Energy and Climate Change CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Jessica Sapphire (SMR25)

1. The Government needs to completely rethink the proposed wireless Smart meter programme. It would be a very costly mistake. To ignore the current warning signs would be indefensible both on financial grounds and on public health grounds. When wireless Smart meters were first conceived the conclusive evidence of the associated health problems was not available as it is now. In May 2011 the World Health Organisation classified radiofrequency including Wifi as a Class 2B carcinogen. In 2012 the American Academy of Environmental Medicine and the Austrian Medical Association each published documents unequivocally declaring the dangers to public health of wireless Smart meter radiation. In America class action lawsuits were initiated against the utility companies due to the health problems caused by wireless Smart meters. We must take notice of the experience of other countries and change our policy, because thankfully we are not yet fully committed to a course of action, which is no longer viable. We should put the programme on hold and investigate safer and less controversial alternatives such as the fibre optic system, which I understand is being adopted in Italy. At a time when public services are being cut, it is unacceptable to press ahead with a controversial and hugely expensive programme, which will become increasingly discredited and resisted by the British public as the health effects from wireless Smart meter radiation become more widely publicised. The Government needs to take action on this issue. Asbestos is one example of a public health hazard which was addressed too late, although the warning signs were there as they are now with Wifi. Wifi is the asbestos of our era with the potential to affect large populations.

2. In January 2012 the American Academy of Environmental Medicine issued a resolution calling for a moratorium on Smart meter installation until serious public health issues are resolved. The resolution states that “Chronic exposure to wireless radiofrequency radiation is a preventable environmental hazard that is sufficiently well documented to warrant immediate preventative public health action.” The resolution also states that existing guidelines are obsolete and “the current medical literature raises credible questions about genetic and cellular effects, hormonal effects, male fertility, blood/brain barrier damage and increased risk of certain types of cancers from RF or ELF levels similar to those emitted from smart meters.”

3. In 2012 the Austrian Medical Association issued a Guideline about illnesses caused by Electromagnetic Fields stating that there will be many more cases with the roll out of wireless Smart meters. The Austrian Medical Association guideline goes on to say that “in the case of any health problems for which no clearly identified cause can be found, EMF exposure should in principle be taken into consideration as a potential cause”. That is how serious they consider the effect is on human health of radiation from Wifi. (The Austrian Medical Association guideline is available from the ES-UK website).

4. The Austrian Medical Association guideline and the American Academy of Environmental Medicine resolution were issued a year after my life was wrecked in March 2011 by illness due to Electromagnetic Sensitivity after moving into an office with a high level of Wifi and with fluorescent lighting which could not be turned off. I used to be a Company Accountant. At the age of 57 I am now unemployed and living off my savings (which were supposed to help me move home and support me in retirement) because the NHS can apparently do nothing to help me recover my former good health.

5. I have had two medical examinations at ATOS Healthcare, the organisation which studies workplace illnesses and does the medicals for the Department of Work and Pensions. The Disability Analyst’s report said that I am living the life of a totally disabled person. One of the doctors told me that “at ATOS the debate about whether electromagnetic fields cause health problems is over. The only debate now is to quantify the health problems and their effect on people’s ability to work.” He said that although his wife wants Wifi at home, he will not have it because he knows the health risks. “Everything in my house is wired and everything here is wired,” he said. If ATOS now knows that Wifi causes health problems, why is the Government even considering embarking on a wireless Smart meter programme and risking affecting the health of potentially millions of people in the UK?

6. Wifi can travel up to 200 metres or more. It can penetrate neighbouring properties causing health problems for people who are sensitive to this radiation. I already have health problems from neighbours’ internet Wifi. If Wifi Smart meters are installed, the radiation from these meters on neighbouring properties will also affect my health. It is a breach of human rights to have this radiation coming into my home, exacerbating an illness which has cost me my job and my ability to live a normal life. Shielding materials are expensive and far less effective than the claims made for them. When discussing the potential consequences of wireless Smart meter radiation, it was suggested to me that the case of Rylands versus Fletcher could apply to Wifi. The Government has a duty of care to the public. If wireless Smart meters are permitted, the Government has a responsibility to make every household in the country aware of the health risks of wireless Smart meters, so that people can make a fully informed decision as to whether or not they wish to risk their family’s health. The signal from the meters should be curtailed, so that it does not travel outside the house and impinge on the neighbourhood. This restriction should also be introduced for wireless internet. A wired system of communication to the utility companies would have to be put in place unless the current physical meter reading continued. The only viable option is to acknowledge that wireless technology is inappropriate for Smart meters, and make the utility companies use a safer system.

