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Shedding light on the wind debate

Many West Lincoln residents don’t want to be lab rats.

A professor from the University of Waterloo is seeking to study residents of the community both before and after industrial wind turbines are erected in the community.

Phil Bigelow says his study will determine an answer to the hot-button question: do industrial wind turbines affect human health?

The study will look at how noise exposure from wind turbines affects sleep quality, and the overall health and wellbeing of people living in proximity to the monolithic generators.

“It’s a unique opportunity to look at the community before and after,” Bigelow told members of West Lincoln’s Planning and Development Committee and about 50 residents, mostly wearing red, anti-turbine shirts this spring. “This is one of the strongest study designs in epidemiology.”

Dozens of health studies have already been conducted on the subject, but with unequal results.

Canadians should be assured that wind turbines are not a danger to health, according to the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA).

“We feel we can say with a high degree of confidence, based on scientific evidence and experience, that they are not harmful to humans,” said Robert Hornung, CanWEA president.

Health Canada is currently conducting its own study, which looks at 1,200 people living near wind turbines.

The results of that study are not expected until late 2014.

Led by the University of Western Ontario, and at a cost of $88,140, the study could tell scientists if wind turbines are linked to health problems. Statistics Canada and Health Canada are collaborating on the study to measure people’s health in up to a dozen communities within 10 kilometres of wind turbines. Scientists will also measure blood pressure, heart rates and sleep patterns.

What West Lincoln residents want is a stop to the erection of more industrial wind turbines, including close to 50 in their own municipality. They fear their health will decline as the giant blades, about 50-metres long, start spinning through the air at a minimum distance of 550 metres from their homes.

They, the residents, along with municipal council, have repeatedly asked the government to pause on wind. A total of 91 Ontario municipalities have followed suit along with several members of the Progressive Conservative Party.

“Other municipalities have already been destroyed by industrial wind turbines,” wrote Wellandport resident Catherine Mitchell in a letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne on April 16. “We do not want to be lab rats in this academic exercise, we are not willing hosts to industrial wind turbines in West Lincoln.”