How you interpret the long-awaited California Council on Science and Technology's report on "Health Impacts of Radio Frequency From Smart Meters," released yesterday, is largely in your own beholder's eye. For example, look at the dichotomy between the two groups of headlines below:
- Report finds no health threat from PG&E SmartMeter (SF Chronicle)
- Study finds no evidence of health risks from SmartMeters (San Jose Mercury News)
- Study finds no evidence of SmartMeter risk, but says more study warranted (Marin Independent Journal)
- Report: Smart Meters Meet Standards, But Need More Study (Mill Valley Patch)
The two articles that include the need for further steady in the headlines are from Marin-based media. That's the bailiwick of State Assembly Member Jared Huffman, who along with Carmel's Bill Monning, requested the report. A hotbed of anti-SmartMeter activism, Marin has seen a flurry of protests against the mandated installation of the devices, which PG&E and the CPUC, at least, say afford a host of benefits as compared to the old meters, but which detractors say cause unwelcome health effects. Last week the Marin County Board of Supervisors voted for a one-year moratorium on SmartMeter installation, even though the county does not have the authority to enact such a ban, as the meters fall under the jurisdiction of the California Public Utilities Commission.
Here's the crux of CCST's report, from the Marin Independent Journal:
(The) current Federal Communications Commission standard provides an adequate factor of safety against known thermally induced health impacts of existing common household electronic devices and smart meters."
The council added, however, "Ongoing scientific study is being conducted to understand nonthermal effects from long-term exposure to mobile phones and smart meters, etc., especially the cumulative impact from all radio frequency emitting devices including that of a network of smart meters operating throughout a community."
The council reported that there is "no conclusive scientific evidence pointing to a non-thermal cause-and-effect between human exposure to RF emissions and negative health impacts. For this reason, regulators and policy makers may be prudent to call for more research while continuing to base acceptable human radio frequency exposure limits on currently proven scientific and engineering findings on known thermal effects, rather than on general concerns or speculation about possible unknown and as yet unproven non-thermal effects."
That carefully worded finding provided enough talking points, apparently, for both sides to seize on. From the Chronicle:
"We're hopeful that today's fact-based report helps alleviate some concern that some customers have raised about radiofrequency and SmartMeters," said PG&E spokesman Paul Moreno.
"This report concludes that they cannot dismiss health impacts from the radiation in SmartMeters," said Sandi Maurer, founder of the EMF Safety Network.
Which means the issue isn't going away any time soon. From Huffman and Monning's joint statement in response to the report:
CCST’s study does not conclusively resolve the smart meter debate. It does provide a credible measure of assurance that smart meters, whether standing alone, in clusters, or in combination with other household electronic devices, do not pose a serious risk of harm from thermal effects...
However, the CCST study does not dismiss the possibility that other, non-thermal health effects from RF exposures might be scientifically established in the future. CCST recommends that studies and monitoring on this issue continue, and that in the meantime, consumers should have more complete information than what is currently available regarding RF emissions from smart meters and other electronic devices so that they can make informed and prudent decisions. The benefits of smart meters and a smart grid do not require wireless technology, and consideration should be given to providing alternative hard-wired meters for consumers who continue to be concerned about potential health risks.
Last month, Huffman introduced AB 37 in the Assembly. The bill requires that utilities offer traditional meters for those who wish to opt out of the SmartMeter program. Yesterday, Santa Cruz County voted to lend its support to Huffman's bill and to extend a moratorium on the meters, which, like the ban in Marin, has thus far had no effect on installation of the devices.
Until such an opt-out exists, protests will probably continue. Yesterday, two women in Rohnert Park were arrested blocking a SmartMeter installation truck.