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The Bio-hazard of Smart Meters: Dirty Energy and Centralized Control 

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | JUNE 28, 2012

Unless you’ve lived all of your life in a developing country where infrastructure is old and decaying, you’ve surely already heard about ‘smart meters’. But for those who don’t know what ‘smart meters’ are, let me provide a quick explanation. ‘Smart meters’ are digital versions of the traditional analog electricity measuring meters that energy companies use around the planet to determine how much of that electricity their customers spend. The readings obtained from those meters are used for billing purposes. What is the difference between a digital and an analog meter? Many. But one is of those differences is particularly important due to the way the digital meters work.

Smart digital meters emit a kind of radio frequency radiation signal which is used by energy companies to remotely control the devices for the supposed purpose of more easily managing the use and consumption of energy, better distribution practices and to keep a tight control on how users spend energy, their habits, times of usage, type of appliances people have at home and so on. In case the word ‘control’ or the new powers that the ‘smart meters’ give energy companies were not enough to raise your eyebrow and get you thinking, let me add that the radio frequency waves emitted by the meters exponentially increases the risk of suffering health damaging conditions due to the continuous exposure to those electromagnetic dirty energy.

Installing ‘smart meters’ is just the first step of a series of policies adopted by governments in the developed and lately even in the developing world to acquire complete control over people’s living conditions. In addition to being able to remotely control the operation of the ‘smart meters’ and how much electricity a home or an apartment building can use from the energy grid, all the new appliances are fit with radio frequency devices which enables them to communicate with the ‘smart meters’ and through that connection, energy companies can learn about how people use the electricity what kind of appliances they have at home, and through the ‘smart meters’ they can control, regulate, and ration everyone’s use of it.

Although ‘smart meters’ were first introduced as a solution to save energy, reduce the cost of energy usage and decrease the number of power problems, reality is very different from those claims. ‘Smart meters’ effectively is the newest tool that enables “big brother” to decides whether you are using too much energy in the winter to heat up your home, or spending too much time with the air conditioning on to cool off during the summer. They will also determine if you are using too much hot water in showers or bathtubs, washing machines and so on. They will have the power then to not only reduce the amount of energy you can use, but to remotely turn off your appliances through the RF device installed in them.

When it comes to the issue of safety or the lack of it, several studies have not only found that ‘smart meters’ emit dangerous levels of RF waves, but also that those levels are higher than first thought. In the United States, a study conducted by Sage Associates proved that the energy company PG&E had misled the public when giving false information regarding the safety of the ‘smart meters’. The study, according to a report from ABC News, discovered that the figures provided by PG&E about the safety of the meters exceeded the limits permitted by the FCC and that radiation from the meters was higher than first explained at distances of 6 inches from the device. “SmartMeter radiation will be a permanent part of the home, and people  have no idea how high their chronic RF exposure might be,” Barry Smith, a spokesman for Environmental Health Coalition of West Marin.

The effects caused by the radiation emitted from ‘smart meters’ are diverse and sometimes unnoticeable for people who live busy lives. Many times the symptoms of disease are similar to those caused by living hectic lives, working two or three jobs to keep up with the bills or studying hard at the end of a college semester. “The very first symptom was my husband and I noticed that both of our ears were ringing. (The meter was located directly outside of our bedroom wall behind our headboard.) Waking up feeling heavy crushing pressure on our chests,
rapid heart palpitations, waking up at night at the same time for weeks (like 1:23 a.m.), emotions unstable, constant agitation, red bumps, rashes, and thermal burns on
face, strained speech, difficulty speaking or loss of words, poor memory, painful inflammation of ear canals due to cell phones, (especially blackberries and i-phones, within 150 feet from me), deck phones, Wi-Fi, electrified outlets, refrigerators, and other electromagnetic fields,” confessed a victim of the ‘smart meters’ whose identity was kept secret for obvious reasons.

Although the harmful effects of ‘smart meters’ are more visible on the people whose houses and apartments are fitted with them, those who install the meters are also affected. back on September 20, 2010, a letter sent to the Chairman of the Safety Committee at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers of California, warned about the dangerous health effects of the meter for those who install the devices for the energy companies. Among the warnings, the letter said that the energy companies do not actually respect the safety limits established by government agencies. The letter also said that there were no safety standards for long-term exposure and that some standards that existed in Russia and European countries did not actually reflect the dangers presented by ‘smart meters’. Besides the headaches and other symptoms caused by the radiation emitted by the new digital meters, studies also show that long-term exposure to such radiation, even if those frequencies are low, damage the neurological and immune systems, cause disturbances to the DNA, sleep patterns, cause memory loss, learning and cognitive disability, abnormal increases in blood pressure, lower sperm counts, negatively affect chromosomes and of course cause cancer.

