The medical officer of health for Grey Bruce has been asked to draw up a proposal for a study of the health effects of living too close to wind turbines.
Dr. Hazel Lynn said during an interview last week that she’s been asked by the health unit’s board of directors to prepare a plan on how to carry out a study of the Grey Bruce region and the estimated cost.
Options are somewhat limited and they revolve around comparing the effects on residents located at increasingly greater distances from the wind turbines using a questionnaire, something that has been tried in many other places around the world, Lynn said.
“What you do is measure the effects at a kilometre, a kilometre- and-a-half and two kilometers and try to do as complete a survey as possible if you don’t have a big population of everybody within those concentric rings,” Lynn said during a visit to Bruce County council to take in the inaugural meeting.
Lynn would like to conduct the survey in several communities where wind turbines are located. She wonders if the topography is a factor.
“Some communities seem to have a lot more problems than others and that might begin to increase our knowledge of (location) when you’ve got irregular fields and up hills and down valleys which seems to aggravate the problem,” said Lynn, who ruled out conducting physical examinations or chemical tests to corroborate symptoms.
“Sleep disorders – you could get people to keep a sleep diary but there’s no blood test I can do to test whether you’re sleeping or not. Similarly nausea; it’s a very subjective measure. There’s no test I can do for that,” she said.
Elevated blood levels of cortisol, a steroid hormone that is produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress can be measured with blood tests.
“But again, lots of things measure cortisol. If you have a nasty drive like I did to get here today, I’m sure my cortisol levels are up,” she added.
The information gathered in a study in Grey Bruce would add to the growing body of evidence that is accumulating world wide. There isn’t a large enough number of subjects in the area to make any conclusive findings and Lynn said it will take several years to acquire enough scientific information to detect any patterns and produce conclusive findings.
“It took 40 years to prove smoking caused lung cancer and we knew it long before that,” she said.
Lynn said it could cost upwards of $250,000 to hire a researcher, prepare a questionnaire and involve people to conduct the study and analyze the data.
This type of study has been done several places before so the study design is readily available.
Lynn said she changed her mind about the possible relationship between illness in people living near wind turbines because of the growing body of evidence in the medical literature.
She said it is plausible that health is disturbed not by 40 decibels of audible noise but more likely by the low frequency infrasound.
“And it’s very consistent throughout the world. When people live closer than a kilometre then the complaints start to rise,” she said.
Lynn will present her report and recommendations at the January board meeting in Owen Sound.
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