Health Canada study “too little, too late”: McMurtry and Krogh

CMAJ November 28, 2014

Carmen Krogh, BScPharm (retired), is a peer reviewed IWT health researcher and former Director of Publications and Editor-in-Chief of the CPS.

R Y McMurtry is Professor Emeritus (Surgery) of Western University (formerly University of Western Ontario). Dr. McMurtry was also an ADM at Health Canada 2000-02


Industrial wind turbines (IWTs) are being erected at rapid pace around the world. Coinciding with the introduction of IWTs, some individuals living in proximity to IWTs report adverse health effects including annoyance, sleep disturbance, stress-related health impacts and reduced quality of life. [i],[ii],[iii],[iv],[v],[vi],[vii],[viii],[ix],[x],[xi],[xii] In some cases Canadian families reporting adverse health effects have abandoned their homes, been billeted away from their homes or hired legal counsel to successfully reach a financial agreement with the wind energy developer.[xiii]

To help address public concern over these health effects Health Canada (HC) announced the Health Canada Wind Turbine Noise and Health Study (HC Study) 2 years ago and brought forth preliminary results November 6, 2014.

Here we briefly comment on the HC Study results and provide some historical context.

Acknowledgement of IWT adverse health effects is not new. The term “annoyance” frequently appears when discussing IWT health effects.

In a 2009 letter the Honourable Rona Ambrose, disclosed:

“Health Canada provides advice on the health effect of noise and low-frequency electric and magnetic fields from proposed wind turbine projects…To date, their examination of the scientific literature on wind turbine noise is that the only health effect conclusively demonstrated from exposure to wind turbine noise is an increase of self-reported general annoyance and complaints (i.e., headaches, nausea, tinnitus, vertigo).” [xiv]

In 2009, the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) sponsored a literature review which acknowledges the reported symptoms such as headaches, nausea, tinnitus, vertigo and state they “… are not new and have been published previously in the context of “annoyance”…” and are the “… well-known stress effects of exposure to noise …”[xv]

In 2011, a health survey of people exposed to IWTs in Ontario reported altered quality of life, sleep disturbance, excessive tiredness, headaches, stress and distress. [xvi]

In the same year, CanWEA posted a media release which advised those impacted by wind turbine annoyance stating “The association has always acknowledged that a small percentage of people can be annoyed by wind turbines in their vicinity. … When annoyance has a significant impact on an individual’s quality of life, it is important that they consult their doctor.”[xvii]

It turns out it’s not a small percentage of people annoyed by wind turbines. An Ontario Government report concluded a non-trivial percentage of persons are expected to be highly annoyed.

The December 2011 report prepared by a member of CanWEA for the Ontario Ministry of Environment states in the conclusions:

“The audible sound from wind turbines, at the levels experienced at typical receptor distances in Ontario, is nonetheless expected to result in a non-trivial percentage of persons being highly annoyed. As with sounds from many sources, research has shown that annoyance associated with sound from wind turbines can be expected to contribute to stress related health impacts in some persons.”[xviii]

The World Health Organization (WHO) acknowledges noise induced annoyance to be a health effect [xix] and the results of WHO research “…confirmed, on an epidemiological level, an increased health risk from chronic noise annoyance…”[xx]

HC also acknowledges noise induced annoyance to be an adverse health effect. [xxi],[xxii] The Principal Investigator of the recent HC Study also states “noise-induced annoyance is an adverse health effect”. [xxiii]

Canadian Government sponsored research has found statistically significant relationships from IWT noise exposure.

A 2014 review article in the Canadian Journal of Rural Medicine reports:

“In 2013, research funded by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment indicated a statistically significant relation between residents’ distance from the turbine and the symptoms of disturbed sleep, vertigo and tinnitus, and recommended that future research focus on the effects of wind turbine noise on sleep disturbance and symptoms of inner ear problems.” [xxiv]

Recently on November 6, 2014, HC posted on its website preliminary results of its HC Study[xxv]. Wind turbine noise “…. annoyance was found to be statistically related to several self-reporting health effects including, but not limited to, blood pressure, migraines, tinnitus, dizziness, scores on the PSQI, and perceived stress” as well as related to “measured hair cortisol, systolic and diastolic blood pressure.”

