Group protests FCC's stance on cell phones, SmartMeters


A group of about 25 people picketed outside of the Computer History Museum last week to call attention to what the protest's organizer called the "completely reckless" policies of the Federal Communications Commission.

Joshua Hart, founder of the Scotts Valley-based Stop SmartMeters, staged the protest on the same night that the Commonwealth Club was hosting a discussion with FCC Chair Julius Genachowski at the museum. According to Hart and others at the protest, the FCC is ignoring evidence that suggests that the radio frequencies emitted by electronic devices, such as cellular phones and the recently introduced PG&E SmartMeters, are causing serious health issues in a significant portion of the population.

Hart is calling for the FCC to tighten regulations on the cell phone industry and impose an immediate moratorium on devices such as PG&E's SmartMeter -- a new kind of power meter that uses the same kind of electromagnetic radiation emitted by cell phones to broadcast information about a household's energy consumption back to the power utility.

The SmartMeter is of particular concern for Hart, because, as he and others protesting outside of the Computer History Museum pointed out, individuals have little control over where the devices are installed.

"I can stay away from a cell phone," said Winifred Thomas, one of the protestors, "but SmartMeters are attacking me."

According to a spokesman for PG&E, the SmartMeter represents an integral component in building out the country's "smart grid." Jeff Smith, a representative for the California utility, said that the meters will help save money and energy, and will also help customers be wiser consumers of power.

PG&E will save money and burn less fuel by cutting back on meter readers in the field, Smith said. Plus, the SmartMeters will eventually interface with smart appliances and a cloud-based system that will allow customers to log on to the PG&E website and see how much natural gas or electricity they used during the previous day. "Ultimately this is the kind of technology that utilities across the nation are moving toward," he said.

Hart, however, believes that the benefits of the meters are greatly outweighed by the potential risk. Hart no longer owns a cell phone. When he has to use a friend's he makes sure to put it on speakerphone mode, or use a headset. "A year ago I thought this stuff was tinfoil hat paranoia," he said. "And then I started reading the science."

He pointed to a study published in February by the Journal of the American Medical Association, which found that cell phone use was directly linked to an increase in brain glucose metabolism. "We've got a serious problem here," he said, referring to the study.

Although the authors of the paper drew no conclusions about what a rise in brain glucose metabolism might portend for the health of an individual's brain, Hart said that the study should, at the very least, raise some eyebrows.

"We are at a place in history where we are ramping up our wireless capabilities dramatically," Hart said. "The truth is we don't know what the short- or long-term health implications of that (are)."

Robert Laughlin, a physics professor at Stanford University, is a specialist in the physics of electromagnetic energy.

"I don't carry a cell phone," Laughlin said. Besides "not wanting to be found," Laughlin has always had a suspicion that the microwave radiation emitted by cell phones might have a negative impact on a person's health. However, he added, "whether that's a rational concern or not, I don't know."

Laughlin said there currently isn't enough evidence one way or the other for him to say that cell phones, along with the radiation they emit, are dangerous or not. Furthermore, he said that conclusive evidence on the matter is probably many years off.

That's because measuring the impact of microwave radiation on the human body is an emerging field of study. Complicated matters even more, he said, it is a human health issue.

"Health experiments, it turns out, are really tough to do," Laughlin said. They take years and very stringent controls to ensure that the results are not flawed.

Relying on the data currently available, Laughlin said he would not vote for stricter regulation on SmartMeters or cell phone towers, noting that alarms have been raised before about technologies that turned out to be benign.

All the same, while Laughlin will use a colleague's cell phone occasionally, he won't be running out to get one anytime soon. "It's just wise to be a little careful about everything that's powerful."

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.


3 people like this
Posted by Dumas
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 22, 2011 at 1:28 pm

A recent Cell Phone Safety forum on KQED was offered here [Web Link].

3 people like this
Posted by Peter
a resident of another community
on Apr 22, 2011 at 3:10 pm

If someone is serious about studying this issue, just go to Italy. 80% of homes there already have them (the meters do not effect the population of Italy one way or another)...

3 people like this
Posted by WTF
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Apr 22, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Another group of people with no lives. How sad.

3 people like this
Posted by Brad
a resident of Willowgate
on Apr 22, 2011 at 5:56 pm

I guess Hart also avoids riding in any car made by GM too, since the OnStar system uses cell network. And don't get him an Amazon Kindle either.

The emissions from the SmartMeter are not my concern. I'm more interested in their accuracy. Has anyone performed an independent test of their accuracy? Can't you just attach a secondary meter to measure your power use and compare it to the SmartMeter?

