Policy Documents

Radio-Frequency Exposure Levels from Smart Meters

Electric Power Research Institute –

The Electric Power Research Institute in Palo Alto, California, released this report in November 2010.

From the Introduction:

This paper presents results from a series of measurements of radiofrequency (RF) emissions from smart meters taken at a manufacturer’s production and testing site. The nformation is intended to respond to questions from the public concerned about RF exposure levels from smart meters. Smart grid technology promises to deliver enhanced reliability and economy of electrical power use. Consumers will be empowered with knowledge about and greater control over their patterns of electricity use.Coincident with such benefits must also be an assurance that these new systems are operating in a manner compatible with human health and safety.

This measurement study of smart meters under controlled conditions enables inferences about exposure levels under actual residential conditions to be better understood. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) limits for exposure are based on the effects of tissue heating in behavioral studies in animal subjects (rhesus monkeys and rats) and
afford the public a margin of safety 50-fold lower than the adverse effect exposure threshold. In the absence of heating, there have been no “nonthermal” mechanisms demonstrated that could lead to adverse biologicalor health effects. The results reported here indicate that exposure levels from smart meters, even at close range, are far less than the exposure limits set by the FCC.

In line with these findings, a 2009 review of the radio-frequency health literature conducted by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection concluded, “The mechanisms by which RF exposure heats biological tissue are well understood and the most marked and consistent effect of RF exposure is that of heating, resulting in a number of heat-related physiological and pathological responses in human subjects and laboratory animals…Whilst it is in principle impossible to disprove the possible existence of non-thermal interactions, the plausibility of various non-thermal mechanisms that have been proposed is very low…the recent in vitro and animal genotoxicity and carcinogenicity studies are rather consistent overall and indicate that such effects are unlikely at specific absorption rate levels up to 4 W kg-1 [the level associated with behavioral disruption in animal experiments].”