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Critique of Mass. DEP Wind Turbine Health Impact Study  

Author:  | Health, Massachusetts

Presented to the Zoning Board of Charlestown, Rhode Island, June 5, 2013, and to the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Public Health, July 9, 2013 —

MAJOR FLAWS OF THE HEALTH IMPACT STUDY

  • The Panel who authored the Study was not independent.
  • The Panel who authored the Study is no more expert than the many scientists whose research the Panel peremptorily dismissed.
  • The research design of the Panel is fatally flawed.
  • The Panel failed to implement the appropriate statistical methods to test for the occurrence of IWT-induced adverse health effects.
  • The Panel failed to use readily available and most relevant data for experimental sites in New England.
  • The Panel cherry picked 5 research studies and ignored countless others.
  • The Panel failed to fully report the findings of the limited number of articles upon which it did rely. A more complete reading of these articles reveals scientific findings of adverse health effects.

Summary:

Having carefully reviewed the Health Impact Study, I find that it fails to rise to the level of reliable scientific research. It is incomplete, biased, distorted and without scientific merit. It should not be used as the basis for public policy.

Its major flaws include the following:

  • The “Independent Expert Panel” convened to conduct the study was not independent. This fact alone is enough to disqualify it as a source of unbiased objective scientific opinion.
  • The Panel conducted NO primary research of its own, even though it identified an appropriate research methodology (a “before-and-after” dose-response model) and had many sample populations for estimating such models. The candidate sample populations
    include the populations near IWTs being erected or having been erected in Massachusetts and New England generally. For a public policy decision of this magnitude, the fact that it conducted no primary research disqualifies it as a source of unbiased reliable scientific opinion.
  • The Panel did a simple literature review, identifying many research efforts.
    • It peremptorily and arbitrarily dismissed most existing research, research which contradicts the findings of the Panel. The research that was dismissed was conducted by experts as qualified, or more qualified, than the members of the Panel.
    • The Panel cherry-picked 5 research analyses that it deemed reliable.

  • Based upon this paucity of studies, the Panel came to some very strong conclusions.
  • However, their conclusions are contradicted by the very research they cite as reliable.
    • The studies they cite find adverse impacts of IWT noise upon annoyance and sleep disruption for substantial percentages of nearby populations.
    • The studies find IWT noise much more annoying than most other forms of industrial noise – e.g., air traffic (think Logan Airport), railroads and highways.
    • The studies find IWT noise more annoying and insidious because it never stops. Other industrial noises cease at the end of the day; those subjected to such other noises can recover. However, IWT noise can be worse at night and can continue all night, preventing any recovery.

To make this last point more strongly, I selectively quote (and paraphrase when necessary) from the five studies that the Panel deems reliable:

  • “A statistically significant dose–response relationship was found, showing a higher proportion of people reporting perception and annoyance than expected from the present dose–response relationships for transportation noise.”
  • The percentage of the population highly annoyed increased much more rapidly before the other forms of transportation noise (even aircraft at airports) even register annoyance. “At sound category 37.5–40.0 dBA, “20% of the 40 respondents living within this exposure were very annoyed and above 40 dBA, 36% of the 25 respondents.”
  • “Annoyance was associated with … lowered sleep quality and negative emotions” … which could “lead to hindrance of human restoration.” This, together with reduced restoration possibilities may adversely affect health.
  • “[C]ommunity noise is an increasing environmental problem known to cause adverse health effects.”
  • “In contemporary medicine, annoyance exists as a precise technical term describing a mental state characterized by distress and aversion, which if maintained, can lead to a deterioration of health and well-being. … For respondents who were annoyed by wind turbine noise, feelings of resignation, violation, strain, and fatigue were statistically greater than for respondents not annoyed by turbine noise. … We also observed lower sleep satisfaction in the turbine group than in the comparison group, a finding which is consistent with previous research.”

Download original document: ‘Critique of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Planning (DEP) “Wind Turbine Health Impact Study, Report of Independent Expert Panel”, Presented to the Zoning Board of Charlestown, Rhode Island

Download original document: ‘Critique of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Planning (DEP) “Wind Turbine Health Impact Study, Report of Independent Expert Panel”, Presented to the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Public Health

Download original document: “Summary

This article is the work of the author(s) indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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