A Quebec environmental action group says the circulation of residential smart meters by Hydro-Quebec Distribution could pose public health hazards.
The Association québécoise de lutte contre la pollution atmosphérique (AQLPA) has gathered more than 17,000 signatures against the installation of the energy-measuring devices over concerns about the radiofrequency (RF) levels emitted.
"Citizens have every right to see the reality, to ask questions, and to refuse devices for which they have doubts and seem to affect some people get sick and pilot projects,” announced AQLPA President André Bélisle in a December 4, 2012 statement to media translated from French. “And most importantly, they should not be able to choose devices operating without radio emissions.”
In an October 5, 2012 ruling, the Quebec Energy Board authorized Hydro-Quebec to proceed with replacing analog electricity boxes with the new smart meters, which can provide up-to-the-minute information about electricity consumption.
The energy board’s ruling concluded the intensity of radiofrequencies used by the smart meters is 20,000 to 300,000 times less than the standards set by Health Canada.
Still, AQLPA says that further study is required on the health effects of radiofrequencies, and Health Canada needs to revisit Safety Code 6 of Health Canada's Radiofrequency Exposure Guidelines.
"The next revision of the Safety Code 6 should take into account existing scientific results, which require that public authorities recognize that there are health ailments related to RF,” said AQLPA Energy Analyst Brigitte Blais in a December 4, 2012 statement to media.
“Authorities should apply the precautionary principle now, as scientists are on the verge of understanding why and how people become intolerant to RF in their lives," Blais added.
In response to the AQLPA’s concerns, Hydro-Quebec has routinely referred to a 2011 Health Canada report that indicates exposure to RF energy from smart meters does not pose a public health risk.
Quebec’s $440-million smart meter project aims to replace 1.7 million meters in Montreal alone by 2014. An additional 3.75 million analog meters are planned to be installed across the province by 2018, for a total cost of nearly one billion dollars.
Hydro-Québec says the new smart meters will save upwards of $200 million over the next 20 years.