TORONTO — Opponents of wind farms are hailing Health Canada’s decision to study the possible links between noise from the giant turbines and adverse health effects reported by people living near them.
Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced Tuesday that Ottawa will conduct the study, which “is in response to questions from residents living near wind farms about possible health effects of low-frequency noise generated by wind turbines.”
The study will initially focus on residents in 2,000 dwellings selected from eight to 12 wind-turbine installations across Canada.
Sherri Lange, CEO of North American Platform Against Wind Power (NA-PAW), said she is encouraged to see the federal government is finally undertaking a study on the safety of wind turbines.
“I hope it will be independent and at an arm’s length” from the government, said Lange, whose opposition to wind farms began with a fight to stop a proposed installation of the energy-producing towers in Lake Ontario, offshore from her east Toronto neighbourhood.
Exposure to low-frequency noise and vibrations created by wind turbines can lead to sleep disorders, headaches, depression, anxiety and even blood pressure changes, she said.
“The house vibrates, it becomes like a guitar. The noise and the vibration enters the home and it actually increases the effect.”
Lange said she hopes researchers conducting the study will listen to the stories of people, many of them farmers, who say they are suffering ill health as a result of living in close proximity to wind turbines.
“During the process of the study, they need to go and talk to these people as I have,” she said. “These are ordinary, hard-working people. They would not make up these stories in a million years. They’re trying to protect their land, their homes, their children, the legacy that they’ve built and received from their families.”
Health Canada said researchers will conduct face-to-face interviews with residents, as well as taking physical measurements such as blood pressure, and measuring noise levels both inside and outside some of the homes.
In Ontario, Conservative energy critic Vic Fedeli responded to Ottawa’s announcement by calling for an immediate moratorium on further wind power development in the province.
“The fact the federal government feels this study is necessary is reason enough to put a halt to any more wind turbines being built in Ontario right now,” Fedeli said in a release.
“I’ve been to dozens of town halls across the province and have heard the painful stories of those who’ve reported these adverse health effects,” Fedeli added.
During the last legislative session, the Conservatives put forth a proposal calling for a moratorium on wind turbines, but it was rejected by the Liberal government and NDP.
Health Canada said the proposed health-effects study design is posted on its website for a 30-day public comment period, and feedback will be reviewed by the committee putting together the study. www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ewh-semt/consult/—2012/wind—turbine-eoliennes/index- eng.php.
Results are expected to be published in 2014.