In principle I think SmartMeter is great, but as with all things electronic, the data can easily be corrupted or altered. Just recall all the issues with electronic voting machines....

3 people like this
Posted by Brad
a resident of Willowgate
on Apr 22, 2011 at 5:56 pm

I guess Hart also avoids riding in any car made by GM too, since the OnStar system uses cell network. And don't get him an Amazon Kindle either.

The emissions from the SmartMeter are not my concern. I'm more interested in their accuracy. Has anyone performed an independent test of their accuracy? Can't you just attach a secondary meter to measure your power use and compare it to the SmartMeter?

In principle I think SmartMeter is great, but as with all things electronic, the data can easily be corrupted or altered. Just recall all the issues with electronic voting machines....

3 people like this
Posted by Seer
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Apr 23, 2011 at 8:42 am

We're in a time where science is being repudiated. The Republicans do it because denying scientific results on environmental and health concerns puts money in their pockets (and more importantly, the pockets of their big donors so they can provide payola to the republican politicians.) Other republicans just can't absorb or accept that science is now showing that our species is threatening its own survival with resource depletion or environmental destruction, and their groupthink makes it OK for them to deny that science in order to feel good, sort of a "Party while it's 1999" mentality. Religious zealots do it because they have thrown their lot in with the losing side in the struggle of provable versus unprovable worldviews and they want to retain their power over others' minds.

The result is that people who are unable or unwilling to read the science - which represents the best and only information we have on this topic - believe that it's quite normal and OK to try to influence public policy based on superstition and fear. It is not. The only way our society will progress is to make decisions based on measurable and reproducible observations, which do not exist for the relationship between cell phones/smartmeters and disease. Their concern is every justification for more research, but not for taking action without facts. And unlike climate science, environmental pollution research, etc. the science on cell phone dangers is truly no complete. The key is "reproducible" research results.

3 people like this
Posted by Seer
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Apr 23, 2011 at 8:48 am

Brad, I'm not sure what you meant by "the data can be corrupted or altered." It's just billing data, but on an minute-by-minute basis. So if you don't trust it, you must also not have trusted your monthly energy bill before, since it could have been altered as well. The technology to generate such fine-grained billing is quite mature. What is not mature is the assurances we have that it will not be used for purposes other than improving the buyer-seller relationship between PG&E and each customer. It can certainly be sold and misused, even to the point where the data can be used to determine if you are cheating on your wife, cooking up drugs, sick or well, etc. If it got into the hands of law enforcement or insurance companies or your bank, they could easily use it to invade your privacy in horrific ways that would violate your rights. THAT is the true danger of this method of billing. The data needs to be protected under regulation just like healthcare data

3 people like this
Posted by Dr. Debra Greene
a resident of another community
on Apr 23, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Thank you for this article. You are wise to be cautious. There is plenty of solid research documenting the dangers of electromagnetic radiation, it just doesn't make in into mainstream media in the US. For example, check out and I hired a Master Electrician to go through my house with instruments to measure radiation levels and videotaped the whole thing. The results were shocking. The instruments don't lie. Check it out:

3 people like this
Posted by David
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Apr 23, 2011 at 3:44 pm

Saying there is danger in electromagnetic radiation is meaningless. A nightlight is electromagnetic radiation; so are x-rays. One harmless (unless you touch the hot bulb) -- the other shears off electrons from atoms and does serious damage to humans.

The point is the frequency, wavelength and intensity of the electromagnetic radiation. There is no "solid research" that proves the electromagnetic radiation from smart meters and cellular phones is dangerous to humans. Many studies continue, so we may eventually find otherwise. But right now, there's no evidence that a phone is any more dangerous than an electric blanket.

There are many other sources of electromagnetic radiation which are dangerous and it would be better to spend time protecting against those. For example, did those protesters have exposed skin while outside demonstrating? That unprotected exposure to electromagnetic radiation from our sun is more dangerous than the smart meter. Wear sunblock and hats instead of demonstrating against a harmless meter.

3 people like this
Posted by healthtolive
a resident of another community
on May 7, 2011 at 6:01 pm

To those sceptics who like to throw out the 'tin foil hat' line, clearly more information is needed on the very real condition known as EHS. Hopefully you are willing to at least consider what the Canadian Human Rights Commission and many world governments and health agencies including the World Health Organization (WHO) have established already.

Electro Hypersensitivity

In addition to numerous other health problems, electromagnetic pollution has been associated with an increase in the number of individuals suffering from a condition known as electrohypersensitivity (EHS).

