Meters are not-so-smart to some

Art Joyce believes that BC Hydro is insensitive to people concerned about the health risks of the proposed smart meters.

Chronic fatigue is a complex syndrome with consistent symptoms which rob individuals of their vitality every day. The syndrome is now being seen as an immune deficiency disorder, which means sufferers contend not only with a lack of energy, they are also constantly fighting off illness.

“It is something that I deal with all the time,” Art Joyce told me, “With the immune deficiency, I’m far more prone to colds and allergies.”

Not only that, Joyce believes he is sensitive to electromagnetic energy.

“Electromagnetic fields (EMF) can have an effect on the immune system,” Joyce said, pointing out the World Health Organization (WHO) has identified electromagnetic radiation as potentially cancer-causing.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a WHO agency, “has classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B), a category used when a causal association is considered credible, but when chance, bias or confounding cannot be ruled out with reasonable confidence.”

In Canada, Radiofrequency Exposure Guidelines are set out under Safety Code 6, which was created “to assist users in understanding and assessing the safety of electromagnetic exposures in working and living environments.”

But Code 6 is not seen by some experts as being sufficient in today’s world.

“Dr. David Carpenter (director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at UAlbany) testified before Health Canada last fall that safety code 6 is outdated and inadequate to protect public health, “ Joyce told me, as did Dr. Olle Johansson of the medical university, the Karolinska Institute.

Joyce said the experts named by BC Hydro rep Gary Murphy were researchers who may have little knowledge about the biological aspects of radiation.

He also mentioned that the nature of Murphy’s refutation of their research amounted to “ad hominem attacks” on their character and didn’t address their work on radiation.

But EMF isn’t an academic abstraction to Joyce, who feels the radiation impinges on his everyday living.

He attributes the erratic and increased heart rate he experienced during a visit to a coffee shop in Penticton to the strength of the wifi signal in the cafe.

Dr. Magda Havas, another doctor who also believes that Code 6 is inadequate, has been tracking links between wifi and a number of health concerns, including infertility.

“It’s a big question if you have CFS, for example, and your immune system is already compromised then it could be that makes you more sensitive to low-level EMF that may affect the heart,” Joyce said.

Joyce and his partner actively reduce the amount of exposure they receive on a daily basis. At home, they turn off the power at night and shut down any circuits that aren’t being used just to keep the level of EMF down.

“Avoidance of EMF sources, shutting down the power when it’s not being used, not using wifi or cordless phones, not having a microwave oven,” these are all actions that Joyce and his partner have taken to create a radiation-reduced environment.

Which is why he finds BC Hydro’s apparent inflexibility with regards to their wireless smart meter plan alarming. When Joyce asked Murphy about a wired option, Murphy said the reasons BC Hydro rejected it were reliability, liability and “the ability to meet business objectives.”

“He didn’t clarify,” Joyce said, when I asked what Murphy meant by the last reason.

“In my view they’re making a trade off of cost for health,” Joyce stated, noting that Murphy did mention that fibre optic cable, a secure and reliable method of transmission, was expensive.

“It’s a very dubious area legally they’ve stepped into,” Joyce remarked, “Does Hydro have the right to enter your property without your consent to take something and replace it with something else you don’t want?”

The reply I receive from Jen Walker-Larsen, the regional spokesperson for BC Hydro, when I emailed her about it was: “If a customer contacts us and asks that we don’t install a meter on their home, we will follow up with them before a smart meter is installed to understand their concerns. BC Hydro is committed to working with those customers on a case by case basis to find mutually agreeable solutions. For example, customers have always had the option to move their meter to a different location on their property at their own cost.”

When I asked Joyce what he is going to do if the smart meters are implemented, the options he feels he is facing are to completely insulate the meter to block signals, or to sell the property and go off-grid completely.

“That is the hardest of all, because that means uprooting our entire lives,” he told me, “This is what makes me so angry.”

Joyce questions the respect Hydro claims to have for its customers, and wonders how it translates when they are pushing for a zero opt-out program and customers paying to move unwanted meters.


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