Secondary Emissions

Hams, Broadcast Engineers, and Cancer-Causing Smart Meters

Full disclosure: I am not an epidemiologist. Other than a gut feel, I have no idea how valid my sample sets are. (Not true: my samples are totally invalid; they are strongly biased toward people, mostly males, who spend or spent most of their adult lives in strong RF fields, and there is no control group. I still think my conclusions are interesting.)

This rant is about a news release that came in my email this morning. It's from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI, www.epri.com), and it's about RF field measurements on "smart" power meters for residential electricity customers. The release is about a report that says the fields EPRI measured are way below what the FCC allows.

EPRI gets support from the electric utilities, and they work closely with them, but I trust them not to lie about test data.

The key point about the meters is where they operate in the RF spectrum. The report (An Investigation of Radiofrequency Fields Associated with the Itron Smart Meter 1021126) states: "Mesh network communication among the many meters is provided by a 900 MHz band transceiver RF LAN (local area network). A HAN feature is supported by a 2.4 GHz transceiver."

Checking EPRI's site for more information led me to a short piece about the smart grid in muck-raking Mother Jones, which has never been shy about speaking truth to power (or Power). You can read the article at: http://motherjones.com/blue-marble/2011/01/will-smart-meters-give-you-cancer. The answer to the cancer question is, "No." and the rest of the article is a nice clear explanation of the parts of the smart grid that rate-payers might want to know.

What I think prompted the EPRI study is the aura of paranoia that I perceive to surround green energy today. It reminds me of Aunt Clara, who used to put Scotch Tape over unused electrical outlets.

As an example, one source that I find on the Web is the SIG site for Prius owners (http://priuschat.com) that I monitor. (I have a 2010; I don't hypermile; I get about 47 MPG on winter-blend fuel, 50 on summer-blend.)

An unexpected large number of posters on the SIG seem to have a fixation on having their brains fried or turned into alien growths by EMF inside the car. And that's what brings me to the topic of epidemiology.

I have been a ham radio operator (presently NR7X) for more than half a century. I go to meetings of the Palo Alto Amateur Radio Society (PAARA), where 50 people show up, and half of them are older than I. We're dying off, but not at any significant rate. In fact, we seem to be a bunch of extraordinarily tough old buzzards.

That's one sample population. But more than looking at hams, I look at the broadcast engineers I have known and worked with. In my college summers, I worked Master Control at WOR-TV on the 83rd floor of the Empire State Building. In those days, every VHF and UHF outlet in NYC had its transmitters in the ESB. (WOR was unique in having Engineering, MC, and Telecine there, too.)

I learned the practical stuff that I know about broadcasting from the old-timers there. (There were strong opinions about ground-loops, for instance.) But this was a population with a history of exposure to high levels of RF. Some of those folks had been working at the Empire State Building since the B25 flew into the 79th floor, back in '49. And before that, some of them had stood shifts doing transmitter watch at the 50-kW clear-channel AM site out at Carteret.

All those people, under all that radiation. For years and years. If there were a spike in two-headed babies or cancer of the hippocampus, you'd think somebody would have noticed it. But I have never heard a peep about an unusual concentration of illnesses among the RF engineering fraternity.

Which is a good thing, because the people who are really worrying about getting cancer from their electric meters keep bringing all these WiFi routers and baby monitors and TVs with honking-big switching supplies into their houses; not to mention carrying around cell phones with four or five different radios inside them in pants pockets next to the family jewels. Why, Aunt Clara would have run out of Scotch Tape. If she hadn't stepped in front of that bus first.

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