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Smart Meters and Radio Frequency Fields

Wednesday, August 10, 2011  •  News

Lakeland Electric like many other utilities across the United States is installing smart meters as part of the country’s commitment to upgrade the electric grid. The smart grid is an evolution of the nation’s utility grid to make it more effective, efficient, and responsive to the needs of our country, the utility industry, and most of all – customers.  The Smart Grid will not only give Lakeland Electric more control over its utility grid, it will also give YOU the customer more information and control over your electric use than ever before.

Smart meters are electronic devices equipped with low-powered radios that communicate with the electric utility company.  The smart meter’s low-level radio frequency (RF) signals are assigned by the FCC and are similar to those used my many other everyday appliances such as cellular and cordless phones, garage door openers, baby monitors, televisions, wireless computer networks and home security systems. The smart meters used by Lakeland Electric comply fully with established RF safety standards established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Scientific Research

Scientific research has been conducted on RF fields and health for decades with the most recent RF research concentrated on cellular phone frequencies.  Smart meters use the same range of assigned frequencies as cellular phones.

The Federal Food and Drug Administration reviewed this scientific research and concluded that the weight of scientific evidence does not show an association between exposure to radio frequency (RF) from cell phones and adverse health outcomes.

The World Health Organization (WHO) advises: “A large number of studies have been performed over the last two decades to assess whether mobile phones pose a potential health risk. To date, no adverse health effects have been established for mobile phone use.” And cell phones are typically held against your head when in use, while smart meters are outside your house, on the other side of the wall.

Smart meters transmit only about 45 seconds a day. Studies indicate that a typical cell phone user gets more exposure to radio waves in a month than having a smart meter on their home for 1,000 years.

The Federal Communications Commission has concluded that no scientific evidence establishes a causal link between wireless device use and cancer or other illnesses.  It is important to understand that the RF signals used by smart meters are much weaker and less frequent than exposure from cell phones and other home electronic devices.

Comparison of RF Power Density in the Everyday Environment

Power Density in Microwatts per square centimeter (µW/cm2)
Adjacent to an electric Smart Meter (10 feet) 0.1
Adjacent to an electric Smart Meter (1 foot) 8.8
Microwave oven nearby (3 feet) 10
Wi-Fi wireless routers, laptop computers, cyber cafes, etc., maximum (~3 feet for laptops, 6-15 feet for access points) 10 – 20
Cell phones (at head) 30 – 10,000
Walkie-Talkies (at head) 500 – 42,000

Source: Richard Tell Associates, Inc.

Research indicates that a person using a laptop computer is exposed to more than double the radio frequency than a person standing within a foot of a typical smart meter.  In fact, a person standing within a few inches of a microwave is exposed to 550 times more radio frequency than a person standing within one foot of a smart meter.   Keep in mind smart meters are installed on the exterior of a home and by design send a signal out, not toward a home, so those inside a home or business have even less exposure.

Smart Meter Safety Standards

Many appliances and consumer electronics that are designed to go inside a home are typically approved by UL as a product that is safe for the home.  Smart Meters go through an even more stringent approval process than that of UL approved products.  Before utilities accept and deploy Smart Meters, these devices must meet a number of national standards and comply with state and local codes designed to ensure proper operation, functionality and safety. Smart meters must first be approved by the Federal Communication Commission ( FCC standards for intentional and unintentional radio emissions and safety related to RF exposure, Parts 1 and 2 of the FCC’s Rules and Regulations [47 C.F.R. 1.1307(b), 1.1310, 2.1091, 2.1093] ).  The smart meters used by Lakeland Electric are also certified as safe through the National Electric Manufacturers Association (NEMA SG-AMI 1 “Requirements for Smart Meter Upgradeability”).  NEMA standards play a vital part in the design, production, and distribution of products destined for both national and international commerce.  They also must meet the American National Standards Institute criteria for accuracy and performance (ANSI C12 .1, 12.10, and 12.20).

For more information regarding Radio Frequency Fields visit the following sites:

Utilities Telecom Council:
No Health Threat from Smart Meters

Federal Communications Commission:
Radio Frequency safety FAQ

World Health Organization:
Electromagnetic Fields and Public Health

Electric Power Research Institute:
Radio Frequency Exposure: A Case Study