Consumer Engagement with Energy Markets

Memorandum submitted by Lynne Wycherley (CE 17)


Engagement with Energy Markets:  the disturbing issue  of ‘smart meters

Executive summary

Smart-metering can be achieved using fully-wired means (e.g. using phone lines/ethernet); however, utility companies are pushing wireless installations that use aggressively pulsed microwaves.  Independent analyses shows their emissions are far higher than industry claims, with high ‘spikes’. Internationally, these meters continue to be dogged by distressing symptoms (typically headaches, trashed sleep, nausea, dizziness, heart arrthymia) consistent with microwave

radiation sickness syndrome known for 60 years.  However, energy company websites demonstrate an absence of transparency, with no mention of these risks, and market smart-meters vigorously, often with ‘hooks’ (rewards for accepting them).

The implications are extremely serious. Firstly, installation of wireless meters will pollute homes with inescapable symptom-risking pulsed microwaves, violating the Human Rights Act, Articles 2, 8, & 14.  Secondly, the absence of transparency means that present and future consumers with symptoms are unlikely to connect them with their meters: we therefore risk bewildered consumers struggling with illness in their own homes, presenting to equally bewildered doctors.  Those who manage to make the connection will have no escape –  Non-prosecution of householders who decline

a meter will fail to give consumer protection: pulsed microwaves pierce walls, floors, flesh: wireless meters will pollute both neighbours’ houses, and neighbourhoods.  Thirdly, wireless meters will add to the pulsed-microwave ‘load’ in the home: a substantial body of warning science testifies to its chronic toxic risks.  Fourthly, because of non-transparency, few consumers will request non-toxic wired alternatives; the industry will therefore pursue a symptom-risking roll-out unchallenged, the full chronic impact of which may take years to emerge, and be costly to rectify.

Therefore, fully wired smart meters represent the only humane option, and would best serve UK consumer interests. Because distressing symptoms linked to wireless meters occur at 3 to 4 orders of magnitude below current, highly controversial ‘safety guidelines’, there is a need to assert the Precautionary Principle to veto their use, and to guard against further stealth transmitters in the home. Because existing institutions  (e.g. the HPA /Dept of Health) remain attached to these non-protective guidelines, ethical public information will need to come from independent bodies.  

Full memorandum :  The relevant Terms of Reference are nos 6-8:

To what extent are consumers aware of policies such as roll out...’

‘What are the potential implications of a lack of consumer awareness in these areas?’

‘Is greater consumer education needed ...?

1. 1. Smart-metering can be achieved using fully wired means. This is relatively simple,   

and employs (for example) phone lines or ethernet: some Itron models, for example, are designed with the option of using phone-lines or ethernet, and have already been installed successfully using this option (e.g. in parts of Ontario).

2. 2. However, utility companies are pushing wireless installations that use aggressively pulsed microwaves.   This is, as far as one can tell, because these can be installed a fraction more quickly, using fewer materials.  However, it would be unwise to leap at such short-term expedience, and marginal cost savings, at the risk of long-term toxic liability, and public distress.

3. 3.  Independent analyses show pulsed microwave emissions from these devices are far higher than industry claims, with high ‘spikes’ as they transmit data. See, for example, independent analyses by nuclear expert Daniel Hirsch, and by consultants C.Sage & P.Sierck; and see  flux-density readings made at actual installations (e.g. as uploaded on youtube), sometime speaking at fifty to a hundred times the levels at which microwave intolerance symptoms  (according to data by Powerwatch) begin to be self-reported. 

4. 4, Emissions are intensified in those households who, unknowingly, host an extra antenna or ‘repeater’ to relay neighbourhood data: this is another serious issue of non-transparency. 

5. 5.  Internationally, wireless smart meters have been dogged by distressing symptoms. These are typically (but not limited to): headaches, nausea, dizziness, trashed sleep, heart arrthymia, and cognitive problems (also depression/anxiety/tinnitus). Testimonials include those of consumers reduced to fleeing their homes. There is a particularly high volume of public testimonials from across North America. For example, after installation in California in 2010, over 2000 health complaints were filed, testifying to intense symptoms. Expensive law-suits, and costly replacement

with analogue meters, have ensued.  (Longer cycles are not a solution: some subjects have reported frequent waking corresponding to each microwave ‘burst’.)  These are precisely the kind of ‘early warning signs’ that the Council of Europe has urged all governments to heed in relation to microwave exposures [Document 12608, May 2011].

6.  Due to the cumulative, chronic nature of pulsed-microwave toxicity, the full human impact of wireless smart-metering may not be known globally for many years.  Therefore, such early warnings are valuable and need to be respected, and responded to by precautionary steps to avoid exposure, i.e. seeking fully wired solutions.

