The smart-grid health risk?
Lawsuit claims utilities negligent, deceitful about smart meters
By Shane Cohn 07/25/2013
Headaches, heart attacks, cancer, loss of sleep?
A lawsuit has been filed against SC Edison and PG&E, alleging that smart meters are causing neurological harm and other adverse health effects.
A total of 16 plaintiffs, spanning from Santa Barbara County to Orange County, have joined the suit, filed by attorneys David Kyle and Paul Overett, that claims the utilities withheld important safety information associated with the use of the newly installed smart meters and the radio frequency radiation they emit.
The utilities are being charged with negligence, fraud and deceit, product liability and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Also named in the suit are smart-meter manufacturers and installation companies.
“The goal of this suit is to raise awareness about health effects from wireless devices and the infrastructure,” said Liz Barris, lead plaintiff in the suit. Barris said she, like many others, is electrosensitive and has bouts of nausea and headaches when exposed to certain wireless devices and wi-fi, smart meters included.
More than a year ago, SCE began installing smart meters as part of a nationwide plan by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to develop a smart grid. Efficiency in electricity transmission was the primary reasons for the DOE wanting to upgrade the electrical grid, and SCE officials said customers would be better informed about their specific energy use, resulting in the ability to use less energy, especially during peak hours. Smart meters work by using radio frequency radiation to communicate energy usage information to the power company.
For seven months, Barris slept in her car while she fought with Edison about getting the meter removed from her apartment. Attempts to sleep in her apartment led to her experiencing severe heart arrhythmia, which she believes is directly linked to smart-meter radiation. She said Edison offered to replace the smart meter with an analog meter, but for the price of $4,000 a year. Smart meter skeptics like Barris have also suggested that the data collection process of the meters is an invasion of privacy, tracking things like home occupation and security system presence.
Edison did not respond for comment by deadline.
The lawsuit cites several peer-reviewed medical studies about smart-meter health hazards, as well as findings from the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, which called for “immediate caution regarding smart-meter installation due to potentially harmful RF (radio frequency) exposure.”
“From these peer review studies I’ve read, it’s clear that the electrical signals the meters put out every minute are damaging to neurological tissue,” said Dr. Robin Bernhoft, a medical toxicologist in Ojai. “It’s not the thing you want in your house or neighborhood.”
The Electric Power Research Institute, however, concluded that the radio-frequency exposure levels from wireless smart meters are substantially below the protective limits set by the Federal Communications Commission for the general public’s safety.
John Puccetti, a Ventura resident and electrician, said Edison customers should be concerned about this technology. “There is documented evidence that we should at least proceed with caution,” he said, “and there is no caution at all. My hope is, the California Public Utilities Commission pays attention to the number of complaints that have been made.”
Barris said the lawsuit is still accepting more plaintiffs who feel their health has been affected by the smart meters, or smart grid. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.