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Local health expert: lots of room in Canada for wind turbines

C. WELLINGTON TWP. – Opponents of industrial wind turbines have been telling the provincial government for several years it needs to do some health studies before approving such machines close to homes.

Some of those opponents did not wait for the province. Dr. Jeff Aramini is a public health epidemiologist and former senior scientist with Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada. He and his family live 2.5km from a proposed wind farm near Belwood.

He has just taken part in a study of the alleged effects of wind turbines on health in two communities in Maine, in the United States, and the results indicate the closer wind turbines are to people’s home, the higher their chance of sleep disruption and their chances of suffering depression.

Aramini said in an interview on Monday people opposed to wind farms in the Belwood area asked him to check health effects because of his expertise in that field.

His partners were Dr. Michael Nissenbaum of the Northern Maine Medical Center in Fort Kent, and Dr. Chris Hanning, of University Hospitals of Leicester, in the United Kingdom.

Aramini said in an interview the two communities studied are “not unlike anything here.”

He said it was “a little surprising the health effect that came across the strongest was depression.”

The study was peer reviewed, which means experts from around the world had an opportunity to comment on it. The study was published last year in the 10th International Congress on Noise as a public health problem in Great Britain.

The peer review is important for those opposing wind turbines.

Janet Vallery, a spokesman for Oppose Belwood Windfarm, highlighted a difference between the study Aramini was involved in and the studies being cited by the provincial government.

“The Ontario provincial government used literature reviews as a basis for determining setbacks,” she said. “This new research deems setbacks less than 1.5km must be regarded as unsafe.”

Aramini said the questionnaire tool used for the research “has been used millions of times around the world.”

The researchers found, “It wasn’t simply close and far … It was, the closer you get, the [more] progressively your risk rises.”

He noted, too, that only adults were considered in the study, and wondered what effects sleep disruption would have on children.

“Losing sleep is a big deal. In kids, it affects their learning,” said Aramini.

There were about 80 adults involved in the Maine study, with about half living 2 to 3km away from a turbine, and others lived farther away than 3km.

The Ontario setbacks from human habitation is 550 metres and Aramini said that increases chances of people suffering from clinical depression by 369%.

“It’s doubling to tripling the chance of you being at risk if living that close,” he said, adding if just one person is affected badly, it is too many. “We’re talking about real people.”

Aramini said people ask him regularly about how close they can live to turbines, and if he would buy a home close to one.

“If you’re within 2km, I’d think twice,” he said about purchasing a home, adding he suggests people talk to their physician prior to turbines going in if they live near where the machines are proposed.

Aramini said it is vexing the provincial government is forcing people to endure turbines when there is plenty of land available that is not anywhere near human habitation.

“The thing that disappoints me is Canada is a big place. Surely we can put them in a place away … For God’s sake, put them out in the middle of nowhere, away from people.”

Unfortunately, he said of the issue, “Clearly there’s a lot of politics and money involved.”

Despite the study’s claims to the contrary, the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) maintains there is no “conclusive” correlation between turbines and health issues.

[Click here to read the study.]