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Thorner: Beware of propaganda to quell inconvenient truths about Smart Meters - Part 1

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Thorner: Beware of propaganda to quell inconvenient truths about Smart Meters - Part 1

Thorner: Beware of propaganda to quell inconvenient truths about Smart Meters - Part 1
 In the likelihood that the smart meter issue is new to you or that you have been convinced that smart meters are non-threatening and offer benefits to the public, fasten your seat belts for you are to be taken on a disturbing adventure into the nature of "Smart Meters." 

ComEd plans to install approximately four million Smart Meters on homes and businesses across northern Illinois by the end of 2018, with one million wireless Smart Meters having been installed already. This Installation Schedule can help you determine when you can expect to have a Smart Meter installed. 

Expert Reveals the Truth

If you care about health, including the health of your own family, and about the cost of health care in Illinois, do consider comments made by Dr. Ronald Powell, Ph.D., a retired career U.S. Government scientist who holds a Ph.D. in Applied Physics from Harvard University.  During his government career, he worked for the Executive Office of the President, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.  According to Dr. Powell

Electric power companies [ComEd] made a dreadful mistake when they elected to install Wireless Smart Meters to measure electrical power. Wherever these meters are installed, they threaten the health of all residents in the community, violate their privacy, increase the likelihood of hacking, decrease their personal security and safety, and threaten property values in the community. And Wireless Smart Meters do all of this without any persuasive evidence of any financial benefit to the customers. 

All of these consequences are important for consumers; but the health threat is particularly tragic. The biomedical research community has found adverse health effects from exposure to the RF/Microwave radiation emitted by wireless Smart Meters. 

In a phone conversation between Dr. Powell and a colleague of Thorner, who is a Smart Meter expert, Dr. Powell made these poignant comments about Smart Meters and the health issue:

The RF/Microwave radiation from Wireless Smart Meters is particularly threatening to health because that radiation is so persistent and so powerful. [Com Ed and other] power companies like to fool the public by saying, 'Look these Smart Meters just transmit 6 times a day.' Well, that is just misleading. That may be how many times they transmit your data, but they are a relay station for all the other Smart Meters in the neighborhood. And they all interact with each other and send each other timing signals and all kinds of stuff. And that means that they are extremely busy.  California court documents, describing Wireless Smart Meters indicate that each of these meters issues its pulses of RF radiation, on average 10,000 times per day, and up to a maximum 190,000 times per day, 24/7, forever.  Furthermore, the power level of each pulse is about 1,000 milliwatts, placing Wireless Smart Meters among the most powerful RF radiators likely to be present in a residential environment. 

What also has to be factored in is that for Smart Meters to function there are collectors, routers, and the additional wireless network that sends the collected data to the utility. These components are very powerful as well, and add to the cumulative exposure that a Smart Meter network generates. 

With regard to the CUB (Citizens Utility Board) fact sheet of July, 2014, which can be viewed here, it is not out-of-line to question the integrity of the sources that were consulted to assemble the CUB Fact Sheet, which appears to be primarily pro-ComEd propaganda. 

This CUB statement seen under "factors which impact public health" is especially egregious:  “In addition, there has been no conclusive evidence of any damaging ‘non-thermal’ effects produced by the RF used in…digital smart meters.” 

The statement was soundly refuted below by Dr. Ronald Powell, whose outstanding work will be further discussed in Part 2, along with that of Dr. David O. Carpenter, M.D. 

"There is no convincing evidence of harm from RF/microwave radiation. That is totally, and tragically false.  Further adding:  "And tragically, ignoring this problem can easily by the mistake of a lifetime, leading to profound regret.” 

CUBFacts sheet:  fact checking for misleading statement 

As a way to point out the many misleading statement appearing on the CUBFacts Smart Meter information sheet that is being presented to the public as true and factual, the CUBFacts sheet was edited accordingly:   What is in bold was taken directly from CUBFacts, followed each time by an Author's explanation of what really is!

CUB: What are smart meters?

What the experts say: Smart Meters are billing mechanisms which ComEd will use to facilitate “Time-of-Use” pricing. These digital meters are complex, temperamental electrical computers. Smart Meters gather much more data than analog meters. Data is transmitted wirelessly through Radio Frequency (RF) Microwaves which “hop” from meter to meter and on to their designated collector. In addition to measurement data, Smart Meters send or receive network messages around the clock.

CUB: How do digital meters use radio frequency?  “Digital meters communicate…periodically transmitting real-time customer energy-usage information.” 

What the experts say: The reality is that the utilities are headed towards true “real-time” transmissions, which means always transmitting.

CUB:  This information can help the utility company better manage the power grid … 

Experts' explanation: That statement ignores the reality that smart meters are totally unnecessary to achieve a smart grid. Even Massachusetts’ largest utility claimed in Feb 2014 that there is “no rational basis for Smart Meters” and “Smart Meters do not reduce the number of outages.”

CUB:  (Smart meter data is) “helping them (customers) to better control costs” 

Experts' explanation: Meta-studies of smart meter pilots have shown that only a very small percentage of customers will actually save money. In fact, in many places where smart meters are installed, customer bills increase, often dramatically.

CUB:  PG&E estimates a typical digital meter communicates…as little as one minute a day. 

Experts' explanation: That same PG&E, under oath in court, had to admit that smart meters, on average, transmit 10,000 times per day, and as often as 190,000 times per day. That means from once every 9 seconds up to two times per second.

CUB:  At 10 feet away…a digital meter…emits 300 times less RF than a typical cell phone.  

