In conclusion I must add that as a physician with thirty years in practice and eight years of medical study before that, I feel very strongly that a moratorium needs to be placed on the construction of industrial wind turbines in this province until these issues are crystal clear and the health of Ontarians is safeguarded. ~ Norah Connell, M.D.
The Honourable Leona Dombrowsky
In follow-up to our meeting last week, I am writing to express my concerns about health issues related to industrial wind turbines installations and about studies which should be done to investigate these health ramifications.
The Green Energy Act has effectively removed the ability of rural Ontarians to block the placement of industrial wind turbines as long as they are 550 metres or more from their homes and schools. I am of the opinion that appeal for mitigation will not solve the problem as the Green Energy Act is now written, i.e. no significant placement change will occur to reduce health risk until the safe distance has been fully investigated and established. The legislation has in my opinion disregarded health concerns about I.W.T. placements. These concerns have been raised all over the world and need to be listened to. The problem is that there are few definitive studies which either prove or disprove the health hazards related to I.W.T. installations. Indirect and anecdotal information exists but and is concerning enough to mitigate strongly for thorough investigation bur independent scientifically sound epidemiological study is scarce.
I am really pleased to hear the Ontario Government is listening to its citizens and has agreed to appoint a chair to study this issue. I am unaware if any other government has done this which makes it particularly laudable.
As discussed with you: as a family physician, I have looked into some of the methodology that might be used to study sleep deprivation in relation to industrial wind turbines. I am not for a moment suggesting that this should be the only study done because in-depth conclusive studies are needed. However, I have reflected on many occasions listening to the debates about I.W.T. and health effects that a relatively simple study could be done as part of the investigation that would involve looking at sleep deprivation which appears to be one of the significant health problems associated with exposure to industrial wind turbines. It can certainly account for some of the health issues reported. To look into this topic, I contacted Dr. Fitzpatrick, head of the sleep clinic at Kingston General Hospital and a respected specialist in his field. He felt a useful study could be done by documenting sleep patterns of subjects at varying distances from I.W.T.’s using control groups entirely out of the setting of I.W.T.’s. Age, weight, health matched subjects with no history or evidence of sleep apnea or other sleep disorder would be compared. This particular study would not be hugely expensive as it involves equipment with the capability of measuring sleep stages, blood pressure, heart rate, awakenings, oxygen levels, body movements, etc. and a set of this equipment costs about $15,000. Technical support and professional interpretation of results and compilation of results with statistical analysis would be additional costs. Obviously, the more people studied in different sites with different variables the more statistically significant the information will be. Enough people must be studied because many variables exist in this issue, not the least of which is the fact that human beings respond very individually to environmental stimuli and – just as in side effects to a drug – many people have to be studied to attain statistically significant information.
The other issue we did not explicitly address in our discussion was that of low frequency sound and infrasound. That may be part of the sleep deprivation issue but it is necessary to find out what other health ramifications are related to exposure to this type of sound. Again it appears some people are more sensitive to it than others. I am not knowledgeable enough about the subject to know exactly how studies would need to be designed or the cost of those studies, but, again, such studies would be a “first” – Ontario would be doing something no one else has done and something that is, I strongly believe, hugely important.
In conclusion I must add that as a physician with thirty years in practice and eight years of medical study before that, I feel very strongly that a moratorium needs to be placed on the construction of industrial wind turbines in this province until these issues are crystal clear and the health of Ontarians is safeguarded.
Again, thanks for your consideration of the foregoing and for taking the time to meet with me.
Norah Connell, M.D.