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Turbine study to be published

A local study that concluded industrial wind turbines cause distress among people who live near them is to be published in an online medical journal.

The report, which was co-authored by Grey Bruce Medical Officer of Health Dr. Hazel Lynn and epidemiological researcher Dr. Ian Arra, will be published in the online journal, Cureus. No date has been announced for publication.

“It gives a level of authority to a paper such as this,” said Lynn. “It basically gives it much more credibility in the science reading population.”

The review, entitled, Literature Review 2013: Association Between Wind Turbine Noise and Human Distress, came at the request of the Grey Bruce Board of Health in late 2012 after local residents who live near wind turbines asked the health unit to investigate potential ill health affects.

Lynn and Arra conducted an in-depth review of 18 of the most credible and up to date studies around the world on whether wind turbines affect people’s health.

Lynn and Arra’s report considered various types of studies from around the world related to noise exposure from the turbines and from infrasound exposure. They ranged from cohort and randomized studies, cases studies and series and even anecdotes and opinions. They came from medical, environmental and acoustic publications, all peer reviewed.

In February of 2013 they presented their findings to the board of health, concluding that there is “reasonable evidence that an association exists between wind turbines and distress in humans.”

Late last year it was announced the study was being peer reviewed for publication in medical journals. Cureus is a peer-reviewed journal based in San Francisco with an international editorial board.

Lynn said the review was originally submitted to the Canadian Medical Journal and others, but many of them want original research, so the process has taken a little longer than hoped.

“It took a little longer to find one that wants to do this kind of literature review,” said Lynn, who expects the review to now be quoted in a number of other journals.

In their review, the authors stressed that associating wind turbines to distress is not the same as hard evidence of cause and effect.

“What we are basically saying is no proof of causation is done with a Level 4 evidence, however the fact is that there is a dose response relationship and we didn’t find any of our papers that show there wasn’t any relationship,” said Lynn. “To me that means we should go on looking for what is the actual exposure and what are the limits we need to be measuring.”

Lynn said the review has been updated since its release last year, however the study results remained the same.

“There have been a couple of papers released in the last year that fit the criteria by which we chose ours,” said Lynn.

In their review, Lynn and Arra state that future research in this area is warranted as to whether causal relationship exists or not.

“Basically the papers we used mostly used the distance from the wind turbines as the exposure,” said Lynn. “There is size, there is sighting and there is the amount of wind, and there is not just the audible noise, there is that infrasound, so there is a lot of different things that need to be looked at too.”

Lynn said locally there have been calls for larger setbacks since the review came out, but she was restrained about crediting her work with prompting those changes.

“We are not saying anything brand new. Most of those studies we reviewed said the same thing,” Lynn said, adding her and Arra’s review received a fair bit of publicity that prompted a lot of interest in it.

Arra, now with the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, will also present the findings of the review at the Canadian Public Health Association’s annual conference, Public Health 2014, on Monday.

Lynn said she is happy for Arra, who is a student.

“It is kind of nice for him to get his name out there,” said Lynn, who doesn’t see any involvement for her on the issue in the immediate future, though she isn’t ruling out more work on the matter in the long term.

Lynn said she is interested in learning more about infrasound exposure and if it is affecting the health of people who live around industrial wind turbines.

“To me that is a really interesting piece of this,” said Lynn.

Publication adds additional credibility to turbine study; Appears in online peer-reviewed medical journal