GUEST COLUMN - More questions than answers on potential danger of water meters

On Jan. 11, I started a debate on the potential danger of the new water meters that the City is installing. My intention in seeking information on the new meters was simply to satisfy myself that they are not going to present a health risk to my family. I have to confess that the thought of having microwave transmitters put on every home in the City struck me as potentially risky.

I had assumed that the City had looked into the safety issue, and that it would be easy to verify that my concerns were not warranted. Unfortunately, this has turned out not to be the case. I have sent a request to the City for information which they are still working on, but so far all I have received is a two-page promotional piece by the manufacturer touting safety. Not a shred of research is referred to in the clearly self-serving promotional piece.

It is also impossible to use the promotional piece as evidence to determine safety. Crucial details such as the strength of the signal are avoided. Rather there are only comparisons such as the unit having 1/3 the output of cell phones. Without knowing what cell phones, the signal strength cannot be determined. Nor can the frequencies or pulse rates be compared.

Adding to my growing concern was a column on Jan. 31 by Coun. John O'Fee telling us the buzz over RF devices on meters was misplaced. Mr. O'Fee's main points to claim the meters are safe were that they only transmit every 14 seconds (i.e. it is a pulsed signal), and that you would have to sit with your ear against the meter for 24 hours to get the equivalent electromagnetic radiation of a 30-second cell phone call. Ominously, Mr. O'Fee cited an Ontario study concerning the safety of the typical home wifi system.

I didn't find the Ontario wifi reference very comforting for a couple of reasons. In November, I was approached for legal advice by a person who was on an elementary school advisory council in Ontario. The council was extremely concerned about wifi in the school because of three different students suffering heart attacks. One of the children died. All of this followed the installation of the wifi.

In addition, several students were sick when at school. When Health Canada was approached about the safety of wifi on children the council learned that there are no long-term safety studies because it would be unethical to do them on children.

Curiously, the advisory council's notes are to be given to all parents but the discussions of their wifi concerns were being edited out of the notes. I am also mindful that governments like the Swiss government discourage the use of wifi and have issued public cautions to minimize wifi use.

I also did not find the argument that we should not be concerned because the signal is pulsed very relaxing. One of Canada's leading experts on the dangers of electromagnetic radiation is Dr. Magda Havas of Trent University. In her report to the California Council on Science and Technology concerning the danger of smart meters, one of her points was that scientific research shows pulsed signals to be more dangerous than constant signals.

Concerning Mr. O'Fee's assertion that we should not worry because standing by the meter for 24 hours is the equivalent of a 30-second cell phone call, I would like to see what information he is basing that on.

When I crunch the numbers with the only document the City told me they possess on safety I cannot reproduce his figures. It would also only be a meaningful comparison if the frequencies and pulse rates were the same, which at this point we cannot tell. I would be very concerned with the fact the comments were even made if they were based solely on the manufacturer's short self-serving document. This is an inquiry into safety which requires a reasonable investigation. I would think that our children deserve nothing less.

As things currently stand, I am beginning to believe that the City does not actually have information in its possession to prove that the smart meters are safe. I think in the very least, the safety of the meters needs to be reasonably investigated before they are placed on all of our homes.

It troubles me that some municipalities have banned the similar hydro smart meters for safety reasons. It troubles me that across North America groups have formed to resist smart meters because of the number of people who get sick from them. It may be that the meters are safe, but none of us can make that determination until we are given more information.

The City of Kamloops owes its citizens due diligence on this and any other issue that may impact the health and safety of its residents.

(Shawn Buckley is a lawyer who practices primarily in the area of natural health. He is also President of the Natural Health Products Protection Association www.nhppa.org.)

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