Call for moratorium on wind farms until
more environmental and health research conducted, Toronto.
As neighbouring residents of the proposed wind farm site we take issue with the report and find it to be seriously deficient in analysing the health risks posed by the construction and operation of an industrial wind farm, in such close proximity to a residential community.
We ask that a moratorium be placed on the construction of an anemometer and that no consideration be given to wind farms until the city and province provide more research on guidelines and impacts regarding the following:
1) The release and migration of sedimentary toxins and PCBs.
2) The movements of airborne particulates and carcinogens.
3) The redirection of sewage effluence from water treatment plants.
And most importantly,
4) The adverse health effects of wind turbine noise, in particular low frequency noise.
We are especially concerned with the problems of noise emissions because government officials and wind proponents tend to trivialize this matter in spite of serious underlying health hazards.
Acoustic outputs from wind turbines are complex and include not just audible sounds but also lower frequency range vibrations and infrasound which may not be heard but have a profound affect on personal health.
Despite past claims that wind turbines produced no significant infrasound, it is now overwhelmingly agreed that wind turbines do produce sound emissions in the range of less than 20Hz at sound intensities of 60-82dBA (dBC higher by 10 to 30 and dBG higher still or an additional 10-20 dB). Another key component of wind turbine factories’ sound emission is low-frequency-sound (LFS).
LFS is of great concern because it is pervasive. It has larger wavelengths and as a result, can travel much farther, because the attenuation rate is much less. It can penetrate buildings, traveling through walls and windows with greater ease, and can become even more disturbing indoors than outdoors. It exposes unsuspecting individuals both day and night.
“Widespread statements claiming that no harm is caused by in-home infrasound and LFS produced by wind factories are fallacies that cannot in good conscience continue to be perpetuated. In-home LFN generated by wind turbine factories, can lead to severe health problems.” (M. Alves-Pereira, Costello Branco- 2007 Conference)
In 1999 the WHO announced that “LFS is particularly harmful to humans or animals” and has varied effects on our health both mental and physical. LFN has been recognized as a significant contributor to the symptoms of anxiety, irritability, poor sleep quality, daytime somnolence, poor work/school performance and fatigue. More recently, it has been recognized as also contributing to the development of cardiovascular diseases, hypertension and psychiatric disorders, especially depression.
The most compelling evidence of the health effects of Low Frequency Noise has come out of European Studies. For the last 27 years Doctors C. Branco, Alves-Pereira et al, have been following a number of patients that were exposed to relatively high intensity sound levels of LFN. They found a multitude of symptoms and discovered a syndrome, which was reproducible in animal models. This syndrome is now recognized as Vibro Acoustic Disease (VAD).
VAD is the whole body pathology affecting many organs, caused by excessive exposure to low frequency noise. It is an insidious disease occurring with both short and long term exposure to LFN. Additional research on VAD has been done by Dr. Harris (U.K.), Dr. Nina Pierpont (U.S.A.) and more recently, Dr. Robert McMurtry (Canada).
We know that certain groups are more vulnerable to the ill effects of low frequency noise. At increased risk, are the elderly, young children, babies, fetuses, hearing impaired, and those with pre-existing illness, especially depression.
VAD affects both cardiac and respiratory systems. Patients have been found to have thickened heart valves, thickened linings of the heart, and thickened coronary blood vessels. Of great interest is that the coronary arteries were thickened, not from cholesterol plaque or inflammation, but from an accumulation of collagen fibres (scar tissue). Findings suggest that biomechanical forces of LFN were the cause.
There have been changes to the lining of the respiratory tract in rodents that have been exposed to LFN. Scarring was seen in the linings of the bronchi, tracheas, and alveoli. Alveoli were thickened and dilated. Recently volunteers with VAD underwent bronchoscopies to see what damage could be associated with their respiratory complaints.
Bronchoscopies done on VAD patients showed collagen disruption and degeneration of the respiratory tract similar to animal models. Bronchoscopies done for other reasons did not usually reveal such changes. Again, these changes seem to be specific to VAD.
TNO Prevention and Health (The Netherlands Organization) has information available on noise induced effects on the fetus. Two epidemiological studies showed high frequency hearing impairment in children of women exposed during pregnancy to occupational noise. There was an increase in impairment if low frequency components were present in the occupational noise environment of pregnant women. Exposure to LFN may also cause fetal growth retardation and cognitive impairment in children.
Additional studies show an increased incidence of epilepsy in people exposed to LFN. It is interesting to note that individuals who had late onset epilepsy found that their seizures subsided when they were removed from the LFN environment.
Other areas of research indicate that humans manifest stress- like responses to various aspects of wind turbines. For example problems can be caused by the prominence of the wind turbines themselves, the rotational movements, the continual flashing of strobe lights would attract the eye, noise, both audible and inaudible, as well as other multimodal sensory effects.
These reactions can lead to stress related symptoms. It has been shown that there is an activation of hormonal and autonomic systems, which can lead to changes in heart rate and blood pressure, and can cause vasoconstriction. In time, all of these can lead to a greater incidence of heart attacks, stroke, high blood pressure, kidney and respiratory disease in the general populace.
Further studies indicate that endocrinological effects due to LFN exposure exist. LFN exposure appears to be analogous to extreme stress situations. Persons exposed to LFN have increased levels of cortical and catecholamine levels. Studies also point to an increased risk of diabetes.
Exposure to LFN also has geno-toxic, immunological and hematological effects. LFN workers demonstrated an increased rate of platelet aggregation, therefore, more blood clotting risks.
