On Monday, January 24, Keith Stelling of the Friends of Arran Lake presented the following information to the Arran-Elderslie Municipal Council at a packed, standing room only council meeting attended almost entirely by citizens opposed to wind turbines:
As more wind turbines are built in Ontario, more and more people are complaining about adverse health issues. They are joined by people in England and Japan, the United States and Australia. Until recently they were not taken seriously and have even been accused of malingering. But the First International Symposium on the Global Wind Industry and Adverse Health Effects hosted by Wind Vigilance in Picton, Ontario last October may soon change that.
Medical scientists are beginning to understand that there is a real problem and that it is related to the low frequency noise emitted by these huge industrial machines.
British Sleep Medicine specialist, Dr. Christopher Hanning, BSc, MB, BS, MRCS, LRCP, FRCA, MD of University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, says:
“In my expert opinion, from my knowledge of sleep physiology and a review of the available research, I have no doubt that wind turbine noise emissions cause sleep disturbance and ill health. . . . There can be no doubt that groups of industrial wind turbines generate sufficient noise to disturb the sleep and impair the health of those living nearby. . . . Families whose homes were around 900m from wind turbines found that the noise, sleep disturbance, and ill health eventually drove them from their homes.”
Another medical expert told the conference “Allowing turbines to be located 550 metres from people’s homes is ‘insane’”. Dr. Alec Salt is Professor of Otolaryngology at Washington University in St Louis. He has a doctorate in cochlear (inner ear) physiology from the University of Birmingham, England with post-doctoral studies at the University of Southampton, England and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in North Carolina.
He has analysed the “infrasound” from the wind turbines– sound waves of less than 20 cycles per second. He pointed out that “although you cannot hear such low frequency sound, it is easily detected by the ear and can have effects on the body that profoundly disturb some individuals”.
“We are only just beginning to understand that infrasound can disturb sleep, probably by stimulation of subconscious neural pathways to the brain. Sleep disturbance over a prolonged period is known to be extremely hazardous to health, causing high blood pressure, diabetes and increased mortality”. He noted that recent epidemiological studies suggest that significant disturbances of sleep occur for people living in homes up to 5 kilometers away from the wind turbines. This is because infrasound is capable of traveling greater distances than the sound you normally hear (which is why elephants and whales use it to communicate). The wind energy industry asserts that there is no “significant” infrasound coming from the turbines, suggesting that infrasound has no consequence because humans can’t hear it at the levels produced. But Dr. Salt warns that “the effects of high levels of infrasound generated by wind turbines build up slowly on people. For most, there are no effects while in the vicinity of wind turbines for short periods (such as the workday). The problem arises when people try to sleep in their homes in the presence of wind turbine noise. Wind turbine noise is not comparable to the noise from a refrigerator, as the industry claims. “Refrigerators do not generate infrasound levels of over 90 dB at 1-2 Hz. If they did, no one would tolerate them in their houses!” Dr. Salt called for a setback of at least 1.5 km.
A Canadian trained doctor practising in Maine has made a study of his patients living near wind turbines and compared it with a control group outside the turbine area. Dr. Michael Nissenbaum, MD, is a graduate of the University of Toronto and holds additional degrees from McGill University and Harvard. He found that 82% (18/22) of exposed subjects reported new or worsened chronic sleep deprivation, versus 4% (1 person) in the non-exposed group. 41% of exposed people reported new chronic headaches versus 4% in the control group. There was also an increase of prescriptions especially anti-hypertensives among the exposed group. Dr Nissenbaum is quick to point out the link between sleep deprivation and cardiovascular disease. “If industrial wind turbines installed in close proximity to human habitation result in sleep disturbance and stress, then it follows as surely as day follows night that wind turbines will, over the long term, result in serious health effects and reduced quality of life”.
Dr. Robert Thorne, PhD, a member of the Australian Acoustical Society and the Institute of Acoustics (UK) and an Environmental Health Research Associate at Massey University, New Zealand has made similar studies. At the Waubra wind project in Australia, he found that people living within 1 km to 4.3 km complained of sleep disturbance, headaches, sore eyes, ringing in the ears, earaches, dizziness, loss of balance and high blood pressure. Farmers complained that the worst affect is experienced while working their farms. He is calling for a 2 km setback from dwellings and noise sensitive areas.
Australian physician Dr. Sarah Laurie, MD, has observed a link between early morning high blood pressure among patients living near wind turbines. She is so concerned that she has “recommended to people within five kilometres of the wind farm that they should check their blood pressure with a 24-hour monitor and to see a doctor if it is over 140/80 when they first awake in the morning.” (Portland Observer, 10 January 2011)
One of the criticisms of the validity of the CanWea/Amwea industry commissioned report was that it did not include the observations of an epidemiologist. Like the CMOH Review of Dr Arlene King, Chief Medical Officer of Health in Ontario, it was dismissed as flawed because it did not bother to investigate the complaints of actual patients. Dr. Robert McMurtry M. D., F.R.C.S.(C), F.A.C.S., former Dean of Medicine at the University of Western Ontario, has written an extensive critique of the CMOH Review (http://windvigilance.com/CMOH_Analysis.aspx). He observed that the CMOH Review is a literature review and contains no original research. As a consequence the report has little relevance to addressing the issues of adverse health effects of an emerging technology. In addition the conclusions of the Review are not supported by the content of the references cited and other relevant authoritative references. The Review acknowledges that Ontario does not have a protocol to verify compliance with existing wind turbine noise limits nor has Ontario determined appropriate guidelines for wind turbine low frequency noise. The CMOH Review appears to be a government-convened attempt to justify unsound practices of wind turbine development while denying the adverse health effects being reported by Ontario families.
Dr. Carl Phillips, an Epidemiologist and Professor of Public Health Policy at University of Texas Medical School, (formerly at University of Alberta Medical School), has pointed out that ‘there is overwhelming evidence that there are health problems from turbines near residences’. “There is ample scientific evidence to conclude that wind turbines cause serious health problems for some people living nearby”. He notes that the existing evidence fits what is known as the case crossover study design, one of the most useful studies in epidemiology, and the revealed preference design (observed behaviour). Because people choose to leave their homes often at considerable inconvenience and financial loss rather than endure the adverse effects of the turbines, their action provides “an objective measurement of what would otherwise be subjective phenomena.”
Meanwhile, in Ontario, Dr. Ross McKitrick, Professor of Environmental Economics at the University of Guelph has pointed out that wind turbines can’t replace coal plants and that they will not do anything to reduce smog in Ontario because “most of our remaining smog precursors originate in the U.S.“
Robert Bryce, agrees with him. He is Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, former managing editor of the online magazine, Energy Tribune, and author of Power Hungry: The Myths of Green Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future, which described society’s need for reliable electric power, not intermittent, variable wind energy. He has pointed out that “despite huge investments, wind-generated electricity has had minimal, if any, impact on carbon dioxide emissions” in Colorado and Texas. (Wall Street Journal August 24, 2010).
Bryce asks: “Considering the adverse health effects and practical limitations of wind energy, how is it that wind development remains so popular? The answer lies in twenty years of social marketing, environmental fears, and the false economic hope of green jobs. Everyone [should] question what the Ontario government and the wind industry would like us to believe”.