Wind turbines: Claims of adverse health effects unfounded

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As she presents her opinions in the May 2 issue of the Sun Journal, I am sure Dr. Monique Aniel is concerned, and sincere. Sadly, however, she is also far off on the wrong track and, as a physician, I must admit I would expect much more from her.

Her opening sentence raises the hope that she will be addressing the real, overriding issue of climate change and its effects. Most unfortunately, however, she immediately verges off into inaccurate and unfounded criticism of Dora Ann Mills M.D., director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, alleging that Dr. Mills’ statements “are not based on peer-reviewed studies, but are merely opinions without concrete substantiation.”

Au contraire. Again, as a physician, and one with interest in wind, I would have expected Dr. Aniel to be familiar with “Wind Turbine Sound and Health Effects — An Expert Panel Review,” which is a major peer review by experts from the U.S. and Britain. That it was prepared for the American and Canadian Wind Energy Associations does not alter the value of the myriad papers it covers.

Renewable Energy of Vermont, in a February 2010 webinar, supported wind power and did not note any health effects from turbines.

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In June 2008 in “The Health Impact of Wind Turbines — A Review of the Current White, Grey, and Published Literature,” the Chatham-Kent Public Health Unit in Ontario, Canada, found no credible support for adverse health effects of wind turbines.

The Wisconsin Public Service Commission, Oct. 20, 2009, received a review by Exponent, the “Evaluation of the Scientific Literature on the Health Effects Associated with Wind Turbines and Low Frequency Sound.” The conclusion was negative in regard to any credible support of adverse health effects from wind turbines.

It was suggested that Dr. Mills talk to the “real people” of Mars Hill and Vinalhaven and, in fact, I have done that. Although there are a few — some 20 or so at Mars Hill and fewer than that on Vinalhaven — who find the noise troubling, the general sense is of approval and acceptance.

Dr. Aniel might also benefit from reading “Climate Change: The Public Health Response,” in the March 2008 American Journal of Public Health, where all physicians are called upon to educate the public regarding the effects of climate change, and ways in which we can, to some degree, prepare for them. Becoming familiar with the work of Dr. Paul Mayeski at the University of Maine regarding climate change would be helpful as well.

Although climate change has been part of the world’s history “forever,” there is no longer any doubt that human activity has produced a major acceleration in the rate, as Dr Mayeski’s ice core research demonstrates. As well, this was clearly documented in October 2009 in a report by the Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, “Climate Change in the Casco Bay Watershed” — required reading for all of us.

In 2004, two professors at Princeton University, Drs. Stephen Pacala and Robert Socolow, wrote of “stabilization wedges,” such as conservation, solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, biomass, nuclear and whatever else might come along as an alternate energy source. None of these alone would be sufficient, and even all together will not stop the progress of climate change, but with conservation as a very solid base, there is reasonable hope that climate change can be slowed in order to give us more time to adapt.

As I consider the opposition to wind, I wonder how much selfishness is involved. Change is often difficult — we like familiarity, the “way things were.” We want the mountains, the sea, the birds, bats and trees to stay the same. Which is natural and would be OK, except for the inexorable and inevitable changes nature is bringing.

So are we selfishly holding on for now, ignoring the fact that if we do not react strongly and immediately, they will not be there for our children and grandchildren? Will we blindly accept what nature forces upon us, or will we do what we can to modify and mitigate the changes that are coming?

Richard K Jennings, M.D., lives in Fayette.

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