Wind turbines' effects on health to be studied by Ottawa

A study on the noise and health effects of wind turbines will be conducted by Health Canada and Statistics Canada following complaints from people in the area of such installations.

Public comments part of Health Canada-Statistics Canada review

Several hundred people from across Ontario and the eastern U.S. hold a rally in Toronto in April against wind turbine expansion in the province, citing rising energy costs and health risks. Health Canada now says it will investigate complaints against wind turbines. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

A study on the noise and health effects of wind turbines will be conducted by Health Canada and Statistics Canada following complaints from people living in the area of such installations.

"This study is in response to questions from residents living near wind farms about possible health effects of low-frequency noise generated by wind turbines," said Minister of Health Leona Aglukkaq in a release Tuesday.

The study will look at the relationship between complaints about noise and health effects with what has been "objectively measured" in people living near wind power installations, the release said.

Health Canada said the study is being designed with external experts in areas including:

  • Noise.
  • Health assessment.
  • Clinical medicine.
  • Epidemiology.

The release notes that Health Canada has experience in assessing the health impacts of noise from its role in administering the Radiation Emitting Devices Act, which defines noise as a form of radiation.

"As always, our government is putting the health and safety of Canadians first and this study will do just that by painting a more complete picture of the potential health impacts of wind turbine noise," Aglukkaq said in the release.

Jane Wilson, president of Wind Concerns Ontario, welcomed the study announcement and called for an immediate halt to approvals for large-scale wind-turbine projects in the province.

"We have been saying this for years as people in Ontario exposed to turbine noise and infrasound are being made ill," Wilson, a registered nurse, said in a release Tuesday.

"We have demanded health studies, we have demanded research to back up the province's assertion that its setbacks are safe. And yet the province issued approvals for these projects with no scientific evidence to prove they were safe. Now, Health Canada's admission that research is needed is confirming that."

During Ontario's 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 the NDP.

The proposed research design and methodology was posted on Health Canada's website Tuesday for a 30-day public comment period, the release said. Public feedback will be reviewed and a response will be posted to the site at a later date.

The study will initially focus on a sample of 2,000 homes around eight to 12 wind turbine developments in Canada, Health Canada said. It will include physical measurements from participants, such as blood pressure, as well as interviews and noise measurements inside and outside some homes.

Results of the study are expected in 2014.

With files from the Canadian Press