Energy and Climate Change CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by ElectroSensitivity UK (SMR42)

Are consumers’ concerns about health being addressed adequately?

Consumers’ concerns about health are not being addressed adequately.

The following points cover some of the main issues.

1.Although people already sensitised to electromagnetic exposure are grateful for the opt-out provision for health reasons made by the government on 29 November 2011, the provision of this opt-out is not being made sufficiently well known to consumers by many utility companies.

2.Consumers are not being warned by many utility companies that both the WAN and proposed HAN means of communication are to be mainly wireless electromagnetic radiation which is now classified as a 2B cancer agent.

3.The wish to expose all houses and their occupants to a 2B cancer agent conflicts with ICNIRP warnings. In 2002 ICNIRP warned that some elements of the population are more sensitive or vulnerable than others to low-level wireless electromagnetic radiation, and that governments should make provision for these vulnerable groups. Since the radiation from the smart meters travels into and through properties adjacent to the property emitting the radiation, unless all properties within a wide area have wired smart meters, these vulnerable groups will suffer detrimental health effects.

4.The wish to expose all houses and their occupants to a 2B cancer agent conflicts with the UK government’s own health warnings. The proposed use of mobile phone networks for the WAN means that in many cases where there are children resident in a property the children will be exposed to mobile phone radiation. In 2000 the UK government endorsed the Stewart report advising that children under 16 should not use mobile phones except in an emergency, and the government has subsequently continued officially to promulgate the same warning. It is therefore inappropriate to use wireless smart meters in most dwellings where children could be present in close proximity to a wireless transmitter.

5.Research shows that children can absorb up to ten times the electromagnetic radiation compared with an adult. Further, if children start using mobile phones before the age of 18 they have been shown to be five times more likely to develop brain tumours than people starting to use mobiles in adulthood. It is therefore inappropriate to use such radiation near or in household dwellings where it is likely that children could be present.

6.For people already sensitised to electromagnetic radiation, the radiation has significant cumulative biological effects, making the repetitive sending of signals as required by smart meters, however short, all deleterious.

7.Many industry reports and measurements compare exposures with only ICNIRP’s heating levels. Heating, however, is not the issue, since wireless meters are designed to be far below levels which heat the body. The established adverse effects are at non-thermal levels, as recognised since 2011–12 by parts of the WHO and the UK government. The relevant exposure levels, therefore, are low-level and long-term biological limits, such as Seletun 2010 and BioInitiative 2007 and 2012. These apply to everyone. For electromagnetic hyper-sensitive people even lower levels are usually needed and should be included in all exposure assessments. This is also the approach found in the ICNIRP’s 2002 warning to governments about the needs of vulnerable sub-groups.

8.There are “windows” in the bio-active range of electromagnetic exposure. Thus, for instance, more blood-brain-barrier, DNA and other biological damage can be done at 1–2 meters from a mobile phone than closer. There appears to be no provision to assess these “windows” for each installation of a smart meter radiation transmitter.

9.Within a house the radiation reflects off different surfaces in different amounts. More than one source of radiation, as from a phone mast, WiFi and a smart meter, can cause constructive or destructive interference patterns. These can cause significant hot-spots within a dwelling which are very difficult to locate but are highly bio-active, especially if they are within a sleeping or resting area or areas frequented by children or the elderly. There appears to be no provision to measure such adverse hot-spots.

10.If it is recognised that electrosensitive people have the right to refuse a wireless smart meter because of the radiation health damage, as in the government’s pronouncement in 2011, then it also follows that they should be able to have wireless smart meters on adjacent properties replaced by wired meters. If the neighbour’s meter is the other side of the house from the relevant phone mast, the radiation has to pass through the adjacent house and it will be transmitted at a higher level because of the interference and attenuation from the objects and people within that house, creating a significant radiation hazard for sensitive occupants.

11.Little serious consideration appears to have been given to the obvious safe alternatives to the 2B cancer and other health problems inevitable with low-level electromagnetic radiation. Other countries recognise the health risks for the whole population and instead use fibre-optic cables, wired telephone lines or power line transmission, although the last also emits radiation but at mainly reduced bio-active levels.

12.The proposal to use electromagnetic radiation for the transmission of smart meter data is out of step with most regulatory groups and scientists. The exception is the small number of pro-radiation industry organisations like ICNIRP and the governmental groups which follow the same outdated approach, such as the UK HPA and SCENIHR.

13.The EU parliament voted in 2011 that member states should replace the obsolete ICNIRP heating limits and instead adopt biological low-level limits.

14.The Council of Europe recommended in 2011 that member states should replace unnecessary wireless radiation with wired installations in line with biological low-level limits.

15.The EU Environment Protection Agency has issued several warnings about the current high levels of electromagnetic pollution.

16.The scientific consensus in western countries, based on the majority of involved scientists, has, since 2008, viewed low-level electromagnetic radiation as potentially harmful based on established non-thermal effects.

17.Eastern countries, such as the USSR in 1958, rejected the type of heating limit still used by ICNIRP, and adopted non-thermal limits. Other countries have also chosen non-thermal limits, most recently India which rejected ICNIRP’s heating limits in 2012.

18.Where wireless smart meters have been installed in other countries, such as parts of the USA and Australia, there has been significant ill health in some people directly as a result of wireless meters emitting electromagnetic radiation. Some people in adjacent dwellings have developed electromagnetic sensitivity. Pets and plants within range of wireless meters have also suffered ill health.

19.In the UK the charity ElectroSensitivity UK has recently begun to receive reports of people whose health has been severely damaged by wireless meters.

20.Some international scientists involved in dealing with electrosensitive patients have forecast that the numbers of people sensitised will continue to rise as electrosmog increases, including the significant contribution from smart meters with wireless WAN and HAN. This now appears to be happening.

21.Some doctors have recently stated that about 80% of illness is now caused by or exacerbated by electromagnetic exposure. To add yet more electromagnetic exposure, therefore, as from wireless smart meters and smart appliances in UK homes, seems ill advised.

22.Doctors groups, such as the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, have called for restrictions on smart meter installations because of radiation exposure.

23.When eventually the exponentially increasing amount of ambient environmental electromagnetic exposure has to be reduced to biologically acceptable limits, there could be an extra cost to replace wireless transmitters on smart meters and smart appliances with wired alternatives.

24.No appropriate risk assessment appears to have been done on the wireless transmitters used in smart meters and smart appliances. The health risk is not from heating, of course, since this is already known and guarded against in most smart meters, but from the long-term biological effects which have been known for over 80 years. Electrosensitivity has been described in the medical literature since 1932, and there are now medical centres abroad concerned with diagnosing and treating electromagnetic hyper-sensitive patients. The Nordic Council of Ministers recognised and classified the condition of electro-sensitivity in the year 2000, and their method of diagnosis is still the basis of diagnostic protocols used by specialist centres today, although curiously the HPA still confuses electro-senstivity with the different condition of EMF Neurosis and therefore these diagnostic protocols are much less common in the NHS and the UK than abroad. It would be appropriate, therefore, before any wireless meters are installed, for a risk assessment to be made with reference to electrosensitive people. It would also be appropriate, before any wireless meters are installed, for a risk assessment to be made of the long-term effects on all members of the population, including the vulnerable groups recognised by the ICNIRP over 10 years ago.

February 2013

Prepared 26th July 2013