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Peer-reviewed commentary published in Canadian family physician journal

A peer-reviewed article in the official journal of the College of Family Physicians of Canada says its members should expect to see increasing numbers of rural patients reporting adverse effects from exposure to industrial wind turbines.

The commentary, published in the May issue of Canadian Family Physician, says turbines can harm human health if built too close to where people live.

Ontario’s Green Energy Act requires that turbines be at least 550 metres away from neighbouring homes but the article says, “Evidence-based studies were not conducted to determine adequate setbacks and noise levels for the siting of IWTs (industrial wind turbines) before the implementation of the Ontario renewable energy policy.”

It adds that “owing to the lack of adequately protective siting guidelines, people exposed to IWTs can be expected to present to their family physicians in increasing numbers.”

Wind farm development has been heating up in Sarnia-Lambton with two large projects planned for the northern half of the county, and others proposed elsewhere.

There are currently two small wind farms in Lambton – one near Kettle and Stoney Point and the other in Brooke-Alvinston Township.

Several citizens’ groups have formed to oppose turbines, and Plympton-Wyoming has been taken to court by Suncor over its wind bylaws, including one calling for a 2-km setback.

Ingrid Willemsen, a member of the group We’re Against Industrial Turbines Plympton-Wyoming (WAIT-PW), said the Canadian Family Physician article quantifies that patients are going to family doctor with symptoms.

“We haven’t known how much of this they’re seeing.”

She added it was interesting to see the college publishing an article drawing its member’s attention to the issue.

“Otherwise, we can’t say we’re surprised.”

The article says people who live and work in close proximity to wind turbines have experienced symptoms that include decreased quality of life, annoyance, stress, sleep disturbance, headache, anxiety, depression, and cognitive dysfunction.

“The documented symptoms are usually stress disorder-type diseases acting via indirect pathways and can represent serious harm to human health,” it says.

It also states, “It is now clear that the regulations are not adequate to protect the health of all exposed individuals.”

The article addresses a 2010 report by Dr. Arlene King, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, that states scientific evidence does not demonstrate any direct causal link between wind turbine noise and adverse health effects.

The authors of the Canadian Family Physician article say in response, “Focusing on direct causal links limits the discussion to a small slice of the potential health effects of IWTs.”

Willemsen said local anti-turbine groups are planning a town hall meeting in mid-July to inform Sarnia residents about health concerns, electricity costs and other issues.

While wind farms may not be currently planned for Sarnia, many of its residents own cottages and visit the lakefront areas where they are proposed, she said.

“The more thunder we’ve got, and the more educated everyone can be, the more hope we have in Queen’s Park listening.”