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Calif. Council on Sci & Tech finds "No clear evidence that additional standards are needed to protect the public from smart meters."

In California and elsewhere some people oppose smart meter rollouts, claiming these devices pose human health risks. A new study just released by the California Council on Science and Technology (compiled at the request of that state’s legislature) found no evidence of such risks…

On Jan. 11, CCST released Health Impacts of Radio Frequency from Smart Meters. This study was requested last year by California Assembly members Jared Huffman and Bill Monning. CCST did not commission any new research for this report; instead, it reviewed existing scientific and technical literature and standards — and there has been ample prior research on this topic.

None of the research reviewed by CCST showed scientific evidence of harm to human health caused by smart meters. The report also noted that radio frequency (RF) emissions from smart meters are much lower than those of other common household devices. (See pgs. 20-21)

More than 50 million wireless meters have been in use around the US going back as far as 1990, with no documented adverse health effects.

The CCST report discussed the potential for both thermal effects (health damage caused by heat created by radiation) as well as non-thermal effects.

Thermal effects from RF emissions and other types of electromagnetic radiation are well understood. According to the report, the FCC has adopted fairly conservative guidelines to guard against such thermal effects. Even in a worst-case scenario that assumes continuous operation (most smart meters operate only a small portion of the time, see p. 11), FCC’s guidelines provide a large safety margin (p. 16).

CCST noted that the FCC guidelines offer a “significant factor of safety against thermal impacts, the only currently understood human health impact.” (p. 24)

Concerning possible non-thermal health impacts, CCST concluded: “There is no evidence that additional standards are needed to protect the public from smart meters.” (P. 27)

Furthermore: “There currently is no conclusive scientific evidence pointing to a non-thermal cause-and-effect relationship between human exposure to RF emissions and negative health impacts. For this reason, regulators and policymakers may be prudent to call for more research while continuing to base acceptable human RF exposure limits on currently proven scientific and engineering findings about known thermal
effects.” (p. 16, italics added)

Finally, CCST noted that similar concerns over potential RF emission impacts “should apply to all other electronic devices that operate with similar frequency and power levels — including cell phones, computers, cordless telephones, televisions and wireless routers.” (p. 14). The CCST recommends that people who are concerned about RF exposure should support more general research into RF exposure, rather than focus on smart meters.

Despite this recommendation, or the report’s generally reassuring conclusions, California Assembly Members Huffman and Monning have cited this study as justification for their proposition that “customers should be allowed the alternative of having a hardwired smart meter.”

Hardwired meters are somewhat more expensive. It requires running a phone line to the meter from the home’s existing phone connection, and installing an additional box on the home. This typically increases the capital cost of the meter and installation by 50-100%. Maintenance costs are also substantially higher for hardwired meters, due to issues such as gaining access to the telephone line, handling changes when customers move or change telephone suppliers or services, responding to equipment upgrades made by telephone providers, and more.

CCST is accepting comments on the report through January 31.