7.And therefore, the alleged ‘benefits’ of wireless smart-meters by those who promote them need to be balanced by their human cost: one could argue that trapping people, without  transparency, in polluted symptom-risking homes and neighbourhoods, cannot in conscience be justified by any alleged ‘benefits’ whatsoever, particularly as fully wired solutions are available.

8.  This symptom-set (5), is consistent with  microwave intolerance syndrome, or radiation sickness, known from weak whole-body exposures since the 1950s: see, for example the work of distinguished scientists and radiation historians Professor Karl Hecht, and Professor Henry Lai. Moreover, it is consistent with symptoms associated with other involuntary pulsed-microwave exposures, such as close range phone-mast radiation (see papers by  e.g. Oberfeld  /Navarro/ Abdel-Rassoul / Bortkiewicz / Hutter / Riddervold / Santini/ Eger & Jahn / Heinrich), and the imposition of wi-meshes (e.g.): Unbeknownst to me, the local council decided to erect a Wifi-mesh system throughout the town centre. The first   I ‘knew’ of it was splitting headaches – the first I’d ever had –

nausea, insomnia, dripping sweat, a sense of  ‘needles’  in my eyes... My wife’s experience was similar...

We soon discovered we were not alone –  Stephen Kane, Glastonbury [published online]  (Military microwave scientist Dr B Trower has come out of retirement to stress the toxic risks of such schemes). However, it needs to be noted that because the intensity of smart-meter transmitting ‘spikes’ exceeds these examples, the need to protect consumers is overriding.

9. Disturbingly, company websites demonstrate an absence of transparency with regard to these risks, (one also wonders if they are in denial, i.e. have internal cultures that discount these risks plus the international testimonials of people with distressing symptoms). Their websites market smart-meters vigorously, often with ‘hooks’ (rewards for accepting a wireless smart meter), with no mention of these risks. Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (31.10.2012) noticed large benefits for companies pushing these meters, such as cost savings (e.g.: meter-readers can be made redundant) and new access to consumer data  (enabling them to market products); in other words, there is every incentive for energy providers to market these devices vigorously (including to governments), and none for transparent admission of their potential risks.

10. Because these symptom risks are almost wholly unknown to the British public (for example, U.S./Canadian health impacts have been limited to their national press), affected subjects in the UK’s small trials are unlikely to have made a connection.  [Any meaningful trial surely needs close health monitoring, including symptom questionnaires for every household].  That said, I have noticed bewildered voices

have begun to appear: ( on smart meters ):  A number of these devices have been installed in the vicinity and now my wife and I are getting constant

headaches just when we are at home, we find it hard to get to sleep and when we do its broken and sleep

after 5am is rare. I have been told these smart meters pulse out high levels of electrosmog every 6 minutes

as they‘poll’ ...I read that 200,000 homes are to have these meters in 2012 and I wonder how many will

be affected like ours.      -    Andrew Washington, MAIDSTONE, UK, 20/11/2011 10:06

11. The implications are extremely serious. Firstly, the violation of human rights –  Article 2:freedom from torture (one U.S. mayor correctly observed that for anyone with distressing symptoms, blanket imposition of pulsed-microwave meters would be "a living nightmare") / Article 8: freedom to enjoy one’s home / Article 14: freedom from discrimination – i.e. we must not discriminate against consumers who discover they are less able to tolerate these pulsed microwave bursts, physiologically, than others.

12.  National installation of wireless meters would pollute millions of homes with avoidable pulsed microwaves.  Non-prosecution of those who decline meters will fail to give consumer protection: pulsed microwaves pierce walls, floors, flesh, and will pollute both neighbours and  neighbourhoods.

13.  The absence of transparency on symptom risks means that present and future UK consumers with linked symptoms are unlikely to connect it with their meters. We therefore risk the spectre of bewildered consumers struggling with illness in their own homes, presenting to equally bewildered doctors. 

14. Wireless meters will add to the microwave ‘load’ in the home, already increased by wi-fi antennae/DECT cordless phone bases (etc).  This is no trivial matter:  there are now many papers on weak pulsed microwaves’ genomic and  bioactive effects, including DNA breakages, aberrations & delays in repair (please see work by, for example, Paulraj, Nikolova, Adlkofer, Lai & Singh, &  teams led by Aitken/ Bahong / Phillips/ Gandhi / Kim/ Yoa/ Lixia / Franzellitti /Manti / Zhang /Mashevich/ Sykes / Ferreira/ Mancinelli /Focke/ etc); altered gene expression (Balyaev/Lee/ many papers), pro-cancerous heat-shock proteins (French 2002/ de Pomerai/ Velizarov etc);  and other signs of cellular/oxidative distress (Garaj-Rhovac/Prof Blank, etc etc,) 

