Letter to the Editor - March 15

March 15, 2013

Some clarification needed about smart meters

To the editor:

In reference to a March 12 letter about smart meters, the alarmist websites the writer apparently has been relying on seem to contain a few overblown panic alarms. The assertion that smart meters can be harmful to your health needs some clarification.

They do emit more radiation than a cell phone, but simple physics demonstrates the limited impact that is likely in typical homes. Radiation dosage decreases by the square of the distance from the source. If someone is 2 feet from the smart meter, the radiation dosage is one-fourth of that if you are a foot away. At a distance of 3 feet, it is 1/16th; at 4 feet, it’s 1/64th; and so on. Unless the homeowner is planning to sit for several hours a day within a couple feet of his meter, the health consequences will be considerably less than using his cell phone a couple hours a day. 

The alarming symptoms Dr. Hirsch notes are the results of high dosage levels. As long as you’re not going to make a habit of hanging around your meter all day, there’s probably little need for all that double-blind testing. Similarly, effects on home electronic equipment are negligible at any distance from the meter.

As for the complaints about inaccurate billing, there are many more complaints about the current policy of estimated billings, a problem solved by the smart meters’ automatic usage reporting.

The assertion that the meter will allow utility companies to know “the most intimate details of our lives” is just a tad exaggerated. The only thing the meter reports to the utility company is how much electric power is going through the meter at some set of sampling times during the day. From that, they could probably deduce when you’re not at home (low usage) and they might be able to guess when you’re doing something like taking a shower or running the dishwasher or  clothes dryer (high usage). If high or low electric usage is the most intimate detail of one’s life, that’s a pretty quiet life.

Steve Specht

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