Round thermostat looking device

American Electric Power (AEP) tells us that “smart” meters – now mandatory on your home electric grid – will save you utility money because the meters are “smart” and more accurate. But perhaps the real reason is that AEP will save themselves money by not paying meter readers anymore.

Not only is this depressing news for the current meter readers and the city’s unemployment rate, but the emergence of smart meters and grids raises much more disturbing issues that call into question how smart we are to adopt these shiny new high-tech meters.

In 2017 AEP began to replace old-school electric meters for 1.5 million local customers on a plan that runs through 2021. Starting in Delaware and then moving into Columbus and the suburbs, AEP is installing “innovative” and “highly-flexible smart metering solutions that provide advanced functionality to meet the evolving Smart Grid system needs,” according to their literature.

Smart grids are radiation-emitting devices proliferating all over the world, according to, and are “…an expensive wireless system installed on our homes, businesses, and in our environment, that customers pay for.” They are “…being installed without informed consent and without full disclosure of how they work, and what they can do with the personal data they collect.”

In a 2011 interview, former CIA Director James Woolsey warned us that smart grids are “stupid.” They are easily hacked, which can leave our electrical system vulnerable to external meddling or shutdown. “They’re going to make it easier for you and me to call our homes on our cell phone and turn down our air-conditioning on a hot afternoon if we’re not there. Great, but that may well mean that a hacker in Shanghai with his cell phone could do the same thing or worse,” Woolsey said. Remind you of anything? Just like our voting machine systems, anything on a wireless grid is not secure.


You’re only paranoid if there’s no one’s spying on you. Smart meters are touted for better accuracy because they monitor everything you do and when you do it. The Northern California ACLU found that “…a significant amount of data about the energy use of Californians is also ending up in the hands of third parties.” This home energy use data has been subpoenaed in drug cases and civil lawsuits, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

In a NBC4 report, evidence showed that German smart meters “…allowed them to snoop on unencrypted data” and could determine “…whether or not the homeowners were home, away, or even sleeping, but also what movie they were watching.” The Electronic Privacy Information Center warns about the numerous privacy dangers associated with smart meters, including behavior tracking for home invasions, tracking renter/leaser behavior, profiling and identity theft.


Suspicions that RF and EMF radiation emitted from electric grids, cell phones, and smart meters are adamantly denied by the industry, but many health experts warn of risks. Exposure to the type of radiation emitted by smart meters is known to cause problems with the “nervous system, cancer, adverse reproductive effects and other illnesses,” states Harvard trained public health physician Dr. David Carpenter. The World Health Organization classifies RF radiation as Group 2B, possible human carcinogen. The International Journal of Oncology notes that Group 2B cancers are commonly of the brain and head.

In a letter to the Public Utilities of the State of California, when smart meters were introduced in that state, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) stated that the biological and medical effects of exposure to smart meters accumulates over time. They warned about genetic, hormonal and cellular disturbances, and that children are at the highest risk of “altered brain development” and “impaired learning.” Fears are raised about radiation exposure to people with pacemakers, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems. “Given the widespread, chronic, and essentially inescapable ELF/RF exposure of everyone living near a ‘smart meter,’ the Board of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine finds it unacceptable from a public health standpoint to implement this technology until these serious medical concerns are resolved,” the AAEM wrote.

You can run, but you cannot hide

Dr. Carpenter believes people should have the right to decide if they will be exposed to the radiation form smart meters. But as the AAEM pointed out, if you live on the “grid” in a U.S. city, they may be “inescapable.”

That’s what Columbus resident Debbie Crist discovered when AEP swept through her neighborhood to install the new devices. Crist contacted AEP to let them know her former doctor from the Center for Occupational & Environmental Medicine, P.A. in North Charleston, South Carolina advised Crist against getting a smart meter. Her doctor wrote a diagnosis stating that Crist “suffers from electromagnetic sensitivity and must not have a smart meter installed in her home.” The letter notes that exposure to the smart meter could cause headaches, migraines, an altered sense of smell, fatigue, increased chemical sensitivity, a disrupted endocrine system and cognitive impairment. It is signed by Bettina Herbert, M.D..

