Energy and Climate Change CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by MCS-Aware (SMR65)


The frequency of wireless emissions from Smart Meters IN ADDITION to the increasing background radiation already in existence such as Wi-Fi and mobile phones will increase the numbers and severity of symptoms of people disabled by Environmental Illness, specifically Electro-Hypersensitivity (EHS). Installing several Smart Meters in every house (and pavement in the case of water meters) will increase involuntary everyday exposure to vulnerable members of the public. With wireless Smart Meters in the neighbourhoods of people with EHS, their health, jobs and lives will be threatened. It is not possible to properly shield against such extensive low level radiation for someone disabled by EHS. Symptoms occur to CUMULATIVE low levels of electro-magnetic and microwave radiation. Once a person becomes sensitized the only way to lessen symptoms is to go to a place with no radiation. There are fewer and fewer of these places left. The current policies of covering the whole of the UK in a blanket of low level microwave radiation from mobile phones and wireless communications (often pulsed signals), has resulted in an increasing amount of people with Environmental Illness becoming homeless and losing their jobs and freedom. Clear references to research and studies were given by MCS-Aware and ES-UK in previous submissions.

No help has been given to this disabled community despite clear concerns being raised by charities and support groups in the consultation stage of the smart meter scheme. Instead health concerns are being belittled and the Government appears to be backtracking on its statement by Charles Hendry in November 2011 that Smart Meters would be voluntary. Utility staff appear to have had no training and are unable to answers any queries from the public about Smart Meters, often giving completely inaccurate information, leading to increased mistrust of the scheme.

In fact a clear solution was proposed at the consultation stage of a fibre optic smart meter scheme which would largely be acceptable by all members of the public—including those with concerns over privacy. This was deemed as financially too costly by the utility industry which leads consumers to believe that financial profits are being put in front of consumer health and needs. Any benefits of a wireless smart meter network are eclipsed by the huge detriment on life and health for people with Environmental Illness. A proposed summary of needs is given at the end of this document.

1. What is Environmental Illness?

Electro-Hypersensitivity (EHS) is an acquired organic disease that manifests multi-systemic symptoms in response to minimal exposure to electromagnetic and microwave radiation. Many people with MCS also develop electromagnetic field (EMF) sensitivity due to biological (cell) damage to the central nervous system by toxic chemicals. MCS and EHS are collectively known as Environmental Illness.

When damage occurs to the “insulating” myelin sheaths and also the lipo protein cell wall layers though exposure to solvents, pesticides etc through increasing levels of pollution and xenobiotics, it exacerbates electro-sensitivity and intracellular electrolyte imbalance. The symptoms are chronic and acute against exposures. They include fatigue and respiratory disorders, digestive, cardiovascular, endocrinologic, immunological, dermatological and neurological disorders, among others.

These conditions are no longer isolated cases but are emergent diseases and a tangible threat to health, reproduction and human development, as evidenced by the multitude of patients who suffer them and the resulting state of social emergency that their existence generates. There are over 35 million people in the world suffering from some form of environmental illness (EI) today, who experience mild to life-threatening physical reactions to extremely low levels of chemicals, mould, foods, electrical fields, and other environmental factors.1

In her article published at re|shelter, Magda Havas, Ph.D., an expert on the biological effects of electromagnetic radiation states:

“According to one study, by 2017, 50% of the population in the western world is going to experience the symptoms of electromagnetic sensitivity. Today, approximately 3% of the population has severe reactions and another 35% have mild to moderate reactions to the electronic equipment that is now common in most homes. Because this radiation penetrates walls, exposure in one home could come from neighbours who have cordless phones and wireless routers, so simply not using this technology doesn’t guarantee that you will not be exposed. It is estimated that four billion people use cell phones worldwide. This rapid increase in cell phone use is exposing billions of people to microwave radiation at frequencies that do not naturally occur on earth. Our research shows that among those who are sensitive to EMR, cordless phones can cause an irregular or rapid heart rate that can be mistaken for a heart attack. We have evidence that exercise on a treadmill increases blood sugar levels among diabetics who are electromagnetically sensitive. These results are objective and reproducible and can be used by doctors to diagnose Electro-Hypersensitivity. Ensuring low levels of EMR exposure in the home is essential for recovery. Just as we have smoke-free environments and nut-free schools we need EMR-free environments for those who are sensitive and for those who do not want to become sensitive to this radiation.”

Wireless Smart Meters will significantly increase the cumulative amount of low level radiation that the public is involuntarily exposed to. If estimated numbers are correct this will have considerable financial implications for the Government including increased numbers of people on benefits, in social housing, needing NHS treatment, home schooling and losing trained professionals from the employment sector.

