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Stick with what is known

The neighbors of the West Falmouth wind turbines want an epidemiological study done on the health impacts of turbines. They are convinced that some in the area have suffered physical harm from the machines. Research done to date, according to a state ordered review of the data, reveals no connection between wind turbines and health effects. That doesn’t mean there is no connection; it just means the data collected so far does not show it. It is possible that further studies would show that wind turbines are a health risk.

But it seems to us unlikely that the West Falmouth residents will get what they want. A well-done and controlled epidemiological study will cost a great deal of money. The political will to allot that sort of funding simply isn’t there right now.

But those who are pushing for a study, as sure as they are of what the result will be, should consider that they might reveal nothing at all. Epidemiological studies, even exhaustive ones, do not always point to clear answers. There are often too many variables. It is clear, for example, that the incidence of certain cancers is elevated on the Cape. But studies have failed to find a smoking gun. And, worse, what if a study is done and shows turbines have no adverse effect on human health?

As Todd Drummey pointed out at the board of health meeting Monday night, despite the state panel’s review of the data on turbines and health, it is clear that Falmouth’s turbines are causing a problem for residents nearby.

We doubt many in town would argue that the turbines are not the problem but that the people living under them are. But were a study done that shows there are no adverse health impacts, it could turn the tide of public opinion. Many might conclude that, barring health impacts, the problems caused by the turbines are not so bad after all.

There is a problem and most will agree. It will be better to stick with what is known and what agreement currently exists.