Kathy Read stands outside her house with signs she's made to warn B.C. Hydro and Corix employees not to change her family's digital meter to a smart meter.

Smart meters bring fear to Agassiz cancer patient

BC Hydro says nothing to fear from 'necessary upgrade' to old power system

Kathy Read sleeps with a CPAP mask, designed to help her breathing correctly through the night. She has two metal knees, and walks with a cane.

But most importantly, she’s a cancer survivor. Read has been in remission for five years, after treatment for non-hodgkin’s lymphoma that was diagnosed in January 2005.

And now, she’s fighting the installation of a smart meter on her home.

“I don’t want it because of the fact that I’m a cancer survivor,” she said. “I had non-hodgkin’s lymphoma, and it can come back.”

So, with the help of a relative, she’s been pouring over research regarding the emissions from the meters, currently being installed in homes across the province. And what she’s finding, is that all smart meters can lead to further health problems.

In April this year, she says, the World Health Organization linked the radiation emitted from smart meters to cancer, and placed it in the same category as lead, pesticides, chloroform and engine exhaust. She’s also read numerous stories about people suffering negative health effects from having the meters attached to their homes.

So, she’s posted signs around her meter warning B.C. Hydro and Corix staff that they are not to swap out her old meter for a new one.

One reads: “Do not install any wireless meters at this location.”

Another one reads: “My legal right: No Smart Meter here!”

But not everyone believes the hype. When speaking at October’s UBCM conference, Premier Christy Clark said the much-talked-about health concerns don’t faze her.

“I’ve spent quite a bit of time talking with the experts about it,” Clark said. “I don’t share those health concerns, because when we’re surrounded by wireless and cell phones, there are a lot of other sources of the problem that they’re concerned about.”

BC Hydro is working with those who don’t want the meters attached to their homes. But eventually, everyone on the grid will need one to keep their power on.

“The meters are a necessary upgrade,” Cindy Verschoor, manager of public affairs for the Smart Meter Program, said this week. “There is a point when the old meters won’t work on the new system.”

It isn’t just your house meter that is getting an upgrade, it’s the entire network.

“We have a very large complex system behind that switch on your wall,” Verschoor said.

And it’s a system that people shouldn’t be afraid of.

“Smart meters are safe,” she assured. “They use radio frequency that has been used for over a century.”

In today’s wired world, similar frequencies are given off by televisions, radios, GPS systems and even remote controls.

“If you went outside your house and stood next to your meter for 20 years, you would get the same amount of frequency as a 30 minute cell phone call,” she said.

Most of BC Hydro’s customers are accepting the change, she said, at a rate of about 99 per cent.

But, for those who don’t want to be living so close the meter, there is a compromise.

“You can locate the meter anywhere on your property,” she said, at a distance from your home.

Of course, that’s not a job for the average handy-man, and is “something that would need to be done by a certified electrician, at a cost to the homeowner.”

For now, the signs at the Read home will stay up, and Verschoor said that employees will heed them.

“When we are contacted by a customer who isn’t comfortable with the meters, we do hold off installing until they are comfortable with it,” she added.

Anyone with questions can contact BC Hydro directly at 1-800-224-9376.

 

-with files from Tom Fletcher