9 Investigates: Electric smart meter dangers

CENTRAL FLORIDA,None — Power companies say smart meters being installed in Florida right now are the way of the future. They transmit your home's energy use in real time and let you check your usage online. But critics say they're dangerous.

Building biologist Diana Schultz tests homes for potentially harmful radiation, and she said what she finds radiating from these digital smart meters can put you at risk.

"Smart meters are emitting electromagnetic radiation that we can't see, can't smell, can't feel," Schultz said.

Florida power companies got hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government to install smart meters, but these devices have created a storm of controversy across the nation.

Critics said they expose you to around-the-clock electromagnetic radiation that can be linked to cancer and other health problems.

The radio frequencies are similar to other devices like cellphones and baby monitors, but those are devices you choose to use.

But are these single devices dangerous to your health?

A study last year found exposure levels from a smart meter are far lower than you would get from a cellphone and within safety limits set by the Federal Communications Commission, but it was immediately criticized by doctors across the nation.

They claim the study didn't take into account what could happen when you group smart meters outside an apartment complex or with the other exposures in your house, such as your cellphones or microwave.

Norma Lorenz got sick when her digital meter was installed outside her Longwood home.

She's been diagnosed with electrohypersensitivity -- an uncommon but debilitating condition recognized by the World Health Organization. Her only relief is staying away from her electric meter.

"I feel nauseous. I get heart palpitations. You can't see the frequencies. People just don't understand this," Lorenz said.

Now public utility commissions in Michigan, Nevada and Maine have opened investigations into whether their residents should be able to opt out of the meters.

Florida's Public Service Commission has received 172 complaints about the meters but has no plans to start its own investigation.

Progress Energy will soon roll out its smart meters, while Orlando Utility Commission has already installed several thousand.

Both companies declined to comment on the safety of meters because they say they're not at the forefront of this industry.

State regulators in California just required one of their largest companies to allow customers to opt out of the meters for a fee.