Wellness Wednesday: Smart meters and radio frequency


In the third installment of our staff coverage on smart meters (one and two), our resident wellness expert, Maureen Hoff addresses the question of whether or not smart meters adversely affect the health of the people who live with them.  As part of our team effort to provide consistency in blog posting, Maureen is taking on the weekly post, 'Wellness Wednesday' where she will show the connection between energy, the environment and your personal wellness. 

Maureen has been with the SJVCEO for two and a half years serving as the project coordinator for our VIEW local government partnership, master of ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager and all-around 'girl Friday' for the organization.  Maureen wholeheartedly embraces the SJVCEO efforts "to provide a better quality of life for residents of the San Joaquin Valley" in her personal life as well.  When she's not working with our cities and counties, Maureen is the proprietor of Wild Ginger Wellness and works as a personal health coach helping people reach their goals and improve their quality of life. Maureen holds a bachelors degree in cultural anthropology with a minor in exercise and health science from the University of California, Santa Barbara and has studied at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York.  

Smart Meters and Radio Frequency 

Utility companies around the globe, and even in our very own Central Valley, have been switching customers over to ‘smart meters’ in order to prevent their poor meter-reading employees from having to tromp through bushes and run from dogs--well, maybe that is a bit of a simplified explanation.  A smart meter is a two-way communication device that allows utilities and their customers to better track energy usage. You may have heard a favorite saying over here at the SJVCEO is ‘you can’t manage what you can’t measure’ and we love the smart meter because it puts the power in the customer's hands.

Between 2009 and 2012, our friends at Southern California Edison (SCE) will have deployed approximately 5 million of their SmartConnect meters. Customers will have the ability to log into their online account and track energy usage by the hour. Yep. I would say that’s pretty smart! The majority of customers’ concerns with smart meters typically surround privacy issues; however,some have questioned possible health risks associated with these two-way devices emitting radio frequency (RF) signals.

RF signals are categorized as a non-ionizing form of radiation on the electromagnetic spectrum. In a nutshell, this means that RF signals do not emit enough energy to alter the chemical structure of an atom and are generally safe, despite the fact that they are strong enough to cause increased temperature in body tissue. If the intensity of a non-ionizing form of radiation is strong enough, however, it can become ionizing. Ionizing radiation, which occurs naturally and from man-made activities (think nuclear), produces toxic free radicals which can severely damage body tissue and even cause death.
http://asset.sce.com/microsite/Documents/ESC/smartconnect_rf_onepager_v5_072111-outlines.pdf
When it comes to SmartConnect, SCE says that ‘a person’s exposure to RF signals depends on three factors: the signal strength, the distance from the device, and how often it transmits’. The good news is that the meters have a low signal strength, will most likely be installed in a location around your home or small business that isn’t too close to where you spend much time, and only transmit a signal for a few minutes each hour. In my opinion, when compared to a device such as a cell phone, smart meters don’t look like much of a health risk at all; but, if you are like me then you will still want to go to all lengths to protect yourself and your family from even the slightest risk. And that is when I turn to the diet.

Antioxidants are vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients found in foods that assist in protecting and repairing damaged cells. Eating a colorful diet full of fresh, organic fruits, vegetables, healthy fats/oils, and lean protein can help combat exposure to free radicals from radiation. Foods like dark, leafy greens; berries; avocados; good quality olive oil; and even chocolate in its raw state (cacao) can help protect our bodies from environmental toxins. I like to say ‘control the controllables’. Watch what you put in your mouth, get a little exericse every day, and let your utility company install a smart meter. After all, if you decrease your energy use you are helping to decrease greenhouse gas emissions which means cleaner air, which means better health.


Photo credit: Southern California Edison
photo credit: A Culinary (Photo) Journal via photopin cc