After a month or so of communication, AEP’s Ohio Customer Support Coordinator Tina Roth wrote back saying that AEP recognized her concerns and gave her an “opt-out” option on the smart meter. In her email response to Crist on June 12, was this request: “To avoid installation of a smart meter the agreement must be received by the AEP SMARTgrid Customer Support Team in its original format by Monday, June 18, 2018. (Please note that due to additional extensions over the last 38 days of communication since the first agreement was sent, the 10 days on the letter is null and void)” and that “Signed agreements can be returned to the AEP SMARTgrid Customer Support Team via mail or email using the contact information on the agreement (to meet the timeline provide email would be the suggested method of return).”

AEP’s opt-out option is not without financial burden on the consumer. Roth had informed Crist that the opt-out policy read: “Choosing to decline a smart meter will add an additional $24.00 monthly service fee to the customer’s bill for meter reading/service fees.” Clearly the fee is to pay for meter reading service, as the policy states: “Upon the Opt Out Agreement being returned within the time guidelines provided in this email, a meter change order will be placed for a digital non-communicating meter to be installed at the premise” and “While this is a digital the meter it is a non-communicating meter and sends no signals, additionally as with the analog meters it still requires that a meter reader physically read the meter each month.”

Crist had argued against the installation of both the smart and digital meter at her home: “My doctor(s) is/are adamant that I must keep my analog meter because of my health issues. I have been diagnosed with toxic encephalopathy, organic brain dysfunction, unspecified neurocognitive disorder, etc. and have myelin damage as shown in testing. My doctor has indicated that your non-standard digital meter may be safe for others but not safe for me.” Another email to AEP said, “What you are asking me to do likely puts my health at further and significant risk…My doctor has stated it is medically necessary that the analog meter remain at my home. I need to do everything possible to protect my health and my home.” She sent along links to websites relaying health risks of the meters.

Resistance is futile

AEP finally sent Crist a certified letter that if they didn’t hear back in three days they would come and install the digital meter. Crist immediately wrote back and, as a precaution, put a chain on her analog meter. That’s when it got really ugly.

AEP sent two policemen to accompany their meter installer at Crist’s home and the police proceeded to protect the AEP employee as the chain was cut off her analog meter. When Crist protested, she told the Free Press, the cops asked her “What’s the difference? You’re around WiFi all the time anyway.” Though the cop told her it was a non-emitting meter, a test of the RF emissions showed otherwise.

Since the installation, Crist complains of the following symptoms: worsened headaches, disorientation when walking and driving, brain fatigue, memory issues, altered sense of smell, numbness, dizziness, and hearing a high frequency buzzing. She worries that the smart meter on her neighbor’s home is affecting her as well. Her state representative suggested she contact the Ohio Consumers’ Council. She takes supplements to try to ward of the adverse effects, though experts concede there is no way to prevent the radiation exposure.         

Wising up to smart meters

Movements in several states and countries are actively fighting against smart meters, though without many victories. Activists, medical experts and environmentalists are currently resisting deployment in European countries and all over the U.S., but the spread of smart meters continues. The huge community effort to prevent smart grids failed in California and other states.

In April this year, the state of New Mexico rejected smart meters. The Santa Fe-New Mexican explained that the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission banned smart meters “citing rate increases, an excessive opt-out fee, and layoffs as deal breakers” and concluded the meters were “clearly not in the best interest of the public.”

Congressional testimony in March 2017 by Michigan State Senator Patrick Colbeck in support of consumer protection questioned the merit of deploying smart meters with their accompanying national security risks and increasing costs. Anti-smart grid activists forced the adoption of “opt-out” policies, although they concede that digital meters are not completely safe either.

There’s a movement to pass city resolutions to ban smart meters and website offers advice on what to do if smart meters come to your town.

It may be too late for us in Columbus, especially for Debbie Crist.