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Health Canada announces wind turbine noise and health study

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 Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health, noting the study would paint a more complete picture of the potential health impacts of wind turbine noise.

The Health Canada press release states it 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 states its 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.

The draft methodology is open for comment starting July 10, 2012 until August 08, 2012.

Provide your comments on Health Canada’s Wind Turbine Noise and Health Study Design by email or fax to:

David S. Michaud, PhD
Principal Investigator
Consumer and Clinical Radiation Protection Bureau
Healthy Environments and Consumer Safety Branch
Health Canada
Email: wind.turbine.health.study@hc-sc.gc.ca
Fax: 613-941-1734

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  1. David Norman says:

    In yesterdays issue, July 12, 2012, of the Picton Gazette, an article on Heath Canada’s announcement of their Wind Turbine Noise and Health Study, Susan Holtz, “media representative” of the County Sustainability Group is quoted as saying;
    1. “This is clearly a study that’s being done in response to a major controversy and it’s a political controversy, it’s not pure scientific curiosity”
    2. “There have been hundreds of studies done around the world including meta-studies that looked at the overall assessment of many smaller studies, all of which have concluded that there are no significant health effects from wind turbines”
    3. “You can manipulate studies in all kinds of ways and you can also bury the results. It’s going to depend very much on things we can’t determine about how this study is done and how it’s going to be used”
    4. “She said she would have been more comfortable had the study been undertaken by the National Round Table on the Environment and Economy – an independent agency that can provide objective views and information to decision makers.”
    Before addressing the assertions in these quotes, I present , in the spirit of the recent commentary on Countylive’s Wind Watch articles regarding transparency and the pseudonymous character of some of the commenters, a little related piece of background on Susan Holtz from my research; “Susan Holtz has been an energy and environmental policy analyst for some 35 years, most of that time in Nova Scotia, where she was a long-time member of Halifax Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends. From 2000 to 2009 she lived in Toronto, where among other things she did projects for the Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy on policy issues involving biotechnology, nanotechnology, and pharmaceutical and personal care product contamination of water resources. Her latest publications included several chapters of the 2009 Earthscan book, Making the Most of the Water We Have: The Soft Path Approach to Water Management. Recently retired, she is an active member of the County Sustainability Group in Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada, where she and her husband Fred now live. In 2010 Susan and Fred transferred their Quaker membership to Wooler Monthly Meeting of Wooler, Ontario. Susan was the founding Vice Chair of both the Canadian and Nova Scotia Round Tables on the Environment and the Economy. She was also instrumental in setting up the Canadian Environmental Network. She has served on many advisory bodies and boards, including the Auditor General of Canada’s Panel of Senior Advisors and the Canadian Commissioner of Environment and Sustainable Development’s External Advisory Panel. She has authored many papers and reports on public policy and environmental issues. “
    Quite admirable credentials.
    Now to the quotes;
    1. I have in my own experience, encountered very little scientific research which I would consider “pure scientific curiosity”. This is precisely the reason why the “scientific method” exists both as a philosophical treatise and criterion and guideline for study protocols and analysis.
    2. Terminology is the most critical factor in “statements of conclusions” in scientific studies. Scientific conclusions do not tolerate rhetoric such as “all of which have concluded that there are no significant health effects from wind turbines”. While not my academic preference, you could possibly get away with saying, “based on the research criterion and data sample, no health effects from proximity to Industrial Wind Turbines were statistically significant”. It is also important here to use terms like meta-studies correctly, making distinctions between replicated scientific studies and academic literature reviews. To make an assertion using approximated (exaggerated) estimation ie: “hundreds of studies” is an egregious supposition. I have only encountered, after extensive research, only 17 “scientific studies” (those employing scientific method) which directly address the condition of Industrial Wind Turbine noise and health. Two of these studies, with quite small sample sizes would be considered epidemiological and 15 of these studies are in fact “surveys” which are confounded by control and administration variables to the extent that they would require much replication and refinement to be indicative of any conclusions regarding health effects.
    3. A scientific study, data collection, which adheres/follows strict criterion of scientific method is not manipulated if control features are instituted stringently and appropriately. This of course depends on the integrity of the researchers/administrators, the possibility of violation of which, was for example revealed in the “Climate Gate” scandal where climate data was manipulated/forged to support the hypothesis of “global warming”. One need only acknowledge the extent to which “scientific” studies are used in the context of ideological political and economic propaganda to perceive how inappropriate and patently vulgar are the representations.
    4. As to the impartiality and virtue of the National Roundtable on the Environment and Economy, of which Susan Holtz had a professional relationship, I quote the following statement from their web site, indicative of this organizations bias towards renewable energy development policy, “At the NRT, we believe that the right policies can make us a global leader in clean energy.”

