Smart meters in California likely to exceed FCC safety limits according to environmental consultants


Santa Barbara, CA, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — January 12, 2011 – Under normal conditions of installation and operation of smart meters and collector meters in California, radiofrequency (RF) radiation levels are likely to exceed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) safety limits, according to a new report from environmental consultants Sage Associates.

The report, which is aimed to document the RF levels associated with wireless smart meters in various scenarios depicting common ways of installation and operation, identifies violations of FCC safety limits for uncontrolled public access at distances within 6" of the meter. Exposure to the face is possible at this distance, in violation of the time weighted average safety limits, the report states.

Further, FCC violations are predicted to occur at 60% reflection for time weighted average limits, although peak power limits are not violated at the 6" distance but can be at 3" from the meter, if it is touched.

The report, which is based on computer modeling of single and multiple meters, as well as of both two- and three-antenna smart meters, also seeks to model RF exposures in a typical residence by projecting the levels at distances of 11" (to represent a nursery or bedroom with a crib or bed against a wall opposite one or more meters), and at 28" (to represent a kitchen work space with one or more meters installed on the kitchen wall).

At 11" FCC compliance violations are identified for cases of multiple smart meters or one collector meter (or a combination of these). However, FCC compliance violations are not predicted at 28" for 60% or 100% reflection calculations (although they are for higher reflection factors of 1000% and above, such as might be found in a kitchen with many highly reflective surfaces).

The report continues that in addition to exceeding FCC public safety limits under some conditions of installation and operation (as above), smart meters can produce excessively elevated RF exposures, depending on where they are installed. With respect to absolute RF exposure levels predicted for occupied space within dwellings, or outside areas like patios, gardens and walkways, RF levels are predicted to be substantially elevated within a few feet to within a few tens of feet from the meter(s). For example, using the FCC criteria the RF level of a smart meter in a home would be 140 µW/cm2 at 11", which is significantly elevated in comparison to typical individual exposures in daily life.

In its discussion the report comments that consumers may have already increased their exposures to RF radiation in the home through the voluntary use of wireless devices, such as cellphones and routers, and that the portion of the allowable public safety limit that is already being used up or pre-empted by RF from these other sources is unknown. Further people who have medical and/or metal implants may be particularly at risk.

In summary, no positive assertion of safety can be made by the FCC, nor relied upon by the CPUC, with respect to pulsed RF when exposures are chronic and occur in the general population, the report concludes. Indiscriminate exposure to environmentally ubiquitous pulsed RF from the rollout of millions of new RF sources (smart meters) will mean far greater general population exposures, and potential health consequences. Uncertainties about the existing RF environment, what kind of interior reflective environments exist, how interior space is utilized near walls, other characteristics of residents, and unrestrained access to areas of property where the meter is located all argue for caution.