ENERGY: - A Lambton citizens group is hopeful that recent scientific literature that documents health impacts from wind turbines will provide ammunition in its battle against a planned wind farm.
The review of existing research literature was published in the winter edition of the Canadian Journal of Rural Medicine and concludes turbines placed too close to homes "can negatively affect the physical, mental and social well-being of people."
The group We're Against Industrial Turbines Plympton-Wyoming (WAIT-PW) is now touting the results in its efforts to lobby against Suncor Energy's plan to build up to 46 industrial wind turbines in rural Lambton County.
The review also states there is sufficient evidence to support the conclusion that noise from industrial wind turbines "is a potential cause of health effects."
Ontario requires wind turbines be built at least 550 metres back from neighbours, but opponents argue that's too close.
The Town of Plympton-Wyoming has a bylaw, being challenged in court by Suncor, calling for a 2-km setback for wind turbines.
"Our conclusions are finding, based on all the evidence we've collected and reviews we've done of the material, some genuinely do suffer adverse health effects," said Carman Krogh, one of the article's co-authors.
She and her co-authors have been researching the risk to human health from industrial wind turbines for about five years.
Krogh said health effects found in their literature review include headaches, ear pain, psychological distress from stress, but the number one impact reported was sleep disruption
"That's a very serious issue because it's known that chronic sleep disturbance will lead to more serious medical conditions," she said.
Ingrid Willemsen, with the group WAIT-PW, said, "In our opinion, if this literature review involved a drug, a car, a toy, there would be an immediate withdrawal of the product from the market."
Krogh said current setback distances and sound levels proposed for wind projects in Ontario "aren't working because, at the people end, we're having some pretty serious effects occurring."
That includes neighbours who are no longer able to live in their homes after turbines were built nearby, she said.
Krogh said she believes the government should stop approving wind projects to allow time to research the correct placement of turbines so health impacts can be avoided.
Kate Jordan, a spokesperson with Ontario's Environment Ministry, said Ontario is a leader in establishing clear wind turbine setbacks that protect human health and the environment, adding it has among the strictest in sound level criteria in North America.
"The ministry continues to review emerging scientific, health, acoustics and engineering studies to ensure Ontario's requirements remain in line with the best available science," she said.
Suncor's wind project for Lambton County has been posted on Ontario's Environmental Registry as part of the province's environmental approval process for renewable energy projects. Public comments are being accepted until Feb. 3.