Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Wind And Health: A New Study?

From Garth Manning,  Chairman of the County Coalition for Safe and Appropriate Green Energy (CCSAGE), Prince Edward County, Ontario, writing in the T.O. Sun:

Toronto human rights lawyer Julian Falconer argues that the GEA and the government’s approval of wind projects “implicates their right to security of the person” as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights, in view of potential health impacts.

These health impacts were noted on Oct. 17, 2013 when the Ontario government’s Research Chair for Renewable Energy Technologies and Health at the University of Waterloo reported a statistically significant correlation between proximity to industrial wind turbines and sleep deprivation, tinnitus and vertigo.

What he's talking about is this.  Some of the short-comings are discussed here in The Chatham Daily News.  I'll just summarize from that piece with a few notes of my own.

1) As you can see from the link title, Wind Turbine Noise, Sleep Quality, and Symptoms of 
Inner Ear Problems is a poster, not a paper, and it was presented at a symposium by grad students (Each event will include brief presentations, Q&A, speed mentoring sessions, poster presentations by graduate students, and a cocktail to mingle with the experts and decision-makers.  It may or may not ever make it into the literature.

2)  But of course grad students are capable of fine work.  Unfortunately, in this case they had very few responses to the survey which served as their study's basis:

...the overall response rate of under 10% is "very problematic and we recognize the opportunity for bias that would invalidate the findings."

In fact they mailed out 4,876 surveys, and were able to use 396 of the 412  questionnaires returned.

Surveys on the health effects of wind turbines are at best difficult to conduct.  It's almost impossible to keep the purpose of the questionnaire secret, which is needed to ensure that answers are not preconditioned by what the subjects may have heard in the news or read on-line re such topics as Wind Turbine Syndrome (WTN).  Perhaps a healthy response rate might have eliminated this problem, but with under 400 replies the scientists at Waterloo are likely hearing from those particularly motivated to answer in a negative fashion.  And it is indeed the case that readers of the anti-wind NIMBY site Ontario Wind Resistance knew about the survey  well in advance of its distribution. They were even offering advice on how to field the questions contained in it.  So the project might have been doomed to start with.

It's worth noting how stringent the Health Canada study of the same issue (not yet released) is trying to be.  Their questionnaire work will be supplemented with extensive on-site testing. Participants have been asked to wear an  actimeter and give hair samples to be tested for signs of chronic stress.  No such precautions were in place with the research from Waterloo.

1 comment:

Robert Wood said...

We have included your post in our 'Around the Blogs' section at Looniepolitics.com