Recently, two studies were released on the effects of radio frequency (RF) exposure of wireless smart meters on humans. The California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) issued a report in January concluding the RF exposure from smart meters fell far below the FCC limit. A study by Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) released last month reported similar conclusions.

According to the EPRI study, the RF exposure from smart meters would be less than from TVs or radios and far less than from cell phones or microwaves. 

The CCST study concludes that even if a meter malfunctioned and transmitted without stopping and the person was sitting next to the meter 24 hours a day – an impossible, worst-case scenario – the exposure level would be 60% of the FCC limit, or 1.2% of the exposure level at which harmful thermal effects were observed.

Hopefully these reports will quell concerns about the safety of wireless smart meters. I suspect they will satisfy most people, but not all. Some believe the FCC limit is inadequate. Their main concern is about the potential non-thermal effects of not just wireless smart meters but any device that uses radio-waves or microwaves, such as TVs, radios, microwaves, cell phones and internet routers. The claim is that even at low levels of RF exposure, there may be harmful effects – other than from heating tissues – if exposed over a long period. Therefore, they claim the FCC limit is inadequate.

The CCST and EPRI reports acknowledge that concerns exist among some in the public regarding non-thermal, harmful effects (such as headaches, irritability, cancer, etc.) of wireless devices. However, there simply is no reliable scientific evidence to show causation and there is no consensus in the scientific community that RF exposure causes non-thermal related harms. The FCC must base its regulations on reliable scientific evidence and cannot revise its RF exposure standard based on speculative fear.

This illustrates a vicious circle where fear trumps logic. If some simply believe their fears to be correct, even in the light of contrary evidence, then science may not convince them otherwise. One can only hope that an increasing use of smart meters by others will begin to allay their concerns. In the meantime, these reports will give the public more confidence as they take a direct role in the building of a smarter electricity infrastructure.