‘Smart meters’ looked like a great idea, writes Lynne Wycherley, giving us more control over our energy use. The downside? They emit as many as 14,000 short bursts of intense microwave radiation a day, disrupting cellular electrochemistry and causing health symptoms from migraine to tinnitus, insomnia, dizziness, anxiety, chest pain, palpitations and memory loss. Now a growing number of ‘electro-sensitives’ have had enough!
As early as 2012, environmental health Professor David Carpenter, founder of Albany School of Public Health, and author of 370 peer-reviewed publications, issued a public letter on the plausible toxic risks of intensive, pulsed-microwave smart metering.
His letter Smart-meters: Correcting the Gross Misinformation was rapidly signed by 50 international health experts.
“We, the undersigned … have co-authored hundreds of peer-reviewed studies on the health effects of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) … Mass deployment of smart grids could expose large chunks of the general population to alarming risk scenarios …
“More than a thousand studies done on low intensity, high frequency, non-ionizing radiation going back at least fifty years, show … biochemical changes which … may lead to diseases.”
Noting, among other risks, the free-radical / cellular / genetic harm recorded in many recent papers on wireless exposure – and the relative potency of smart-meters’ pulses – he adds: “Prolonged exposure … may eventually lead to cellular malfunction … With both cell towers and smart meters, the entire body is immersed by microwaves.”
Though his letter needs updating (see Belpomme, for example, below) he and his signatories are correct in signalling that all of us in the Green movement – activists, politicians, energy suppliers, families – have been given a sanitised version of long-term EMF health risks, including from high-density smart metering. At worst, equivalent to Big Tobacco’s “smoke it baby! there are no risks!”
The International Appeal to the United Nations
Though there is no world consensus on the degree of risk arising from pulsed-microwave pollution (RF-EMFs), it is salutary that most independent EMF scientists are voicing caution. And their numbers are rising rapidly.
In an unprecedented step, 190 precautionary scientists launched an appeal to the United Nations (2015, ongoing) to seek progressive, healthy alternatives to high-SARS phones / tablets and the piercing pulsed microwaves from smart meters, plus similar rollouts.
“Now is the time to ask serious questions about this emerging environmental health crisis”, their video warns, before offering some strong medicine:
“We have created something that is harming us and it is getting out of control! … Wireless utility meters, and cell towers, are blanketing our neighborhoods with radiation… BIOLOGICAL facts are being ignored … International standard setting bodies are not acting to protect the public’s health.”
In its call for cleaner, safer, ways forward, the International EMF Scientist Appeal is undeniably ‘Green’. Yet how many of us are fully aware of its call? Today, it carries 224 signatories from 41 nations; all have peer-reviewed research in the field, and none – to their credit – have been cowed or co-opted by the multi-billion dollar Big Telecoms industry: a colossus whose turnover has begun to rival that of fossil fuels.
Standard-setting bodies with documented conflicts of interests, meanwhile, continue to stifle reform – not least in the UK: see the shocking exposé of AGNIR, for example, by UK neuroscientist Dr Sarah Starkey. Plus French documentary Microwaves, Science & Lies, and the recent letter of no confidence in the EMF wing of the World Health Organisation.
People testifying to harm
Within months of PG&E’s (Pacific Gas & Electric) Californian smart-meter rollout, over 2,000 health complaints were filed. Harsh headaches, dizziness, tachycardia, insomnia, tinnitus; in desperation, some householders fled their homes, while others slept in their cars.
Let’s not forget that PG&E is the energy giant first exposed by Erin Brockovich for dumping hexavalent chromium.
As wave after wave of people have attested to similar problems from US and Canadian rollouts – many testifying to no prior inkling of smart-meter problems (as here /here) – court cases have arisen. Biophysics professor Andrew Marino, an authority on physiological reactions to ‘weak’ EMFs, gave lengthy evidence in defence of impacted residents.
Eviscerating outdated exposure standards, he concluded “coercing the complainants to endure… such exposure … amount[s] to involuntary human experimentation.” In addition health risks from “the type of electromagnetic energy emitted from smart meters … are heightened in the very young, the very old, and in those with pre-existing diseases and disorders.”
Case histories, echoing others around the world, include, for example, 84-year old Dr Georgetta Livingstone (Michigan). When her meter was fitted, she was hit by unexpected sharp pains in her body, headaches, violent head-to-toe rashes, insomnia, intense itching, depression and anxiety. With no remission, it seems, until her meter was finally removed. (Notice Professor O Johansson: skin reactions to EMFs). Such testimonies, however contested, may offer us helpful clues.
IT professionals are among those testifying to impacts. Silicon Valley consultant Jeromy Johnson (see his TED talk) and his wife, a GP, were axed by headaches, insomnia, and palpitations.
