Energy and Climate Change CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Mary Hood (SMR66)


1. My comments arise from my personal experience of electrical sensitivity (ES).

2. Several thousand people in UK have ES, but effects show up very individually.

3. Current smart meters operate using mobile phone and wireless type connectivity. Health Protection Agency (HPA) advises that levels of electrical radiation involved are safe.

4. My critical comments to HPA.

5. An international group in 2007 reached a different conclusion.

6. The same international group in 2012 reached an even more different conclusion.

7. Current and likely future experience of ES in UK.

8. Comment of the international group on adverse effects of wireless smart meters.

9. Good reason for public concern that current smart meters are not safe.

10. If smart meters operated using non wireless technology, then there would be no health concerns.

Full Text

1. I am a private individual wishing to comment on whether concerns of members of the public about the health aspects of smart meters are being adequately addressed. My concern arises from my experience of electrical sensitivity (ES). The electrical effects to which I am sensitive are due to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) in the radiofrequency (RF) range, which are those used for mobile and smart phones, cordless telephones, WiFi, wireless routers, and all other applications making use of wireless connectivity. Unless I can protect myself, or get away from these EMFs, within a few minutes of exposure I experience severe headache and extreme discomfort in the lymphoedema in my legs. In a delayed reaction several hours later I often notice severe discomfort in lymph nodes in my lower rib and groin areas.

2. There are several thousand people in UK who have identified symptoms which they can link with exposure to EMFs. Their experiences (and frustrations) are coordinated through the support group ElectroSensitivity-UK (ES-UK) ( ). Although there is much in common between many of the symptoms, it is also apparent that the effects of EMFs show up differently in each person. This is not surprising, given the many ways in which electrical activity is involved in human physiology and biochemistry. There may be many more people who have not realised the cause of their currently unexplained symptoms, or where symptoms of another health problem are being made worse by exposure to RF EMFs.

3. The leaflet published by Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) on 11 December 2012 (Smart Meter Implementation Programme) explains that the smart meters currently being installed use mobile phone and wireless methods of communication. The leaflet also mentions that the health implications of smart meters are addressed by information on the website of the Health Protection Agency (HPA) ( ). Here HPA makes reference to the report written by Advisory Group on Non Ionising Radiation (AGNIR) published in April 2012, to justify on grounds of scientific evidence, that the health condition of ES may not be linked with RF radio waves. Also HPA informs that electrical exposures from smart meter systems are small in relation to their guideline maximum levels for such radiation, as given by International Commission on Non Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), and that therefore smart meters are safe.

4. In May 2012 I wrote a detailed letter to HPA to challenge the conclusions reached by AGNIR, which had led to HPA supporting the continuation of guideline levels for RF EMFs as given by ICNIRP, and avoiding acknowledging a link between ES and RF EMFs. In my view AGNIR used very narrow selective arguments to question the conclusions of many scientific studies, and thus avoided facing the implication that there are health issues connected with RF EMFs. They did not make any allowance for the fact that ES is an individually manifested condition, so that valid conclusions cannot be reached from studies which look for the same effects in all participants. I raised the question as to why AGNIR had reached a very different conclusion from that reached by an international independent group whose findings were published in the Bioinitiative Report (BR) in 2007 (for www reference see point 6. below). HPA noted the points I raised and said that they would pass my letter to AGNIR.

5. The 2007 BR reached the following conclusion:

A precautionary limit of 0.1 μW/cm2 (which is also 0.614 Volts per meter) should be adopted for outdoor, cumulative RF exposure.

The equivalent limit set by ICNIRP, as adopted by HPA, is for a power density of 1000 μW/cm2. Thus for this measure of electrical activity there was a difference in magnitude of ten thousand (104) between the guideline level applied in UK and the precautionary limit recommended in 2007 by an independent international panel of scientific, medical and public health experts.

6. That discrepancy is now even worse. An update to BR was published in December 2012 ( where links to the text for 2007 and 2012 reports are given within each section entry). This assessed the further scientific evidence which had been reported since 2007. Their conclusion was scathing over the lack of action being taken by governments to address the harm being done by RF EMFs. Their final conclusion was that:

A scientific benchmark of 0.003 μW/cm2 or three nanowatts%imeter squared for “lowest observed effect level” for RFR is based on mobile phone base station-level studies. Applying a ten-fold reduction to compensate for the lack of long-term exposure (to provide a safety buffer for chronic exposure, if needed) or for children as a sensitive subpopulation (if studies are on adults, not children) yields a 300 to 600 picowatts per square centimeter precautionary action level. This equates to a 0.3 nanowatts to 0.6 nanowatts per square centimeter as a reasonable, precautionary action level for chronic exposure to pulsed RFR.

The concluding value given here, of 0.3 nanowatts per square centimetre, equates to 0.0003 μW/cm2, much less than their earlier value of 0.1 μW/cm2 in 2007. Again this is to be seen in comparison with the current limit in UK of 1000 μW/cm2. Thus in order of magnitude there is now a difference by a factor of ten million (107) between the limit for power density for RF EMFs which currently applies in UK and the precautionary level suggested by BR.

7. Therefore it is not surprising that people in UK with ES find that there is hardly anywhere they can go where they are without discomfort or severe symptoms. I myself experience significant symptoms at power density just below 0.0001 μW/cm2; this is similar to experience of others with ES with whom I have talked. We have made our measurements using an Acoustimeter (available from ). Our findings are reasonably in line with the limit being suggested by BR 2012.

For people living in urban areas there is already a high level of coverage for mobile phones, with extra effects from wireless routers and cordless telephones in nearly every business and home space. If radiation from potentially two smart meters in every property is added, the effect will become intolerable for those with ES, and every person will be at increased risk of adverse health effects.

8. The summary for the public in Section 1of BR 2012 specifically includes mention of the adverse effect of smart meters:

The continued massive rollout of wireless technologies, in particular the wireless “smart” utility meter, has triggered thousands of complaints of ill-health and disabling symptoms when the installation of these meters is in close proximity to family home living spaces.

9. Given the information presented above, there is good reason for concern among members of the UK public; reassurances that current smart meters are safe are highly misleading.

10. The DECC leaflet (Smart Meter Implementation Programme) mentions that the technology for the main roll-out of smart meters has not been decided. An alternative for contact between meter and utility company base would be via fibre optic cable. Is this being seriously considered? Is there any realistic alternative to wireless communication within a property? If all forms of RF EMFs can be avoided, then there would be no health concerns. Otherwise there will continue to be vociferous negative campaigning about smart meters with a consequent high rate of refusal to have smart meters installed.

February 2013

Prepared 26th July 2013