Wireless Electrical and Electromagnetic Pollution News
17 December 2010
Windham woman decries 'smart meter' installation
Betty McLeod, who said suffers from electro- and chemical sensitivity, has installed a sign on her electricity meter near the entrance to her Carriage Hill Drive home in Windham telling Central Maine Power smart meter installers to stay away. "Do NOT install a smart meter," the sign says.
Posted: Thursday, December 16, 2010 2:41 pm
By John Balentine firstname.lastname@example.org
WINDHAM - As Central Maine Power begins installing its "smart meters" in Windham, resident Betty McLeod doesn't think the introduction is such a smart idea, not when there are still unanswered questions regarding the health effects of the devices.
The company is in the process of installing the devices, which send information regarding power usage over a wireless system, negating the need for manual meter readers, in more than 600,000 residences across the state.
The installation has drawn criticism from some residents and doctors who believe the frequency emitted by the smart meters could be harmful. CMP maintains that the meters are safe, and the frequency no more dangerous than that emitted by cellular or cordless phones. The matter is now before the state Public Utilities Commission, which is reviewing a complaint from a group of Scarborough residents.
Because she's worried about the health effects, McLeod, who said she became severely chemical- and electro-sensitive after teaching in a mold-infested classroom at Lyseth Elementary School in Portland in the early 1990s, won't let CMP install the smart meter on her home, although the rest of the homes on Carriage Hill Drive in Windham Center had them put in last week.
McLeod said she has been dealing with health issues for a while. For several months starting in October 1991, McLeod couldn't work. For several years afterward, she could only work part time due to lack of energy and feeling sick. Then, she was moved to a new classroom in a different school that had new carpeting affixed with glue. That was the final straw. She had to quit.
"I got so sick, I couldn't breathe deeply without coughing," McLeod said. "My throat feels like it's closing up. My eyes get all red and my nose burns, I had serious fatigue, serious stomach issues, and the cognitive issues started with the mold. All that stuff goes right to your brain. I'd be driving home from school and I wasn't sure if red meant stop when I got to a stoplight. It was terrifying. So obviously, I had to get the heck out there."
While that was more than 15 years ago, her symptoms continue to this day, especially when she's around cell phones or wireless Internet. CMP's installation of smart meters, which are connected to each other and CMP headquarters by a vast network of radio waves, has her worried to the point of opting out of the program.
According to CMP spokesman John Carroll, the company is allowing residents to opt out of the installation, but only until the Maine Public Utilities Commission decides on whether CMP has the authority to force customers like McLeod to install the meters. CMP has only recently capitulated in this regard, and did so on the heels of public outrage from customers in South Portland and Scarborough who protested the forced switchover.
"We've agreed we would not install for those customers who have health or privacy concerns pending some decision by the commission," Carroll said earlier this week.
It's a welcome reaction by Sen. Bill Diamond of Windham, who has talked to McLeod about her concerns.
"I think these questions need to be raised. It deserves public questioning and public answers," Diamond said. "If citizens have concerns, the entity should provide answers and a forum for those questions and answers to be shared. It's no different from any other consumer concern."
Carroll believes the reaction by skeptics is blowing the meters' health effects out of proportion. He cites government studies and a recent endorsement of smart meters by Dr. Dora Ann Mills, Maine's top government health official, as evidence that health concerns are being hyped.
Carroll is referring to a November statement regarding smart meters issued by Mills, who is director of Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention: "Maine CDC's review did not indicate any consistent or convincing evidence to support a concern for health effects related to the use of radiofrequency in the range of frequencies and power used by smart meters. They also do not indicate an association of EMF (electromagnetic frequency) exposure and symptoms that have been described as electromagnetic sensitivity."
As caveats, in that same report, the Maine CDC admitted to using data prepared by government organizations and that they have no expertise in the field of radio frequency's health effects.
"It should be noted, however, that our review is subject to several limitations related to the complaint filed with PUC," the report stated. "First, our review focused primarily on assessments and studies conducted by agencies we typically rely on for such work, such as government (U.S. and international governments) or government affiliated institutions.
We were unable to review the entire body of literature on the subject of non-ionizing radiation and health because this would be a massive undertaking for a small public health agency. We therefore are making the assumption that these agency reviews have considered all credible published findings."
Carroll also sites other studies that compare the frequency emitting from a smart meter. He says those studies conclude that the non-ionizing frequency from smart meters (as opposed to ionized radiation which emits from a microwave oven or X-ray machine and are known causes of cell mutation) are non-toxic to the body.
At 1 foot away from a smart meter, Carroll said, government studies have found the power of the frequency is 7,000 times weaker than the federal safety standard. At 3 feet away, it's one-millionth the safety standard.
Carroll said the Maine PUC has already spent three years reviewing CMP's plan to switch over to smart meters, a $200 million program that is using $99 million in federal America's Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus dollars. He said the U.S. Congress has issued its support of "smart grid technology," saying it will lower consumption and costs associated with electricity.
"It will be an enormous financial benefit to consumers, and help to reduce peak loads and the environmental impact associated with that," Carroll said.
