Smart Meter Safety: The Fight to Protect Health, Safety and Security

“There is definitely cause for concern” — Dr. Magili Chapman Quinn
“I believe it is crucial to err on the side of caution”Dr. Karen Emery

Amid national reports of illness, overbilling, privacy invasion and electronic interference with medical equipment, Central Maine Power (CMP), Maine’s primary provider of electricity, is moving ahead with plans to install so-called smart meters on the homes of its customers — despite a formal complaint filed with the state’s Public Utilities Commission and resolutions by three Maine towns requesting more time for a thorough, independent investigation into health, safety and security concerns — prompting calls to police in one town.

CMP and the state have downplayed the risks.

‘Hired Gun’

CMP — a subsidiary of Iberdrola USA, a Fortune 500 company — has engaged Exponent, Inc., a company that has defended the tobacco and asbestos industries in cancer cases, and Toyota in the wake of widespread brake issues.

A Los Angeles Times article (February 18, 2010, “Toyota Calls in Exponent Inc. as Hired Gun”) begins:

When some of the world’s best known companies faced disputes over secondhand smoke, toxic waste in the jungle and asbestos, they all turned to the same source for a staunch defense: Exponent Inc.

State Health Official has ‘More Important Matters’

The state’s chief health official, Dr. Dora Mills, has demonstrated a pattern of ignoring radiation warnings to protect industry, and has used selective science in an attempt to minimize health concerns and silence the other side of this international debate.

Even though smart meters have never been tested for health effects, Dr. Mills issued a Maine CDC report concluding no evidence for health concerns. Her 70-page report consists of international organizations calling for more research and further study on cell phone radiation in light of scientific uncertainty. That’s how she concluded smart meters (which operate in a much higher frequency than cell phones) are “safe.”

Documented technology-related health concerns

Epidemiologist Devra Lee Davis, Ph.D., M.P.H., whose new book, Disconnect: The Truth About Cell Phone Radiation, What the Industry Has Done to Hide It, and How to Protect Your Family, was highlighted in a recent New York Times article (November 13, 2010, “Should You Be Snuggling With Your Cellphone?”), mentions Dr. Mills in the book as she details their involvement in testifying before a state panel on a bill to include warning labels on cell phone packaging.

An especially strange presentation was made by Dora Mills, M.D., head of the Centers for Disease Control of the State of Maine. Dr. Mills spent much of the hearing outside signaling that she had more important matters to do than sit through what international experts had to say on the issue. She did not listen to the testimonies of the brain tumor victims. For the record, she provided a highly selective reading of a pamphlet from the UK government, which she handed out. The fact that she did this suggests that Dr. Mills was betting that most of those on the committee would not take the time to read what she had given them but would rely on her to have provided the gist of it. Dr. Mills did not do this.

Instead, she read just one sentence: “The balance of current research evidence suggests that exposures to radio waves below levels set out in international guidelines do not cause health problems for the general population.”

But she did not read the next sentences:

However, there is some evidence that changes in brain activity can occur below these guidelines, but it isn’t clear why. There are significant gaps in our scientific knowledge. This has led a group of independent experts—commissioned by the Government . . . to recommend a “precautionary approach” to the use of mobile phones until more research findings become available.

Dr. Davis lectures at Georgetown, Harvard, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and other universities, and was Founding Director, Center for Environmental Oncology, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, and Professor of Epidemiology at the Graduate School of Public Health (2004-2009).

President’s Cancer Panel

The President’s Cancer Panel last year called this type of radiation a possible cause of cancer, urging more research and, in the meantime, urging people to limit their wireless exposure. CMP makes this impossible. In Maine, smart meters  are mandatory; CMP is not offering opt-outs.

Complaints of Inaccuracy and Concerns over Security

Another recent New York Times article (November 12, 2010, “’Smart’ Meters Draw Complaints of Inaccuracy”) highlights rampant overbilling.

Scientific American draws attention to the cyber-security risks smart meters pose in the article, “Power Hackers: The U.S. Smart Grid is Shaping Up to be Dangerously Insecure” (October 2010).

Efforts by Other States to Protect Their Residents

States and communities across the country have stepped up to protect the health and safety of their residents. Many communities in California have placed moratoriums and bans on smart meter installation.

New Mexico mandated that a local water utility hard-wire its meters as doctors there are active in raising awareness about the public health threat posed by wireless meters.

Connecticut has issued a “go-slow” approach to any smart grid program that includes wireless smart meters.

Hawaii and Maryland both blocked smart meters after pilot programs showed they would not save money. Maine never did a pilot project; Maine is the pilot project, leaving residents feeling like guinea pigs because people elsewhere are getting sick and overbilled in places where smart meters have already been installed.

Across Europe fiber-optics are used as a safer alternative. Hard-wiring eliminates the health, safety and security risks.

In Maine

Three Maine communities — Cape Elizabeth, Scarborough and Sanford — have passed resolutions asking for public forums and more time for thoughtful investigation into smart meter safety.

The Cape Elizabeth Police Department has taken calls from residents upset that CMP workers have arrived at their homes to install smart meters despite their town’s resolution calling for a 90-day period of inquiry before commencing installation.

More information at Smart Meter Safety.

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