Wind Power And Health: Canada Takes A Hard Look

When I heard that Canada would probe the potential health effects of wind power on those who live near the giant turbines, my first thought was: Haven’t we been here before? After all, Oregon and Massachusetts in the past year put out big reports that, more or less, discounted the often dramatic claims that turbine noise and light flicker are destroying lives.

But there could be a key difference with this study: Canada actually plans to do new science.

canada wind power health study

Ontario, Canada, wind farm (image via Shutterstock)

The Massachusetts and Oregon reports mainly consisted of reviews of existing literature. As such, they offered good insight into where the science of wind and health has been. Canada wants to take a step forward into the now.

In an outline of its proposed study methodology, Health Canada said it wants to sample “2,000 dwellings randomly selected from those located near 8 to 12 WT (wind turbine) installations in Canada.” Residents would be asked questions that assess their “well-being, sleep quality and noise annoyance.” Plus: the “prevalence of chronic illness and symptoms collectively referred to as ‘WTN syndrome’ are also included in the questionnaire,” the agency said.

Wind turbine syndrome was largely dismissed in the Massachusetts study, in which a panel of medical and environmental health experts reviewed both peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed material on the topic.

On a full range of issues, the Massachusetts panel found little or no evidence to back up claims that low-frequency sounds from turbines harm the vestibular system, that turbine noise brings psychological distress or mental health problems, and that there is an association between turbine exposure and pain and stiffness, diabetes, high blood pressure, tinnitus, hearing impairment, cardiovascular disease and headache or migraine.

An Oregon report released earlier this year came to similar conclusions, although it did allow that “sound from wind energy facilities in Oregon could potentially impact people’s health and well-being” when it exceeds state standards, and that “the potential impacts from wind turbine sound could range from moderate disturbances to serious annoyance, sleep disturbance and decreased quality of life.”

As in the United States, complaints of ill health effects from wind turbines in Canada are accompanying rapid growth in the industry. In 2010, 690 megawatts of wind power capacity was installed in Canada. In 2011 the amount was about twice that, and this year Canada is expected to set another record for new installations.

Probing the health of residents who live near wind turbines would take Canada a step further than Massachusetts or Oregon went, and the country’s health agency doesn’t plan to stop there. It wants to correlate its health reports “with calculated wind turbine noise so that any potential relationship to reported health symptoms can be reliably determined.”

Of course, self-reported statements of ill health aren’t quite 100 percent useful in a scientific study. So Health Canada also plans to gather actual objective health data from the people it interviews.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

  • The 17 major reviews to-date of wind farms and health haven’t relied on static science.  Each one incorporated the dozens and hundreds of new studies on noise, wind farm acoustics, infrasound and psychogenic illnesses that have been done between the reviews. The reviews continue to find what the smaller studies find:  no health impacts.  Some people living very close to wind farms find the noise annoying, and those people are overwhelmingly likely to not be receiving money from the wind farm, to be able to see the wind farm and to have negative affect aka the ability to see a dark lining to every silver cloud.

    Wind farms don’t harm people’s health; anti-wind lobbyists harm people’s health.
    http://www.quora.com/Wind-Power/What-might-cause-people-who-live-near-wind-turbines-to-get-sick/answer/Mike-Barnard

    This study will find what all of the other studies find.  At a cost of $1.8 million.  It will not stop anti-wind lobbyists from asserting health impacts from wind farms. It may help the Canadian governments continue to drive forward with clean, safe, CO2e-neutral wind generation.

    • Pete

      Hi Mike —

      Thanks for your comment. For other readers, lots of good info, analysis and opinion at Mike’s site that he links to here.
      Pete Danko

  • Jim Wiegand

    Here are some real facts about the industry. Wind Farms
    slaughter birds. Millions of them and most are protected species. Wind farms do
    not kill 2.9 birds per MW as the industry claims these turbines kill between
    30-100 birds per MW. That is until their populations start
    plummeting. The information below was copied from a report released in 2008 in
    by a group of University Professors and Ornithologists that were not paid off
    by the industry.

