Entries in Maine (2)


Maine ‘Smart’ Meters on Trial for Health Safety

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Are “smart” meters safe?  Or do these wireless devices, which use radio waves to report consumers’ electric consumption to utilities, pose a threat to health?

Such questions have been debated widely in California and other states.  Yet, to date, no state’s public utility commission has held public hearings on the question or conducted its own safety investigation.  Now, Maine is poised to do so.

So widespread are fears about the devices’ safety, according to the anti-meter group Naperville Smart Meter Awareness in Illinois, that three states have instituted moratoriums on them.  In others, anti-meter, class-action lawsuits are pending.  In California, says the group’s website, 47 municipal jurisdictions have either demanded a halt to installations or have criminalized them.

The Maine Public Utilities Commission voted on Tuesday to investigate the safety of Central Maine Power’s “smart” meters, 615,000 of which have been installed in homes throughout the state at a cost of $192 million, according to Smart Grid Today, an online journal that tracks the power industry.

The public utility commission vote followed a Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruling two weeks ago that instructed the commission to resolve safety concerns about the meters, according to The Portland Press Herald.  Under Maine law, says Bruce McGlauflin, an attorney representing worried Maine utility customers, the commission must ensure that utilities provide safe service.

Exactly how the commission will do that remains to be seen.  “It’s been left to their discretion,” McGlauflin said.

“Smart” meters produce radio-frequency emissions similar to those produced by cellphones, he added.  Some people, including some of McGlauflin's clients, believe they have a heightened sensitivity to the emissions and blame them for migraines, sleeplessness and other physical or mental illnesses.

Dan Richman, a Smart Grid Today reporter, says utility commissions in California and other states have addressed the safety question by conducting reviews of scientific literature.  The result of such reviews, he says, has been uniform: “The literature concludes the meters are safe.”

In 2010, the California public utility commission, in rejecting what it called an unreasonable request to investigate alleged health impacts further, noted the meters’ emissions were one six-thousandth of those permitted by federal health standards.  The World Health Organization stands virtually alone in calling them a potential carcinogen.

No commission has held hearings; nor has any attempted its own original research.  For Maine to take either step, Richman says, would be a first.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Maine Girl Gets Rare Six-Organ Transplant

Keith Brofsky/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- A 9-year-old girl from Maine is heading home, three months after receiving a six-organ transplant at Children’s Hospital Boston.

Alannah Shevenell of Hollis, Maine, got a new esophagus, liver, stomach, spleen, pancreas and small intestine after losing her own to a myofibroblastic tumor.

“We needed to remove all the organs because the tumor had grown to basically encircle the blood supply,” said Dr. Heung Bae Kim, director of the hospital’s Pediatric Transplant Center.

Chemotherapy didn’t work, and smaller surgeries were no match for the sprawling tumor. Shevenell couldn’t eat because the tumor was squeezing her esophagus. The multi-organ transplant was her last hope, but she had to wait a year for a suitable donor.

“Especially for children, finding a donor who has organs in good shape and the right size is a real challenge,” said Kim. But on October 27, Shevenell’s family got the call: They found a donor, and her transplant would be the next day.

Kim led a team of surgeons, nurses and anesthesiologists through the grueling 14-and-a-half-hour procedure, which he called “the most extensive” transplant procedure he’s ever done.

The team transplanted the new organs as a package and waited for them to take over.

“We were so happy,” Kim said of the result. “It was technically very successful. The organs looked good.”

Because Shevenell’s tumor made it impossible for her to eat, she got used to being fed through a feeding tube into her stomach.

“It had been so long that she lost her appetite,” said Kim. “But on the weekend she started eating again. And yesterday she had some cake.”

Although Shevenell is heading home, she’ll need frequent checkups throughout her life.

“There is a risk that she’ll need another transplant down the road. And if there were any tumor cells left behind, there is a risk it could come back,” said Kim.

Shevenell will also need to take anti-rejection drugs for the rest of her life.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio