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Turbine debate keeps spinning

The long-awaited study about the health impacts of living close to wind turbines came out last month and the conclusion is . . . we need more studies.

A survey conducted by the University of Waterloo found “statistically significant” evidence that sleep was disturbed the closer you got to the spinning blades of a turbine.

But there’s a problem. The info was gathered through surveys mailed out to those living close to wind parks in Ontario. Only 10% responded.

Common sense would suggest you need a much greater response than that to get some idea of what is really happening. Common sense would also suggest the 10% were those most opposed to turbines or those who perceive their health has been worsened by infrasound, the inaudible sound and air pressure changes caused by the spinning of the blades that is said to affect the inner ear.

So is the study biased and to be ignored?

No. Its information is valuable and its conclusions take science one tiny step closer to understanding the dizziness, anxiety, and sleep disturbances reported by people living close to turbines.

It may be, as has been suggested by other experts, that some people are indeed affected by infrasound while others are not, the same way sea sickness hits one person but not another. Maybe it’s only 5-10% of the public that will get sick from being too close to spinning blades.

Yes, more study is needed. Norfolk County officials and residents can help by continuing to question the health impacts of wind turbines – to be skeptical and keep challenging government and industry every step of the way on this issue.

Norfolk County hosted one of the early wind farms in Ontario. Turbines in the Clear Creek area went up before the government 550-metre setback rule was put in place. Stories emerged of ruined lives and protest followed. We are at the forefront of this issue and owe it to ourselves and the rest of the province to show some leadership in this area.

Maybe another study is needed, but this time tell researchers to knock on doors in the Clear Creek area and talk to people directly. Maybe it’s possible to get a 90% participation rate. That would offer a better idea just how widespread the problem is. Researchers may catch the nuances of residents’ experience and potentially help put this issue to rest one way or the other.

It is easy to dismiss the complaints of those protesting against wind turbines as poppycock: that they are kooks blaming health problems on invisible, inaudible mysterious sound waves.

But anecdotal evidence in Norfolk County suggests there’s something more to it than that. It’s one thing to analyze statistics. It’s another when you have an otherwise normal healthy person standing in front of you publicly announcing they can no longer live in their home when it would have been in their own best interests to keep their mouth shut, sell, and move somewhere else.