    Development of wind projects is likely to cause:

    a. Bird mortality caused by collisions with operating turbines and/or elements
    of auxiliary infrastructure, in particular overhead power lines;

    b. Decrease in population due to loss and fragmentation of habitats caused by
    deterring effect of the wind turbines and/or development of

    communication and energy infrastructure related to operations of the wind
    turbines,

    c. Disturbance to populations, in particular to short- and long – range bird
    migrations (the barrier effect).

    The wind industry has been slaughtering bird populations and lying about it for
    decades. What is written above is the reason why the Wood Buffalo-Aransas
    Whooping Cranes population is disappearing. Their 2012 population should be
    around 375-400 but it is only about half that due to the explosion of wind
    industry development in their migration corridor. It is not drought that is
    killing them as the USFWS and wind industry would like us to believe, but
    thousands of 400-500 ft wind turbines slashing at 200 mph through hundreds of millions
    of cubic feet of air space.

    The widely quoted USFWS estimate of 440,000 birds killed annually by the wind
    industry is years outdated. Yet it is still being used. Even though it was low
    it was based on only 25GW of installed capacity. Today in the US we are at
    53GW of installed capacity, with another 10,000 MW currently under
    construction. Then one has to consider these factors that come into play with
    these estimates. The USFWS has only “Voluntary Regulations” for the
    wind industry. The industry can do what ever they want and nothing will happen
    to them. I have gone through the bogus mortality studies conducted by mercenary
    biologists around wind turbines. They are using search areas that are
    deliberately 8-10 times too small; their searches are also not done daily. This
    is needed to try to keep up with scavengers that are making a living off of
    chopped up birds. The wind industry has gag orders written into contracts with
    lease holders and employees to silence these people. There is high security at
    all wind farms. The wind industry personnel are routinely picking up bodies and
    they hide them. I have documentation on this. Some studies from out of this
    country show a death rate of over 100 birds per MW from wind turbines but the
    AWEA estimates only 2.9 birds killed per MW. These numbers might as well come
    from Syria and Iran because
    the real numbers are at least 10 times
    higher.

    The time to move is TODAY if you want to help save the whopping cranes and
    other rare bird species. For this to take place the public needs to reject all
    the wind industry lies, studies and cover stories about their impacts because
    they have been rigged for 28 years. The fact that no whooping crane death has
    ever been recorded at a wind farm is true, but it means nothing. The industry
    posturing of no dead body, equals no evidence, and therefore we are innocent is
    statement of total fabrication.

    By now everyone should realize that industry operates in complete secrecy with
    total control of their wind farms. Wind farms are patrolled daily by personnel
    looking for bodies and a huge white bird would be hard to miss. A sliced up
    whooping crane body will never be produced from a wind farm until they get
    their incidental kill permits (this is in their plans) from the USFWS. Some
    whooping cranes are wearing GPS transmitters, but if one happens to die at a
    wind farm with a transmitter on, they know the drill, just take the transmitter
    and give it a ride away from the site.

    There really is enough indirect evidence to conclude that the wind industry is
    killing the whooping crane and millions of other birds that go unreported by
    this industry. There is even more evidence then that what used to convict
    murderer Drew Peterson. But if anyone disagrees then just try to change the
    USFWS “Voluntary regulations” for this industry so that a body could
    not be hidden. Such an action would be met head on with every once of
    resistance the industry could muster because they know that if wind farm
    secrecy and the gag orders were ever lifted, this industry would shrivel up
    over night.

    For more information on the Whooping cranes visit the Whooping Crane
    Conservation Association web site and look up flock status. Make sure you up
    the graph that shows their steep population decline that began with the
    explosion of turbines that have invaded their migration route. Also when you
    get there you can also read what Tom Stehn had to say about the newly adopted
    (Bogus) USFWS method of counting/exaggerating whooping cranes.

  • Jim Wiegand

    Mike site has been taken down because of action taken by his employer IBM. Apparently IBM was not happy about his second life on the internet as an obnoxious and abusive non expert.