Experts' explanation:  Richard Tell, in a report for Vermont, found that at the same distance, a smart meter and a cell phone transmit the same amount of RF. And since the amount falls off with distance, 10 feet is an intentionally misleading measurement. 

Is radio frequency dangerous?

CUB: The devices’ (smart meters) RF levels…fall far below Federal Communication Commission FCC) safety standards—typically 70 times less

Experts' explanation:  The existing FCC “safety guidelines” were set based on studies up through 1985. The types of RF exposures common today did not exist in 1985. To protect public health, the 2007 BioInitiative Report recommends a safety standard that is less than 1/1000th of the FCC limit (0.1 uW/cm2 vs 600 uW/cm2).

CUB: Exposure to very high levels of RF radiation, warms body tissue, producing a ‘thermal effect’ that can be harmful. But the lower levels of RF utilized by digital meters and other household devices have not been shown to produce this ‘thermal effect’. In its 2011 report,…the California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) writes that wireless smart meters…result in much smaller levels of RF exposure than many existing common household electronic devices, particularly cell phones and microwave ovens. 

Experts' explanation: CCST was asked by several politicians to answer two questions about smart meter safety. Their limited analysis did not answer those questions. The CCST report was heavily based on an Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) report. EPRI is an electric utility industry association. The data used for both cell phones and microwave ovens were extremely inflated. Based on a recent Swedish study, the average cell phone power is one milliwatt, not the 250 milliwatts claimed in the CCST document.  So the average power density exposure AT THE HEAD is one 250th of the CCST value of 5000, or 20 uW/cm2. Compare that to the CCST value of 40 uW/cm2 at 3 feet from a smart meter. For these reasons, the CCST report was heavily criticized by scientists from around the world.

CUB: In addition, there has been no conclusive evidence of any damaging ‘non-thermal’ effects produced by the RF used in…digital smart meters. 

Experts' explanation:  The American Academy of Environmental Medicine states in its article, “The Evidence is Irrefutable":  The peer-reviewed, scientific literature demonstrates the correlation between EMF/RF exposure and neurological, cardiac, and pulmonary disease as well as reproductive disorders, immune dysfunction, cancer and other health conditions.”

CUB:  When utilities become more efficient…they rely less on power created by coal plants that have been linked to significant health problems.  

Experts' explanation: The implied claim here is that using digital meters supposedly reduces energy use which in turn will reduce the number of coal plants, which “have been linked to significant health problems.” Meta studies of the impact of smart meters on energy usage showed that only a small percentage of the population is able to reduce their usage and the sustainable reduction for that small group was only 3%. Furthermore, the greatest usage reduction is from the purchase of high efficiency appliances and programmable thermostats.

Also, this section fails to consider the increased health care costs due to the health effects of RF from the wireless smart meters. In a mesh network, messages are passed from meter to meter using RF until a collector is reached. The collector uses RF to communicate with the utility through a network of wireless routers, creating three layers of ‘Electrosmog’. Humans can be affected by the RF from a meter 100 yards away (one football field). In a typical residential neighborhood many neighbor’s meters are within 300 feet. The meters emit RF, on average, once every 9 seconds (per testimony from California Utility, PG&E). So residents may be subjected to the transmissions of 10-15 meters, or as much as 20-30 transmissions PER SECOND, all day long. With no respite (particularly at night), a mesh network will have a huge detrimental effect on residents’ health.

CUB: Will the utility have more control over my power usage and shutting my power off?

Experts' explanation: A major concern not addressed here is that the utility will now be able to turn off a customer’s power without first visiting the customer premises, to determine whether there are very young children, disabled or sickly residents who will be adversely affected by the complete loss of power. Also, software control of power shutoff sets the stage for human error, disgruntled employees or hackers to turn off power to one or more customers.


1.  CUB:   Like many common household items…baby monitor, garage door opener-- digital meters emit low levels of electromagnetic energy, called radio frequency, or RF.   

Experts' explanation:  By design the list of “common” items leaves off those with the higher RF exposure: cell phones, wireless laptops and microwave ovens. The proper name for RF is radio frequency radiation, or RFR. It is microwave radiation. Also by design, the meter is called a “digital meter” in an intentional effort to disguise the fact that CUB is referring to a Wireless Smart Meter.

2.  CUB:  The RF levels emitted by a digital meter…are well within FCC safety guidelines, and are much lower than many household items, including a microwave and cell phones.  

Experts' explanation:  Legal does not equal safety. The RF levels can exceed FCC guidelines in areas with multiple transmitters and a highly reflective environment. Cell phone and microwave exposures can be compared to a smart meter, but a customer can choose to limit or eliminate their use. In contrast, smart meters in a mesh network emit almost constantly 24/7 and are being forced on consumers.

3.  CUB: … there is no conclusive scientific evidence that suggests RF from a digital meter poses a health risk.  

Experts' explanation: There is abundant evidence that RF is a probable carcinogen, and many studies (over 3000 in the 2 BioInitiative Reports) are suggestive of various other types of health damage. There are no studies proving smart meters are safe. There is no safe level of RF radiation for children.

For additional factual information on the ComEd Radiofrequency Fact Sheet, see here.  

Part 2: The writings, reports, and testimonies of Ronald M. Powell, Ph.D. and David O. Carpenter, M.D. will be reviewed and presented in light of their stellar reputations and expertise on the issue of Smart Meters that extends back to 2010.  As the title of Part 2 suggests: Shouldn't experts triumph over a corporation's attempt to fool the public?

Read the full story and get part 2 here: