Fact Check

Fact Check: Wind energy cleans air, protects health

Wind power is a safe way to generate electricity.
Fact Check: Wind energy cleans air, protects health
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Although hundreds of thousands of people around the world peacefully live near wind farms, and despite numerous credible studies finding no adverse links between wind turbines and human health, anti-renewable energy groups continue to spread false information with the intent of scaring people into believing the contrary.

This leads to the well-documented and scientifically proven nocebo effect (the opposite of the more well-known placebo effect), whereby perceived health conditions are developed after reading/hearing about them.  It’s a shame that Jillian Melchior would perpetuate harmful rhetoric – indeed, this is the only documented health effect related to wind turbines –  those who are misled into believing they will experience symptoms do when exposed to false rhetoric.

The fact is data show wind turbines have no adverse effect on human health. Following are a few examples of the most current positions of public health experts who have examined this issue in depth:

  • “Based on our ongoing review of scientific literature about wind turbines and health, DHS continues to conclude that levels of noise, shadow flicker, and infrasound measured from contemporary wind turbines do not reach exposure levels associated with objectively-verifiable human health concerns.” Wisconsin Department of Health Services
  • A Massachusetts study found no evidence for a set of health effects from exposure to wind turbines or for the existence what some have tried to characterize as “Wind Turbine Syndrome.”
  • A major 2014 study by Health Canada (the Canadian equivalent of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) found wind farm sound has no effect on human health, although it may contribute to annoyance. This was the most comprehensive and multi-disciplinary study on the issue to date involving a team of esteemed international researchers.
  • Also in December 2014, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) issued a report that provides a comprehensive review of scientific literature on wind turbines and human health. Their finding was the same: wind turbines do not affect human health.
  • “The scientific evidence available to date does not demonstrate a direct causal link between wind turbine noise and adverse health effects. The sound level from wind turbines at common residential setbacks is not sufficient to cause hearing impairment or other direct health effects, although some people may find it annoying.” Chief Medical Officer of Health of the Province of Ontario, Canada.

As noted by these examples, credible public health professionals in the U.S. and international community have found that sounds from wind turbines does not have adverse direct impacts on human health.  Had this author, Jillian Melchior, done a little more research, she would have found multiple public health professionals discredited the sources she cited, noting they were unreliable. A quick review of the letters responding to Melchior’s sources, written by doctors and other health professionals, offers the following critiques:

  • “Much of the evidence demonstrating the alleged link between wind turbine exposure and health effects has been methodologically flawed due to small sample sizes, the potential for substantial selection bias, and flawed sampling methods.”
  • “I asked almost every physician with expertise about wind turbines and health in Canada if they had been asked to review this article and none had. The article is replete with unreferenced and often alarmist statements, selective citations (e.g. quoting the WHO definition of health to support the concept that annoyance itself is a health effect, without mentioning that the WHO does not use annoyance as a measured health end point) and statements relying on unscientific references. If these were edited from the article, little would remain. The omission of discussion about the plethora of evidence that contradicts the thesis of the authors is especially troubling for a peer-reviewed article in a leading journal.”

The fact is there are now more than 20 peer-reviewed studies from around the world refuting the claim that wind farms negatively impact human health. These studies come from doctors and scientists, while detractors have relied on faulty analysis from people like retired pharmacists.

In reality, wind power has great public health benefits. By reducing harmful air pollution that creates smog and triggers asthma attacks, wind created $7.3 billion in health benefits last year alone. That’s the real story, despite what special interests would have you believe.

Fact Check

John M. Anderson is Senior Director of Siting Policy for the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). In this capacity Anderson is an industry leader in the area of siting policy and advocacy, and guides the industry in addressing siting issues as they relate to wildlife, sound/health impacts, property values, visual and cultural resources, aviation, and radar. He has long been involved in some of the key siting challenges facing the industry, including issues related to threatened and endangered avian and bat species. Prior to joining AWEA, Anderson was Eastern Regional Manager of Environmental Affairs for BP Wind Energy where he was the senior environmental permitting and policy advisor responsible for the development of new wind energy projects in the eastern half of the U.S. as well as management of post-construction environmental issues at BP Wind’s operating facilities across the U.S. Anderson has a B.S. in Environmental Science and Management and a minor in Environmental Law from the University of Rhode Island and has over 20 years of professional experience in the areas of environmental analysis, planning, permitting, and regulation.

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