Sunday, 25 September 2011

Stop tilting at windmills

Letter to the National Post
September 24, 2011
Dr. W. David Colby, acting medical officer of health, Chatham-Kent, Ont.

Re: Rural Family Sues Energy Company, Claiming Ill Effects From Wind Turbines, Sept. 22.
When I became the acting Medical Officer of Health for the municipality of Chatham-Kent, Ont., little did I know that I would be swept headlong into controversy about harnessing the wind. Three years ago I was asked to help make sense of the conflicting information about the effects of wind turbines on human health. After extensive research, I found no scientifically credible evidence that wind turbines eroded human health.
It is, admittedly, a complicated topic. Wind turbines do not produce unique sounds in terms of intensity or characteristics. There is also no convincing scientific evidence of an epidemiologic link between wind turbine sound exposure and health problems.
However, a very small number of people believe otherise. Wind-power opponents continue to make claims about sickness caused by "industrial" wind turbines, a term that sounds more threatening. However, 10 reviews have confirmed that there is no evidence of direct adverse health effects from wind turbines, when sited to comply with Ontario's noise regulations.
Furthermore, all the power-generation alternatives except solar energy are clearly worse. According to a study prepared for the Ontario government, coal plants cause nearly 250 deaths and more than 120,000 illnesses each year in the province.
So while I am sympathetic to concerns raised by local residents and agree that projects must be sited in a way that minimizes impact on local residents, when it comes to energy choices for healthy communities, I am confident that we shouldn't be tilting at windmills.
Dr. W. David Colby, acting medical officer of health, Chatham-Kent, Ont.

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