to protect you. Radio-frequency radiation penetrates walls (even brick ones), though the intensity of the EMF will be reduced.

Finally, you may want to monitor the EMF from a smart meter on your property using a radio-frequency EMF meter.  Make sure that the frequency used by the smart meter (normally either 900 megahertz or 2.4 gigahertz) is within the frequency range of your meter.

You would then be able to measure the radiation inside your house, where you sleep and live, as well as outside near the smart meter installation. This would give you a much better idea of your radiation exposure from the smart meter, as well as from all other sources of radio-frequency radiation.

Smart Meters – A Way Forward

Millions of smart meters have already been installed. The solution to this problem is actually quite simple. We just need to set limits to what the smart meter programs are allowed to do, by law. Then monitor for compliance, of course.

For example, it could be made illegal for smart meters to send more than 2 messages a month, or transmit for more than 2 seconds a month. I don’t think many people would object to that.

A monthly meter reading, or even a series of daily readings, could be sent in a single 1-second message every month, at a particular time-of-day.

The owner of the property would know exactly when it would take place, and could take evasive action if he or she was really concerned!

No need for a human meter reader. No additional expensive hardware. No privacy issues. And no threat to public health.

All that would need to be done would be to rewrite the software and install the new program in all the existing smart meters (by automatic download) and in all the new ones.

Now I wonder if there is a smart politician somewhere who could make this happen?

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