Health & Safety
Health Impact Report
Because advanced meters use wireless radio transmitters to send and receive data, some customers have asked about possible negative health effects from associated radio frequency (RF) emissions. The most comprehensive scientific study to date, which investigates this topic, was completed by the California Council on Science and Technology in 2011, the results of which are published in their report entitled “Health Impacts of Radio Frequency from Advanced Meters."
The 2 primary conclusions of the report are as follows:
- The FCC standard provides a currently accepted factor of safety against known thermally induced health impacts of advanced meters and other electronic devices in the same range of RF emissions. Exposure levels from advanced meters are well below the thresholds for such effects.
- There is no evidence that additional standards are needed to protect the public from advanced meters.
RF Energy Exposure
So how does a person’s exposure to RF energy from an advanced meter compare to that from other common household devices, such as cell phones and microwave ovens? The answer is it is quite a bit less. Here is why:
- An advanced meter only sends and receives data for a few seconds each day. The rest of the time, it is not transmitting data and therefore emitting no RF energy.
- Advanced meters are low powered, generally 1 watt or less. By comparison, a microwave oven draws anywhere from 300 to well over 1000 watts of power.
- The strength of a radio wave decreases very rapidly with distance (the inverse square law) and people do not generally spend a great deal of time very near to their electric or water meters. That is quite different from a cell phone, which is held up to a person’s ear for minutes or hours at a time.
Any discussion of the health implications of advanced meters would be incomplete without acknowledging the environmental benefits of the advanced grid modernization as a whole. By using energy more efficiently, we reduce our emissions of greenhouse gasses and other pollutants.
Empowering customers with near-time information about their energy usage is one of the primary requirements for widespread adoption of emerging green technologies, such as plug-in electric vehicles. Moreover, if the advanced grid modernization enables us to shift even a small percentage of our peak energy demand to off-peak hours, there is the very real potential of avoiding the need to construct additional power plants in the future. When taken together, these factors collectively contribute to a cleaner and healthier environment for all of us.