15.  Meanwhile, two other important factors provide clues to intolerance symptoms from wireless smart-meter’s microwave bursts. These are (i) measured physiological effects from ‘weak’ pulsed microwaves, such as increased blood-brain permeability (many animal studies, eg. Sirav/ Eberhardt/ Oscar/ Frey); and (ii), the toxicity of the aggressively pulsed modulation: Dr Blackman (overview of

published studies) charted higher DNA damage and EEG/neural effects from weak pulsed microwaves compared to c.w. (continuous waves).  (One can see a similar effect in the 100-pulse-per-second battering ram of DECT cordless phone-stands, which can stress the heart: Havas 2010)

16.  Because of consumer innocence, few will request non-toxic wired alternatives, and therefore the industry may pursue a roll-out of symptom-triggering meters unchallenged (surely such exploitation of consumer ignorance is unethical), which would be expensive to correct later on. – As in all toxicology, it may be years before the full chronic effects emerge. 

17. If wireless meters are pursued, then logically, the only ethical, fully transparent, course is to supply every consumer household, and GP surgery, with sample testimonials of those afflicted by pulsed microwave meters, so they can make an informed choice about whether to accept one.

18.  These distressing symptoms (5.) occur at 3 to 4 orders of magnitude (10,000x ) below current, highly controversial, microwave ‘safety guidelines’ [ICNIRP].  These were originally based only on acute, high-level microwave exposures that ‘fry’ us (cause thermal injury), to the neglect of all chronic, non-thermal toxic effects, now known from many science papers (see, e.g., 14-15)  Large numbers of ethical scientists (e.g. the International Commission for Electromagnetic Safety) in neurology, cell biology, biophysics, and other areas of medical expertise, have pronounced these obsolete, and are calling for their reform.  (To anyone with symptoms, they are comparable to a line drawn through the moon when actual protection is needed at ground level). Although inconclusive, sometimes negative, short-term studies  have allowed these guidelines to persist – a common problem in toxicology –  more cautious countries such as Russia, Switzerland, Belgium, and China, have guidelines several magnitudes lower.

19. Simultaneously, the European Environment Agency (since 2007) and Council of Europe (May 2011) have strongly urged reductions in people’s involuntary pulsed-microwave exposure, particularly indoors, in line with the Precautionary Principle (iterated by our own 2000 Stewart Report):  "when there are indications of possible adverse effects, though they remain uncertain,

the risks from doing nothing may be far greater than the risks of taking action to control these exposures."

 –  Therefore, when energy companies, or those who back them, boast that wireless meters’ emissions (however symptom-triggering) are well within  ICNIRP guidelines, as a means of silencing valid consumer concerns, we need to state that this in no way nullifies the health distress being risked or experienced.  

20.  Similarly, since the HPA and Dept of Health have difficulty seeing past these guidelines, and  choose to be disempowered by them, ethical information for consumers will need to come from independent bodies.  (The DECC, who have been working closely with energy providers, may perhaps lack the desired impartiality). There may be an inherited bias in these institutions due to consumer

concerns (re: microwaves) when there was less warning science to support them, compounded by the fact that the warning science, although substantial and growing, struggles to be heard –  The EEA and Council of Europe has urged governments and regulators explicitly to heed it,

and to assert the Precautionary Principle: " There are many examples of the failure to use the precautionary principle in the past, which have resulted in   serious and often irreversible damage to health and environments ... Waiting before taking action ... can lead   to very high health and economic costs, as it did with asbestos, leaded petrol, and smoking" Jacqueline McGlade , executive director of the EEA, urging a reduction in

public involuntary pulsed-microwave exposure.

21. Summarising points 1 to 20, there is therefore a very strong case to conclude that (in relation to energy markets) fully wired smart-meters (or existing meters) are the only wholly ethical and responsible provision for UK consumers; and that such provision would helpfully create a healthy precedent for further wired smart-metering (e.g. from gas & water utilities), and thus future-proof our country, and all its consumers, against distressing, cumulative bioactive pollution of homes and neighbourhoods.

22.  Finally, any further stealth transmitters (e.g. in fridges etc. in ‘home area networks’, misleadingly marketed in the name of energy efficiency) need urgently to be re-framed as potential symptom-triggers with cumulative chronic cellular risks.  Bearing in mind that human beings evolved against a very low background radiation, with no oscillating microwaves, it is no surprise that these carry subtle toxic risks, and anyone may be susceptible to exposure symptoms.  In line with the Precautionary Principle, and human rights, consumers confronted with energy markets need wise wired technology (= applied with precautionary biological wisdom) rather than merely ‘smart’.

March 2012

Prepared 11th September 2012