    And… Susan Holtz, should you come to read this comment I hope you will not judge me too harshly. Although I regard all religion as delusional, I do respect Quaker principles and I live adjacent to an old Quaker graveyard which I respectfully tend and in fact spend hundreds of hours yearly, cleaning , maintaining and protecting. In fact my home sits on the site of the first Quaker meeting house in Prince Edward County. I make this reference because science is my religion, so to speak, and I seek to defend the principles this entails.

  2. Paul Cole says:

    Right off I’am neither for or against windmills I just don t know the facts. A study by Health Canada will be welcomed by many I’m sure, me included.That being said a little reading should tell you where Mr Harper and his Federal Government stand in regards to environmental issues, another interesting thing to see will be whether this study actually see’s the light of day.Problem being studies that don’t reflect the Conservative Gevernments agenda tend to get shelved.Curiously waiting.

  3. Doris Lane says:

    Chris Keen and David Norman –great comments
    Have you schecked gary Mooneys comment on face book

  4. Chris Keen says:

    Gary – you are so right about governments’ motives. I am reminded of Kevin O’Leary’s statement: “I’m from the government, I’m here to help you!” At which point, run like hell.

  5. David Norman says:

    Even before I read the research protocols and methodology for this study on the Health Canada web site I realized what an extraordinarily daunting task this represented. Factoring out and mediating the possibilities for confounding variables is an intuitive work of art as much as it is a strict application of scientific method. I do not envy the authors (administrators) of this study… they have their work cut out for them. Unlike more typical public health investigations such as for example, risk factors associated with HIV or ADD, there are just so many possible confounding variables in the demographic profile alone. It is immediately notable that demographic profile is considered, and correctly so, a statistically related factor. I look forward to the results and would covet the opportunity to examine the statistical factor analysis of their data collection. For those of us who have engaged this issue, it would not hurt to express appreciation for this impetus… even scientists need a little love sometimes.

  6. Gary Mooney says:

    Two comments:

    Yes, it’s late, but it had become clear that the feds had to step in to deal with the public health issue because the provinces, especially Ontario, were not doing so.

    Having said this, we need to be skeptical about the motives of any Government. Who knows what’s driving this?

  7. Gil Charlebois says:

    OMG. Finally,some one has listened to the People!!!
    Bye Dalton,
    What an Ontario Rip Off using Green as vehicle to stick it to the public.
    Enjoy your Retirement Pension you!!!!!!!

  8. Pamela Stagg says:

    Isn’t it just a little late in the day to be conducting health studies on the effects of industrial wind tubines? And what does the government propose to do if the study confirms that there are health effects?

    I agree whole-heartedly with Chris Keen that there should be a moratorium on IWT development until this study is published.

  9. Chris Keen says:

    Although the Harper government has shown a propensity to shun science and statistics, apparently Health Canada is still able to undertake scientific studies. (I love the irony of this study being announced on the day that there is a large demonstration of government scientists in Ottawa concerned about the cuts in vital programs.)

    I would suggest that the existence of this study indicates that there may be validity to the health concerns many people have expressed which Health Canada feels is legitimate and needs serious and urgent investigation. That being the case, no IWT development should be permitted until this study is completed and published.

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