From Maine to Maui, a growing wave of health and safety advocates are questioning the rush to install so-called "smart meters." The wireless devices to track electricity use down to each appliance have been associated with health problems and house fires.
Today (Thurs.), nearly three dozen demonstrations are being held across the country - including Washington, D.C., and Detroit - all to coincide with Grid Week, a conference of industry and government proponents of the "smart" grid.
Organizer Joshua Hart, with the National Campaign to Stop Smart Meters!, goes further - saying the devices are defective and should be recalled.
"The utilities are demanding that people pay a fee to keep their safe, analog meters, and we call that extortion. That's unacceptable, and people have a right to be safe and secure in their homes - and that's what today's protests are about."
Hart says problems with internal wiring and shoddy installations have been identified as the potential culprits in hundreds of fires caused by smart meters.
Smart meters emit strong bursts of microwave RF radiation that the World Health Organization has labeled as a Class 2B carcinogen. At the University of California-Berkeley School of Public Health, Joel Moskowitz, Ph.D., has this caution.
"So, it seems to be highly problematic from a public health standpoint that we're just rolling out millions and millions of these wireless meters, without fully understanding what are the potential health risks and figuring out how to reduce any potential harm."
Utilities worldwide are moving quickly to install the wireless monitoring devices, saying the new technology will allow energy savings. However opponents question whether the data privacy and security concerns, as well as potential health hazards, make the technology as beneficial as claimed.
Today's protests are being organized by the National Campaign to Stop Smart Meters! and the Wireless Radiation Protection Coalition, along with more than 35 grassroots organizations around North America.