EHS is defined by the World Health Organization as: “…a phenomenon where individuals experience adverse health effects while in the vicinity of devices emanating electric, magnetic, or electromagnetic fields.”

In Sweden, it is classified as a disability . The Canadian Human Rights Commission report also acknowledges environmental sensitivity attributed to electromagnetic exposure.

Researchers estimate that approximately 5-10% of the population has severe symptoms of EHS, and another 35% of the population has moderate symptoms such as an impaired immune system and chronic illness (Havas, 2007).

Because EHS is an environmental sensitivity, avoidance of triggers is essential in preventing symptoms and regaining good health. Like other environmental sensitivities, EHS presents with a variety of symptoms and it is common to have overlapping conditions.

For instance, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and Fibromyalgia, among other illnesses, are common in people with EHS and severity of symptoms in people with M.S., Diabetes, and other illnesses have been shown to be exacerbated with exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) and abated with mitigation of the EMF source(s).


Headaches, depression, palpitations, sinusitis, skin rash, deteriorating vision, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, pain or pressure in the chest, asthma, facial flushing, pain or burning in the Eyes, muscle and joint, confusion and spatial disorientation, high blood pressure, bronchitis, itching, pressure in/behind the eyes, memory loss, fatigue, shortness of breath, pneumonia, burning, floaters, dizziness, weakness, arrhythmias, cataracts, nausea, tremors, fast heart rate, swelling of face and neck, irritability, muscle spasms numbness, leg/foot pain, tingling, "Flu-like" symptoms, hyperactivity, fever, altered reflexes, insomnia,


Digestive problems, abdominal pain, testicular/ovarian pain, enlarged thyroid, great thirst, immune abnormalities, redistribution of metals within the body, hair loss pain in loss of appetite, allergies,

Severe reactions can include seizures, paralysis, psychosis, and stroke.

3 people like this
Posted by healthtolive
a resident of another community
on May 7, 2011 at 6:03 pm

Cont. EHS


Exposure to EMF/EMR:

Induces Oxidative Damage leading to depletion of the body's natural store of antioxidants.When the body becomes depleted in antioxidants, premature aging, increased infections, and sticky blood are just a few of the consequences. With a depressed level of antioxidants in the blood, for example, high-density lipoproteins (HDL) or the good cholesterol will bind with free radicals (oxidants) turning the good cholesterol into bad cholesterol or low-density lipoproteins (LDL).

Affects an abnormal influx of calcium into cells. When there is an abnormal influx of calcium into mast cells, for example, they produce histamine. This is just one of the ways in which microwave exposure has been known to trigger or aggravate allergic reactions.

Induces mitochondria dysfunction. The mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell. Dysfunctional mitochondria will interfere with the cells' ability to produce energy and can be linked to fatigue and possibly even obesity.

Depolarizes the body's red blood cells, causing them to clump together. When this happens, the amount of oxygen getting to the brain cells and the cells of the body's other organs is diminished substantially leading to hypoxia. This can cause symptoms similar to altitude sickness: nausea, dizziness, inability to concentrate, and so on.

Induces a decrease in the numbers of Natural Killer (NK) cells. This leads to the body's weakened ability to recover from viral and other types of infections. Therefore, people exposed to microwave radiation would take longer than normal to recover from your day-to-day infections.

Long-term microwave radiation has been shown to change a particular form of white blood cell (lymphocyte) ratio -known as the T-helper/T suppressor (T4/T8) cell ratio - from normal to abnormal. Abnormalities in this T-lymphocyte ratio have been shown to lead to an increased susceptibility to viral, fungal, and bacterial infections. Symptoms include sore throats, low-grade fevers, weakness, persistent fatigue, and swollen lymph glands.

Increases viruses, bacteria, mold, parasites, and yeast in the blood of the human host.
Induces what is known as "subliminal" stress causing the adrenal glands to excrete an abnormally greater amount of cortisol and adrenaline. Excretion of adrenaline, for one, can lead to irritability and a feeling of hyperactivity - the latter now very common in children with ADHD. In a continuous state this will eventually lead to adrenal exhaustion. Excessive cortisol has been linked to obesity.

Causes a decrease of 5-HT in the blood. 5-HT is a precursor to the production of the brain hormone serotonin. Low levels of serotonin have been linked to anxiety and depression. An increase in anxiety and depression can in turn be linked to an increase in the number of suicides.

