Langley Times Published: July 27, 2011 2:00 PM  Updated: July 27, 2011 2:54 PM

The modernization of BC Hydro’s metering system is intended to be safer, more reliable and cost effective than the current system, and reduce electricity theft.

But Hydro’s smart meter technology may also be hazardous to health, polluting homes and the outdoors with environmental poison, a resident told Township council on Monday.

Hydro anticipates that its conversion from manual meter reading to the new technology will be completed by 2012. Smart meters record consumption of electric energy in intervals of an hour or less and communicate that data remotely back to the utility for monitoring and billing purposes.

The problem, Una St. Clair told council, is that the meters radiate microwave frequency day and night.

Unlike cell phones, which expose only the head to non-ionizing radio-frequency radiation, smart meters expose the whole body to what the World Health Organization in May classified “as possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

“This is changing across Europe,” St. Clair said, pointing to a Council of Europe resolution that calls for a reduction in human exposure to electromagnetic fields and microwave radiation from cell phones and other wireless devices.

The resolution calls on the 47 member governments to impose a ban on mobile phones, DECT cordless phones, WiFi or wLAN systems in classrooms and schools.

Councillor Jordan Bateman circulated a fact sheet from the provincial Ministry of Mines and Energy which endorses smart meters and claims that WHO “has concluded that there is no evidence exposure to low level electromagnetic fields is harmful to human health.”

“Have you spoken to Hydro?” Bateman asked St. Clair.

“Consistently,” St. Clair replied, adding that the company has told her that she if she wants her smart meter attached to a part of her property other than her house, she can expect to pay between $6,000 and $12,000.

She said that the symptoms of distress in the body are sometimes exhibited before those of cancer appear.

“I believe this is a human right, a democratic right (for people) to choose their own poisons in their homes,” she said to applause from the approximately 100 people in the gallery.

She asked council to ask the provincial and federal ministers of health to place a moratorium on the installation of smart meters until an independent assessment is carried out and wired alternative solutions are provided at no cost to consumers.

A majority of council agreed to her request. Bateman and Councillors Grant Ward and Mel Kositsky did not support writing the letter.