Critics of smart meters, those new wireless meters that PG&E has been installing and which some critics believe cause health problems as varied as insomnia and cancer, can now breathe a sigh of relief. The utility company is offering residents the option to turn the wireless signals off. That is, for a fee.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “Under PG&E’s plan, residents could pay $14 to $20 per month, plus an upfront fee to have the signal disabled. The company said the fee would pay for sending meter readers to those homes.”

The new meters function by wirelessly transmitting utility usage to the company via a dedicated radio signal. While PG&E says the new technology saves on both resources and costs allowing for more streamlined and exact readings on usage, critics assert that they cause – or have the potential to cause – serious health problems.

The Associated Press reports that, “Some residents blame the signals – similar to those from cell phones and laptops – for health problems from headaches to insomnia. A state study found that scientists have not discovered any evidence that the signals are harmful.”

And while one would think this opt-out option would appease detractors, it has not done so completely. Community members who are opposed to the technology cite that while they can opt-out, the presence of the smart meters still lurks in their neighbors’ homes or in local businesses like a dark cloud effecting their own health.

[via The Mercury News]