By B. Blake Levitt –
Few people realize that the concept of the ‘smart’ grid and its accompanying ‘smart’ meters – which create two-way communications between utilities and customers for billing, new time-of-use rate pricing tiers, and other utility-friendly goals under the guise of green – rely on the unfettered use of nonionizing radiofrequency (RF) radiation throughout our homes, businesses, and neighbourhoods. In this new “mesh” network, everything and everyone is connected, whether we want it or not. This will, in time, include all appliances – washing machines, dryers, air conditioners, refrigerators, freezers, computers, furnaces, etc. – which will be equipped with transmitting antennas; many new appliances already come with them. People who do not wish to be exposed to such an added layer of ubiquitous RF, a known genotoxin classified as a 2 B (possible) carcinogen by the World Health Organization’s IARC Committee, can’t deactivate such appliances without disabling the product and negating the warranty.
Government standards in place for RF do not consider cumulative exposures from the other myriad RF-emitting devices in our midst today. Device approval is taken one product at a time. Add cell towers, cordless and/or cellphones, wireless computers, and Wi-Fi routers among other common RF-emitting contributors and these become serious chronic ambient exposures. Nor do the standards factor in recent research regarding what’s called ‘dirty electricity’—the phenomenon of multi-frequencies coupling on utility lines to create complex energy exposures. Dirty electricity has been linked to numerous cancers, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. While most “dirt” is created by our own electronic devices, smart meters, using the higher frequency RF to ‘talk’ with the central utility hub, easily couple with the extremely low frequency powerline bands to create antenna effects along wiring, including in your home. RF has been measured in short pulsed spikes far from the meter itself in rooms with no other transmission source.
Because of customer backlash, some utilities now allow customers to opt-out of smart meters, often for a fee. But that just creates a false sense of individual security unless whole neighbourhoods opt out. In the mesh network, your neighbour’s meter affects you, too. There are also “collector” meters that gather usage information transmitted from house-to-house until it reaches the collector. Meters can transmit thousands of times a day, sending high peak pulses of RF throughout your home. Banks of meters on apartment complexes fire constantly at close to 200,000 pulses per hour.
Critical questions that must be answered before this buildout continues:
Why are governments not responding to citizens and professionals raising health/environmental concerns about this new imposed, nondiscretionary, ubiquitous, indoor/outdoor layer of electrosmog—a form of energetic air pollution?
Why are billions of taxpayer dollars being used for this buildout without equal research appropriations into the effects of such technologies?
Research has found a 30% increase in incidences of brain tumors in people who have used cellphones for 10 years or longer. Living in the smart grid is like living with a cellphone turned on 24/7 in every room. Why would smart grid proponents presume that if people oppose cell towers in their neighborhoods, they will allow something like this?
Has anyone at the federal level asked consumers if they want the utility companies ‘talking’ with privately owned appliances?
Has any work been done about the possibility of malfunction of such systems, say, your furnace being turned up to 90 degrees or off in subzero weather by some other stray signal? The electromagnetic spectrum is a crowded place these days.
Have any precautions been taken for potentially deadly radiofrequency interference from smart systems with lifesaving devices like pacemakers, deep brain stimulators used in Parkinson’s patients, insulin pumps, wheelchairs, hospital beds, or other devices highly sensitive to such interference?
Have privacy concerns been addressed? Much can be known about a person via their energy use: presence/absence at home, basic living habits, appliances used. What about the sale of information to third parties?
In an age of heightened national security concerns, do smart grid proponents truly comprehend how vulnerable such systems are to hacking and how susceptible ‘smart’ is to jamming signals, as well as more sophisticated electromagnetic pulse devices? One Black Hat conference demonstrated that whole regions could be shut down via one smart meter. Even without nefarious human intent, the Earth’s natural 11-year sunspot fluctuation alone could disrupt such systems far more easily than our current mechanical hardwired analog grid.
Has there been an education campaign for those customers who do want high-tech “connected” homes? Makers of such wireless devices/networks have an obligation to disclose that there are hundreds of studies showing that even very low-level RF exposures are biologically active, possibly endangering health and the environment (humans are not the only species affected) far below current standards. Would such customers then make the same purchasing decision merely for the convenience of turning down the furnace via their cellphone from work when all they need do is write themselves a note?
The various components of the smart grid have been found to actually increase energy use. Why not order grid designers back to the drawing board to create a truly safe 100% wired upgrade without the wireless component causing all the problems? There have been thousands of complaints of billing errors after smart meters were installed, and numerous fires due to the basic incompatibility of marrying the higher frequency smart technology to the older system. No customer should trust the smart grid as currently designed. It’s a wonder that many intelligent people are advocates. In our headlong rush toward green, we seem blinded by technophoria. But this writer has yet to find a single person who, once given the full details of what the smart grid actually entails, thinks this is smart in any way.
B. Blake Levitt, an award-winning science writer, is author of Electromagnetic Fields, A Consumer’s Guide to the Issues. She has appeared in four documentaries; helped U.S. Congressional offices write legislation for research appropriations; and been an invited speaker at Congressional briefings. She is currently writing a book on the smart grid and the unintended consequences of the Internet-of-Things. Learn more at www.blakelevitt.com.