November 13, 2014 · 1:13 PM

Retired medical researcher urged Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen politicians to outlaw smart meters at their recent board meeting. / Submitted photo

Citing unanswered questions about potential health effects, a retired medical researcher last week urged local politicians to outlaw smart meters in their communities until the science is settled.

Malcolm Peterson, who has a PhD in biomedical sciences and spent 40 years working in the field of cancer research before retiring in Okanagan Falls, said there is a need for “independent, high-quality research” into the long-term effects of electromagnetic radiation on people exposed to devices like smart meters.

The meters measure household electrical consumption and wirelessly relay that data back to utility companies like FortisBC, which plans to roll out the new technology in the South Okanagan next summer.

Peterson told the board of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen that it should block FortisBC from installations within its borders until potential health effects associated with meters are better understood.

He acknowledged Health Canada has deemed the devices to be safe, but said its standards are “obsolete and in urgent need of revision,” and lower than in some European counties.

West Bench Director Michael Brydon told Paterson he appreciated his presentation, even though it should be directed at the federal government.

“We’re interested, but we’re not the decision-makers,” said Brydon.

Tom Siddon, the director for Okanagan Falls-Kaleden, initiated the presentation and argued it is within RDOS directors’ mandate to tackle the issue.

“I believe we have an obligation to do our due diligence and to take these concerns to higher levels, and this kind of forum is the first opportunity for that discussion to begin,” said Siddon.

Doug Lychak, a former Surrey city manager and now president of the Heritage Hills/Lakeshore Highlands Homeowners’ Association, joined Paterson for the RDOS meeting.

“Health Canada for decades didn’t think that smoking was going to cause problems for people,” Lychak said.

“And our position is we would rather put the onus on people to prove smart meters are not going to negatively affect the health of people they’re putting meters into the houses of, as opposed to wait for two or three decades and to finally have somebody  prove the damage that smart meters are doing to peoples’ health.”

The RDOS board received Paterson’s presentation for information only.