The Green Party of B.C. is calling for a halt to smart meter installation across the province over health and environmental concerns.

Party Leader Jane Sterk said the meters that record energy use in homes and businesses would expose people to electromagnetic radiation, much like microwaves.

She said the World Health Organization has cited electromagnetic radiation as a possible carcinogen.

"So the Green Party is calling on BC Hydro to halt the installation of smart meters, to put in place a long-term energy plan," Sterk said during a news conference Wednesday.

Sterk appeared with Dr. Magda Havas of Trent University in Ontario, who has written about the possible impact of cell phones or microwaves on fertility rates.

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Electromechanical meters throughout B.C. will be replaced by Smart Meters by the end of next year. (BC Hydro)

"The meters affect reproduction. It's been shown that sperm are affected by this radiation," Havas said.

BC Hydro is set to replace electromechanical meters across the province by the end of next year as a way to reduce consumption.

Hydro has said people cannot opt out of the smart meter program, although customers can choose to relocate the meters on their properties at their own expense.

Sterk said the Green Party has supported smart meters in the past, but is now calling for a long-term plan to cut energy consumption, perhaps through the use of wired smart meters that would be safer.

Equal to wireless internet

B.C.'s provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall said the meters emit the same kind of radiation as cell phones, microwaves and baby monitors but he notes people won't have a choice when it comes to having the smart meters.

"Given the current scientific evidence, the consensus of public health practitioners is that at current exposure levels these electromagnetic fields do not constitute a threat to the health of the public," Kendall said in a recent written statement.

Dr. Peter Driessen of the University of Victoria added that smart meters transmit only a few minutes a day.

"So I think you  could argue that smart meters are less than or equal to or certainly no more than wireless internet on your laptop."

BC  Hydro also says the radio frequency emitted by smart meters is safe.

"Residential smart meter signals are short and infrequent," reads the BC Hydro website. "They transmit accumulated readings 4 to 6 times per day – for an average daily total of no more than one minute. The exposure from a smart meter over its entire 20-year life span is equivalent to the exposure during a single 30-minute cell phone call."

BC Hydro also disputes Sterk's assertion that the WHO has drawn definitive conclusions around cell phones, saying the organization has called for further investigation.

With files from The Canadian Press