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Wind turbine opponents welcome health effects study

Local opponents of wind turbines are pleased Health Canada will study the possible links between noise from the giant structures and the health effects by people living near them.

But it’s unclear if the move – even if evidence of adverse health effects is found – will have any impact on the plan to install hundreds of wind turbines in Niagara, Haldimand and Norfolk. Supporters have long maintained there are no ill health effects from living near a turbine, and in 2010 the Ontario Medical Officer of Health issued a report saying there is no evidence that wind turbines have an adverse impact on public health.

Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced Tuesday that Ottawa will conduct the study, which she said “is in response to questions from residents living near wind farms, about possible health effects of low-frequency noise generated by wind turbines.”

Wind turbines first appeared in Ontario in 1995, but have gained momentum under the Liberal government’s Green Energy push.

“Wow,” said Wendy Veldman, a member of the West Lincoln Wind Action Group, which is fighting a plan by a Mississauga company to install five wind turbines in Caistor Centre next year.

“That’s a step in the right direction. We don’t feel they should put up any more until they look at the detriments. None of us disagree with wind turbines. I don’t have a problem with them. I just feel they should look at where they are (placing) them.”

“Finally,” said Fred Ortt, a member of Haldimand Wind Concerns, which is questioning the location of hundreds of wind turbines in the county by companies such as Samsung, the Niagara Region Wind Corp., Pattern Energy and Capital Power Corporation.

“We’ve been asking for it for four years,” said Ortt, who will have his Cheapside-area house surrounded by six proposed turbines. “We’ve been trying to get the provincial government to do something about it. We’re finally getting the point across.”

He questioned, however, if the province would listen to the results, which are expected to be published in 2014. He said a Hagersville hearing on a plan by a company to build turbines around the Jarvis area recently heard from a couple of U.S. residents about the ill effects of living near the machines.

“Is (the time frame) quick enough to stop them here?” Ortt wonders.

Robert Hornung, president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association, which represents the industry, said in a statement that the study will make a valuable contribution to the ongoing research on wind turbine effects.

He added, however: “We believe the balance of scientific evidence pretty clearly shows that wind turbines do not have an impact on human health.”

The study will initially focus on residents in 2,000 dwellings selected from eight to 12 wind-turbine installations across Canada. Health Canada said researchers will conduct face-to-face interviews with residents, as well as taking physical measurements such as blood pressure, and measuring noise levels both inside and outside some of the homes.

This isn’t the first local study on the health impact of turbines. The University of Waterloo announced in February it would survey residents living around wind turbines in Haldimand and Norfolk. This would include residents living around 48 turbines put up near Port Rowan seven years ago.