This brings us to exposing the effects of electromagnetic smog. This dirty form of energy causes the continuous contamination of the environment by artificially produced electrical and magnetic fields (EMF). As reported by RefuseSmartMeters.com, electromagnetic smog is dangerous not only because of its effects on our physical bodies, but also because “it is invisible,
inaudible and odor-free – but everywhere present.” The continuous exposure is the result of the fast growing grid of electrification and more importantly, the way this grid is put in place. Electromagnetic smog comes from domestic electrical installations and household equipment, transformers, high-voltage lines, power supplies, cables and wires, mobile telephones, baby-phones, wireless telephones, WiFi LAN’s, radio and television, radio communications, satellites, civil & military radar stations and airplane radar transmitters, electric motors and transformers in general and of course, smart meters.

In California, one of the American states that adopted more ‘smart meter’ technology, people are privately and publicly complaining about the effects of the RF waves on them and their families. The California Public Utility Commission in San Francisco heard the testimony of some 30 people spoke about the effects that the radiation had on their health. In all of the cases, people experienced the effects of the dirty energy after the ‘smart meters’ were installed in the houses. Other people who attended the meeting also told the audience about their concerns about invasion of privacy. Some of the testimonies included the one from Deborah Tavaras who said that as the owner of several properties she had witnessed the health effects of the radiation and heard the concerns that residents expressed about the ‘smart meters’. Most people are obligated to accept the ‘smart meters’ as a condition to get home owners insurance for their properties.

Orlean Koehle, from Santa Rosa, California spoke about how an environmental impact study omitted the performance of ‘smart meters’. According to Koehle, The Environmental Defense Fund that was supposed to review the safety of the meters had received $17,900 to provide their support for the ‘smart meters’. “Could it be that maybe there are other things
that have been exaggerated and are not accurate – like the science behind all this? We will never know, will we, if there is no environmental impact study demanded?, said Koehle.

Carol Pasco, from Sebastopol addressed her concerns about her privacy rights. Besides allowing for the monitoring and control of our gas and electricity usage, as well as the manipulation of energy prices, Smart technology has also been found to cause documented health problems. With the Smart Meter system, there is the additional risk of computers being hacked into and private information being stolen or abused. “By remote control all electrical fixtures and appliances in our homes can be shut down or shut off at will after Smart Meters are installed.”

Although ‘smart meter’ radiation has been deemed insignificant by some people because measurements of that radiation appeared to be lower than cell phone measurements, recent evidence shows that such assumption is not correct at all. An analysis made from several studies and published on Microwave News on October 14, 2009, points to a reality that even the World Health Organization has had to admit: That long term exposure to RF waves increases tumor risk. RF pollution, as we’ve shown is emitted from both cell phones and so-called ‘smart meters’. A meta-analysis by a joint Korean-U.S. team of 13 past studies was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. The conclusions of the studies support the suspicions that there is indeed a direct relationship between cancer and radio frequency contamination.

In the case of the statement by the World Health Organization regarding the relation between radio frequency pollution and cancer, the study was conducted over a period of 10 years at a cost of $30 million. Another study conducted by the Hebrew University in Jerusalem found a significant increase in parotid gland tumors for the past 30 years, with the year of 2001 as the one with the steepest increase in cases. To this reality, we can add the findings from Dr. Devra Davis, who reveals the relation between radio frequency radiation’s link to DNA damage, Memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease, Cancer, Break down of brain’s defenses, Reduced sperm count and so on. Read more about her findings on her book Disconnect.

Many medical doctors have separately issued warnings about how electromagnetic pollution from cellphones and ‘smart meters’ are a risk to people. Dr. Ronald B. Herberman, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, issued a warning to his faculty and staff asking them to reduce the use of cell phones because of the possible risk of cancer. The dangers of the same kind of radiation emitted from’ smart meters’ prompted the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), to release a list of steps to be taken in order to reduce exposure to radio frequency energy. Health organizations in countries like Austria, Belgium, Australia, Canada, Chile, Cyprus and even the European Parliament itself have issued warnings on the consequences of exposure to dirty energy. The main problem with ‘smart meters’ is that people do not have the option to opt out, as they can do with cell phones or cell phone towers. Electromagnetic pollution is almost unavoidable for those who live anywhere from small cities to large cities. More and more hotels, cafes and schools now offer WiFi services that are available all over their properties.

Besides the ‘big brother’ and dirty energy contamination issues that ‘smart meters’ pose to users there is also the danger of fires, which can start spontaneously when the meters are not properly installed. This seems to be the case in most situations since the workers who are in charge of installing the meters are not even properly trained to do so. This comes from the testimony of employees who decided to speak up about what they saw and experienced while working for energy companies. (See testimonies on Just say No to Big Brother’s Smart Meters page 56). In addition to fire hazard, ‘smart meters’ can also be hacked into. “The vulnerabilities open the door for attackers to jack up strangers’ power bills. These flaws also could get 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,” said Jordon Robertson on an AP article back in 2010. These concerns seem the least troublesome if one considers that due to the direct connection between ‘smart meters’ and house appliances, hackers could do much more that just turn the power off. They could directly have access to people’s personal records which can be stolen from their computers or other electronic devices such as cellphones, tablets with WiFi capability, video game consoles and so on.

Other major issues regarding ‘smart meters’ include (from Just Say No to Big Brother’s Smart Meters):

1. Turning our world into a surveillance society: “Some citizens have expressed discomfort at living in not a safer society but a surveillance society,” said Sam Palmisono, the boss of IBM… He cited a newspaper article recounting that there are now 32 closed-circuit cameras within 200 yards of the London flat in which George Orwell wrote his book, 1984 [about “Big
Brother” watching our every move.] [I’m sure if Orwell were to come back and see his London now, he would say his book has come true.]

2. Possibility of the Smart Meters and other wireless machines being hacked: Hackers have become so sophisticated, nothing is too hard for them to hack into. The article mentions the
“Stuxnet worm” and the May “flash crash” on Wall Street as examples of amazing hackers.

3. Turning our world into a Matrix: The article gives the possibility that the machines could become so powerful and able to control every aspect of people’s lives that our world could
become like the movie “The Matrix.”

4. People will rely too much on the smart systems and their data collecting abilities: Since humans cannot cope with the huge amounts of data collected by the machines, the machines
themselves will increasingly make the decisions that we should be making ourselves.

5. People’s creativity and thinking will be affected: Nicholas Carr, author of the book, “The Shallows,” claims that the internet, the mother of all smart systems, is on its way to
smothering creativity and profound thinking.

6. People will be replaced with machines. Unemployment will increase: Paul Saffo, a Silicon Valley technology forecaster, expects all the wireless technology to give a huge boost
to productivity, but not so many humans will be needed. It will all be run by machines. There will be many without work.

7. Difficult to pass laws as oversight of smart systems: Concerns raised will be hard to deal with. There would be little point in passing laws that give individual the right to decide
whether their data can be used by smart meters, when so much of their lives are already under surveillance through cameras, computers, cell phones and other sensors. “Building in circuitbreakers to keep automation from going too far could defeat the purpose of smart systems and stifle innovation.”

8. For some regulatory laws to pass there must be openness, but there are few people who understand the systems: “The biggest risk is that smart systems become black boxes, closed
even to citizens who have the skills to understand them. Smart systems will make the world more transparent only if they themselves are transparent.”
(The Economist, “It’s a Smart World,” November 6, pp. 3-18, Economist.com/specialreports.)

As usual, as it happens in most cases when a powerful entity — government corporation — wants to exercise its power over the citizenry, there is little or no recourse for people who refuse to accept their programs, policies or in this case, their devices. In the case of ‘smart meters’ there isn’t seem to exist anyone or anything that can be held liable for the trouble caused by these electromagnetic polluters. The only possible solution is that homes, neighborhoods, apartment buildings and whole cities unite and refuse to adopt this form of technology that not only has shown to be harmful to our health, but also invasive like no other one that came before. Adopting ‘smart meter’ in our homes is equal to opening the door to Big Brother for it to stay around for the rest of our lives.

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About the author:

Luis Miranda is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief at The Real Agenda. His career spans over 17 years and almost every form of news media. He attended Montclair State University's School of Broadcasting and also obtained a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism from Universidad Latina de Costa Rica. Luis speaks English, Spanish Portuguese and Italian.

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