The wireless age has introduced countless devices that many of us can’t live without, like cell phones, laptop computers and wifi routers. Like all electronics they communicate using electromagnetic frequencies – or EMFs. Some people worry that EMFs are making them sick – and say that technology should slow down.

KQED has done a lot of reporting on SmartMeters over the past year, including this story from the Central Valley by KQED’s Sasha Khokha.

My interest in the subject stems from a note I read on a neighborhood listserve, about a company’s plans to install a wireless cell phone tower on Bernal Hill. A number of San Francisco neighborhoods have fought these towers in recent years – often successfully –over concerns about EMFs – electromagnetic frequencies.

As I learned pretty quickly, there’s no mere toe-dipping on the subject of EMFs. People have arguing about the health effects of EMFs ever since (and probably before) the Cold War, when employees at the US Embassy in Moscow blamed a variety of health problems on the fact that the KGB had been directing high-power microwaves at the walls of the building.

I asked Paul Saffo what advice he’d give PG&E, which seems to have been taken off guard by the amount of protest ink this issue has generated. He said it’s simple: Give people a choice. Put an off switch on those SmartMeters, or let people choose not to have one at all.

The best way to raise alarm, he said, is to make a new technology mandatory. That’s why you don’t see people out protesting wifi routers (which do more or less the same thing SmartMeters do, and are usually in closer proximity to us) or baby monitors. Or even (except in the case of San Francisco) cell phones, which we hold up right next to our heads. Or, for that matter, cars.

Listen to All Charged Up Over EMFs radio report online.

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Reporter’s Notes: All Charged Up Over EMFs 2 October,2015Amy Standen

Author

Amy Standen

Amy Standen (@amystanden) is co-host of #TheLeapPodcast (subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher!) and host of KQED and PBSDigital Studios' science video series, Deep Look.  Her science radio stories appear on KQED and NPR.

Email her at astanden@kqed.org

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