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Risks of sleeping near smart meters?
Old 10-24-2013, 11:48 AM   #1
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Risks of sleeping near smart meters?

When visiting family in Florida, I noticed that there's a bank of 13 smart meters located on the outside of the bedroom wall (immediately adjacent to the headboard of the bed in which I sleep).

Since we have many informed and educated posters here, I'm curious to know if there are any possible negative health effects from spending 7-8 hours every night with my head about 1 foot away from these meters?

I've tried googling smart meters and I've seen all sorts of alarmist claims. I'd prefer to understand what the risks are (if any)...and if so, what might be done to eliminate or reduce them (besides a tinfoil hat ).

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Old 10-24-2013, 11:56 AM   #2
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WoooDoggies, I've seen some of that tin foil hat stuff about them when I went looking for info on how soon I can get one at my house. They make the anti-vaccine folks look downright reasonable. I don't know the answer, but I've got to assume that it can't be any worse than sticking a cell phone up to your head all day long.
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Old 10-24-2013, 12:15 PM   #3
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Since the risk level is uncertain, if a fix is simple enough (can you sleep with your feet at that side rather than your head?) I'd certainly implement it.
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Old 10-24-2013, 12:16 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Sarah in SC View Post
I've got to assume that it can't be any worse than sticking a cell phone up to your head all day long.
...or, as in this case, 13 cell phones continuously for 7-8 hours.


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Old 10-24-2013, 12:34 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by omni550 View Post
...or, as in this case, 13 cell phones continuously for 7-8 hours.


omni
Not continuously, but "several times a day", and probably only for a short time given the small amount of data they need to transmit. Similar to laptop or smartphone Wi-Fi. Here's an article from the ARRL, which does not have a stake in smart meters (but probably likes transmitters):

Smart Meters

"
Q) Do you mean smart meters contain an intentional RF transmitter?
A) Sometimes. When a smart meter contains an RF transmitter:
  • The frequency of operation is typically in the 902 MHz and 2.4 GHz bands.
  • Power output is typically 1 watt in the 902 MHz band and much less in the 2.4 GHz band.
  • The intended range of a transmitter in a smart meter is typically very localized. While the utility-side radio needs to reach a neighborhood concentrator, typically mounted on a nearby pole, smart meters can also mesh through other smart meters to communicate with the concentrator. (using five hops or less) See Figure 2.
  • The smart meter only communicates when it is commanded to do so, typically several times a day.
  • The smart meter’s transmitter operates under Part 15 of the FCC rules."
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Old 10-24-2013, 12:37 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by omni550 View Post
...or, as in this case, 13 cell phones continuously for 7-8 hours.

omni

Actually it isn't like that at all. Cell phones would be transmitting pretty much continuously as you use them, and they are held right up close to your head - the transmitter is a fraction of an inch from your head.

There is so much tin-foil hat stuff about these meters, so here's some info I found that seems reasonable:

Smart Meters

Quote:
Can smart meters cause cancer?

Smart meters emit RF waves, which are a type of electromagnetic radiation, so there is the potential for them to cause harm. The actual risk of harm, if it exists, is likely to be extremely low, for a number of reasons.

The RF waves that smart meters give off are a form of electromagnetic energy that falls between FM radio waves and microwaves. Like FM radio waves, microwaves, visible light, and heat, RF waves are a form of non-ionizing radiation. They don’t have enough energy to cause cancer by directly damaging the DNA inside cells. RF waves are different from stronger (ionizing) types of radiation such as x-rays, gamma rays, and ultraviolet (UV) light, which can break the chemical bonds in DNA. Long-term exposure to ionizing radiation is a known cause of cancer.

At very high levels, RF waves can heat up body tissues. But the levels of energy given off by smart meters are much lower, and are not enough to raise temperatures in the body.

The low levels of energy that smart meters give off at their source are further diluted by the distance they typically need to travel to reach people (unlike cell phones, for instance) and by any walls they have to pass through.
and
Quote:
In general, doubling your distance cuts the "power density" by a factor of four.
So the energy from a cell phone 1/2" from your head, compared to a smart meter 12" away is a huge reduction. About 250x less power, and some will be absorbed by the wall. And there might be a metal backing on that plate, reducing it further. These meters output about the same peak power as a cell phone.


But more important:

Quote:
Do electric SmartMeters™ constantly emit RF?

No. SmartMeters™ communicate intermittently, with each RF-signal typically lasting from 2 to 20 milliseconds. These intermittent signals total, on average, 45 seconds per day. For the other 23 hours and 59 minutes of the day, the meter is not transmitting any RF.
So 8 hours would be 15 seconds from each, times 13 = 3.25 minutes exposure.

I'm guessing you get more exposure from other people with cell phones walking down the street, or numerous other sources.


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Old 10-24-2013, 01:49 PM   #7
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Where I live people have the option of not having smart meters installed if they are concerned about the radiation. However, they will pay $35 extra a month on their utility bills.
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Old 10-24-2013, 01:52 PM   #8
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Tinfoil is the solution, no not just on their heads. Just use it like wallpaper over the wall then cover it up with a rug or cork or some suitable artwork.
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Old 10-24-2013, 02:32 PM   #9
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Tinfoil is the solution, no not just on their heads. Just use it like wallpaper over the wall then cover it up with a rug or cork or some suitable artwork.
I know that I could never convince my hosts to cover the entire wall with tinfoil. (Artwork or no artwork.)