7. In April 2012 the American Academy of Environmental Medicine published a position paper on Electromagnetic and Radiofrequency Fields and the Effect on Human Health, which states “many in vitro, in vivo and epidemiological studies demonstrate that significant harmful biological effects occur from non-thermal RF exposure and satisfy Hill’s criteria of causality. Genetic damage, reproductive defects, cancer, neurological degeneration and nervous system dysfunction, immune system dysfunction, cognitive effects, protein and peptide damage, kidney damage, and developmental effects have all been reported in the peer-reviewed scientific literature . . . Electromagnetic field (EMF) hypersensitivity has been documented in controlled and double blind studies with exposure to various EMF frequencies. Rea et al demonstrated that under double blind placebo controlled conditions, 100% of subjects showed reproducible reactions to that frequency to which they were most sensitive. Pulsed electromagnetic frequencies were shown to consistently provoke neurological symptoms in a blinded subject while exposure to continuous frequencies did not . . . These studies clearly show causality and disprove the claim that health effects from RF exposure are uncertain.”

8. The AAEM position paper also says “Once a patient’s specific threshold of intensity has been exceeded, it is the frequency which triggers the patient’s reactions . . . It is clear that the human body uses electricity from the chemical bond to the nerve impulse and obviously this orderly sequence can be disturbed by an individual-specific electromagnetic frequency environment.”

9. Although there are as yet no NHS guidelines regarding Electromagnetic Sensivity, the condition has been recognised in the UK both by HM Revenue and Customs and by The Health Protection Agency. HMRC have recognised it as a disability for VAT relief under Item 2(g), Group 12, Schedule 8 of the VAT Act 1994.

10. The Summary of Findings from the Health Protection Agency report on the Definition, Epidemiology and Management of Electrical Sensitivity (published November 2005) recognises that the condition exists in the UK and says “Electrical sensitivity symptoms can be broadly grouped into facial skin symptoms attributed to exposure to visual display units (VDUs) and more general, non-specific symptoms across a range of body systems”. “Electrical Sensitivity can have severe consequences for the social functioning of those affected. Experience from Sweden is that subjects with general symptoms have a worse prognosis than those with skin-only symptoms . . . The general symptom group appears to predominate in the UK.”

11. The underlying pathology of Electromagnetic Sensitivity is cell-membrane based, and many tissues, organs and organ systems become impacted. The symptoms are cascades, with manifestations dependent upon the individual’s genetic makeup and environment. The condition is induced by structural changes to the cell membrane that are triggered by localised oxidation reactions that consequently impair cellular function. The condition is epigenetically induced as a maladaptation to environments that include both general and specific interferences from electromagnetic fields, and is self-propagating. I knew nothing about this illness until I became affected and I had to research it to try and help myself get better because there is no help available on the NHS.

12. As the manifestation of symptoms is dependent upon the individual’s physiology, doctors often fail to identify the cause of the illness. One person may have digestive problems, another may have neurological symptoms, another might have fatigue and joint pains. I did not have a health problem before being exposed to Wifi and other radiation in the new hi-tech office environment. The symptoms all came on within a week of working in the new offices, so the cause was identifiable. The AAEM paper a year after the event (in paragraph 8 above) provided an explanation of why this happened to me. I was fit and healthy prior to this. As a result of my experience and discussing this with other people, I have concluded (as the Austrian Medical Association guidelines would indicate) that the damage to health from environmental radiation is more widespread than we know. Many people have symptoms identical to mine, however they do not realise their health problem is related to electromagnetic fields. If we do not take control of radiation in the environment, this could become the single biggest factor contributing to ill health in the UK. It will not only cause untold misery to those with health problems, it will also be a big financial drain in terms of lost working hours, benefits to people unable to work, and costs to the NHS. These costs will far outweigh any benefits. Wireless Smart meters should be removed where they have been installed. If these meters are not removed, the Government has a duty to ensure that people are fully informed about the health risks of wireless Smart meters and insist that the utility companies provide a safer option.

February 2013

Prepared 26th July 2013