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Health Canada Announces Wind Turbine Noise and Health Study

PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2012 9:23 pm
by Oscar
Health Canada Announces Wind Turbine Noise and Health Study ... 09-eng.php

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Research design and methodology at

The proposed research design and methodology was posted on Health Canada's web site today for a 30-day public comment period. Feedback obtained will be reviewed by the design committee, compiled and published to the website, along with the design committee's responses.

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1) LISTEN: CBC Radio Interview with Dr. Mark Bigland-Pritchard

2) Dr. Bigland-Pritchard's Comments on the Study

3) NOCEBO - according to Wikipedia

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Health Canada Announces Wind Turbine Noise and Health Study ... 09-eng.php

July 10, 2012 For immediate release

OTTAWA - Health Canada, in collaboration with Statistics Canada, will conduct a research study that will explore the relationship between wind turbine noise and health effects reported by, and objectively measured in, people living near wind power developments.

"This study is in response to questions from residents living near wind farms about possible health effects of low frequency noise generated by wind turbines," said the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health. "As always, our Government is putting the health and safety of Canadians first and this study will do just that by painting a more complete picture of the potential health impacts of wind turbine noise."

Health Canada is aware of health-related complaints from individuals living in close proximity to wind turbine establishments. The study is being designed with support from external experts, specializing in areas including noise, health assessment, clinical medicine and epidemiology.

The proposed research design and methodology was posted on Health Canada's web site today for a 30-day public comment period. Feedback obtained will be reviewed by the design committee, compiled and published to the website, along with the design committee's responses.

The study will be focused on an initially targeted sample size of 2,000 dwellings selected from 8-12 wind turbine installation facilities in Canada. In addition to taking physical measurements from participants, such as blood pressure, investigators will conduct face-to-face interviews and take noise measurements inside and outside of some homes to validate sound modelling.

Health Canada has expertise in measuring noise and assessing the health impacts of noise because of its role in administering the Radiation Emitting Devices Act (REDA). As defined under REDA, noise is a form of radiation.

The study results are expected to be published in 2014. -30-

Media Enquiries: Health Canada (613) 957-2983

Cailin Rodgers
Office of the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq
Federal Minister of Health
(613) 957-0200

Public Enquiries: (613) 957-2991 1-866 225-0709

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1) LISTEN: Dr. Mark Bigland-Pritchard was a guest on CBC Radio Blue Sky on July 12, 2012 regarding this study.

The interview is available from Mark at:, on condition that
(i) it is for personal use only, and not to be published on a website or in any other way, and
(ii) that any time that it is passed on to anyone else these same two conditions must be stipulated.

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2) Comments by Dr. Bigland-Pritchard on the Study:

(i) I think there is a justification for a well-constructed epidemiological study to determine whether allegations that certain health effects are caused by wind power are based in reality. It would be good to have clearer and more science-based guidance as to appropriate setback distances from peoples' homes. This process could also give the wind industry some useful pointers as to the technological improvements it could pursue in order to reduce annoyance and to reduce any health effects that can be demonstrated. (Enercon in Germany is, for example, already working on modified blade design, to reduce the noise emissions from blade-tip turbulent shedding.)

(ii) On the face of it, the Health Canada exercise looks well-constructed (but I'm not an epidemiologist so there may well be significant flaws which I haven't noticed) and could give useful scientific information to the public - if it is not spun by special interests before it gets to the public.

(iii) All the official studies so far - Ontario, Massachusetts, Oregon, Britain, etc - state that there is no evidence of direct health effects. However, a number of peer-reviewed studies show significant levels of "annoyance" in a small minority of the local population, and that annoyance could result in indirect health effects. The health effects listed by the people who believe in "wind turbine syndrome" are non-specific - things like sleep disturbance, headaches, earaches, dizziness, vertigo, nausea, disturbed balance, tinnitus, heart palpitations, blood pressure spikes, poor memory and concentration, irritability, etc. These could all be responses to stress. I have suffered from virtually everything on the list at one time or another, generally as stress reactions, and I have never lived within 5km of a windfarm. If, however, a genuine correlation may be found between the construction of a local wind farm and the occurrence of these symptoms, the question still needs to be asked as to the actual source of the stress - does it result (as "syndrome" believers usually claim) from wind turbine noise and vibration, or from visual factors, or from a sense of invasion by an outside wind company or government body, or from a firmly-held sense that the compensation offered is inadequate, or from some sort of nocebo effect?
[See NOCEBO below . . . ]

