Health concerns voiced over smart meters

A group of local citizens concerned with health effects caused by the implementation of wireless smart meters is asking Nanaimo's city council to intervene in the program until perceived radiation problems can be addressed.

Worries over potential health effects from wireless smart meters prompted residents to ask Nanaimo council to intervene in the program until the perceived radiation problems can be addressed.

B.C. Hydro is spending more than $900 million to install wireless smart meters in B.C. homes to replace existing analog meters. The utility already began the installations.

B.C. Hydro says the move is a conservation effort so customers will be able to see their usage and adjust their electricity consumption accordingly.

“Here in B.C. we’re one of the largest consumers of electricity in the world and this device can help address that consumption,” said B.C. Hydro spokesman Ted Olynyk.

But Nanaimo resident Barbara Ann Scott, a member of Citizens For Safe Technology, is calling for health concerns to be addressed before B.C. residents are forced to accept the new technology into their homes.

Scott claims microwave radiation emitted by the meters will have severe health effects on three to five per cent of the population who suffer from electrohypersensitivity, while an additional 35 per cent of the population will be affected by a less severe version of the condition.

“Smart meters would cause severe suffering for many in our community,” she said. “Under the provincial charter, local government has the responsibility to protect its residents’ health and security.”

The City of Colwood prepared a resolution to be put forward at the September meeting of the Union of B.C. Municipalities. Coun. Loyd Sherry said council will look into the matter further before committing to any action.

Scott also asked council to fulfill its responsibilities under the Public Health Act and advise the Minister of Health of the perceived dangers associated with smart meters, as well as ask for a moratorium on the mandatory installation of the wireless technology.

Olynyk discounted health issues relating to radiation, stating that it is radio waves that are emitted, not microwaves, and that it would take 20 years of exposure to a smart meter to equal a half-hour of active exposure to a cellphone.

“And that’s only if you were standing right next to the meter every time it sent a signal, which is four to six times a day totalling about one minute,” said Olynyk, noting that there were no less than eight sources of Wi-Fi in council chambers Monday night during the council meeting. “Smart meter exposure is well within current standards.”

Nanaimo Cowichan NDP MLA Doug Routley said citizens across the province are being forced to take up their concerns with local government because there is no avenue to discuss the issue at the provincial level.

“The British Columbia Utilities Commission does not have oversight over smart meters which is why the discussion will never reach the floor of the provincial legilsature,” said Routley. “That’s why residents are being driven to the extent of addressing local councils to do what they can to express their concerns. This is part of the dysfunction that is causing councils to uptake these provincial issues.”

Routley also noted that in Sweden, the radiation in question is recognized as a workplace disability and that the cost-effectiveness of the program in relation to the “dubious claims” on conservation is questionable.

Scott said that smart meters present other problems.

“Everywhere they are in use the same problems are encountered,” she said. “Issues with security, safety, invasion of privacy and health.”

Scott added that the World Health Organization recently listed radiation associated with smart meters as a class 2b carcinogen, or an agent that has the potential to cause long-term health effects.

Olynyk said that more than 250 million smart meters have been installed worldwide to update power grids and noted that coffee, cars, cellphones, TVs, GPS units, Chinese pickles and many other common items were also listed as class 2b carcinogens by WHO.