Health & Safety

Health Impact Report

Because automated meters use wireless radio transmitters to send and receive data, some customers have asked about possible negative health effects from associated radio frequency (RF) emissions. The most comprehensive scientific study to date, which investigates this topic, was completed by the California Council on Science and Technology in 2011, the results of which are published in their report entitled  “Health Impacts of Radio Frequency from Automated Meters."

The 2 primary conclusions of the report are as follows:
  1. The FCC standard provides a currently accepted factor of safety against known thermally induced health impacts of automated meters and other electronic devices in the same range of RF emissions. Exposure levels from automated meters are well below the thresholds for such effects.
  2. There is no evidence that additional standards are needed to protect the public from automated meters.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is the United States' governing body for the electromagnetic spectrum and it sets strict limits on the design specifications for radio transmitters of all types, including the automated meters and other telecommunications equipment used in Anaheim.

RF Energy Exposure

So how does a person’s exposure to RF energy from an automated meter compare to that from other common household devices, such as cell phones and microwave ovens? The answer is it is quite a bit less. Here is why:
  1. An automated meter only sends and receives data for a few seconds each day. The rest of the time, it is not transmitting data and therefore emitting no RF energy.
  2. Automated meters are low powered, generally 1 watt or less. By comparison, a microwave oven draws anywhere from 300 to well over 1000 watts of power.
  3. The strength of a radio wave decreases very rapidly with distance (the inverse square law) and people do not generally spend a great deal of time very near to their electric or water meters. That is quite different from a cell phone, which is held up to a person’s ear for minutes or hours at a time.
It is also important to know that there are very large margins of safety built into the certification requirements for wireless radio transmitters, such as automated meters. Someone standing a foot away from the meter would be experiencing RF exposure levels 40% below the FCC’s Maximum Permissible Exposure (MPE) limit. 

Environmental Benefits

Any discussion of the health implications of automated meters would be incomplete without acknowledging the environmental benefits of the advanced grid modernization as a whole. By using energy more efficiently, we reduce our emissions of greenhouse gasses and other pollutants.

Empowering customers with near-time information about their energy usage is one of the primary requirements for widespread adoption of emerging green technologies, such as plug-in electric vehicles. Moreover, if the advanced grid modernization enables us to shift even a small percentage of our peak energy demand to off-peak hours, there is the very real potential of avoiding the need to construct additional power plants in the future. When taken together, these factors collectively contribute to a cleaner and healthier environment for all of us.