Victorian campaign warns of radiation health risks. Pressure grows on Baillieu government to follow UK and US models for voluntary take-up.
‘Smart’ electricity meters being installed across Victoria are a serious health risk and should be a matter of choice, according to Stop Smart Meters Australia – a campaign to make Victorians aware of alleged shortcomings and side-effects of the new technology. Smart Meters, which automatically measure electricity consumption and broadcast the data wirelessly via radio frequencies, began rolling out in 2009 as part of the government’s plans to upgrade the state’s electricity infrastructure.
Unless the Victorian government amends these plans, all households and small businesses will have their existing meter replaced with a Smart Meter by the end of 2013. But while the government’s Department of Primary Industries remains upbeat about the roll-out of the system – a vocal and growing lobby asserts that the serious health risks posed by Smart Meters have not been adequately researched by the government.
Already a number of people who have had Smart Meters installed claim to be suffering serious symptoms of illness due to the devices. Peggy (75), from a well-known Greek family in Seaford, told Neos Kosmos that after her Smart Meter appeared the first symptom was insomnia followed by ringing sounds in her head. “I couldn’t sleep and I’d never had a sleeping problem before in my life.
“I was extremely hot, I was burning. I had different noises in my brain, one side it was like bells ringing and I had nausea and headaches,” says Peggy Her Smart Meter was installed in early February 2011 and within a month she had begun to feel unwell.
“My blood pressure was high. I finished up in the the Afred Hospital’s emergency department. I had a lot of different symptoms and they all started after the Smart Meter was installed,” says Peggy. Now undertaking holistic and homeopathic treatments to alleviate her symptoms, she says she’s had to move her bedroom away from the meter, but her problems remain ongoing.
“The energy’s too high, it’s cooking me,” she says. “If they want to kill me, kill me with a gun not this slow torture.” Peggy and her family say the climbing plant on the exterior wall alongside the Smart Meter also began to wither as her symptoms became apparent, another victim of the device. Today the plant’s leaves are a pale, anaemic shadow of their former glory.
The family have written to the Victorian government asking for her Smart Meter to be removed, but without a shift in the government’s policy for implementing the original legislation – Victoria’s Electricity Distribution Code – she has little hope of the meter disappearing. On November 25 in Oakleigh, the Victorian Smart Meter Forum will share the latest scientific research on the impact of electromagnetic radiation and wireless systems – as used by Smart Meters – on consumers’ and the environment’s health.
Joanne Chak, one of the forum’s organisers told Neos Kosmos. “The Victorian Government claims Smart Meters are safe however their final report sidestepped the health effect issues altogether. “There is mounting strong scientific evidence that smart meters are not safe. “Our concern is that Victorians have not been given the opportunity to discuss or even choose whether they would like one of these meters fitted in their homes or their community.”
Chak points out that In February 2012 Smart Meters became voluntary rather than mandatory in the US and UK. Alex Alexis – spokesman for the City of Whittlesea Smart Meter Awareness Group and an IT engineer by trade – told Neos Kosmos that Victoria has been desginated as the guinea-pig in what he believes is a potentially dangerous experiment.
“Victoria’s the only state at the moment that has a mandate to roll Smart Meters out. “It’s a case of ‘experiment with Victoria first, let’s see how the public reacts and then we’ll worry about the rest of the country later'”. Highly critical of what he sees as a lack of proper research by the Victorian Government into the potential effects of Smart Meters on people’s health, Alexis says that international evidence exists to back up fears over Smart Meters, in particular a press release issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in May last year.
The press release – issued jointly by the WHO and AIRC (the International Agency for Research on Cancer) classified radio-frequency electromagnetic fields similar to those used by Smart Meters as “possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B), based upon an increased risk of glioma – a malignant type of brain cancer”. “This is evidence on a world scale, given by one of the world’s biggest scientific bodies,” says Alexis, whose Whittlesea group have approached their local council to take up the matter with the state government.
“We’ve asked them to write to the Premier for clarification, and ask if residents can have a choice on Smart Meter installations. “They’ve taken away our civil liberties. For Baillieu to say Smart Meters are mandatory is a breach of human rights. It should be a choice,” says Alexis. This week Neos Kosmos contacted the office of Energy and Resources Minister Michael O’Brien, to ask if the terms of the Smart Meter roll-out could be changed to allow consumers to exercise choice in the use of the technology.
The minister’s statement doesn’t suggest Victoria’s mandatory experience of Smart Meters will be transformed anytime soon. “Under an order in council by the former Labor Government in 2007, Smart Meters are required to be installed in all Victorian households and businesses by the end of 2013,” said the minister.
He went on to add that the Coalition Government’s continuation of the roll-out was being undertaken “following an independent review” and after “significant reforms to the program.” The minister’s statement ended by confirming that “under Victoria’s Electricity Distribution Code, property owners who want to be connected to the grid are legally required to allow their distribution business access to the company’s meter to undertake the upgrade.”
Victorian Smart Meter Forum – November 25 To hear the views of those campaigning to stop the compulsory installation of Smart Meters, as well as experts who have studied the physiological effects of electromagnetic fields, the Victorian Smart Meter Forum will take place on Sunday 25 November (1pm-4pm) at Oakleigh Grammar Community Conference Centre. Guest speakers will include lecturer and EMFacts consultant Don Maisch PhD and Nicole Bijlsma, author of Healthy Home Healthy Family. Admission is free and the forum will start at 1pm.