These troubling results come as no surprise. Since at least 2007 HC employees including the Principal Investigator of the HC Study recommended wind turbine noise criteria which they predict will result in adverse health effects. (i.e. result in an increase percentage highly annoyed).[xxvi],[xxvii],[xxviii]

Then turbines were built and HC spent 2.1 million dollars to find out it appears to have under predicted the impact of IWT noise. HC’s IWT noise criteria does not use a dose response based on IWT noise but rather road noise. But of course IWTs are not cars and peer-reviewed studies consistently document that IWTs produce sound that is perceived to be more annoying than transportation or industrial noise at comparable sound pressure levels. [xxix],[xxx]

IWT noise annoyance starts at dBA sound pressure levels in the low 30s and rises sharply at 35 dBA as compared to road noise which starts at 55 dBA. These findings are further supported by the HC Study’s preliminary results. [xxxi]

IWT noise characteristics that are identified as plausible causes for reported health effects include amplitude modulation, audible low- frequency noise (LFN), infrasound, tonal noise, impulse noise and night-time noise. [xxxii]

The logical solution would be to develop IWT noise criteria which will protect human health but that would present a barrier to wind energy development. Noise limits impacts IWT siting, cost of energy produced [xxxiii] and by extension corporate profits. The wind energy industry has actively lobbied governments to be granted IWT noise exposure limits which benefit their industry.

Canadians trying to understand this should be mindful the Government of Canada has invested and distributed significant amounts of public money to attract and support the wind energy industry. [xxxiv],[xxxv],[xxxvi],[xxxvii],[xxxviii],[xxxix],[xl],[xli] In addition to providing funding, the Government of Canada in collaboration with wind industry stakeholders has developed the Wind Technology Road Map (Wind TRM) [xlii] which Natural Resources Canada defined to be an “…industry-led, government supported initiative that has developed a long-term vision for the Canadian wind energy industry …”.[xliii]

Canada’s Wind TRM states “Members of the Steering Committee, government and our industry will be using this roadmap to direct the actions that are necessary for Canada to develop its vast wind resources.”[xliv] HC is a member of the Interdepartmental Wind Technology Road Map Committee [xlv] which was created to assist in the implementation of Canada’s Wind TRM. [xlvi] One of the “key action items” detailed in the Wind TRM calls for Government and Industry collaboration to develop and maintain government documents that address concerns raised about wind energy projects including that of noise, infrasound and other. [xlvii]

Some jurisdictions are trying to take action to protect their residents. For example, several municipalities in Ontario are trying to establish bylaws that protect from IWT noise. In Wisconsin, on October 14, 2014 the Brown County Board of Health unanimously approved a motion to declare the IWTs at a local project a Human Health Hazard. [xlviii]

It would appear HC’s research effort is too little too late. A non-trivial percentage of Canadians continue to experience adverse health effects. HC now has additional scientific evidence of the “conclusively demonstrated” effects from exposure to IWT noise. It is time for HC to take action to help Canadians maintain and improve their health.

Read the full posting and see the references on the Canadian Medical Association Journal blog, here.

Denise Wolfe review report released

A thorough review by Denise Wolfe
A thorough review by Denise Wolfe

One of the panel Wind Concerns Ontario convened to review the documents and material currently available to the public for the Health Canada Wind Turbine Noise and Health study was Denise Wolfe.

Denise is with the Association to Protect Amherst Island, a WCO member group; she is also on the Board of Directors for Wind Concerns Ontario, and has led several seminars assisting WCO members in conducting audits of wind power developer documentation.

While WCO tried in our report to include the highlights of all our reviewers’ analysis, you might be interested in the depth of Denise’s report, which is here: HC DeniseWolfeIWT Noise Study Comments Final 26Nov2014

Ontario’s $10-million DAY

Ontario: more to worry about than inside-out umbrellas
Ontario: more to worry about than inside-out umbrellas

Ontario throws another $10 million into the wind—in just one day

The wind was howling throughout Ontario November 24, 2014 and the wind turbines were cranking out power that Ontario didn’t need.  It cost Ontario’s ratepayers over $10 million dollars for just one day.

Wind generated 45,527 megawatt hours (MWh) that day and another 7,200 MWh were constrained.  At $135/MWh the power generated cost about $6.1 million and the constrained wind production cost another $900,000.

At the same time, Ontario was steaming off 6 to 7,000 MWh at Bruce Nuclear paying for that, and paying idling gas plants designed to back up wind and solar generation  The former represented a cost to ratepayers of about $400,000 and the latter about $3.7 million.  The foregoing costs came to about $11.1 million for just that one day.

While that was happening, Ontario was exporting our excess MWh and that day we supplied Michigan, New York, Quebec, etc. with 65,616 MWh at an average price of $11.18 (not a weighted average) generating revenue of about $700,000. In short, the day cost Ontario’s ratepayers well over $10 million with the other exported 20,000 MWh costs factored in.

Energy Minister Chiarelli should inform Finance Minister Sousa that he knows where that missing $509 million in the underground economy is going and just who is responsible!

© Parker Gallant,

November 26, 2014

The views expressed are those of the author.

