Smart Meter IQ

Why Smart Meters are a Bad Idea for Naperville

Smart Meter IQ is an organized effort in Naperville, IL to educate the public on the privacy, health, and cost issues related to the smart meter rollout planned for Naperville.

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Health Concerns

“Health Impacts of Radio Frequency from Smart Meters”

By Dr. Karl Maret

January 30, 2011

For the record, my qualifications to make this commentary are that I hold a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, a Master of Engineering degree in Biomedical Engineering, and a Medical Doctor degree and have additionally completed a four year post-doctoral fellowship in physiology.  I have been interested in the health effects of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) for many years and given lectures about the potential health impacts of non-ionizing radiations, both in Europe and the United States.  I am president of a non-profit foundation interested in energy medicine, a sub-specialty within the field of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) as defined by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), a center within the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).

           Non-thermal Microwave Radiation from Smart Meters

The biological effects of low-level, non-thermal electromagnetic fields have been researched for over 30 years.   The respected 2007 Handbook of Biological Effects of Electromagnetic Fields edited by Barnes and Greenebaum (1) states on page 377:

 The biophysical lore prevailing until the late 1980s and lingering to this day is that, unless the amplitude and frequencies of an applied electric field were sufficient to trigger an excitable membrane (e.g. heart pacemaker), produce tissue heating or move an ion along a field gradient, there could be no effect.  …. However, this position had to be changed as the evidence for weak (non-thermal) EMF bioeffects became overwhelming.”

Prof. Arthur Pilla, PhD
Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Columbia University

There are numerous reports on the potential health effects of non-thermal electromagnetic fields.  Early reports include papers by Frey (1993), Lai (2000) and  Hyland (2000), among many others.  An international working group has delineated many additional scientific findings (Bioinitiative report, 2007).  Special editions of the journal Pathophysiology were specifically dedicated to this topic recently (Pathophysiology, 2009). 

The European Journal of Oncology published an entire monograph entitled “Non-Thermal Effects and Mechanisms of interaction between Electromagnetic Fields and Living Matter” outlining non-thermal effects on living systems.  This came from the National Institute for the Study and Control of Cancer and Environmental Diseases “Bernardino Mamazzini” (Giuliani & Soffriti, 2010).

There is now a large body of scientific literature describing several key mechanisms for the action of weak electromagnetic fields.  These include, among others:

-          removal of calcium ions bound to cellular membranes, leading to their weakened structure and changed cellular functioning

-          change of calcium ion leading to changes in metabolic processes in cells,

-     the leakage of calcium ions into neurons generating spurious action potentials,

-     fragmentation of DNA in cells seen through the Comet assay

-     changes in the blood-brain barrier in animals after microwave exposure

-     defined cellular stress response, including the production of  heat shock proteins (HSP), that are triggered electromagnetically at non-thermal levels that require much less energy than when triggered by heat (so-called thermal considerations)

-     activation of specific genes by exposure to non-thermal electromagnetic fields leading to gene transcription to form RNA, the first stage in the synthesis of proteins

All these biological effects are well substantiated in the scientific literature and occurred at much lower exposure levels than current FCC standards. It takes many years for definitive health effects to be substantiated, yet the evidence is accumulating that health effects will become more widespread, given sufficient time, from the scientifically researched biological responses to RF radiation. 

The extensive REFLEX study involving research groups from seven countries found effects on biological systems from cell phone radiation at levels 1/40th of the level of accepted safety guidelines promulgated by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) (Adlkofer, 2006).   This report focused on a four year international collaboration of twelve European research groups involving in vitro studies of non-thermal radiofrequency radiation from cell phones. 

Biological systems often respond in a non-linear manner and there is a large degree of genetic variability as to how animals or people are affected.  Non-thermal EMFs might be comparable to the hazards of low levels of toxins found in the environment which can be potent in very low levels at disrupting enzyme systems in the body, but may not be proportionately worse at higher levels. 

Dr. Richard Gautier in France offered a full description of active mechanisms for the action of non-thermal EMFs.   There are peer-reviewed scientific studies for each step of the processes that can lead to chronic diseases such as cancer, leukemia and neurological diseases.  These conditions often require longer time periods to develop and the Precautionary Principle (see later) ought to be applied when adding new sources of microwave radiation such as those from Smart Meters that are active night and day in our homes and places of work.

There is mounting evidence of various types of tumors being caused from cell phone usage including parotid gland tumor (Czerninski, 2011), meningioma (Hardell et al., 2006), acoustic neuroma (Sato et al. 2011), brain tumors (Hardell & Carlberg, 2009) and testicular tumors (Hardell et al., 2007), to name only some.  Considering the increasing number of scientific papers describing various types of tumors associated with non-thermal radiation from cell phones that are appearing in the medical literature, it is not helpful to have non-thermal radiations from Smart Meters add to our long-term susceptibility to serious diseases.     

Another problem is potential health effect of microwave radiation exposure during our sleep which may adversely affect our biological and circadian rhythms (daily physiological regulatory cycles). Smart Meters will pulse intermittently day and night and may have an adverse effect on sleep cycles. 

Exposure to microwave /radiofrequency fields affect the neuroendocrine system causing neuroendocrine chemical modulations and behavioral reactions.  Already in 1970s it was known that resonant absorption within the cranium may result in the focusing of energy and the production of electromagnetic “hot spots” in the brain (Johnson & Guy, 1972).  Microwaves may disturb the critical hormonal regulatory areas including the hypothalamic-pituitary axis through “low intensity” exposure.  The body may elicit “different responses relative to the timing of the exposure with respect to circadian rhythm” (Michaelson,1982).  At night, while sleeping, the body is principally in a repair mode and the exposure to microwave radiation from Smart Meters may potentially be more damaging than exposure during the day.  Smart Meter pulsed microwave radiation could have an adverse biological effect on our population.