Blog Post

Smart Meters Are Not a Health Risk. The End.

A handful of utility customers have been concerned about the health risks associated with the installation of smart meters in their communities; these ladies even got arrested over it. But according to a recently-released independent report from the California Council on Science and Technology, which compiled a lot of the already-available research done on the subject, there are no known health risks associated with living with a smart meter.

The health issue that angry consumers have raised has been over radio frequency (RF) emissions, which wireless devices like cell phones, microwaves, baby monitors, wireless routers, and yes, smart meters, emit. These devices emit RF at various rates, and at various power densities, depending on how often they’re used and what the wireless device does.

More studies need to be done on the long-term effects of RF emissions on people. But it shouldn’t be associated with the smart meter folks.

As the CCST study points out, a cell phone at your ear actually emits a much (much) larger dose of RF (as you can see in the graph) on a body, compared to a smart meter. Standing a couple of feet away from a microwave also emits more RF on a person than standing near a smart meter.

In contrast, smart meters are mostly installed outside homes, are installed to face the street (usually not the house), are low power, and during the initial installation phase, are only in use for 2 to 4 percent of the time (though that usage will clearly rise over time, and the graph assumes 100 percent on).

If consumers are concerned about living in apartments that are close to a lot of smart meters lined up outside their wall, there have been studies on that, too. In November 2010 the Electric Power Research Institute field tested how much RF was being emitted from a bank of 10 meters of 250 mW power level at a 1-foot distance. EPRI found that the RF exposure level was only 8 percent of the FCC standard (the FCC establishes an acceptable threshold of RF emissions, and cell phones, microwaves and smart meters all fit comfortably under the limit).

So basically, if consumers are worried about RF, they should give up cell phones and microwaves before blocking smart meter installations.

There is no evidence of health risks associated with RF emissions, but there’s a lack of long-term studies on how it could affect humans over decades or a lifetime. Some studies, which aren’t widely accepted in the science community, suggest that fatigue or even cancer could come from long-term RF exposure. Clearly, that area needs to be researched more, but it will probably need to be focused around cell phone use (and not smart meters), as that’s one of the biggest contributors to RF emissions and humans.

For more research about smart meters and smart grids check out GigaOM Pro (subscription required):

13 Responses to “Smart Meters Are Not a Health Risk. The End.”

  1. For those who missed the point of the article, let me sum it up. It would be good for society to do more studies on Rf emissions over the long term. It would be good, because more knowledge is better than less knowledge. But smart meters should not be a scape goat as they emit far fewer emissions than common household objects. If you are scared of your smart meter, but not scared of the cell phone in your pocket, the microwaved burrito you just made, or the WiFi connection you’re using, then you are uninformed.

  2. RobertWilliams


    Smart meter signal radiation has been shown in laboratories to cause damage to rat brains. But I guess people are not rats (though some are) and so the political group disguised as a science body, can still say there is no ultimate proof that the signal radiation will also damage human brains.

    If you feed something to rats and they die, most rational people won’t want to eat any, but you can still say there is no proof that it hurts humans.

    Up is becoming down and down up in this place where money and power dominate and lower level managers do whatever it takes to follow that lead to keep their jobs and salaries and stay in good graces.

    Even insurance companies, based on what they know about smart meter signal radiation will NOT insure health risks from Wireless devices – The rats and even the sheep will have a hard time rationalizing that.

    VIDEO: Insurance Companies Won’t Insure Wireless Device Health Risks (3 minutes, 13 seconds)

  3. @ Ben Linus, I say twice in the article that the study notes that there should be more research on long term RF emission impacts on humans. There aren’t any KNOWN health risks of smart meters and the conclusion of the study is “There is no evidence that additional standards are needed to protect the public from smart meters.”

  4. You mischaracterize the findings of this study. It doesn’t say anywhere that “there are no known health risks,” but that the FCC standard is sufficient to protect people from known RF health risks. It says quite clearly that further study is needed on non-thermal impacts of RF radiation on humans.

  5. Considering that smart meters are installed on the outside. I can’t imagine it would take much to insulate the wall to shield the tiny bit of RF that is transmitting through the wall. I suspect the “health” concerns are just privacy nuts that are looking for any excuse not to be smart metered.