EDITOR'S SUMMARY: Smart meters have been normalized as the new-ish energy readers in neighborhoods near and far. Regardless, that doesn’t mean exercising caution should be overlooked when it comes to their electromagnetic frequency (EMF) toxicity and your health. Out of sight, out of mind is clearly not the “smartest” way to deal with this predicament.
Written by Kathryn West
Edited by Nicki Steinberger, Ph.D.
It’s convenient getting rid of the need for a human meter reader; so much so that your old traditional meter might join the ranks of the ancient landline you used to own. But what is the trade-off for this “convenience?” Human gullibility = “a failure of social intelligence in which a person is easily tricked or manipulated into an ill-advised course of action.” You’ve been told these devices are “smart,” but have you questioned how their “intelligence” impacts your health?
Utility suppliers are supposed to notify you before switching from an electric power meter to a smart meter, but this isn’t always the case. A shiny, digital meter may be placed onto your wall without your consent to participate in the “experiment.” If you’re a renter, your landlord might have already accepted the offer to switch.
How it works: On the outside wall of your home, a meter is attached that reads your household’s energy usage in the form of electricity, water, or natural gas. You might have a traditional, electro-mechanical meter with spinning dials. If you’re fortunate to have kept the ‘ole fashioned type, every couple of months someone from your utility company comes out to your residence to gather the reports. If it seems your friendly utility worker has gone MIA—“missing in action”—there’s a reason for it.
In 2006, advancements toward an ever-expanding digital world introduced “smart” meters to households. These controversial, interactive devices beam two-way communication between the meter and your utility company. They automatically transmit real-time use through a wireless connection, sent directly to your energy provider. This eliminates the need for manual readings, as well as estimated usage from outdated machines.
Curiously, a quick internet search on the “pitfalls of smart meters” fails to deliver the most dire concerns about these slick, handy devices. To read those you’ll need to scroll a bit further down the page. Routinely, the same “cons'' pop up, as if cut and pasted from a cloned source:
- Risks of an invasion of privacy, as you expose your energy-related habits
- Warnings about hackers
- Concerns about your smart meter going “dumb” if it loses functionality
Yes, security and privacy issues are important, but the most significant warning is blurred.
The Nuts and Bolts
Smart meters use a cellular broadcasting transmitter to track your power consumption and send data to utilities, communicating through wireless radiofrequency networks. They do this by emitting invisible rays of electromagnetic frequency fields, or EMFs. The electric and magnetic forces in EMFs are caused by electromagnetic radiation, or radiofrequency (RF) waves. It goes to reason that over time, you'll be exposed to greater amounts of this radiation.
While it’s tempting (and very human, apparently) to want to ask … Will the smart meter do more harm than my cell phone? What about the radiation exposure from mammograms; how does that compare? Isn’t the microwave more dangerous? The smart meter is further away from my body than the cordless phone so it must be okay, right? And lastly, of course … Everyone on the block has one!
But perhaps a smarter question to ask than which one is better or worse, is the question that ponders what the accumulated effects from continuous saturation of multiple EMF devices will look like years down the road. And since the answer to that question is unknown, it seems a wise idea to run not walk toward minimizing your EMF exposure.
Fine and dandy you say, but is there really need for concern when it comes to my smart meter? After all, EMFs are everywhere, and everybody’s “doing it.” Stand back: Electromagnetic radiation is an environmental pollutant, and your smart meter is no exception. EMFs have been shown to increase oxidative stress, which can damage cell membranes and proteins, and break DNA bonds. They are also linked to an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, neurological disorders, infertility, and electromagnetic hypersensitivity.
Not only does exposure to electromagnetic radiation negatively affect your cells, it lowers your quality of sleep, and raises levels of stress, depression, and anxiety in your body. Yet harms to human health from smart meter radiation are not being divulged with full transparency to the public.
Picture this: Many of these so-called “smart” meters are mounted outside of a bedroom wall. With approximately six to eight inches between where your bed might be positioned, and the EMF meter on the other side of the wall, it’s just too close for comfort. Ask yourself if you’d want your child laying there night after night soaking it in. From Clinical and Experimental Pediatrics, “Health effects of electromagnetic fields on children”:
“In today’s world, most children are exposed to various manmade electromagnetic fields (EMFs). EMFs are electromagnetic waves less than 300 GHz. A developing child’s brain is vulnerable to electromagnetic radiation; thus, their caregivers’ concerns about the health effects of EMFs are increasing.”
In fact, the most frequently reported symptoms from exposure to these radiofrequency fields include insomnia, headaches, tinnitus, fatigue, anxiety, dizziness, and heart issues. So where do YOU want to lay your head? And one study was clear to note that most victims of these symptoms did not have electromagnetic hypersensitivity syndrome (EHS).
Experts keep sounding the alarms that chronic exposure to EMFs could have serious repercussions for your health, and especially children who were exposed in utero. From a recent study in Child Development, “Electromagnetic Fields, Pulsed Radiofrequency Radiation, and Epigenetics: How Wireless Technologies May Affect Childhood Development”:
“Symptoms of retarded memory, learning, cognition, attention, and behavioral problems have been reported in numerous studies and are similarly manifested in autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorders, as a result of EMF and RFR exposures where both epigenetic drivers and genetic (DNA) damage are likely contributors.”
Make no mistake: Exposure to electromagnetic interference impacts your biology. A 2018 study, “Exposure to 1.8 GHz electromagnetic fields affects morphology, DNA-related Raman spectra and mitochondrial functions in human lympho-monocytes,” found that exposure to EMF fields affects living organisms, and DNA-related mitochondrial functions in humans:
“Nonetheless, the original findings reported in this study suggest that EMFs exposure may affect the DNA and metabolic homeostasis in immune-competent cells potentially influencing both the innate and adaptive immune response and remark the need of a proper use of EMFs based-technologies to preserve the human health.”
More research must come to light on the harms of electromagnetic radiation on human health. Bioelectromagnetics, “Low-level exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields: health effects and research needs,'' addressed the connection to cancer:
“Studies of populations with residential exposure from point sources, such as broadcasting transmitters or mobile telephone base stations have caused widespread health concerns among the public, even though RF exposures are very low. Recent studies that may indicate an increased incidence of cancer in exposed populations should be investigated further.”
“The BioInitiative Report concluded that a reasonable suspicion of risk exists based on clear evidence of bioeffects at environmentally relevant levels, which, with prolonged exposures may reasonably be presumed to result in health impacts.”
There’s plenty of research highlighting the cautions you should be taking, but nonetheless, when it comes to the health risks associated with wireless radiation, the official narrative is that the radiation output is safe for human exposure. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not consider EMFs harmful, thus the serious health risks continue to be ignored. The telecom industry has successfully persuaded federal regulatory agencies and public health authorities, leaving consumers confused and unaware of the long-term dangers.
Is it trickery? Smart energy-consumption meters are being touted to enable emissions reductions, consistent with the government’s environmental goals. More recently, switching to smart meters have been advertised as a way to empower yourself.
They claim you can see the precise usage and cost generated by each appliance, so you may be more inclined to turn off that light, upgrade to an energy efficient dishwasher, or shift your practices to off-peak hours. It’s all about enabling a smart grid where everything is centralized and controlled, with help from federal funds. Unfortunately, there is limited evidence that they live up to their claims, according to a study published in Nature Energy, "Smart meters persist."
The government implementation of smart meters is well underway. Most energy providers are offering them as standard readers, and deploying them rapidly across the country. In 2015, across the United States, there were approximately 64.7 million smart meters installed. Today, more than 90 million smart meters track residential electrical usage, and millions more monitor gas or water services, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
Limiting Your Exposure
Is your cell reception and wifi coverage super-speedy and just as strong as can be? Great for streaming; bad for holding onto your traditional energy meter. In the race to spread radiation-emitting cell towers into every corner of the world, Big Tech is fast-tracking them everywhere. Since most cities are already saturated, and invading neighborhoods daily, government-backed agencies are shifting their focus to get rural areas “up to speed.”
Unless you’re intentionally living off-grid, or in a far and away remote area, you are being exposed to invisible EMFs all day long. If you’re housed with a smart meter, it’s important to know that bursts of data transmission, along with doses of radiation are being sent out continuously; rigorously. In this scenario, while it’s not possible to avoid EMF exposure, there are ways to limit it.
If you can opt-out of having a smart meter installed, do so now. If not, determine if your smart meter is located on the other side of a bedroom wall (or other room where folks sleep). If it is, take steps to have it moved. This typically involves your current supplier disconnecting the power and cables that run into your electrical panel, and dismounting the meter. From there, a handyperson can remount and reconnect the wiring in a new location.
Faraday shields (or cages) are used as protection from electromagnetic radiation, and will reduce EMF pollution but not completely block the signals. They can be purchased, or you can make your own out of aluminum foil.
However, once you cover your smart meter, at some point your utility provider may send someone out to troubleshoot blocked transmission signals, and insist the cover be removed. Other EMF shielding products exist such as paint and fabric. However, since the efficacy of these various modes of protection is questionable, avoidance strategy is safer than shielding.
Additionally, it makes sense to have a good quality EMF reader on hand, so you can check the levels of radiation in your home, and workplace if you work in a separate location. There are EMF specialists who can also assess the levels, and suggest mitigation actions. Crystals like shungite, are not only beautiful to have in your space, but can offer some protection from EMFs.
In most cases, having a traditional energy meter where you live means that your utility company hasn’t caught up with the technology … yet. To encourage you to switch to a smart meter, your utility supplier may offer exclusive discounts and reductions to your energy bills. Eventually, a smart meter may be enforced by law, and you will not have a choice in the matter.
Opt-out policies vary by state, so you’ll need to check where you live. In California, for example, it will cost you a $75 one-time fee, and a $10 monthly charge, which is limited to three years. If you qualify for a low-income rate, the opt-out costs are reduced to a $10 one-time fee, and a $5 monthly charge.
Stay aware: Keep your eyes on your meter to make sure it remains a traditional energy meter. If you haven’t noticed your meter reader come by for a while, take it as a wake up call and go look! Above all, stay grounded, and fight the switch to a smart meter to the utmost.
Last words by Amy Myers, M.D., in “How Dangerous Is Your Smart Meter?”:
“These devices may be smart, however, how smart are we to use them? They communicate constantly through electromagnetic fields and radiofrequency waves that flow all around us. However, just like you want to drink clean water, breathe clean air, eat organic food and use clean body products, you’ll also want to secure a clean “electronic” environment too.”
Published on July 06, 2023.
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