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Ontario Study to Probe Health Effects of New Wind Farm

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For the first time, researchers have designed and initiated a broad-scale study that will provide enough data to begin to answer one of the key questions looming over wind energy development: do turbines close to residences create negative health effects?  The researchers sent health surveys to 1000 residents near a proposed wind farm; between 150 and 200 returned the survey, and received follow-up questionnaires as the wind farm completed construction.  Later rounds of study will seek to discover whether any reported changes in health are related to distance from the wind turbines, as well as correlating reported problems to individuals’ initial feelings about the new wind farm.   According lead researcher Neal Michelutti of Queen’s University,“To our knowledge there are no other studies that have investigated health impacts prior to, during and after wind turbine construction. There have been some instances where people living close to turbines have reported certain health effects, such as sleeplessness, anxiety, tinnitus, nausea, to name a few. However, without baseline health data measured prior to turbine construction, it is difficult to reach any definitive conclusions regarding health impacts of turbines.” The 86-turbine wind farm began operations on June 26, with turbines as close as 400m (a quarter mile) from homes.  The most important effect of this research will be to help clarify whether health and sleep impacts are simply related to one’s pre-existing attitude about the wind farm (as industry proponents tend to believe), or whether larger setbacks could reduce health problems (as local citizen groups urge).  Michelutti notes that “”What’s important to note is no one on this study is against windmills. I think most people think windmills are great, but the question is does it make sense to build them on top of communities? Really what we’re hoping our study can contribute is information on proper setbacks for the turbines.”  See coverage of this study in the Toronto Globe and Mail and a Queen’s University press release here.

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