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Open letter: Request for full disclosure of the health effects “conclusively demonstrated” from exposure to wind turbine noise  

Credit:  Brett Horner, Killaloe, Ontario, March 10, 2013 ~~

[excerpted; click here to download complete letter with references]

Dear Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Minister Aglukkaq, Premier Kathleen Wynne, Mr. Robert Hornung,

I am writing to you in order to:

  • Discuss statements reportedly made by the president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA), Mr. Robert Hornung; and
  • Formally request that representatives of: CanWEA; the Government of Canada; Health Canada; and the Government of Ontario; provide Canadians immediate and full disclosure of the health effects “conclusively demonstrated” from exposure to wind turbine noise.

It is my understanding that the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario have provided financial and/or other assistance to the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) and/or to members of CanWEA.

On February 26, 2013 it was reported that the president of the CanWEA, Mr. Robert Hornung stated, “we are still quite confident that the balance of evidence to date shows that wind turbines do not have an impact on human health”.

I am writing to you regarding Mr. Robert Hornung’s apparent failure to fully disclose the health effect “conclusively demonstrated” from exposure to wind turbine noise.

It is inaccurate to suggest the balance of evidence to date shows that wind turbines do not have an impact on human health.

I have included references in this open letter which support the conclusion that the balance of evidence demonstrates that wind turbines can harm human health at the sound levels experienced at typical receptor distances in Ontario, Canada. …

The following 2010 Health Canada document is “Published by authority of the Minister of Health” and states:

Health Canada considers the following noise- induced endpoints as health effects: noise- induced hearing loss, sleep disturbance, interference with speech comprehension, complaints, and change in percent highly annoyed (%HA).

A 2011 Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) considered evidence and testimony under oath and found that wind turbines can harm humans if they are placed too close to residents. The ERT decision stated:

This case has successfully shown that the debate should not be simplified to one about whether wind turbines can cause harm to humans. The evidence presented to the Tribunal demonstrates that they can, if facilities are placed too close to residents. The debate has now evolved to one of degree.”

The ERT decision also found that

“serious harm to human health” includes … indirect impacts (e.g., a person being exposed to noise and then exhibiting stress and developing other related symptoms). This approach is consistent with both the WHO definition of health and Canadian jurisprudence on the topic.

In Canada and elsewhere some people exposed to wind turbines experience physiological and/or psychological symptoms and/or reduced quality of life and/or degraded living conditions and/or adverse social economic impacts. Reported effects include annoyance and/or sleep disturbance and/or stress related health impacts and/or reduced quality of life.

In some cases the effects are so severe that Canadian families have effectively abandoned their homes and/or been billeted by wind energy developers and/or negotiated financial agreements with wind energy developers.

Unwanted sound (noise), visual impacts (shadow flicker), stray voltage and social economic impacts are identified as plausible causes of annoyance and/or other adverse effects.

Peer reviewed and other references acknowledge modern wind turbines produce sound characteristics which are plausible causes for annoyance and/or other health effects. These characteristics include amplitude modulation (swooshing), audible low-frequency noise, infrasound, tonal noise, impulse noise, and night-time noise.

In 2009, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) “established a scientific advisory panel” and funded a literature review, “Wind Turbine Sound and Health Effects: An Expert Panel Review” (Colby et al., 2009).

In 2010 Mr. Robert Hornung discussed the findings of Colby et al. (2009) and stated, “the sound of wind turbines can be annoying for some individuals and that may cause them to feel some stress etcetera.”

The authors of Colby et al. (2009) discuss Dr. Nina Pierpont’s case series study which includes Canadian participants. The symptoms reported by individuals exposed to wind turbines include: sleep disturbance, headache, tinnitus, ear pressure, dizziness, vertigo, nausea, visual blurring, tachycardia, irritability, problems with concentration and memory, and panic episodes associated with sensations of internal pulsation or quivering when awake or asleep. Pierpont (2009) coined these symptoms “Wind Turbine Syndrome”.

Colby et al. (2009) reports, “Wind Turbine Syndrome” symptoms “are not new and have been published previously in the context of ‘annoyance’” and are the “well-known stress effects of exposure to noise”.

In independent works, Colby et al. (2009) coauthors Dr. Geoff Leventhall and Dr. David Colby attribute “Wind Turbine Syndrome” to be symptoms of stress caused by audible wind turbine noise.

For example, in 2009 Dr. Geoff Leventhall stated he is happy to accept “Wind Turbine Syndrome” symptoms as he has known about them for years:

I am happy to accept these symptoms, as they have been known to me for many years as the symtpoms of extreme psychological stress from environmental noise, particularly low-frequency noise. The symptoms have been published before (Møller and Lydolf, 2002; Nagai et al., 1989).