I actually had thought about putting something on the back of the headboard. I figure that it couldn't hurt. Tinfoil taped onto the back would likely be the simplest and cheapest thing to do.

Also, as suggested by GrayHare, sleeping with my head at the foot of the bed would put a lot more distance (~6-7 feet) between me and the meters.

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Old 10-24-2013, 02:54 PM   #10
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You have more chance of injuring yourself tearing the tin foil with that little serrated edge on the box, than of coming to harm from electromagnetic radiation in the environment.

Humans evolved to cope with being irradiated with a couple of hundred watts of electromagnetic radiation for an average of 12 hours per day, from the big yellow thing in the sky. That's many, many orders of magnitude more than all of the other electromagnetic energy surrounding you the whole time (power lines, the earth's magnetic field, cellphones, WiFi, etc).

Seriously: if you worry about this, whatever you do, never ever ever set foot in an automobile. Every mile you drive is about one trillion times more likely to kill you than any form of electrical signal.

My favourite electromagnetic radiation factoid: the signal from a GPS satellite (yes, those babies are beaming stuff at you, 24/7) is 1/10 of a millionth of a billionth of a watt. That's less than the noise level of the electronic components in your GPS receiver. The signal has to be reconstructed statistically.
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Old 10-24-2013, 03:21 PM   #11
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Some people have real concerns about possible adverse health effects of being in the path of radiation, but the main reason is because they have never studied the physics involved.

In a nutshell, the only type of radiation that presents a legitimate concern is ionizing radiation. That means that there is enough energy in it to potentially bang about harmfully in your DNA. An X-ray machine is a good example.

This type of radiation is pretty much everywhere, but your actual exposure is limited by the inverse-square law (a little distance from the source drops the intensity by quite a lot).

The source intensity of the microwave frequencies involved here (whether it's a smart meter, a microwave oven, a cell phone, or anything similar) is about a million times too low to cause ionization. Smart meters typically have a power of about one watt (when they are transmitting, which they do only occasionally). That is actually less than a typical cell phone.

So I see three options:
A. Wear that tinfoil hat.
B. Read a little, or ask someone who understands the physics to explain it.
C. Relax and have a beer.
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Old 10-24-2013, 08:41 PM   #12
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I'll take C.
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Old 10-24-2013, 09:16 PM   #13
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It would be interesting to compare the amount of RF energy emitted by those smartmeters (again, for only a few brief times per day) to the RF energy resulting from all those AC "main lines" running to and from the meters. That RF energy is being emitted whenever there's power running through the lines.

I don't think any of it is harmful.
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Old 10-25-2013, 07:02 AM   #14
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I'll take C.
Not A and C?
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Old 10-25-2013, 08:59 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by braumeister View Post
Some people have real concerns about possible adverse health effects of being in the path of radiation, but the main reason is because they have never studied the physics involved.

In a nutshell, the only type of radiation that presents a legitimate concern is ionizing radiation. That means that there is enough energy in it to potentially bang about harmfully in your DNA. An X-ray machine is a good example.

This type of radiation is pretty much everywhere, but your actual exposure is limited by the inverse-square law (a little distance from the source drops the intensity by quite a lot).

The source intensity of the microwave frequencies involved here (whether it's a smart meter, a microwave oven, a cell phone, or anything similar) is about a million times too low to cause ionization. Smart meters typically have a power of about one watt (when they are transmitting, which they do only occasionally). That is actually less than a typical cell phone.

So I see three options:
A. Wear that tinfoil hat.
B. Read a little, or ask someone who understands the physics to explain it.
C. Relax and have a beer.
Nailed it, and in a much less cynical and snarky way than I would have! There is so much ignorance and thus fear about radiation, much of which is unwarranted and somewhat silly (tinfoil behind your headboard?), it really aggravates me.
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Old 10-25-2013, 11:07 AM   #16
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Not A and C?
True story, DH had an uncle who believed the satellites were reading his thoughts, so lined all his ballcaps with tinfoil. For real. Let the record show that DH is from NORTH Carolina.
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Old 10-25-2013, 11:14 AM   #17
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What. Doesn't everyone line their ball caps with tin foil so the Government cannot read their thoughts? Or at least many of those people who moved to Idaho.
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Old 10-25-2013, 11:55 AM   #18
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Maybe you need to attach some lead sheeting to that wall. Seriously, there are probably many more things to worry about than this one.
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Old 10-25-2013, 12:39 PM   #19
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If your worried about this beyond cell phones, how near is your computer or wifi access point? They emit radiation in the same range, and likley much more often than the meter.
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Old 10-25-2013, 01:03 PM   #20
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Am I the only one who thinks sleeping near 13 smart meters might be a good thing? Maybe you will wake up every day with a few extra IQ points from them, being how they are smart and all.
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