Ask The Expert

James Haim – Building Biology Environmental Consultant

What’s Not So Smart About Smart Meters?

As you may or may not know, the City of Ashland has been replacing our house meters (for tracking electrical usage) with radio frequency “smart” meters in hopes that it will save the city money. Citizen groups around the world are concerned about 24 hour radiation emitted by these meters, fires, invasion of privacy, accuracy of readings and whether this is really saving money. In Ashland, smart meters radiate 86,400 spiked microwave signals every month – just so that one of those signals can be read once a month!

I’ve heard the radiation from smart meters is really low. How much radiation do smart meters put out? The meters the city is currently installing measured spikes of 15,000 mw/m2. This is the same as I measured on the top floor of the Ashland Springs Hotel surrounded by seven cell tower antenna arrays. This is significantly above the Building Biology Standards threshold for severe, 1000 mw/m2, which may be why we are seeing people get sick after these meters are installed.

What are the health effects of this kind of radiation?  There has been no scientific research on smart meters and their unique spiked microwave signal.  The California Public Utilities Commission has received thousands of complaints from citizens experiencing headaches, nausea, sleeplessness, fatigue, exhaustion, skin rashes and other conditions after a smart meter was installed on their home. We have been hearing from a number of people in Ashland with similar symptoms after a smart meter was installed in their home.

Established research on radio frequency radiation provides significant cause for concern. Here is a quote from Dr. David Carpenter, a Harvard Medical School-trained physician who worked for the New York State Department of Public Health for 18 years who currently directs the Institute for Health and the Environment:

“We have evidence…that exposure to radio frequency radiation…increases the risk of cancer, increases damage to the nervous system, causes electrosensitivity, has adverse reproductive effects and a variety of other effects on different organ systems.  There is no justification for the statement that Smart Meters have no adverse health effects.“ He further advises, “An informed person should demand that they be allowed to keep their analog meter.”  (Watch the two minute video at: “”)

The American Academy of Environmental Physicians, an organization that has been studying and treating the effects of environmental influences on human health for over 50 years, is calling for:

•  An immediate moratorium on “smart meter” installation until these serious public health issues are resolved.  Continuing with their installation would be extremely irresponsible.

•  … include hearings on health impact … along with cost evaluation and community wide opt-out.

•  Provide immediate relief to those requesting it and restore the analog meters. 

Last year, the World Health Organization released a long awaited study with the results of years of evaluation by 27 scientists in 14 countries. In light of the overwhelming scientific evidence, the scientists classified Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR) as a Class 2B Carcinogen. The World Health Organization concludes that “the use of precautionary approaches is warranted.”

What are governments doing? The Maryland Public Service Commission denied permission on June 21, 2010 for the deployment of Smart Meters in that state due to privacy concerns. The Hawaii PUC declined a smart grid program in their state. Denmark put a moratorium on smart meters because of privacy concerns. The Vermont state legislature voted a no fee opt out similar to Ashland’s. The city council of Mount Shasta created an “opt in” policy where customers have to opt in to receive a smart meter. 44 California cities and 11 counties oppose mandatory smart meter installation, 9 have passed ordinances making smart meter installation illegal in their jurisdictions. 49 cities in British Columbia have passed a moratorium on smart meters. The list goes on and on.

How can I find out if I have one of these meters?

Here’s what a smart meter looks like:









Here’s what an analog meter looks like (It has a spinning wheel going around):












How much money is the city saving using these new meters? There are serious questions as to whether the projected savings will ever be realized, since smart meters cost more than three times as much and have a useful lifespan that projected to be significantly less than half that of analog meters. Any potential savings would come many years down the road after paying back the hundreds of thousands of dollars it’s going to take to convert the remaining 55% of Ashland to smart meters And even then, the savings will be a fraction of one percent of peoples’ electric bills, since the entire budget for meter reading currently is significantly less than 1% of the electric department’s charges for services.


By the way, we have already paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in our monthly electrical bills for the smart meters the city has already installed.


Why would anyone choose to be radiated 86,400 times in a month in order to save a fraction of one percent of their electric bill?  Good question!

Can my neighbor’s smart meter effect me?  Yes.


What can I do?
At the May 15th meeting the City Council passed a motion to create a no charge opt out option similar to the state of Vermont.  At the June 5th council session this decision will be reconsidered to add a monthly charge for opting out.  If you want to opt out, but not wanting a fee, call and email the electric company at (541) 552-2305 and write your city councilors asking them to keep the no fee opt out. See the website for reasons why the no fee opt out is fair and the right thing for the city to do.

James Haim is a certified Building Biologist Environmental Consultant trained by the Institute for Building Biology.  He has been trained to measure electromagnetic radiation, evaluate homes and offices for toxic chemicals, volatile organic compounds, moisture problems and building performance.  James also consults on building site selection, new construction and remodels.

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