In Smart meters, the opposite of green, hosted by Green editor Rob Sidon, Johnson notes that if we connect everything wirelessly to smart meters we risk “filling our homes, our children, and ourselves” with RF microwaves emerging as subtly bioactive. (See, e.g., harm to insects from all ‘weak’ sources tested: Margaritis et al 2013). “How can a technology be considered sustainable if its byproduct harms not only humans but plants, insects and animals?”
Problems have also emerged in Australia, and beyond. In her peer-reviewed paper, Dr Federica Lamech, GP (Victoria), shares 92 in-depth patient case histories. Smart meters, it seems, were ‘the last straw’ in wireless exposure, tipping them into full-blown electrosensitivity – a syndrome now hallmarked, it seems, by toxic and inflammatory biomarkers, and impaired brain blood-flow (Belpomme 2015-2016: nearly 700 lab-verified cases, Paris).
Lamech herself was stricken “with palpitations, chest pain, insomnia, dizziness, inability to concentrate, memory loss and fainting spells. I [later] found out it was [when] the smart meters were remotely turned on.”
Professor Dariusz Leszczynski, biochemist, notes it is normal to have a bell-curve of responses to environmental toxins, and pulsed RF, his field, is no exception. If so, how can we, as Greens, find ways to support the human rights of adults / children at the ‘unlucky’ end of the spectrum?
Eyes on stalks: the corporate hijack of smart-metering
According to multi-award-winning health documentary Take Back Your Power, Big Energy may have hidden drivers for smart-metering. Filmed in Canada and the USA, this deeply humanitarian film, best seen in full [here], reveals how Green aims can sadly become co-opted and perverted. In a race “to monetise the data”, a focus on the bottom line is sweeping injured families aside.
Director Josh del Sol told me, based on his long research, “with more than 5,000 technology patents muffled by the USPTA … new, decentralized, clean energy technologies are in fact being artificially-blocked from market proliferation.“TNCs “are hijacking the good intentions of environmentalists everywhere … with a profit potential (for them) in the trillions.”
Notice, for example, this big-client marketing by Onzo (2017): “We take data from smart meters… and build a highly personalized profile for each and every utility customer. We then tag this profile with key behavioural, attitudinal and lifestyle characteristics … We even tag appliances that we see being used in the home. .. giving [you] the ability to monetise [your] customer data by providing a direct link to appropriate third party organisations.”
Hidden risks to our cells
Dr Dietrich Klinghardt and team (New Jersey) found striking increases in toxic, inflammatory markers in patients’ blood samples – and their asymptomatic spouses – after smart-meter installation. Naturally, this needs wider testing, controlling for any confounding factors, but might there be wider risks, however subtle, at a cellular level?
Professor Martin Pall, a biochemist with 8 international awards, clearly thinks so. In 2013, he won a Global Medical Discovery listing for his landmark paper on a master mechanism of harm from wireless pulsed microwaves: watch his gripping, short talk. Supported by many peer-reviewed papers, it helps to explain the damage (nitrosative / oxidative) to organs and DNA seen in many new studies on WiFi and similar sources.
It’s striking that Pall singles out smart metering. “‘Smart meters’ should be abolished because they use short high-intensity pulses of microwave radiation. We know from the nanosecond studies these can be very damaging and act via VGCC [calcium channel] activation [his research] with activation continuing long after the pulse has ceased … It has been known for over 30 years that short microwave pulses can cause massive cellular damage.” See also his review of pulsed-microwave neurological risks, including from wireless smart meters (2015).
Disturbing toxic ‘window effects’ have been found at low wireless intensities: co-tumour promotion, for example, from levels comparable to tablets’ (Professor Lerchl 2015). While peer-reviewed findings at far lower levels – a clue to life’s sensitivity – raise growing questions about microwave-dense ‘smart homes’ and corporate IoT.
A 2011 study, ‘Electromagnetic hypersensitivity: evidence for a novel neurological syndrome‘ described by DE McCarty et al in the International Journal of Neurosciences concluded that “EMF hypersensitivity can occur as a bona fide environmentally inducible neurological syndrome.”
The single subject was a self-diagnosed EMF sensitive exposed to a 60Hz field of 300V/m in a “double-blinded EMF provocation procedure specifically designed to minimize unintentional sensory cues” who “developed temporal pain, headache, muscle twitching, and skipped heartbeats within 100 s after initiation of EMF exposure (p < .05).”
The authors continue: “The symptoms were caused primarily by field transitions (off-on, on-off) rather than the presence of the field, as assessed by comparing the frequency and severity of the effects of pulsed and continuous fields in relation to sham exposure. The subject had no conscious perception of the field as judged by her inability to report its presence more often than in the sham control.
“The subject demonstrated statistically reliable somatic reactions in response to exposure to subliminal EMFs under conditions that reasonably excluded a causative role for psychological processes.”
