smart meter

The government along with the energy industry have always touted the benefits of smart meters. It is claimed that the benefits of such metres would be to provide more accurate and fair readings on bills, cut carbon emissions and help people to track and cut down on their energy usage.

Recently, MP Kate Green, who represents the Stretford constituency, publicly praised the savings that smart-meters allegedly brought to her area.

She claimed that the meters helps residents to save £65 a year. The government plans to require all energy companies to deliver smart meters to every home and business in the country by 2020.

But how safe are these meters? Many people across the world – particularly in America have opposed smart meters, which have been at the centre of growing controversy among the public.

A series of news reports from all over the world, both from the media and from organisations such as the EU have helped to shed some light on some of the worrying trends that have surfaced as a result of these metres.

One of the biggest concerns is over the safety of the metres. Many campaigners have expressed concerns about the radiation levels of smart meters and the health concerns that have been brought about as a result.

Their concerns have been backed up by a number of independent, non-government funded reports that have all documented the dangers of the cumulative effects of the EMF frequencies emitted by smart meters.

So what are the dangers? Anti-smart meter campaigners say that some of the toxic effects of the EMF frequencies include long term exposure to diseases such as cancer, infertility, dementia, genetic damage, immune system dysfunction and damage to foetuses.

But they’re just campaigners right? They may not have the medical or scientific knowledge to back up such claims. But they are not alone in their analysis.

According to peer-reviewed scientific literature published by the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, side-effects of smart meters include, DNA damage, reproductive defects, cancer, neurological degeneration, nervous system dysfunction, problems with the immune system, cognitive breakdown, protein and peptide damage, kidney damage, and developmental effects.


Changes associated with degenerative neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) – a disease with similar symptoms to multiple sclerosis – have been reported.

Other neurological and cognitive disorders that have been brought about by smart meters include headaches, dizziness, tremors, decreased memory and attention, autonomic nervous system dysfunction, decreased reaction times, sleep disturbances and visual disruption.

Although there are literally thousands of documents which document these facts, some of the most prominent are those findings contained in the Bioinitiative report, Ecolog report, the Freiburg appeal and the Benevento resolution.

In May 2011, the International Agency for Research on cancer in conjunction with the World Health Organisation classified the RF radiation that these meters emit 24/7 as a possible carcinogen.

Another major problem with smart meters has been the reported cases where fires have broken out as a result of the smart meter getting too hot. In America, where the roll-out of smart meters has already begun, the utility company PECO has reported a number of fires across the country where the smart meters have overheated and burst into flames.

But aside from the severe side-effects, there are even more sinister applications of the smart-meters which do not get as much exposure.

A study from Washington University revealed that smart devices can be used to not only track what you are using – and when, it can also be used to track what type of appliances you have, how many times you go into the fridge, the type of body movements you make, and even what programmes you watch on TV.

Scientists from the University of Washington have developed gesture-recognition technology which is emitted from a “smart” device that essentially listens to all of the wireless transmissions coming from devices throughout a home, including smartphones, laptops and tablets.

Currently, there is nothing under UK law to stop that information being passed on to third parties such as health insurance companies, advertisers and law enforcement.

So a health insurance company for example, could use the data gleaned from a smart meter device to track how many times you go into the fridge, or how many times you use the microwave, and correlate such activities with the likelihood of developing certain health conditions. The meter data could serve as a check on information obtained from questionnaires and studies.

In an article which appeared in Computer Weekly, Raj Samani, from the Cloud Security Alliance, said that in the absence of security precautions, smart meters can be hacked to obtain customer details, denial of service attacks and suspected infiltration by foreign intelligence services.

It can also allow utility companies to switch off your power supply remotely. The press might wish to see the smart meter data of celebrities. Criminals may want to see the data to determine the best time for a burglary and what high dollar appliances you might have to steal. Marketers might want the data for profiling and targeting advertisements. Creditors might want the data to determine if behavior indicates creditworthiness.

Not only can it affect one individual smart meter but electronic worms and viruses can also be spread between smart meters on the grid, shutting down entire power supplies.

In America, where smart meters are more widespread than in the UK, there have been a number of cases where customers have filed lawsuits after noticing that their bills went up significantly after installing smart meters – despite initial promises from the utility companies that their bills would go down.

In Bakersfield, California, 200 residents residents filed a class action lawsuit against utility company Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), and Wellington Energy, the company that installed the meters.

In some cases, customers reported very high discrepancies in their bills. The New York Times reported that one PG&E customer testified “that the new meter logged the consumption of his two-bedroom townhouse at 791 kilowatt-hours in July, up from 236 a year earlier.”

 The company said that the lawsuits are without merit. Some proponents of the meters have even tried to state that this simply serves to show that smart meters are in fact more accurate than the older ones, and were thus calculating the higher, correct rates – a claim that even the energy companies themselves deny.

Paul Moreno, a spokesman for PG&E, has disputed this claim and said that while the old meters may have under-read electricity usage, it was only “by a tiny, tiny amount.”

But with so much controversy, and health concerns surrounding meters, should we really allow the government and utility companies to install them in every home, whether we like it or not?

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