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Are Ontario wind farm protests about health concerns or property values?

Ontario wind farm
Ontario wind farm
Most all wind farm opponents, including those in the recent Clearview case, present evidence citing the potential health risks wind farms present. But a comprehensive recent study says wind turbine sickness is a myth.

A controversial wind farm proposal in Clearview, Ontario appears to have hit a snag, as yesterday the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled that its opponents have the right to launch legal action against it if and when it is approved.

The decision was hailed as a victory for opponents of the proposed project. Eric Gillespie, whose firm Cunningham & Gillespie LLP is acting for the plaintiffs in the action says: “There are many people who have been waiting to see how the courts would respond to these types of claims. It now seems clear that as soon as a project is approved residents can start a claim. This appears to be a major step forward for people with concerns about industrial wind projects across Ontario.”

The proposal, by developer WPD Canada Limited, was to build eight wind turbines. It was rejected by Clearview township 7-2 last August. A report drafted by the town’s director of planning and development, Michael Wynia, cited, among other factors, concerns about health risks and noise levels.

Gillespie, whose firm has acted for clients in at least ten other cases in Ontario where wind farms have been approved, says he expects more legal action as a result of the Ontario Superior Court’s decision. The court, noted the firm, acknowledged a 22% to 50% loss of property values in affected areas. Last year Gillespie told the the Toronto Star that in the East Lake St. Clair wind project near Wallaceburg, Ontario, some claimants should be compensated for the full value of their properties because they could find no buyers at all.

Last August, WPD Canada was hit with a $14-million civil lawsuit from Prince Edward County residents concerned that the company’s 29-turbine White Pines wind project would negatively affect their property values.

So are these cases against wind farms about health concerns or property values?

Most all wind farm opponents, including those in the Clearview case, present evidence citing the potential health risks wind farms present. In this case, the court heard from Dr. Robert McMurtry, whom Cunnigham and Gillespie describe as a “medical doctor and internationally recognized and published author on the health effects of industrial wind turbines.”

McMurtry told the court that “There is also a high probability that the proposal will cause one or more of the following adverse health effects at the plaintiffs’ properties: sleep disturbance, annoyance, headache, tinnitus, ear pressure, dizziness, vertigo, nausea, visual blurring, tachycardia, irritability, problems with concentration and memory, and/or panic episodes.”

But a comprehensive recent study says wind turbine sickness is a myth.

Simon Chapman, professor of public health at Sydney University, looked at wind farms in Australia and found that more than two-thirds of complaints that had been made by people living near wind farms were in areas that were heavily targeted by anti-wind farm lobbyists.

“The advent of anti-wind farm groups beginning to foment concerns about health (from around 2009) was also strongly correlated with actual complaints being made,” says the report.

Chapman, in a piece written last year for Australian news site The Conversation says the medical evidence against wind farms is less than thin.

“…wind turbine syndrome” (which incidentally produces zero returns from the United States National Library of Medicine’s 23 million research papers) is what we can call a “communicated” disease: it spreads via the nocebo effect by being talked about, and is thereby a strong candidate for being defined as a psychogenic condition.”

Chapman says the medical evidence simply doesn’t stand up to peer review.

“There have now been 17 reviews of the available evidence about wind farms and health, published internationally. These are reviews of all studies, not single pieces of research. Each of these reviews have concluded that wind turbines can annoy a minority of people in their vicinity, but that there is no strong evidence that they make people ill,” notes Chapman. “The reviews conclude that pre-existing negative attitudes to wind farms are generally stronger predictors of annoyance than residential distance to the turbines or recorded levels of noise. In other words, people who don’t like wind farms can often be annoyed and worried by them: some might even worry themselves sick.”

No one wants the value of their property to fall because of any project, and Ontario residents should have sympathy for those people who have seen the value of theirs drop by half, in some cases. But the peer reviewed evidence dispelling wind farm sickness raises should raise a simple, singular point: why should property values be dropping at all?

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About The Author /

Cantech Letter founder and editor Nick Waddell has lived in five Canadian provinces and is proud of his country's often overlooked contributions to the world of science and technology. Waddell takes a regular shift on the Canadian media circuit, making appearances on CTV, CBC and BNN, and contributing to publications such as Canadian Business and Business Insider.
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  1. Simon Chapman’s “study” has some pretty shaky conclusions and is not peer reviewed. Chapman who is not a medical doctor can only think of one possible hypothesis for wind turbine health complaints. Now he has sunk to a new professional low by publicly calling the people suffering from ill health and “professional victims”. Any highschool science class could think of all kinds of alternative hypothesis which blow large holes into Chapman’s hypothesis.
    For instance:
    1) perhaps there are more health complaints after 2009 because more wind turbines have been built since than. More turbines equals more people exposed to increased noise levels which leads to more health complaints.
    2)Every year wind turbines have increased in size and height while the setback distances are unchanged. Perhaps there is a correlation between increased size, increased noise output in the lower frequency range and more health complaints.
    3)If health complaints are caused by negative news as Chapman hypothesises than what caused the health complaints in people pre 2009?
    Finally I wish to note that once again we have another so called “study” that from afar blames victims for their health problems without ever interviewing or medically assessing ONE single person who claims to be suffering health effects living next to wind turbines. Which begs the question; What is Chapman afraid of?