Downplayed pollution; ripples in the UK
When governments or smart-meter manufacturers cite ‘compliance’, they are referring to widely challenged ‘safety standards’ based on high microwave levels that cook tissue; all risks from lower exposures – growing annually in peer-reviewed literature – are air-brushed away.
Output is often time-averaged, disguising the microwave pulse-intensity, allowing some misleading comparisons with cell-phones: see industry whistle-blower Diana Ostermann and Dr Karl Maret. Sporadic uploads to masts (WAN) can be cited without mentioning the all-hour house-piercing ‘spikes’ [here] – every two seconds, in the case of tested British Gas meters.
Dr Andrew Tresidder, GP, perceives medical risks (ditto Dr Liz Evans GP): “some have 14,000 very high intensity spikes per day. Biologically, 14,000 screams are not silence!” Data obtained by a Californian court revealed, for example, 9,600 spikes per day, rising up to 190,000.
Dr Andrew Goldsworthy, a senior EMF biologist, advised Parliament that permanent exposure “without the fully informed consent of the people affected is in contravention of the Nuremberg code”. Contrast this to Big Energy’s all-soothing, all-cosy smart meter adverts, and questions of ethics hit home.
As Greens, we may have missed these aspects. Governments, in Rachel Carson’s words, have fed us “little tranquilliser pills of half truth”. Can we catch up with the rapidly growing precautionary science? In all conscience, how many households may be struggling with hidden impacts?
With no clue that the meters (though not a full-blown mesh network, UK) may be a plausible risk factor, particularly if by children’s bedrooms or banked in flats? (See Notes for emerging case histories).
Kilohertz voltage-spikes from smart meter’s switched-mode power (lay measurements here) can add to EMFs in homes, and raise other potential health questions (see Dr David Carpenter), even – unfortunately – in wired smart-meters.
Under revised EU energy rules, meanwhile, some countries have waived smart-metering as cost-ineffective. Overseas, fires have prompted some large recalls.
A potential creeping stress on trees?
In last year’s peer-reviewed research paper revealing phone-mast microwave damage to trees – even, in cases, at two miles – the authors noted “this constitutes a danger to trees worldwide”. Might wireless smart grids exacerbate this? Notice Professor C Georgiou‘s work on EMF free-radical risks to plants, and Haggerty 2010 on aspen seedlings sickened by background RF.
Civilian researchers in Monterey (California) recorded unusual bark splits in oaks and pines following the microwave ‘smart’ grid and WiFi grid switch-on: could this be a theme for eco-research? According (again) to Dr Andrew Goldsworthy, Imperial College, in Why Our Urban Trees Are Dying, our rocketing RF pollution could be a factor in tree disease:
“Trees are now dying mysteriously from a variety of diseases in urban areas all over Europe and are also showing abnormal photoperiodic responses. In addition, many have cancer-like growths under the bark (phloem nodules) and the bark may also split so that the underlying tissues become infected. All of these can be explained as being a result of … radio-frequency radiation.”
Wings for a wiser world
As Greens, we have not always penetrated the emerging risks of dense, pulsed-microwave smart-metering and grids. Nor have we questioned, as fully as we might, other electrosmog raisers, such as LTE, IoT and corporate-proposed 5G. [NEW: see the Environmental Health Trust on 5G and the skin-burning properties of weak millimetre waves.]
Nor have we challenged the deep, pervasive big-industry influences on EMF research, regulation, and ‘spin’, as exposed in a remarkable new book (just published), Corporate Ties That Bind: An Examination of Corporate Manipulation and Vested Interests in Public Health.
But as we catch up with the latest cautioning science, we can begin to expose these dark trends, and the risks and pollution levels they feed. While laying bare the outworn paradigm (denial of all non-heating effects) to which TNCs and governments so scandalously cling.
And on balance, we could begin to initiate healing changes. For though it is challenging to discover that pulsed RF is emerging, by degrees, as subtly bioactive, our Green ethics, our courage, surely enables us to adapt.
Potential solutions, for social and technical visionaries, are legion. From the new, responsive data-over-grid technology, for example, that can manage energy without microwave smart meters. To cleaning up kilohertz EMFs (dirty electricity, also from solar inverters) including, perhaps, the subtly neuro-active frequencies.
To the deep carbon savings of simple energy bill comparison with neighbours, a growing trend. To lending families plug-in energy monitors, perhaps, an alternative to permanent pollution. To conserving wired resources while cleaner technologies evolve. To the inspiring possibilities of data-rich infrared and VLC (LiFi / visual light communication) – now found to have useful reflectivity – combined with fibre-optics … And so on.
Globally, the more we can integrate EMF precautionary science into our daily lives, low carbon strategies, and environmental health awareness, then the more bio-sensitive, and inspiringly fit for the future, we become. So hatching an overdue paradigm – Wings for a wiser world.
Lynne Wycherley is a nature poet with six published collections. Working in parallel with pioneering doctors, she has been investigating non-ionizing radiation for five years.