By Paul Jankowski, The Sun Times, www.owensoundsuntimes.com 4 June 2010
A recent report by Ontario’s chief medical officer of health on the potential health impact of wind turbines was somewhat disappointing not for what it contained, but for what is missing, Dr. Hazel Lynn says.
Lynn, the Grey Bruce medical officer of health, was part of the group that reviewed drafts of the report issued in May by Dr. Arlene King. The report concluded “the scientific evidence available to date does not demonstrate a direct causal link between wind turbine noise and adverse health effects.”
Lynn said in a recent interview that while she does not dispute that finding, the final report glosses over the disruption that the introduction of wind turbines can cause in a community.
“The whole section that a couple of us really wanted in there on community health and community disruption went. It’s not in there. I suspect politically she can’t criticize another ministry, so I was a little disappointed,” Lynn said.
“I think it’s a fair comment that there is other material that could have been in the report and wasn’t,” said Dr. Ray Copes, the director of environmental and occupational health at the Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion and another member of the committee that reviewed drafts of the report.
Copes said there are “really important and quite legitimate” questions about wind farms that he and Lynn thought should be discussed, but “I guess the CMOH’s report wasn’t the place for it.”
King could not be reached for comment on Friday but Andrew Morrison, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, said the report “reflects the consensus of the panel that Dr. King put together to look at this issue.”
The report does conclude, among other things, that “community engagement at the outset of planning for wind turbines is important and may alleviate health concerns about wind farms.”
“Basically, I think they (wind farms) disrupt communities if they’re not properly planned and instituted and when you disrupt people’s communities they get sick,” Lynn said. There is evidence to back that position up, she added, but “that doesn’t come through very clearly” in King’s report.
Ontario’s Green Energy Act strips municipalities of control over where wind farms are sited and gives it to the province.
King’s report also states that there “little information is available on actual measurements of sound levels generated from wind turbines and other environmental sources. Since there is no widely accepted protocol for the measurement of noise from wind turbines, current regulatory requirements are based on modeling.”
“One thing that everyone seems to agree on is that we don’t have a lot of good field data on exactly what the overall noise levels are around some of these wind turbine developments and I think the Ministry of Environment is taking some steps to do more documentation or assessment of that,” Copes said. “I would also argue that we should probably be doing some more background work of sound levels in many parts of Ontario because I think overall that noise exposure is perhaps an underappreciated public health problem.”
King’s report “acknowledges that some people living near wind turbines do report some symptoms like dizziness and headache and sleep disturbance, but the available scientific evidence doesn’t demonstrate a direct causal link with wind turbine noise,” Morrison said.
“I don’t think anyone would deny there’s more noise” when a wind farm is built in a rural area, Copes said, but sound levels under Ontario setback regulations are much higher in urban areas.
“That’s not to say we should make everything as noisy as downtown Toronto,” he said, but people to say if a wind farm goes up “there’s something brand-new that homo sapiens have never been exposed to before and it is creating a unique illness. That, to me, seems implausible . . . It might be something new for you, but it just doesn’t seem from a medical and physiologic sense that there is something in the way of a brand new illness, you know the so-called wind turbine syndrome.”
However, there is “an association” between wind turbine noise and complaints by some people of adverse health effects, Lynn said. “But if you take 100, let’s say 1,000, people with those symptoms randomly, most of them don’t live near wind turbines . . . which is the problem with saying wind turbines cause this.”