On June 7, 2011, Dr. Leventhall presented to the National Health and Medical Research Council at a “Scientific Forum” on “Wind Farms and Humans Health”. Dr. Geoff Leventhall attributed “Wind Turbine Syndrome” symptoms to annoyance by audible noise from wind turbines.

In 2010, Dr. David Colby, coauthor of Colby et al. (2009), attributed “Wind Turbine Syndrome” symptoms to be caused by audible amplitude modulation (swoosh-swoosh).

In February 2009, Stephen Bly, Chief, Acoustics Division Consumer and Clinical Radiation Protection Bureau Health Canada, formally provided advice to me stating:

The Acoustics Division’s current assessment of the scientific literature on wind turbine noise and health is that the only health effect conclusively demonstrated to date is an increase in annoyance and complaints.

In a June 30, 2009, letter Honourable Rona Ambrose states:

Health Canada provides advice on the health effect of noise and low-frequency electric and magnetic fields from proposed wind turbine projects, particularly for environmental assessments done under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. To date, their examination of the scientific literature on wind turbine noise is that the only health effect conclusively demonstrated from exposure to wind turbine noise is an increase of self- reported general annoyance and complaints (i.e., headaches, nausea, tinnitus, vertigo).

These “conclusively demonstrated” health effects are proposed and expected by representatives of Health Canada. …

Stantec is a listed member of CanWEA. Stantec provides consulting services for CanWEA and/or members of CanWEA. Stantec (2011 May) states:

What is clear is that some people living near wind turbines experience annoyance due to wind turbines. … Some people are also disturbed in their sleep by wind turbines.

Dr. Christopher Ollson and Dr. Loren Knopper provide consulting services for CanWEA and/or members of CanWEA. Knopper and Ollson (2011) state:

What is clear is that some people living near wind turbines experience annoyance due to wind turbines … Some people are also disturbed in their sleep by wind turbines.

Dr. Copes is the Director, Environmental and Occupational Health Branch, Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion. A 2010 literature review coauthored by Dr. Copes reports wind turbine noise annoyance and sleep disturbance is common between 30 and 45 dBA.

Ontario wind turbine noise guideline limits permit, 56 and projects are being approved for, 57 noise levels of up to 51 dBA (formerly 53 dBA) at a defined noise receptor (family home).

An April 9 2010 internal Ontario Ministry of Environment memorandum obtained from a Freedom of information request states:

It appears compliance with the minimum setbacks and the noise study approach currently being used to approve the siting of WTGs will result or likely result in adverse effects …

HGC Engineering is a listed member of CanWEA. The President of HGC Engineering is Mr. Brian Howe. HGC Engineering has conducted sound measurements at Canadian wind energy projects where some Canadians exposed to wind turbine noise reported high annoyance and/or sleep disturbance and/or other adverse effects. Some of these Canadians retained legal counsel to resolve issues caused by the wind turbine noise and have negotiated an agreement with the wind energy developer to purchase the home. In December 2011 the Ontario Ministry of Environment released a report prepared HGC Engineering and signed by Mr. Brian Howe. The Ontario Ministry of Environment reports, “three experts in the field of noise, vibration and acoustics reviewed and validated the report”. HGC (2010) states in the conclusions:

The audible sound from wind turbines, at the levels experienced at typical receptor distances in Ontario, is nonetheless expected to result in a non-trivial percentage of persons being highly annoyed. As with sounds from many sources, research has shown that annoyance associated with sound from wind turbines can be expected to contribute to stress related health impacts in some persons.

HGC (2010) also describes:

stress symptoms associated with noise annoyance, and in particular low-frequency annoyance include sleep interference, headaches, poor concentration, mood swings

… The citations in this open letter represent a sample of references which support the conclusion that wind turbines can harm human health at the sound levels experienced at typical receptor distances in Ontario. Additional references can be provided upon request.

Reported effects include annoyance and/or sleep disturbance and/or stress related health impacts and/or reduced quality of life.

The references cited in this open letter include, but are not limited to, citations by CanWEA-sponsored authors or members and Health Canada.

Members of Health Canada’s Acoustics Division have identified health effects “conclusively demonstrated” from exposure to wind turbine noise.

Members of Health Canada’s Acoustics Division propose imposing health effects on a non trivial percentage of Canadians exposed to wind turbine noise.

Members of, and/or consultants for, CanWEA acknowledge some people experience annoyance and/or sleep disturbance and/or stress related health impacts as a result of exposure to wind turbines.

Failure to fully disclose these and other citations represent errors of omission.

Health Canada (2004) states: “Government’s job is to provide citizens with accurate and appropriate information so that they can protect themselves.”

In the interest of human health protection I request that representatives of: CanWEA; the Government of Canada; Health Canada; and the Government of Ontario; provide Canadians immediate and full disclosure of the health effects “conclusively demonstrated” from exposure to wind turbine noise.

Source:  Brett Horner, Killaloe, Ontario, March 10, 2013

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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