2. Life and work impact

Once the Smart Meter network is installed it will not be possible for someone with EHS to walk down ANY street without suffering debilitating symptoms. The effects are CUMULATIVE therefore regardless of the fact that each meter emits low levels equivalent to a mobile phone, it is the frequency of the emissions and the amount of meters IN ADDITION to the increasing background radiation already in existence such as Wi-Fi and mobile phone emissions that will cause problems. Once a person becomes sensitized the only way to lessen symptoms is to go to a place with no radiation. There are fewer and fewer of these places left. The current policies of covering the whole of the UK in a blanket of low level microwave radiation from mobile phones and wireless communications (often pulsed signals), has already resulted in an increasing amount of people with Environmental Illness becoming homeless. Wireless Smart Meters will exacerbate this.

Shielding a sufferer’s house from the effects of surrounding electro-magnetic and microwave radiation is not possible for severely affected individuals. If a neighbour installs a smart meter, the person with EHS next door is likely to be affected by the meter output. This is even more of an issue with people living in flats. There have already been documented cases of severe health effects from people living adjacent to blocks of Smart Meters in flats.

Every time a new wireless product is introduced or strengthened (eg 3G, 4G) MCS-Aware get increasing numbers of new sufferers contacting our support group. When we attended the Allergy Show in Olympia in June 2012, we were surprised to find over half the people who we talked to experienced debilitating and LIFE-ALTERING adverse health effects from Electro-Hypersensitivity. This is DOUBLE the numbers we were expecting. If this trend continues this illness is likely have a significant impact on the economy. Trained professionals are already unable to continue working and are relying on benefits because they have developed EHS. We are seeing increasing numbers of young people and children being affected who are unable to continue schooling. It severely impacts quality of life at all ages since sufferers are unable to go anywhere that has wireless radiation without suffering adverse health effects.

Around half the people suffering Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) are now also suffering from EHS and this trend is set to continue. Experts agree that the incidence of MCS and complex immune-medicated allergies is rising exponentially, and impinges on a variety of other conditions including ME, GWS, ADHD et al, MS, MND, Parkinson’s, organo-phosphate-poisoning, etc. Increasing levels of cumulative wireless radiation is likely to INCREASE the amount of people who become electro-sensitive and develop MCS, and have to rely on benefits, social housing and increased demands on the NHS. The wireless smart meter scheme will bring no benefits to these people, some of whom are already homeless and have lost their jobs and access to education and basic freedom.

Addressing the Specific Concerns of the Commission

1. What are the potential benefits of Smart Meters for consumers, and what barriers need to be overcome in order for consumers to realise them?

Consumers (especially people disabled by Environmental Illness) feel they do not have a choice. Despite Government assurances in 2011 that Smart Meters would be voluntary, in real life situations there is considerable pressure from utilities to accept a smart meter. There is no information easily available for consumers. Our experience is that customer services and workpeople from utility and installation companies have no idea what Smart Meters actually are or how they work. The consumer who has health concerns is ridiculed, belittled and told that they legally have to change their meter. They are also told that new meters are not “Smart Meters” or will not emit wireless radiation. These are blatant lies stemming from misinformation to utility employees. Despite Government assurances to the contrary in 2011, consumers are being told that if they do not “upgrade” to Smart Meters their bills will increase. In the case of EHS sufferers this is blatant discrimination against disabled people. However there seems to be no clear way to complain or get impartial advice. All advisors—utilities, Government etc have an invested interest in advising consumers to accept Smart Meters and are actually unaware of the legal and health associations.

2. Is there a possibility that suppliers will gain considerably more than consumers from Smart Meters? Is enough being done to ensure that any financial benefits accruing to suppliers will be passed on to consumers?

As health effects to vulnerable disabled people are being ridiculed, there is considerable mistrust of the information that is being offered. Consumers with EHS are being forced to have Smart Meters installed, and are not given any means of reply, including no support from their MPs. Denying the published adverse health effects of continuous and increasing levels of low level radiation is not a PRECAUTIONARY principle. The European Parliament Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety adopted (27/5/2008) a report on the mid-term review of the European Environment and Health action plan 2004–2010 (Ries, 2008) where the report states that the precautionary principle should remain the cornerstone of the European Union’s policies on environmental health.

There have been no studies into the long term health effects of microwave radiation (such as mobile phone and Wi-Fi frequencies), and the World Health Organization (WHO) has reclassified microwave radiation from wireless communication devices and mobile phones as Class 2B. This is the same class as lead, DDT and car exhaust—possibly cancerous. In May, 2011 the Council of Europe recommended Wi-Fi be banned from schools. Despite attempts to play this down, it is fairly obvious that industry and Government simply have NO WAY OF KNOWING THE HEALTH EFFECTS ON SUBSEQUENT GENERATIONS OF PEOPLE. The increase of EHS sufferers (including children) should act as a warning that all may not be as harmless as it seems. Such warnings have been ignored in the past as was the case with lead poisoning, asbestos and tobacco, costing the Government billions to sort out, and ruining lives. When such information is consistently ignored the public can only conclude that products that have had no long term testing on health must be profit-driven.

Any industry profit that is put into research tends to lead to very skewed and biased results in the industries’ favour. It is almost impossible to get unbiased health research if it is funded by industry. In addition people disabled by EHS have to purchase and pay to install their own shielding from radiation and electro-magnetic fields. As yet NO money from the Smart Meter scheme has been volunteered for either of these purposes. No money from the Smart Meter scheme has been used to research proper shielding equipment.