Induces a decrease in levels of the brain hormone norepinephrine. This hormone is essential for control of the autonomic nervous system, and lack of it can lead to autonomic nervous system disorders. For example, if the autonomic nervous system is not working properly, the body will have trouble regulating its temperature - i.e. cooling
itself when it is warm and heating itself when it is cold. An abnormal decrease in norepinephrine levels has also been connected to short-term memory disturbances and depression.

Alters production of melatonin. This brain hormone and antioxidant is necessary for proper sleep. 42 million (approximately one in three) Americans now take sleep medication for insomnia while others often experience sleep disturbances due to exposure to electromagnetic radiation (EMR). A drop in melatonin levels has also been connected
with increases in breast cancer.

Reduces the levels of the brain hormone, dopamine. A drop in dopamine levels have been linked with depression.
Affects an abnormal drop in the levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. A drop in the levels of this neurotransmitter has been linked to a number of neurological and neuromuscular disorders - including Alzheimer's disease.

Induces restlessness and hence may very well also be responsible for a syndrome called restless leg syndrome (RLS).

Alters regional cerebral blood flow. In conditions like autism and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) it has been shown via SPECT

3 people like this
Posted by healthtolive
a resident of another community
on May 7, 2011 at 6:08 pm

Conclusion EHS..

The Canadian Human Rights Commission approved a Policy on Environmental Sensitivities on June 15th 2007.

EHS is included in this report and is recognized as a disability.
Web Link

"Environmental sensitivities" does not describe a single, simple condition with a universal cause. Environmentally sensitive individuals link their symptoms to aspects of their environment such as being in a particular place or being exposed to one or more factors such as chemicals, biological materials or electromagnetic phenomena”.

Web Link

(Excerpted from The Medical Perspective on Environmental Sensitivities -Page 6
The Canadian Human Rights Commission Research Project)

Early recognition, avoidance of symptom-triggering agents, environmental control, treatments that may reduce residual toxins and recovery of normal biological processes are key to regaining health for people with sensitivities. Without mitigation of the incitant, people with environmental sensitivities may become severely debilitated.

The most immediate and effective course of action is to avoid all sources of electromagnetic radiation.

Excerpted from the Bioinitiative Report,

Web Link

Problems with Existing Public Health Standards (Safety Limits)

Today’s public exposure limits for telecommunications are based on the presumption that heating of tissue (for RF) or induced electric currents in the body (for ELF) are the only concerns when living organisms are exposed to RF.

In the last few decades, it has been established beyond any reasonable doubt that bioeffects and some adverse health effects occur at far lower levels of RF and ELF exposure where no heating (or induced currents) occurs at all; some effects are shown to occur at several hundred thousand times below the existing public safety limits where heating is an impossibility.

No one would recommend that drugs used in medical treatments and prevention of disease be randomly given to the public, especially to children. Yet, random and involuntary exposures to EMFs occur all the time in daily life.

Medical conditions are successfully treated using EMFs at levels below current public safety standards, proving another way that the body recognizes and responds to low-intensity EMF signals. Otherwise, these medical treatments could not work. The FDA has approved EMFs medical treatment devices, so is clearly aware of this paradox.

Effects occur at non-thermal or low-intensity exposure levels thousands of times below the levels that federal agencies say should keep the public safe. For many new devices operating with wireless technologies, the devices are exempt from any regulatory standards. The existing standards have been proven to be inadequate to control against harm from low-intensity, chronic exposures, based on any reasonable, independent assessment of the scientific literature. The explosion of new sources of RF and ELF has created unprecedented levels of artificial electromagnetic fields that now cover all but remote areas of the habitable space on earth.

Main Reasons for Disagreement Among Experts

Scientists and public health policy experts use very different definitions of the standard of evidence used to judge the science, so they come to different conclusions about what to do. Scientists do have a role, but it is not exclusive and other opinions matter.

Some experts keep saying that all studies have to be consistent (turn out the same way every time) before they are comfortable saying an effect exists.

Some experts think that it is enough to look only at short-term, acute effects.

Other experts say that it is imperative we have studies over longer time to show effects from chronic exposure.

Some experts say the very young, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with illnesses have to be considered – others say only the average person

There is no unexposed population, making it harder to see increased risk of diseases.

Vested interests have a substantial influence on the health debate.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

All your news. All in one place. Every day.

Su Hong Palo Alto's last day of business will be Sept. 29
By Elena Kadvany | 20 comments | 6,212 views

Premarital, Women Over 50 Do Get Married
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,959 views

Electric Buses: A case study
By Sherry Listgarten | 2 comments | 1,814 views

Natural Wines?
By Laura Stec | 2 comments | 1,732 views



On Friday, October 11, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run or half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

Register now