Federal government initiates study of wind turbines and human health

by Robin Burridge

CANADA—On Tuesday, July 10, the federal government announced it would be launching a “rigorous research study” into the connection of wind turbine noise and health effects in correlation to Canadians living near wind power developments.

The study will be conducted by Health Canada in conjunction with Statistics Canada, focussing on 2,000 homes, which range between 500 metres to five kilometres and eight to 12 wind installations.

Measuring individuals’ blood pressure and hair samples, through the conduction surveys of sleep habits, stress and general health, the peer-reviewed study is to be published in 2012.

“This study is in response to questions from residents living near wind farms about possible health effects of low frequency noise generated by wind turbines,” commented Minister of Health Leona Aglukkaq.

The study has prompted many anti-wind groups, such as Wind Concerns Ontario, and even politicians, like Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli, to call for an immediate stop on all approvals of wind projects in the province until after the federal study is complete.

“I am very pleased with the federal announcement,” Mr. Fedeli told The Expositor in an interview last Friday. “I am thrilled that they have finally done this. It is long overdue. When there is smoke there is fire. For people to continue to say that there is nothing wrong, when there is obviously something wrong, is unacceptable.”

Mr. Fedeli said he feels the study is a step in the right direction, but that it needs to be used as an opportunity to “hit the pause button on wind projects”

“I have called on the McGuinty government to implement a moratorium on any new projects until the results of this study are complete,” stated Mr. Fedeli. “I am a big believer in renewable energy, but clean, green renewable efficient power. Wind energy is called green power, but it isn’t green.”

Mr. Fedeli concluded his thoughts by adding that the federal study, “needs to be as independent as possible and must be peer reviewed.”

Locally, the Manitoulin Coalition For Safe Energy Alternates (MCSEA) echoed Mr. Fedeli’s sentiments.

“The study is a good thing,” commented Ray Beaudry, a spokesperson for MCSEA, “but it is important that there needs to be a stop on approvals for all projects until after the study has taken place.”

Mr. Beaudry also stated that MCSEA is critical of the study, and said that Wind Concerns Ontario has expressed that the research should be conducted by the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR), a notion that MCSEA shares.

“The study should be conducted by unbiased individuals and reviewed by an independent panel of people, not wind industry supporters,” said Mr. Beaudry.

“Enough people have gotten sick now, 43 families across Ontario, that’s 133 individuals, that lived too close to wind farms, that the federal government just couldn’t ignore the issue any longer,” Mr. Beaudry claimed. “Many of these people can’t even live in their home, they are wind farm refugees and have to live in safe houses. The problem is that the minimum distance is 550 metres, which is totally insane, is just a number. The actual safe distance is unknown and is dependant on the size and amount of turbines.

Jim Bradley, St. Catharines MPP and Ontario Minister of Environment, commented to The Expositor, “Our priority is that renewable energy projects are developed in a way that protects human health and the environment,” regarding the federal study announcement.

“That’s why Ontario’s own Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Arlene King, undertook a review of the health effects of wind turbines,” continued Mr. Bradley. “Her report stated that there is no scientific evidence to support claims that wind turbines cause adverse health effects. We have shared a copy of Dr. King’s report with Health Canada to support the important work they are carrying out. We look forward to the federal government’s findings. Ontario has some of the toughest wind turbine setback standards in North America; these standards are based on scientific evidence in order to protect Ontarians.”

Mr. Beaudry concluded by stating that MCSEA was, “pleased with the study, but what about the wind refugees—the people who have already suffered?”

On Manitoulin, the proposed Northland Power McLean’s Mountain Wind project is currently awaiting Renewable Energy Approval (REA), but received a green light for the installation of for the project’s transmission line.

McLean’s Mountain wind farm manager Rick Martin commented to The Expositor that he did not feel the study would effect the McLean’s Mountain Wind Farm.

“At Northland Power, we have taken a lot of time to research studies that have been done both internationally and in North America,” said Mr. Martin. “We welcome the new study and are sure it will only add to the number of other studies that show that wind has no associated adverse effects on human health. At all times, Northland Power will comply with legislation.”