The Great Wind Debate

Dr. McMurtry vs Dr. Colby

By Bruce Urquhart, Oxford Sentinel-Review
WOODSTOCK – Given the recent controversy and vitriol – and the provincial government’s support of wind energy – the topic of Monday night’s “Great Wind Debate” was certainly timely.

But unlike the recent protest in Strathroy, the two opponents debating the potential health effects of wind turbines allowed each other ample time to speak.

Dr. David Colby, an associate professor of physiology and pharmacology at the University of Western Ontario, basically described claims of wind turbine-related illness as an example of a “Nocebo Effect,” saying people were convinced by baseless allegations that turbines caused some sort of health disorder. Dr. Robert McMurtry, a professor of surgery at the University of Western Ontario, took a dissenting position, advocating for more research before the province continued to support more wind turbine developments.

“We’re trying to provide a well-balanced presentation on the health aspect of wind-generated power,” moderator Brent Van Parys said before the start of the debate.

During his 15-minute presentation, Colby focused largely on repudiating the research of Dr. Nina Pierpont, the author of Wind Turbine Syndrome: A Report on a Natural Experiment, a book that has become the Bible of wind energy opponents.

Dismissing Pierpont’s research as “uncontrolled” and “unverified” because of an exclusionary approach to its subjects, Colby, who acknowledged co-authoring a Canadian Wind Energy Association-sponsored pane review, said the book failed to establish a causal relationship between wind turbine noise and the alleged disorder. Saying that neither the audible nor infrasonic noise was sufficient to cause a broad range of symptoms such as sleep disturbance, headaches, nausea and vertigo, Colby simply said there was “no evidence” to support the claims of opponents.

“I’ve got this,” he said about the range of symptoms,” except I don’t live near a wind turbine.”

Talking about the dangers posed by fossil fuels and coal plants, Colby said: “Find me a person who has died from wind power noise.

“I rest my case.”

McMurtry, the former dean of medicine at the University of Western Ontario, based much of his presentation to the audience at the Quality Hotel on his own observations. After working and interviewing people who claimed to have suffered from wind turbine syndrome, including a middle-aged woman who died prematurely, McMurtry said the provincial government needed to adequately test the impact of industrial wind turbines.

“Evidence-based regulations are a must,” he said. “You need to have done the research.”

With a number of international bodies supporting a moratorium on industrial wind turbines and hundreds of complaints, McMurtry suggested there had been “substantial” reports that demonstrate a growing problem. With a precise “case definition” that specified sufferers needed to live within five kilometres of a wind development and developed symptoms after the facility began operation, wind turbine syndrome was forcing people from their homes, McMurtry said.

With people recovering as they moved away from the alleged source of their illness, McMurtry said sufferers “became literally nomads.”

“They have no options,” he said.

Colby did acknowledge that some people would be “annoyed” by the woosh of the slowly revolving turbine blades, but stressed that “sick and annoyed are not the same thing.” His colleague, however, said the resultant sleep disturbance contributed to a chronic illness. Through research, McMurtry estimated that between 20 % and 25 % of people would suffer adverse effects from close proximity to these turbines.

“These are vulnerable people,” he said. “There lives are being destroyed.”

McMurtry suggested that proponents of wind turbine developments should “test the (impacted) people” and “do the studies” instead of simply ignoring their claims.

While the debate was intended to simply inform the roughly 150 people in the audience about the two opposing viewpoints, it also helped the Rotary Club of Woodstock raise some money for one of its own causes. The money raised from the event will be used by the local club to help fund the Shelterbox program, which provides families in disaster areas with a survival kit that includes a high quality tent, sleeping bags, tools and cooking equipment.

“The advantage of Rotary,” club president Graham Hart said, “is we work through Rotary Clubs in those countries.”

15 thoughts on “The Great Wind Debate

  1. I’d go if I could. Since I can’t, my husband and I will donate an additional $120. to the Chatham-Kent legal fund.
    I hope Dr Murtry’s supporters and turbine opponents flood the venue and make a great (and respectful) show of strength.

  2. The first thing that came to my mind after reading this article, “Is Wind Generation a Desirable and Healthy Source of Power?” I asked myself, to whom does the “Desirable and Healthy” apply to?

    There are many facets of this dispute, which need to be properly identified before any of these one on one debates are to be worth their while and or have any significance. Remember, the only thing that is desirable in this dispute is the free money that can be had by the proponents/developers of wind power and the landowners who have succumbed to the influence of these developers.

    We all desire to be healthy however when there is free money to be had, all or anything to do with health issues and or matters do not mean anything.
    “The debate will follow, in which both medical experts will express their views and then address questions from the audience”, one of the very first questions, that I would be asking Dr. Colby, if there are not any health issues related to wind turbines then maybe those that profess this, would not have a problem living in some of the abandon homes with their family’s, that people have left because of their close proximity to wind turbines?

    For those that profess, that there are no health issues related to wind turbines they should not have a problem living in one of these abandon homes. For those that think wind power is the next best thing to sliced bread, then they should be taken off the grid and just left to rely upon the wind farms for their electrical power needs. If this were to take place, these people would quickly learn the truth about how useless wind power is and the amount of wasted tax dollars that is being spent on this uselessness.

  3. Would it be possible for someone attending to do a write-up of the “debate” ?

    Thanks !

  4. “To the victims of man-made or natural disasters”
    Can the victims of Industrial Wind Turbine syndrome be recipients?

  5. It is totally inappropriate for the Medical Officer of Health to be participating in such an event. He should be free of bias, and the bias he displays is in conflict with his duty to the people of the County of Chatham-Kent. Hopefully, someone will file a complaint about him with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, forthwith.

  6. “Find me a person who has died from wind power noise.”
    Why would a doctor need death to prove harm is done? Dr. Colby is an inept doctor with poor bedside manner.

  7. Colby said: “Find me a person who has died from wind power noise.

    “I rest my case.”

    So we are Guinea pigs. Does he not know we do not deserve torture in our own homes. Furthermore we could have an accident on the road or work because we are so dam tired and irritable. It is ridiculous if this Colby nut case hears that one of us kicked the bucket because of this health issue that he may change his mind and forgetting that our right to live in peace in our own home does not count.While every one else in the city can feel warm and green inside including the gullible farmers that sign on.
    Yes the emissions from coal is given us problems but we need to use less and come up with better solutions and setbacks then if your still crazy enough to want this costly subsidized wind-turbines power then go ahead but do not expect me to pay for it. I personally don’t want them anywhere especially when you do your proper research and math on them and health issues. Beat it Colby your not a doctor in my dictionary

  8. Well, I guess in Colby’s medical dictionary, if a person has a severely debilitating disease….but not DEAD…then they aren’t really suffering enough for him to take notice. This man is a disgrace to the human race.

  9. Hey Rotarians… I know a bunch of people in Chatham-Kent who are in need of your shelterboxes because their homes are no longer healthy to live in thanks to industrial wind development.
    Thank you to those pledging support to the Kent Breeze Appeal… at least one of the turbines was turning yesterday.

  10. B.O.B.:

    Bruce Urquhart did a fine, objective article.

    If he reports other issues this way, he is a journalist you could trust.

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