3. What lessons can be learned from successful smart meter implementation and usage elsewhere in the world?

In terms of health effects, the successful schemes have implemented fibre optic technology as a way of pleasing all parties. Smart Meters can be installed without health worries, Smart Meters can be installed without significant fears of terrorism or privacy threats, current fibre optic lines (that have already been laid in much of the country) can be used, and the scheme offers a much more cost effective LONG TERM solution. Complaints from industry that fibre optics are too expensive to install seem to completely ignore the long term implications for setting up such a network and seem to focus on short term financial gain for industry.

4. Should vulnerable customers and the fuel-poor be first in line for Smart Meters so they can get the benefits sooner?

Vulnerable customers INCLUDE THOSE DISABLED BY EHS. It is not acceptable to use the term “vulnerable people” to refer only to those in financial need.

5. What is the best way of involving third-party trusted messengers, such as charities, consumer groups, community organisations, local authorities and housing associations in roll-out?

Actually listening to what charities are and have been saying for the last few years.

6. What are the potential obstacles to rolling out Smart Meters in the UK and how should these be addressed? What pitfalls have hindered roll-out programmes elsewhere and are we doing all we can to avoid them?

See answers to questions above. Consistently ignoring feedback from charities and disabled individuals is not addressing the problem.

7. Are levels of public awareness of and support for smart meter roll-out increasing?

Our research implies that the general public are not aware of Smart Meters.

8. Is enough being done to increase consumer awareness about Smart Meters? Could DECC’s consumer engagement strategy be improved?

From the consumer’s point of view—especially those people with Environmental Illness—no help is being given to consumers in a clear way. There could easily be a central helpline set up to address consumer issues in a knowledgeable way. Staff also need to be aware of the issues of Environmental Illness and be able to deliver strategies to help sufferers—including knowledge and strategies to ensure that when disabled people are assured by the Government they will not legally have to have wireless Smart Meters or HANs installed, that this is followed through! Help and advice should be given about strategies for shielding. Shielding should be paid for by the companies who set to financially benefit from this scheme.

The current policy of not having any obvious public consultation about Smart Meters leads to mistrust. For example, despite MCS-Aware having taken part in a previous conference, no effort was made to contact us about any subsequent consultations. We only heard about this one by chance—the day before the closure date. If consultation is not adequate and is effectively closed to public engagement through lack of knowledge and communication, how can the public expect to be reassured that Smart Meters are in genuinely in their interest?

9. Are consumers’ concerns about privacy and health being addressed adequately?

No. See previous comments.

10. Is there any evidence that consumers’ concerns about Smart Meters are declining or growing?

Yes. See answers to questions above. Continually ignoring or playing down research and health concerns does not help consumers who have real and demonstrated health needs to NOT have a wireless smart meter network and associated electronic products including wireless HANs.

11. What criteria should DECC use to measure the ongoing success of roll-out?

Consumer perception of benefit, including those with health disabilities like EHS.

12. Pleasing all the people

There is a way that Smart Meters can be introduced to the majority of the UK with the majority of public compliance. That is to use a fibre optic network not a wireless one, with wired HANs as an option for all consumers. This would address concerns about health and privacy as well as vital human environmental issues such as radiation adversely affecting bee colonies, and the future of the Smart Meter network. Fibre optics have a much greater capacity for long term use. It has yet to be demonstrated to the consumer that the current wireless system will be capable of handling future capacity and privacy fears without significant future costs in upgrades.

13. Conclusion

In conclusion the UK Smart Meter rollout is causing confusion as public request for accurate knowledge is being ignored. There needs to be clear guidance for people disabled by Electro-Hypersensitivity as to their rights concerning the refusal of Smart Meters without financial penalties—including hidden future financial penalties. In response to the Commission’s Select Committee Enquiry MCS-Aware proposes that:

(a)In the first instance a fibre optic network be utilised for the Smart Meter scheme. If this is not possible then:

(b)Smart meters should broadcast no more than once per day (ideally once per week) at a fixed time and during daylight hours.

(c)A wired HAN be provided as an option for all consumers.

(d)That there will be no future hidden charges for ES people with analogue meters (eg different tariffs) or those who move house and need a smart meter removed.

(e)In future analogue meters will continue to be replaced with analogue meters without charge for those with EHS.

(f)That where necessary shielding be provided for people with severe EHS to shield from neighbours’ meters.

(g)That provision is made for people severely disabled by EHS to be re-housed in an agreed area with low levels of electro-magnetic and microwave radiation, with compensation for loss of job and community.

(h)That utility companies are educated and at all levels accurately able to inform disabled people with EHS of their rights and options.

February 2013

1 11.4% of geographically weighted, random samples of the continental U.S. (approximately 35 million people) reported a sensitivity to common chemical products “Prevalence of Fragrance Sensitivity in the American Population,” Stan Caress, PhD, Anne Steinemann, PhD

Prepared 26th July 2013