To assess the effects of exposure to LFN from wind turbines, it is imperative to carry out measurements in homes close to the wind farms. The Ministry of the Environment (MOE) has been regulating noise levels using an A-weighting scale with 40dB of audible sound (including background noise) as their allowable threshold. The problem is that this does not take into consideration that non-aural physiological and psychological effects are caused by levels of LFN below the hearing threshold.
As part of the process of determining safe distances of turbines from residences, officials need to take into account that the A-weighting scale is not appropriate for measurement of LFN. C weighting should be used for measurements of LFN, and G-weighting needs to be used for infrasound.
Despite the general understanding that infrasound (<20 Hz) is inaudible, humans can perceive infrasound if the intensity of the source (dB) is sufficiently high. It is possible to feel vibrations in various parts of the body, and a sensation of pressure at the eardrums.
G.J. Leventhall states that LFN has been recognized as a special environmental noise problem. ” Conventional methods of assessing annoyance, typically based on A-weighted equivalent level are inadequate for low frequency noise.” Compounding this problem, government officials feel there has been insufficient research to support any claims of ill effects of LFN. Instead of funding wind farms to industrialize our lake, the government needs to prioritize and provide funding for research.
Wind company officials state that the newest up to date turbines with upwind rotors have virtually no emissions of LFN. However, studies from the University of Massachusetts indicate that modern turbines do emit broadband noise emissions, including LFN and infrasound.
What is particularly alarming about Toronto Hydro’s potential offshore proposal is that current knowledge shows that water based turbines behave differently than land based turbines in regard to low frequency noise emissions. Low frequency waves travel farther, there are fewer obstructions to attenuate the intensity levels and because of the reflected component off the water surface and the low jet stream above the sound source, a cylindrical type of propagation of sound occurred, followed by a funnelling phenomenon as it approached landfall. It has also been shown that offshore LFN emission from a single sound source at 113 dB(A) and 80 HZ can be detected onshore nine kilometres away!
In this context and given the health risks associated with LFN, it is entirely unacceptable and unconscionable that the McGuinty government even think about installing turbines 2-4 kilometres off the Toronto shoreline.
In Sweden, sound propagation from wind turbines over the sea 4-5 km distance was measured in 1998-1999. A higher sound pressure level in spring and early summer had been found and was linked to specific wind and temperature gradients. Again, these particulars need to be addressed with regard to the proposed Lake Ontario site.
A model to calculate the noise from offshore wind turbine factories has been developed by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency. We must follow in their footsteps to develop proper guidelines.
As an additional point, we must realize that the industrialization of Lake Ontario’s water will not just affect the health of the individual, but the health of the overall community. A study done for General Electric shows that wind turbines have an effect on essential infrastructure. “Windmills have aviation hazard flashing beacons”.dangerous for airplanes both night and daytime.” “The metallic blades chop and reflect certain types of radio signals, ruining the conformity of the communications circuit.” Further, “the windfarm can especially affect: point to point microwave, wireless computer networks, intercity wired telephone via microwave, and cellular cell-site interconnection via microwave.
Given the proximity to our city and the Pickering Nuclear Power Plant we must ensure that no potentially catastrophic radio-signal disruption affects either 911 emergency calls or signal operated emergency shutdown systems at our power plant.
Many of Ontario victims of VAD will be milking OHIP due to repetitive visits to doctors. The chronicity of some of the illnesses will cost us dearly. We need full, independent and comprehensive epidemiological studies to ensure the health and well being of our citizens. The cost benefit ratio of implementing this windfarm will be seriously be compromised by these health costs.
It is crucial to investigate how installation of high voltage lines for the proposed windfarm would affect us. With the Ripley windfarm there was a change in hydro configuration to homes enabling electrical pollution to enter via a cross contamination from the high voltage collection lines needed for the turbines.
We need to halt the government’s rush to install windfarms close to residential neighbourhoods when there is irrefutable evidence that a certain populace will be affected.
It is imperative that we implement independent and unbiased, full comprehensive epidemiological studies. We also need to enforce appropriate guidelines for onsite measurement of sound emissions, penalties when thresholds are exceeded, and guarantees that turbines with excessive emissions will be shut down until problems are rectified. We must also establish a method of restitution for those detrimentally impacted. Currently, MOE “noise” limits are exceeded in existing projects such as in the Ripley windfarm project where turbines within a one and a quarter mile distance of homes did not meet even the deficient MOE standards of 40dB..
In closing, I would like to quote Dr. McMurtry who states, “There is a way out of this dilemma. Authoritative guidelines must be established based on sound science. A well-designed epidemiological study conducted by arms length investigators, mutually agreeable to all sides must be done. In addition and far more simply, is to engage sound engineers to determine the presence or absence of low frequency noise near existing windfarms n Ontario. Anything less would be an abandonment of responsibility of the Government.”
Toronto Hydro states “The safety of the public is always a top priority.” With this in mind, it makes no sense to install a potentially hazardous windfarm, 2-4 km offshore simply because there happens to be a naturally occurring shallow shelf that would help Hydro cut costs. We cannot jeopardize the health of our community for the sake of adding a few extra experimental megawatts of energy — no matter how green and politically correct they may appear on paper. Hydro needs to honour its promise and live up to its word.
With the rush and sense of urgency to install wind farms in Ontario, we must take great heed not to make serious mistakes. We must learn from problems at existing windfarms around the world. As taxpayers and neighbouring residents of the Toronto Hydro’s proposed site, we again demand that a moratorium be placed on the installation of a costly anemometer in Lake Ontario and that no further consideration be given to the industrialization of our lake until we can be assured that there are no detrimental effects to the health of our community.