Utility companies, like Glendale Water and Power, say their wireless "smart meters" are safe, efficient and accurate. So, why were people huddled in a Glendale Moose Lodge Thursday night, comparing ailments they blame on the devices?
The answer depends on who you ask.
For the hundreds of people who gathered at the lodge, the answer is, smart meters can make you sick.
"Smart meters are emitting radio frequency microwave radiation just like cell phones, just like cordless phones, just like cell towers, but they're doing this 24/7," said Cindy Sage, an environmental consultant
Shane Gregory became so distressed with the possibility that smart meters were making her sick, she left her home.
"I have been living out of a car," said Gregory. "I don't want to leave my home of 23 years. I don't want this to be true."
"I get sick to my stomach," said Tom Passarella. "I get light-headed. I feel dizzy."
Jen Barris, who now lives in Topanga, says she's convinced they're harmful.
"You feel them," she says. "They send out pulses. They hurt my ear. They give me unbelievable headaches. Are you ready for this? I have to wrap metal around my head to reflect the pulses of radiation. They are very powerful pulses.".
But in Glendale, smart meters are on the way and they'll soon be everywhere. And the utility that is staking its future on smart meters says the Moose Lodge crowd is misled. He says, unequivocally, that smart meters do not make anyone sick.
"No, they do not," says Ned Bassin, the utility's assistant general manager. "There is no evidence to that. Smart meters meet all Federal Communication Commission guidelines. There is no scientific evidence they make you sick."
Similar concerns in Northern California led to their ban in Marin County and a moratorium in Santa Cruz.
And it's not just the perceived health hazard that has triggered public unrest. Some customers are convinced they add hundreds of dollars to their bills.
Bassin again objects to that perception.
"Smart meters will help you reduce your energy bills because you will be able to see when you are using energy and what the cost is," he says.
Those who want to learn more about smart meters can attend a forum at Glendale Community College next Thursday, Nov. 17.