Are home energy monitors safe?

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Entergy is scheduled to roll out its SmartView smart meter program, which gives 7,400 participating Entergy New Orleans customers a real-time energy consumption monitor.

In Marin County, Calif., however, authorities there have asked to to put the brakes on a similar program from its utilities provider PG&E; a utilities regulating board said the devices could expose users to harmful electromagnetic radiation.

The board said the vote is to make the utility "stop implementing this until the risks are better known." So, what are the risks, if any?

Over at Mother Jones, Kiera Butler asked around to see how harmful those meters are — and chances are you're already using everyday appliances like microwaves, Wi-Fi networks, radios, and everyone's favorite cancer-emitting gizmo, cell phones, so radiation isn't anything new in your home. And the amount of radiation is tiny comapred to that of, say, cell phones, which are more or less permanently affixed to some part of us most hours of the day.

It's unlikely these meters will cause any major harm, according to the California Council for Science and Technology. (Check out Mother Jones' graph comparing radiation among household appliances.)

Entergy's SmartView program is a collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy, which gave a $5 million federal stimulus grant to the program.

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