by Diana Ostermann*
Diana resides in South Haven, Michigan, and is a retired wireless data strategy manager with 22 years experience. The author has drawn on some material earlier published in an article written by Mary Beth Brangan and James Heddle. A link to that work may be found at the end of this article.
Utility companies nationwide are moving toward installing transmitting electrical, gas, and water meters at each customer’s service. The new digital meters being installed on electrical services are a type of meter being called “smart” meters because they can do time of day metering, keep very close track of energy usage, and potentially perform other functions. In the case of both Consumers Energy and DTE, and most other utilities, the “smart” meters selected are (wireless) transmitting “smart” meters. The transmitting electrical rate meters typically transmit in strong bursts every few seconds 24 hours per day 7 days a week. The other utility meters also transmit similarly.
In addition to transmitting in strong bursts, transmitting “smart” meters can also overexpose the general population to high frequencies by putting high frequencies on home and building wiring, either deliberately through signaling or inadvertently through poor engineering. This is potentially dangerous in the long-term for everyone; however, for people who already have radio frequency sickness, sometimes called ‘Electromagnetic Hyper Sensitivity or EHS, this exposure can cause disability nearly immediately. Experts estimate that 3-15% of the general population is electro sensitive, and continued chronic exposure could drive that number to 50% in five years.
Radio frequency sickness results from overexposure to radio frequency radiation. The symptoms include headaches, ear ringing (tinnitus), nausea, fatigue, skin rashes, irregular and/or racing heart beats, muscle twitches, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, memory problems, high blood pressure and more. Radio frequency sickness is not a disease. It is an environmentally induced functional impairment. Radio frequency sickness has real and disabling consequences. People with radio frequency sickness experience illness (or even death) upon exposure to radio frequency radiation. The most common sources are electrical pollution – high frequencies that travel on building wiring, – and transmitters – all wireless devices.
In addition to its radio frequency transmitter, each wireless digital meter also has a component called the ‘switching-mode power supply’ (SMPS) – switching power supply for short. Its function is to ‘step down’ the 240v alternating current (AC) coming in from the utility pole power lines to the 2 to 10 volts of direct current (DC) required to run the meter’s digital electronics which record the electricity usage data.
The SMPS function emits sharp spikes of millisecond bursts constantly, 24/7. The SMPS on the OWS 514 NIC model, for instance, which is the smart meter model widely installed by PG&E throughout its territory (notably, California), has been measured to emit spikes of up to 50,000 hz and higher. This constant pulsing of high frequencies, in addition to the RF function, is causing not only interference with other electric and electronic equipment in many homes with smart meters installed, but also is causing havoc with biological systems (plants, animals and humans) in its field of exposure.
When current flows through the wiring of a building it generates a surrounding electro-magnetic field that radiates outward all around the wires at right angles to the direction of the current’s flow and reaches out into the room. It is well known that switching power supplies can generate spikes of so-called electromagnetic interference (EMI), or high frequency transients, which then travel along the wiring in the walls, radiating outward in the wiring’s electromagnetic field. Such spikes are known as ‘dirty electricity’ and can be conducted to a human body that is within the range of the radiating field. This function is on all smart meters used by all utilities and is on constantly, 24/7.
One engineer explains it this way:
“Extensive measurements have demonstrated that all of the meters measured so far, including ABB, GE, and Landis Gyr, emit noise on the customer’s electric wiring in the form of high frequency voltage spikes, typically with an amplitude of 2 volts, but a frequency anywhere from 4,000 Hertz, up to 60,000 Hz. The actual frequency of the phenomena is influenced by the devices that are plugged into the customer’s power. Some houses are much worse than others, and this observation has been confirmed by PG&E installers that have talked to us.”
Wikipedia agrees that SMPSs have this drawback:
“Disadvantages include greater complexity, the generation of high-amplitude, high-frequency energy that the low-pass filter must block to avoid electromagnetic interference (EMI), and a ripple voltage at the switching frequency and the harmonic frequencies thereof. Very low cost SMPSs may couple electrical switching noise back onto the mains power line, causing interference with A/V equipment connected to the same phase. Non-power-factor-corrected SMPSs also cause harmonic distortion.’ ”
Many believe that it is this ‘dirty electricity’ generated by the smart meters’ switching power supplies that is a major contributor to the symptoms being reported by growing numbers of people in association with the smart meters thus far installed.
The ‘opt-out-for-a-price’ arrangement put forward by some utilities (in Naperville, IL for instance), in which the wireless meters would, at the ratepayer’s expense, have its RF transmitting function turned off, would still not eliminate the ‘dirty electricity’ flowing into the buildings wiring, and so would not prevent negative health effects in the buildings’ occupants.
What does all this mean to you? It means that in their current form, all smart meters negatively affect the health of nearly everyone. Those who are electrically sensitive (EHS) are immediately affected. Others may not notice the effects for years, even decades. However, both the wireless radiation from the transmitters, and the ‘dirty electricity’ are suspected carcinogens. They have also been associated with autism, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, MS and asthma. The only safe path for the time being is to continue to use the old analog meters. The industry needs to redesign the digital meters before they can safely be placed on homes and businesses everywhere.
New Critical Problem with ‘Smart’ Meters: The Switching-Mode Power Supply (SMPS) by Mary Beth Brangan and James Heddle.