RIDGWAY – Smart meters are a dumb idea, according to Ridgway’s Jean McDonnell.
The chemically and electromagnetically sensitive former teacher worries about a planetary scourge of “dirty electricity,” or “electrosmog” as it is sometimes called, coming from all around us, from high-frequency sources like cell phones and towers to low-frequency emitters like the TWACS smart meters San Miguel Power Association wants to install on each of its member residences and businesses.
“Just because it’s low frequency doesn’t mean it’s safe!” McDonnell said in an interview this week with The Watch.
She insists she is more teacher than crusader. And to that end McDonnell is hosting a free seminar this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 12 noon at the Ridgway Community Center. Speakers will include Steen Hviid, an Arizona-based engineer who will present, via speakerphone and PowerPoint, a talk on the TWACS system and why, McDonnell said, it is not the “safe” alternative SMPS insists it is.
The other speaker will be Josh Hart, in person, an environmental advocate and director of the California-based Stop Smart Meters! Hart will talk about health and privacy issues, and the successful effort to force Pacific Gas and Electric to replace smart meters with the old analog ones in some communities in California.
McDonnell believes that the tremendous increase in electromagnetic exposure over the last 50 years, and especially since 1990 when wireless communications and devices proliferated, is a potential health risk that has not been sufficiently studied, or even discussed.
“We are electromagnetic beings,” said McDonnell. Our nerve cells communicate with one another using electric pulses. It only makes sense that ever-more-ubiquitous electromagnetic fields, EMFs, would affect our bodies. “It’s about the constant nature of EMFs,” she said. “Your body doesn’t get a chance to rest. That’s why it’s so important we have a moratorium [on smart meters],” she said, “to talk about it, to look at each other and learn the facts.”
McDonnell’s own sensitivity was triggered, she said, from environmental pollution in the Telluride schools. After the Telluride Elementary School was remodeled and reopened in 1980s, she suffered debilitating illness from carpet glues and radon (ionizing radiation, since mitigated) in the old building. She became permanently disabled and sued the school district.
“Most doctors are not aware of the biological effects of EMF,” McDonnell said. “My doctor in Denver litigated on my behalf.” (She had to have her immune system “completely transfused.”) And she won the case, helping to further establish chemical and electromagnetic sensitivity under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
McDonnell doesn’t work anymore as a teacher. She can’t. But her teacher instincts come to the fore when she reads about what is happening in other parts of the world. “We are behind the rest of the world on this. There are no standards in the U.S. for the kinds of non-thermal, non-ionizing radiation we would get from TWACS. There are standards in Sweden, and Italy, and Israel. And they’re lowering their thresholds. There is hope in Sweden! They’re actually looking ahead, being preventative. They’ve developed filters that can prevent these extremely low frequencies [from smart meters] from entering your house. In Italy, they are creating ‘elettrosmog free’ zones, electrosmog-free beaches.”
McDonnell quoted liberally from a May 2011 report of the Committee on the Environment, Agriculture and Local and Regional Affairs for the Council of Europe. Though uncertainties continue to exist about the effects of EMFs on human health, the report states that both low- and high-frequency radiation “appear to have . . . potentially harmful, non-thermal, biological effects on plants, insects and animals, as well as the human body when exposed to levels that are below the official threshold values.”
The report concludes: “One must respect the precautionary principle and revise the current threshold values; waiting for high levels of scientific and clinical proof can lead to very high health and economic costs, as was the case in the past with asbestos, leaded petrol and tobacco.”
The precautionary principle: that is what McDonnell wants to see invoked in Ouray County. “People are running from smart meters” to safe havens, she said. “Like Santa Barbara County, Calif., where they are banned. If we wanted our real estate market to pop, we could attract people who are running from wireless. A Ouray County that is smart meter free – that would be my goal.”
The Saturday seminar will present safe alternatives, McDonnell said, to SMPS’s TWACS system. “Safer options are right around the corner, according to Steen. He’ll talk about them. That’s why the moratorium is so important.”
In a world vibrating with unseen, unfelt waves, this teacher may be a canary in a coal mine.