Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Do wind turbines really make people ill?







Wind Concerns Ontario (WCO), a coalition of groups opposed to wind turbines, has been telling us for months that noise from wind turbines makes people ill.
They’ve even conducted a form of health survey of people near wind turbines in an attempt to prove their point; and claim that 86 out of 112 of respondents are “reporting adverse health affects due to industrial wind turbines”.
Wind Concerns Ontario tells us that the health issues caused by wind turbines are so significant and clear that there should be a moratorium on wind turbine construction and that turbines should be set back at least 1.5 kilometres from places where people live or spend significant time. 
Effectively this would end any wind development in southern Ontario where we need clean, renewable power generation. 
However, an analysis of the Wind Concerns Ontario data reveals that if those 112 people had been picked at random from the same age groups who do not live anywhere near wind turbines; they would essentially exhibit the same symptoms.
The complete analysis can be found at www.windisgood.ca but the chart below compares the prevalence of the symptoms claimed by the Wind Concerns Ontario sample of 112 people with those identified for the general population.  In eight out of nine symptoms the proportion of people reporting the symptom is statistically the same as the general population.  In the other one, the WCO respondents have a higher prevalence of tinnitus.  This may be explained by the older age profile of the respondents.
Prevalence (percent of total)
Symptom
WCO Survey
Population Max
Population Min
Excessive tiredness
50
49
32
Sleep disturbance
48
49
32
Stress
44
43
27
Headache
38
42
36
Tinnitus
34
20
15
Anxiety
29
50
15
Other
25
-
-
Depression
21
30
20
Hearing problems
20
23
15
Palpitations
19
25
15
Migraines
9
8
6






The prevalence of symptoms in the general population is based on an extensive review of the scientific literature.  Based on recommendations by University of Toronto physician-epidemiologist, Cornelia Baines, and University of Toronto physician-medical biochemist, Andrew Baines, the comparisons were based on data reported in Statistic Canada’s Canadian National Population Health Survey, the U.S. National Health Interview Survey and over fifteen other peer reviewed journals.
The analysis establishes that Wind Concerns Ontario’s survey does not show that wind turbines make people ill. This is confirmed by  two epidemiological studies in Europe in the last seven years plus numerous academic analyses on the subject. None have found any adverse health effects from turbine noise other than annoyance that some people feel towards turbines. 
Probably annoyance can cause sleeplessness and headaches if it is intense enough but according to the Chatham-Kent public health department quoted in the Star’s editorial on August 3rd 2009, “…opposition to wind farms on the basis of potential adverse health consequences is not justified by the evidence."
Certainly Wind Concerns Ontario survey does not justify a moratorium on wind turbine construction or a change in the setbacks and the standards for wind turbines in Ontario. 


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