March 31, 2011
Letters, Ontario

Why the rush for wind turbines? 30 March 2011

Let me start by saying I strongly support the concept of renewable energy and certainly have serious concerns about global warming.

That being said, are some initiatives moving too fast and are we making changes at the expense of the health and well being of our community? As a family physician in Dunnville as well as someone who will be personally affected by these wind turbines, I felt obligated to investigate the health concerns that have been raised. This controversial topic is being researched by physicians around the world including the US (Dr. Nina Pierpont and Dr. Michael Nissenbaum), the UK (Dr. Amanda Harry), Australia (Dr. Sarah Laurie) and Canada (Dr. Robert McMurtry).

I started my research by speaking directly with Dr. Nina Pierpont (MD, PhD) who is the physician responsible for the creation of the term “Wind Turbine Syndrome”. Her research consisted of analyzing individual experiences of people exposed to the low frequency noise created by wind turbines. Dr. Pierpont followed families living within 2 km of wind turbines and describes symptoms such as difficulties with concentration, balance, headaches, nausea, dizziness, irritability, fast heart rate, feelings of panic and ringing in the ears. People most likely to be affected include those prone to migraines, motion sensitivity, inner ear damage as well as extremes of age. As a specialist in behavioral pediatrics, she also expressed concerns with children’s attention, cognition and ability to learn when living in close proximity to wind turbines.

Dr. Michael Nissenbaum (MD) is currently investigating the effects of sleep deprivation in a group of individuals living within close proximity of wind turbines. Preliminary results of his soon-to-be released study show that individuals within 3,500 feet of wind turbines experience more sleep deprivation, stress, anger, depression and reduced quality of life compared to individuals who live more than 3 miles away. The affected individuals have also been prescribed more medications.

Will we be creating more medical problems among our residents?

Some would argue that many of the reported adverse effects of wind turbines are subjective (ie. personal) experiences. However, how could we possibly dismiss this as a legitimate problem? A 2009 World Health Organization peer review summary concluded that sleep deprivation could lead to several adverse effects including poor work performance, memory disturbances, poor concentration, mood disorders (depression, anxiety), substance abuse, impaired immune system function and motor vehicle accidents to name a few.

Dr. Sarah Laurie (MD) inAustralia found several of the same health effects in an Australian community in proximity to wind turbines. Her expanded investigation is now focused on the long term cardiovascular effects after noticing that several patients had elevated blood pressure when turbines were operational as compared to when they were idle.

This is a relatively new interest to health professionals, and therefore more physicians are becoming involved on a daily basis. A petition and position statement has just been developed by a group of physicians in Quebec. This was lead by Dr. Linda Bernier, an ear, nose and throat specialist.

If a new drug was being researched for human safety, several layers of extensive investigations would be required for approval and any potential health effects would have to be well understood.

We are only beginning to understand the health effects of these large industrial wind turbines, and the rush to place them in our communities at distances that many other countries have identified as dangerous removes the right of choice for many people in Haldimand County.

Large foreign companies with no vested interest in our community are planning to put these wind turbines as close as 550 meters to existing dwellings. This is much closer than is allowed in Europe, which means that information gathered there is not directly relevant to what is happening here. With the elderly and the young identified to be at increased risk of experiencing health effects, do we not owe it to the seniors and the children of our communities to ensure they are provided with a safe, healthy environment that includes green energy. The only way to do this is to await the results of large comprehensive medical studies that clearly identify any potential health risks and clearly establish safe setbacks for humans. My concern is that current legislative bodies do not seem willing to wait for these studies.

Dr. Natale Desrochers, MD Family physician, Dunnville

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