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Smart meters: Can your electric meter make you sick?

The city of Ashland has been replacing analog electricity meters on homes and businesses with "smart" meters, hoping to save money spent on meter reading. These smart meters radiate 86,400 spiked microwave signals per month, just so one of these signals can be read. The intensity of the spikes is substantial, the same intensity measured on the roof of the Ashland Springs Hotel where there are seven cell tower antennas.

Citizen groups around the world are concerned about health effects of 24-hour radiation from smart meters, invasion of privacy, accuracy of readings and whether they really save money. The California PUC has received thousands of complaints of health problems after smart meters were installed. 11 counties and 44 California cities oppose mandatory smart meter installation, 9 passed ordinances making smart meter installation illegal. The Maryland PUC denied permission for the deployment of smart meters due to privacy concerns. The Vermont state legislature voted a no-fee opt out. The city council of Mount Shasta created an "opt in" policy. The list keeps growing every month.

Established research on radio frequency radiation provides significant cause for concern about health risks. Dr. David Carpenter, a Harvard Medical School-trained physician who worked in the New York State Department of Public Health for 18 years and now directs the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University of Albany states:

"We have evidence "… that exposure to radio frequency radiation "… increases the risk of cancer, increases damage to the nervous system, causes electrosensitivity, has adverse reproductive effects and a variety of other effects on different organ systems. There is no justification for the statement that Smart Meters have no adverse health effects."

He further advises, "An informed person should demand that they be allowed to keep their analog meter." (see video: http://emfsafetynetwork.org/?p=3946)

The American Academy of Environmental Physicians, an organization that has been studying and treating the effects of environmental influences on human health for over 50 years, is calling for:

  • An immediate moratorium on "smart meter" installation until these serious public health issues are resolved. Continuing with their installation would be extremely irresponsible.
  • Hearings on health impact "… along with cost evaluation and community wide opt-out.
  • Provide immediate relief to those requesting it and restore the analog meters.

Last year, the World Health Organization released a long-awaited study with the results of years of evaluation by 27 scientists in 14 countries. The scientists classified electromagnetic radiation as a Class 2B carcinogen. The W.H.O. concluded that "the use of precautionary approaches is warranted."

Electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS), is a condition the W.H.O. describes as "a phenomenon where individuals experience adverse health effect while using or being in the vicinity of devices emanating electric, magnetic, or electromagnetic fields (EMFs)... Whatever its cause, EHS is a real and sometimes debilitating problem for the affected persons (Mild et all, 2004)."

A collection of scientists and physicians recently conducted a double-blinded research study that concluded that: "EMF hypersensitivity can occur as a bona fide environmentally-inducible neurological syndrome (McCarty et all, 2011)."

Afflicted individuals often presented with symptoms such as headaches, weakness, sleep disturbance, emotional instability, dizziness, memory impairment, fatigue, and heart palpitations. A Public Health Division of Santa Cruz County report quotes studies estimating the prevalence of EHS at 1.5 percent and 8 percent of the population. That adds up to 300 to 1,600 people in Ashland with EHS. Dozens of citizens are probably already having their condition aggravated by smart meter installation. They may go to their doctors with headaches, rashes, stomach pains, etc, not knowing that they had a new meter installed. We've heard from families who didn't know why they were sick until they tracked it back to when a meter was installed.

But will there be cost savings? Smart meters cost three times as much and last half as long as analog meters. Potential savings would come many years down the road after repaying the $750,000 to convert the remaining 55 percent of Ashland to smart meters. Even then, the savings will be just a fraction of 1 percent of peoples' electric bills, since the entire budget for meter reading is less than 1% of the electric department's charges for services. Those savings will come at the expense of local employment.

Does it really make sense to expose our community 24/7 to radiation, just to save 1 percent on our electric bills years from now? We don't think so.

What can you do?

  • Get Informed — at www.respectashland.org.
  • Opt Out — Submit a request to the city to opt out of "smart" meter installation.
  • Talk to or email the City Council — let your voice be heard in-person at the June 5 City Council meeting and through emails.

Jim Fong is executive director of the Job Council in Jackson and Josephine counties, Will Wilkinson is a local writer, co-author of "Forgiving the Unforgivable," and Dr. Rod Newton is a chiropractor and co-owner of Hidden Springs Wellness Center. They are all Ashland residents.