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Northumberland Today — Part 2: Health unit hears results of study of people living close to wind turbines

Valerie MacDonald — April 24, 2013

NORTHUMBERLAND – Ontario’s Green Energy Act, encouraging development of alternative renewable energy to feed into the existing power grid of hydro towers, lines and transformers which crisscross this province, has affected rural residents most significantly. Here in Northumberland County, meetings about the impact of green energy have taken place and are continuing to be scheduled. Hamilton Township, for instance, is organizing a public meeting with speakers to ascertain whether it should declare itself an “unwilling host” for future mega-wind and -solar projects. A grassroots organization, The Alliance for the Protection of the Northumberland Hills, has held its own meetings related to wind power, going so far as to file a lawsuit against a proposed Grafton wind farm development that has now been called off. And at the same time, the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit is hearing from experts on both sides of the wind power question before deciding whether to petition the Province of Ontario for a moratorium.

The following is the second in a series of three stories about wind power as viewed by various organizations and experts.

As board members of the local health unit grapple with taking a position on wind power and whether to petition the Ontario Government to impose a moratorium while awaiting further study on possible health affects due to wind turbines, they are updating their research through a series of speakers. Having already heard from the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment which supports industrial wind power generation, at last Thursday’s Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit board meeting they also heard, via teleconference, from Dr. Jeffery J. Aramini of Intelligent Health Solutions. His was a study undertaken with two other researchers into industrial wind turbines in Maine and one of the authors he described as a “sleep specialist.”

The preamble to the study published last fall, in conjunction with Michael Nissenbaum and Christopher Hanning of The Society for Wind Vigilance, states that “industrial wind turbines are a new source of noise in previously quiet rural environments.

“Environmental noise is a public health concern of which sleep disruptions is a major factor,” the study states.

Aramini, who lives north of Fergus where a wind farm is proposed, said he was asked to get involved in the matter by his neighbours. As an epidemiologist who previously worked in public health for a decade, he undertook a study during the spring of 2010 of “risk factors and health outcomes” with 40 people living within 1.5 kilometres of turbines and the same number living between 1.5 and five kilometres from turbines. The turbines were to generate 1.5 megawatts of power.

Members of both groups were asked a set of questions related to their condition before wind turbine installation took place, and after.

Those living closer had “markedly worse sleep,” Aramini said. And 47% more people living 1,400 metres away were “at risk of clinical depression” when compared to those living three kilometres away.

Current Ontario standards for wind turbine setbacks are 550 metres.

Another finding was that 9% of the group living closest were diagnosed with anxiety, compared to none of those living three to seven kilometres away from the wind turbines.

The results of the study found that sleep and mental health were adversely affected the closer people lived to industrial wind turbines, he said.  Continue reading, here….

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