When a DTE Energy employee started installing new "smart meters" on Shiawassee in Farmington, one homeowner just said no.
DTE plans to install the new devices for all of its 4 million customers during the next several years, according to the company's website. The meters have digital displays and transmit information wirelessly and over standard power lines. The aim is to reduce human error and estimated meter readings, as well as to provide customers with more information to help them "make cost-saving choices" about energy use, the website says.
David Judge and his wife, Laura, who is pregnant with their first child, have had concerns ever since learning smart meters would be installed locally. Laura Judge turned to the Internet and discovered that many people across the nation have raised numerous issues, ranging from negative health effects on humans and animals to interference with household devices, such as baby monitors.
David Judge said the meters have been linked to problems with cochlear implants and hearing aids. The couple is especially concerned because Laura Judge's mother, who will be staying with them after the baby is born, has an implant. Several other family members wear hearing aids.
There is no "opt out" for the program, DTE spokesperson Scott Simons said. However, DTE recently contacted the Judges, who shared their concerns with the power company, and asked for more medical information regarding the cochlear implant.
"It is true that there is not general opt out, but there may be a possiblity of opting out due to medical issues," Laura Judge said. "We are awaiting the letter from my mother's doctor to present to DTE. Whether or not they accept it is another issue."
She said in literature received before the Smart Meter installation, DTE requested customers with any electrical medical devices in the home contact them. Simons said that's due to possible service interruptions when the meters are installed.
In the meantime, the Judges have taped signs to meters at their home and downtown Farmington business.
"We have posted a notice to DTE requesting that they do not install smart meters," David Judge said. "From what I understand, the meters are not shielded properly."
Residents in Shelby Township are fighting to ban the meters, as are residents in other cities across the country. (.)
According to Stop Smart Meters, an organization that grew out of a California neighborhood crusade, the meters create an electromagnetic field (EMF), and EMF exposure is being investigated as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization (WHO). In addition, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health has established safety guidelines for people who work around EMFs, because of the "scientific uncertainty" around their effects on cancer rates.
An EMF consists of energy waves with frequencies below 300 hertz (cycles per second).
Another concern is radio frequency (RF) radiation, which is how the meters transmit information. Stop Smart Meters points to a recent WHO study that cites possible links between RF radiation from cellphones with glioma, a broad category of brain and spinal cord tumors.
However, DTE spokesman Scott Simons said the level of exposure is substantially lower than that emitted by common household appliances, such as microwave ovens and even baby monitors.
"Because they emit RF (radio frequency) waves at a very low level, it would take the typical homeowner more than 1,000 years to get as much exposure to RF waves from an advanced meter as an average cellphone user gets in a month," he said.
According to the DTE website: "Your new advanced meter is within compliance of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) communications standards. It has been thoroughly tested and studied to validate that it poses no health threats."
The Judges acknowledge that there have been no direct links made between Smart Meters and the health and other problems people have reported.
"There is all sorts of stuff they can't prove is caused by the meters but is linked to the time of installation," Laura Judge said. She pointed out that gas meters will also eventually be switched out, and the meters are just more wireless devices emitting signals and energy, with no real exploration of the long-term effects.
At Monday night's Farmington Hills City Council meeting, Mayor Jerry Ellis acknowledged receiving a letter from a citizen who is concerned about the smart meters. He said the only recourse is to contact the state's Public Service Commission.