The purpose of the latest technical study commissioned by the Victorian government, ‘Quantifying Smart Meter RF EME Levels in Victorian Homes‘, was to confirm that the radiofrequency electromagnetic energy (RF EME) from smart meters continues to meet ARPANSA’s standard for radiofrequencies. There was never any doubt that this would be the case, given the nature of Australia’s standard. In fact, some people believe it would be more apt to refer to ARPANSA’s RF standard as a ‘cooking’ standard rather than a ‘radiation protection’ standard, given its predication on thermal effects (i.e. one’s flesh must increase by about 1 degree before emissions fall foul of the standard), and disregard for biological outcomes.
However, the study does provide interesting data on the average number of transmissions (pulses) which occurred over a one hour period at each of the 55 properties which were surveyed. The results are not pretty. Extrapolating the data shown on pages 80 – 81 of the report to a 24-hour period, the median number of pulses was a staggering 11,988 pulses per day for meters in the mesh networks, 10,992 pulses per day for meters in AusNet Services’s WiMAX network and 20,280 pulses per day for meters in the 3G network deployed by AusNet Services to reach outlier meters. The averages (arithmetic means) were considerably higher; in the case of the mesh networks, where the majority of the testing was performed, this amounted to an average of 44,314 pulses per day.
The astounding amount of traffic generated by smart meter networks, both as a result of meters being used to relay other meters’ data (in the case of the mesh networks), as well as a result of network ‘chatter’ across all networks, makes a mockery of power distributors’ previous attempts to mislead consumers into believing that their meter only transmitted at such times as their own household data was being polled. Typical of the distributors’ claims were statements such as “During the course of a day the transmission time is spaced over 4-6 transmissions“. Really?! Certainly, there were large differences in the number of transmissions per site; page 80 of the report shows that the average mesh transmissions per hour ranged from 98 through to 15,396 transmissions per hour, representing a worst case outcome of 369,504 transmissions per day; average WiMAX transmissions ranged from 52 through to 66,092 transmissions per hour, representing a worst case outcome of 1,586,208 transmissions per day; and average 3G transmissions ranged from 252 through to 176,201 transmissions per hour, representing a worst case outcome of 4,228,824 transmissions per day. Difficulty in establishing communications was the reason ascribed to the meters in the 3G and WiMAX networks which had exceptionally high numbers of transmissions.
Victoria’s networks appear to be generating even larger volumes of traffic than revealed by previous studies. Prior to this latest technical study, which was completed by Perth-based Total Radiation Solutions, Australian authorities had only examined the traffic profile of a single (!) smart meter. However, according to information that California-based Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) was required to file in court, which referenced 88,000 deployed meters in a mesh network, scheduled readings of six times per day resulted in a median of 9,600 transmissions per day (see pp. 3-5, http://takebackyourpower.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Smart-Meter-Health-14000-to-190000.pdf). A worst case scenario resulted in 190,000 transmissions per day. PG&E use the same technology (from Silver Spring Networks) as deployed by Powercor, CitiPower, Jemena and United Energy in Victoria for its mesh networks, and by Horizon and Western Power in WA (for its Solar City program).
Although smart meter transmissions are extremely brief, it is the pulsed nature of RF which much of the scientific research sees as impacting on biological processes. In consequence, the magnitude of transmissions, across all networks, is highly concerning. The study also recorded instantaneous values, as well as showing the values averaged over a six minute period, which is the time period over which ARPANSA’s RF standard requires smart meter emissions to be assessed. The resulting figures, shown in Tables A – C of the report for the highest six-minute average, graphically demonstrate how this approach seemingly reduces the significance of emission levels.
The study trotted out the obligatory studies purporting to show the RF burden that modern householders are typically exposed to, in comparison to RF from a smart meter. However, this ignores the fact that the public has the right to determine their own exposure levels in regards to many of the items listed …this is hardly the case with 24/7 smart meter emissions. It is also irresponsible to suggest that because many householders have already chosen to saturate themselves in a (Group 2B) possible human carcinogen, that ‘just a bit more’ won’t hurt; isn’t this akin to the perverse logic of a drug or alcohol addict reasoning that just one more shot/drink won’t hurt? See ‘A Critique of the New Zealand Report: Health and Safety Aspects of Electricity Smart Meters’ in relation to one of the studies referred to in the report: http://www.emfacts.com/download/New_Zealand_critique3.pdf
Ambient background levels of RF levels were also conducted inside and outside of properties. These measurements excluded smart meter emissions. Tellingly, although in general the background levels exceeded the levels created by smart meter emissions, this was not always the case; in some instances, smart meter emissions represent the dominant RF exposure source within the home. However, no consideration seems to have been given to the fact that background levels of RF radiation in Victoria have already been skewed by the introduction of smart meter networks. For instance, all the data collected from the mesh networks’ Access Points is fed into existing telecommunication services (using the frequencies deployed by these services) to make the backhaul journey to electricity distributors. How much lower would background levels across Victoria be if this large body of transmissions was removed, thus further accentuating the RF footprint of smart meters?
The authors of the study conclude that RF EME levels from the smart meters surveyed were significantly below the general public exposure limits specified by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA). The observation was made that “In general terms, the levels of RF EME from the smart meters found inside the home were typically hundreds if not thousands of times below the Australian standard.” This offers cold comfort to Victorians; 40% of the world’s population has the benefit of protection which is ten to hundreds, if not thousands of times, more rigorous than the ARPANSA standard.
Read the report Quantifying Smart Meter RF EME Levels in Victorian Homes here.