PICTON – This is the second of a three-part report on the First International Symposium on the Global Wind Industry and Adverse Health Effects, held Oct. 29 to 31.
Last week’s report covered the alleged negative health effects of low frequency noise produced by industrial scale wind turbines.
In addition, it was noted leading world health agencies, including the World Health Organization, call for a minimum 1.5km setback from turbines to residences.
Also last week, the report highlighted the research of several leading and highly respected doctors, who say there are significant adverse health effects and negative effects on learning due to industrial wind turbine noise.
At last month’s symposium Eric Gillespie, of Cunningham & Gillespie LLP, an environmental law firm, delivered an update on the Ian Hannah legal case. Hannah farms in Prince Edward County (Belleville-Trenton area) and is representing a number of other residents with a common concern about adverse health effects.
This case is a class action lawsuit against the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) based upon the concern that the 550m set back, which is a regulation in the Green Energy Act, is not sufficient and that health issues may occur. In addition, the case alleges the MOE has not respected the “precautionary principle” in putting forth this setback.
The precautionary principle states if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking the action.
In essence, the principle, which is recognized by the Supreme Court of Ontario, states if there are any doubts about whether something causes an adverse effect, don’t do it. Gillespie said the industrial wind turbine company must prove scientifically there are absolutely no adverse effects to human, or animal health or the local environment due to the wind turbine farm.
This case is scheduled to be heard by the Ontario Supreme Court at Osgoode Hall, Toronto, on Jan. 24 and 25.
Another important piece of legislation states any newly approved wind farm project is subject to an appeal process filed with the Environmental Appeal Tribunal. The tribunal has the authority to halt further construction until the appeal is reviewed.
Gillespie also suggested anyone that agrees to have a turbine on their property should make sure the binding agreement with the developer states the developer will be solely responsible for any legal costs in the event of a lawsuit from a neighbouring property owner. If this is not legally included, the property owner may be held responsible for possible damages caused by the turbine.
One of the key speakers was Dr. Michael Nissenbaum, a radiologist at Northern Maine Medical Centre and certified by the Royal College of Physicians of Canada, and American Board of Radiology. His research represented the world’s first controlled study of alleged adverse health effects related to industrial wind turbines. His research was conducted at Mars Hill, Maine and at Vinalhaven, Maine. He used information gathering techniques on sleep effect studies that are accepted by the medical community around the world.
Nissenbaum stated the sound energy from wind turbines has a more disruptive sleep effect than any known industrial noise of the same sound pressure. This is thought to be due to the complex tones generated by the turbine blades as they pass by the tower. Nissenbaum also noted the sound energy is mostly in the low frequency range, which readily passes through building materials and into the home and penetrates the ground as well as deep within the body.
He said low frequency noise impacts the emotion centres of the brain, which release stress hormones that trigger fear, anxiety, suspense, flight and arousal. He mentioned low frequency (ultrasound) is used to scan deep within the body, and high frequency is used for shallow scanning such as a thyroid.
The results of Nissenbaum’s study show people within 1.5km of turbines display a higher incidence of mental health issues, increased stress levels, high desire to want to injure or kill someone, high level of anger, a higher level of psychotropic medication use and poorer sleep than the control group that was 4.5km away from the wind turbines. Mental health improved as the distance from the wind turbines increased.
Of interest was the pre and post attitude results pertaining to wind turbines. Prior to the turbines coming on stream, both the area close to the turbines and those in the control area felt the turbines would be a good for their areas. After the wind turbines started to produce energy the attitudes were completely opposite. Those close to the wind turbines were very agitated and wished the turbines could be stopped, and those in the control area for the most part had no issues; but some were effected even at that distance.
Nissenbaum concluded wind turbines do have an adverse effect to human health and wellness, and 1.5km should be the absolute minimum setback, although it should be more to mitigate effects on health and overall quality of life. He says the impact of wind turbines needs to be determined prior to installation and not after the fact.
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