Carroll explained that once the grid is in place, consumers will be able to log onto a website to find out when electrical usage is lowest. He also said CMP would create new pricing structures which would allow consumers to either opt for the standard offer, as is now the only choice for CMP consumers, or a different pricing structure in which the cost of electricity would vary throughout the day.
Also, Carroll said smart meters would allow consumers to operate appliances remotely or to tell their household appliances to shut down at certain times of the day, and to know when appliances are using phantom power (the power a unit can consume when turned off but still plugged in).
While the health effects of smart meters are taking precedence currently, Carroll doesn't want the public to lose sight of the big picture: that smart meters will revolutionize the delivery of electricity and possibly cut peak power demands since consumers would know when CMP's load is nearing maximum. And, he said, the system will only work properly if everyone is on board.
"This system works by meters talking to each other. If people opt out, it creates voids in the communications system," Carroll said.
The other, dollars-and-cents-based issue is that CMP doesn't want to maintain two systems, one in which meter readers must drive to all homes with old-style meters and another for customers employing the new smart meters.
"This is supposed to be a cost-saving tool. We don't want one foot in the past and one foot in the future. We want to be more efficient, not less," Carroll said.
Hoping for the best
Even if she isn't forced to install a smart meter, Betty McLeod is worried about the neighbors' smart meters signals whizzing by and through her house. She's also worried that CMP would install a repeater antenna near her home, which acts as a central clearinghouse for all neighborhood meters and relays the information en masse to CMP's headquarters via a system of antennas.
"These smart meters are going to cause more problems, especially if you have a smart meter box near your house so that all those signals are coming from all over the neighborhood," she said. "If that happens, I might have to move. But where would I move? It's either you have electricity or you don't. All I know is that this house has been my safe zone."
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Vancouver BC Canada Dec 16 2010
Inside TSA Scanners: How terahertz waves tear apart human DNA
by Terrence Aym, Helium.com
December 16, 2010
While the application of scientific knowledge creates technology, sometimes the technology is later redefined by science. Such is the case with terahertz (THz) radiation, the energy waves that drive the technology of the TSA: back scatter airport scanners.
Emerging THz technological applications
THz waves are found between microwaves and infrared on the electromagnetic spectrum. This type of radiation was chosen for security devices because it can penetrate matter such as clothing, wood, paper and other porous material that's non-conducting.
This type of radiation seems less threatening because it doesn't penetrate deeply into the body and is believed to be harmless to both people and animals.
THz waves may have applications beyond security devices. Research has been done to determine the feasibility of using the radiation to detect tumors underneath the skin and for analyzing the chemical properties of various materials and compounds. The potential marketplace for THz driven technological applications may generate many billions of dollars in revenue.
Because of the potential profits, intense research on THz waves and applications has mushroomed over the last decade.
The past several years the possible health risks from cumulative exposure to THz waves was mostly dismissed.
Experts pointed to THz photons and explained that they are not strong enough to ionize atoms or molecules; nor are they able to break the chains of chemical bonds. They assert—and it is true—that while higher energy photons like ultraviolet rays and X-rays are harmful, the lower energy ones like terahertz waves are basically harmless. [Softpedia.com]
While that is true, there are other biophysics at work. Some studies have shown that THZ can cause great genetic harm, while other similar studies have shown no such evidence of deleterious affects.
Boian Alexandrov at the Center for Nonlinear Studies at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico recently published an abstract with colleagues, "DNA Breathing Dynamics in the Presence of a Terahertz Field" that reveals very disturbing—even shocking—evidence that the THz waves generated by TSA scanners is significantly damaging the DNA of the people being directed through the machines, and the TSA workers that are in close proximity to the scanners throughout their workday.
From the abstracts own synopsis:
"We consider the influence of a terahertz field on the breathing dynamics of double-stranded DNA. We model the spontaneous formation of spatially localized openings of a damped and driven DNA chain, and find that linear instabilities lead to dynamic dimerization, while true local strand separations require a threshold amplitude mechanism. Based on our results we argue that a specific terahertz radiation exposure may significantly affect the natural dynamics of DNA, and thereby influence intricate molecular processes involved in gene expression and DNA replication."
In layman's terms what Alexandrov and his team discovered is that the resonant effects of the THz waves bombarding humans unzips the double-stranded DNA molecule.
This ripping apart of the twisted chain of DNA creates bubbles between the genes that can interfere with the processes of life itself: normal DNA replication and critical gene expression.
Other studies have not discovered this deadly effect on the DNA because the research only investigated ordinary resonant effects.
Nonlinear resonance, however, is capable of such damage and this sheds light on the genotoxic effects inherent in the utilization of THz waves upon living tissue. The team emphasizes in their abstract that the effects are probabilistic rather than deterministic.
Unfortunately, DNA damage is not limited only to THz wave exposure. Other research has been done that reveals lower frequency microwaves used by cell phones and Wi-Fi cause some harm to DNA over time as well. ["Single- and double-strand DNA breaks in rat brain cells after acute exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation."]
Learn more about this author, Terrence Aym.
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