[Update 14 Dec 2011: The Ouray County Plaindealer published my letter in their Dec 15-21 issue.]
A “debate” is raging locally about our rural utility, San Miguel Power Association, which wants to install “smart” meters. The uproar over “dirty electricity” has to do with the awful sicknesses the RF emitted by these devices will cause – presumably laying waste to the entire county. The tinfoil-hat crowd thinks that any RF is bad RF and that certain people are “EMF sensitive.” Wikipedia has a rather scathing article on EMF Hypersensitivity, including this statement: “The majority of provocation trials to date have found that self-described sufferers of electromagnetic hypersensitivity are unable to distinguish between exposure to real and fake electromagnetic fields, and it is not recognized as a medical condition by the medical or scientific communities.” Anyway, their crusade continues. They seem to have the local county commissioners in their thrall, who are saying this merits “further investigation.” Anyway, keyboard in hand, I wrote my third letter to the editor on the subject, which I include here for your enjoyment.
I don’t get it. When are we going to get some real science in this smart meters “debate”? Do we need to call in the Mythbusters?
This is my third time writing about this issue, and yet people still don’t want to talk about real numbers. Folks, yes there’s RF. Too much RF is bad for you (it cooks you). But nowhere in the “debate” is there any mention of the amount–the actual quantitative amount in watts or at least volts per meter (not electric meters – meters as in the metric system). We need to understand that we’re bathed in small amounts of RF energy all the time by things like cell phones and emergency services communications. Even San Miguel Power Association is delinquent in this regard – you’d think their engineers could give us a quantitative assessment of how much RF energy escapes from their power lines into the air. If nothing else, just install one of the silly things and let anybody measure the RF field power and see the difference between when it’s on and when it’s off. I can tell you the result: you won’t be able to see the difference, even on sensitive field strength meters.
Think: We don’t “debate” the law of gravity, and yet gravity can be deadly dangerous. Water can kill. The sun will give you skin cancer. The old mines around here dump toxic metals into the Uncompahgre River. The electricity in your walls can shock you. Light bulbs emit heat and we all know heat can start fires. Good grief–why aren’t we all dead already?
Let’s recognize this is a science issue and not a matter of voting over whose opinion is right. No matter how much we debate, we can’t change the time the sun comes up every morning.
From a science point of view, the issue is how much RF energy is too much, and I can tell you (as an electrical engineer) that the amount emitted by the smart meters is so small it simply fades into the background radiation. It’s millions of times less than what even begins to harm us.
(See here for my previous letter to the editor. Oh, and do put a doormat under your utility meter so the dirty electricity can wipe its feet before coming into your home!)