Skeptics say it’s all in their heads. They say they’re canaries in the coal mine.
Across the country, some people are reporting new utility meters are making them feel ill because of the radiofrequency radiation they emit when transmitting usage data. Headaches, tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and vertigo are frequent symptoms.
Skeptics cite studies that show no ill health effects, and point out that the vast majority of consumers suffer no symptoms and challenge anyone who believes these devices pose a threat to also refrain from using wireless Internet, microwave ovens and cell phones. Responses to those points vary, but it generally boils down to a question of choice—people can control their exposure to devices, but not to a mandatory piece of equipment attached to their home by a municipality or utility.
In Saugerties, the planned installation of 1,800 new water meters in the Glasco Water District became controversial after several residents began warning their neighbors the new meters were unsafe. Though nobody reported a negative experience with the new water meters, several said new electric meters made them feel ill and believe water meters pose similar risks because they also transmit data remotely, though not as often.
County Legislator Bob Aiello says he doesn’t have a new “smart” electrical meter, but his neighbor, Doreen Peone, does. After hearing concerns about the new water meters from constituents, he inspected Peone’s electrical meter together with his wife Christine. “I got a funny sensation in my chest, a funny pressure,” he said. “I kinda stepped back and it went away. I’m kind of a hypochondriac about things like this, but I felt something.”
Peone said the new meter has caused ringing in her ears. “I am feeling ill health effects that I believe are related to the installation of the meters,” she said.
Peone says her doctor has been receptive to information she provided him about smart meter-related health problems, though he did not attribute her health problems to electromagnetic radiation.
Several Woodstock residents helped install a makeshift aluminum foil Faraday cage around Peone’s electric meter two weeks ago to mitigate the effects of the radiation.
Peone believes others are suffering meter-related illness but may not even realize it and that the new water meters will compound these problems.
Fellow Barclay Heights residents, Donna Greco and husband Paul Jameson, also complain of health effects from their electrical meter.
“When I am away from the house I feel better,” said Jameson.
Greco agrees: “We sleep better. I think [the meter] disturbs our sleep.”
According to Greco, the couple’s doctor has not found a cause for their ailments.
Greco doesn’t have any aluminum foil around her meter, though she has considered using an instrument to read the radiation from the meter. She says that several individuals from Woodstock are currently offering to read the radiation from anyone’s smart meter for a fee of $50, but she doesn’t wish to spend that much.