  2. The claims that Simon Chapman makes about the 17 reviews have been thoroughly discredited. Of the 17 “reviews” only 4 are actual studies, the rest are only literature reviews. Only 4 out of the 17 papers are actually peer reviewed. 3 aren’t even about wind turbines and human health and one of them is just a web page from CANWEA, which hardly qualifies as a health study by any standards. Furthermore the 4 peer reviewed papers were mail in surveys and no face to face interviews with residents were conducted. Nor did they take physical measurements like blood pressure readings or noise measurements inside or outside of homes to validate sound modeling.

  3. Here are 19 peer reviewed articles regarding adverse health effects and industrial wind turbines:
    1)The Problems With ”Noise Numbers” for Wind Farm Noise Assessment
    Bob Thorne
    2)Evaluating the impact of wind turbine noise
    on health related quality of life
    by Daniel Shepherd, David McBride, David Welch, Kim N. Dirks, Erin M. Hill
    3)Mitigating the Acoustic Impacts of Modern Technologies:
    Acoustic, Health, and Psychosocial Factors
    Informing Wind Farm Placement
    Daniel Shepherd and Rex Billington
    4)Public Health Ethics, Legitimacy, and the Challenges of Industrial Wind Turbines:
    The Case of Ontario, Canada
    Martin Shain
    5)Infrasound From Wind Turbines Could Affect Humans
    Alec N. Salt and James A.Kaltenbach Infrasound
    6)Responses of the ear to low frequency sounds,
    infrasound and wind turbines.
    Alec N. Salt and T.E. Hullar.
    Department of Otolaryngology,
    Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO, 63110, USA.
    7)Occupational Health and Industrial Wind Turbines: A Case Study
    Robert W. Rand, Stephen E. Ambrose, and Carmen M. E. Krogh
    8)Properly Interpreting the Epidemiologic Evidence About the Health Effects
    of Industrial Wind Turbines on Nearby Residents
    Carl V. Phillips
    9)Toward a Case Definition of Adverse Health Effects
    in the Environs of Industrial Wind Turbines:
    Facilitating a Clinical Diagnosis
    Robert Y. McMurtry
    10)Low-frequency noise from large wind turbines
    Henrik Møller and Christian Sejer Pedersen
    Section of Acoustics, Aalborg University,
    Fredrik Bajers Vej
    11)WindVOiCe, a Self-Reporting Survey: Adverse Health Effects,
    Industrial Wind Turbines, and the Need for Vigilance Monitoring
    Carmen M.E. Krogh, Lorrie Gillis, Nicholas Kouwen, and Jeffery Aramini
    12)Industrial Wind Turbine Development and Loss of Social Justice?
    Carmen M.E. Krogh
    13)Wind Turbines Make Waves:
    Why Some Residents Near Wind Turbines Become Ill
    Magda Havas and David Colling
    14)Literature Reviews on Wind Turbines and Health : Are They Enough?
    Brett Horner, Roy D. Jeffery and Carmen M. E. Krogh
    15)Editorial Wind turbine noise Christopher D Hanning and Alun Evans
    British Medical Journal,
    16)Wind Turbine Noise
    John P. Harrison
    17)The Noise from Wind Turbines: Potential Adverse Impacts on Children’s Well-Being
    Arline L. Bronzaft
    Response to:
    The Northumberland County Council Core
    Issues and Options Report Consultations
    Dr Christopher Hanning
    19)Effects of industrial wind turbine noise on sleep and health
    Michael A. Nissenbaum, Jeffery J. Aramini1, Christopher D. Hanning

  4. An update on this story: Prince Edward County anti-wind were thoroughly embarrassed in court when it was found that 100% of sufferers were found to have pre-existing conditions that could explain their symptoms. Even more embarrassing, one such individual was given a sound meter for inside her home and a remote to activate it whenever she was feeling the effects from the turbine. The result was that 40% of the time the turbine wasn’t even active but she still managed to feel its effects. She recorded her level of discomfort as between 4 and 8 during these non-events. (See Ostrander Point case)

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