(iv) Let's remember that nuclear power, and all fossil fuel options, have known, very real, health impacts. Around Fukushima, people have been evacuated from their homes probably for life. Some Welsh sheep farmers are still unable to sell their animals at market because of the high radioactive caesium levels in their grazing land, resulting from the nuclear accident 26 years ago the other side of a contintent in Chernobyl. German studies, recently backed up by new work in France and Britain, show a correlation between childhood leukaemia and proximity to a nuclear power station. Coal power results in emissions of heavy metals like mercury, arsenic, cadmium and uranium, which all impact human health in measurable ways. When gas is obtained by hydraulic fracturing. toxic chemicals are pumped into the gas well. If these leak into the soil or the water supply, a long-term public health problem is created. All of the fossil fuels emit carbon dioxide when burnt for energy, adding to climate change and all the health and public safety issues associated with increased droughts and floods, periods of extreme heat, increased high-energy storms, etc. Large-scale hydroelectric power impacts local ecosystems - and therefore the livelihoods and food supplies of many indigenous people in the north. It can also result in increased flooding of their land. Therefore, if the result of the study is that provinces back away from wind towards the old options then it will be bad both for climate change and for public health.

(v) In this context, it is important that we consider the standards by which we judge power sources. Earlier this year I listened to a presentation by Carmen Krogh, one of the leaders in the Ontario anti-wind movement. She's a very nice lady, and appears to be acting out of the best of motives. But, as a retired pharmacist, she expects to be able to apply the same precautions to wind power as her professional association rightly applied to the pills she was dispensing - i.e. don't use until you know it's totally safe. I asked her if she would apply the same standards to coal or fracked gas or nuclear. She had no answer. If we expect to have mains electricity we probably will always have health impacts, and those types of standards sadly will be unrealistic. Instead, let's find the power mix which causes the least impact to human health, to the climate, and to the local environment.

(vi) The timing feels suspicious. At a time when the federal government appears to be systematically cutting essential funding for the science which provides evidence of the dangers of their preferred energy options (PEARL doing atmospheric science on Ellesmere Island, Kluane research station studying glaciers in the Yukon, the Experimental Lakes carrying out a variety of tests of toxicity and ecological impact, pollutions studies off the east and west coasts, reduced time for impact assessments of pipelines, etc, etc, etc), they suddenly introduce a study investigating a non-preferred option. I don't have the evidence to point fingers, but it just doesn't feel right.

(vii) Getting back to the issue of "annoyance" and stress-related symptoms: Wind power is widely accepted in Europe, and most strongly so where the ownership is in the hands of the local community rather than an unaccountable corporation or a remote government body. Denmark and Germany, where cooperative ownership is the norm, have very low levels of complaint - indeed, I've brought this up with anti-wind people and they have yet to show me a single instance of alleged health impacts in either country. It is reasonable to assume that the presence of a windfarm is going to be more stressful - and therefore result in more "indirect symptoms" - if it was imposed by a corporation more interested in profit than local concerns, or if public discussions about its siting were handled poorly by a remote government bureaucracy, than if it was the successful outcome of a locally-owned cooperative. This is maybe one factor which is missing from the Health Canada methodology, and one which it might be worth approaching them to include.

(viii) Meanwhile, how about some decent epidemiological work on the health impact of dust from uranium mines in northern Saskatchewan?

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3) NOCEBO - From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In medicine, a nocebo reaction or response refers to harmful, unpleasant, or undesirable effects a subject manifests after receiving an inert dummy drug or placebo. Nocebo responses are not chemically generated and are due only to the subject's pessimistic belief and expectation that the inert drug will produce negative consequences.
In these cases, there is no "real" drug involved, but the actual negative consequences of the administration of the inert drug, which may be physiological, behavioural, emotional, and/or cognitive, are nonetheless real.