WCO responds to the Health Canada Noise and Health study summary


Wind Concerns Ontario advises results summary and public pamphlet be withdrawn

November 25, 2014

On November 6, 2014, Health Canada released its long-awaited results of the $2.1-million, publicly funded Wind Turbine Noise and Health Study. Only, it didn’t: what was released in a whirlwind public relations effort was a summary of the study results—no data was presented, nor was there a full formal report, or a publication that had undergone the promised “peer” review, by scientists.

Wind Concerns Ontario immediately convened an expert panel to review the documents available (the summary plus a PowerPoint presentation, and basic study details available on the government website) and has produced a summary report of their comments. The panel consisted of several university professors with expertise in physics and acoustics, as well as an epidemiologist, and a health researcher.

The unanimous conclusion of the expert panel is that the study design was flawed; even so, there are clear findings of a relationship between wind turbine noise and adverse health effects.

Key findings from the review panel:

  • Study summary was released prematurely, without a full report, expected peer review, supporting data or analysis
  • Study design was to raise questions but Health Canada concludes inappropriately there is “no association” between turbine noise and adverse health effects; however, the study does find significant correlation between turbine noise and annoyance (an established adverse health effect)—these statements contradict
  • Population sample used included people who were getting a direct benefit from wind power development including money
  • A significant number of addresses were found to have vacant homes or houses that had been demolished—the reasons for this were not explored
  • Work on infrasound and low frequency noise is completely inadequate, say acoustics experts. One hour averages were used (in summer, the season of low wind); also industry-sourced estimates of yearly averages were used in place of actual in-home noise measurement
  • Numerous biases and other errors affect the credibility of some of the study results, as presented in the summary

As the stakeholder group in Ontario, a coalition of community groups and individuals concerned about the impact of industrial-scale wind power generation projects on human health, the environment, and the economy, Wind Concerns Ontario wishes to express its disappointment in Health Canada, which has as its goal the protection of the health of Canadians, using sound science.

Wind Concerns Ontario sent a letter today to the Minister of Health, the Honourable Rona Ambrose, together with the summary of our review panel comments, and a series of recommendations.

We recommend that:

  • Health Canada should remove the summary findings from the Health Canada website in their current version
  • Health Canada should release the final report only after it has gone through the normal peer-review process and been accepted for publication in a recognized academic journal
  • Health Canada should return to the study areas and present the study findings in a series of public meetings, as befitting a publicly-funded research project
  • Health Canada should rescind the “pamphlet” in its current form and if such a publication is deemed necessary, remove the claims about the “comprehensive” nature of the study, and further, affix the disclaimer more prominently.

Please read the full commentary document based on our review panel input here. WCO-HCanResponseFINAL

 Review panel

The following have given permission for their names to be released:

John Harrison, PhD (physics)

Kevin A Dooley, PhD, PEng (fluid dynamics, sound, vibration)

Denise Wolfe (health research)

Joan Morris, MHSc (epidemiology)

Ron Hartlen (Research, electricity utilities, infrasound)



What the Fraser Institute Report really means

It’s been a few weeks since Ross McKitrick and Tom Adams released their report for the Fraser Institute, and the media flurry has now died down.

But many of the thoughts expressed in that report are worth thinking about, and using as goals for the future in Ontario.

Economist Bob Lyman has prepared a brief summary of the most important points, which we offer here: WHAT GOES UP …

For example:

The report offers six suggestions for reducing the costs of power to Ontario.

  • Add no more high-cost hydroelectric units to the current generating mix.
  • Impose a moratorium on new wind and solar contracts and terminate existing FIT contracts that have not yet reached what the OPA calls a Notice to Proceed.
  • Rescind existing long-term FIT contracts and subject renewables to market competition.
  • Maintain 4 of 12 coal units in an operable state, after completing their current conversion to clean-burning units.
  • Explore the possibility of contracting for firm supplies of electricity from Quebec to bridge nuclear refurbishment and avoid the need for costly storage.
  • Subject nuclear refurbishment to a cost-benefit test. Nuclear refurbishment should be undertaken only if the project will pay for itself and the risk of a cost overrun is placed on the private sector.

Wind farm developer tried to hide bird death data

wind farm

Jenna Iacurci, Nature World News, November 19, 2014

It’s come to the public’s attention that a wind farm company operating in the United States filed a lawsuit last month in an attempt to hide the number of bird deaths that occurred from their energy-saving turbines.

Pacificorp of Portland, Oregon, is seeking an injunction in US District Court in Utah to prevent the Interior Department from releasing this confidential information, The Associated Press (AP) reported.

Wind farms contain clusters of turbines that can reach 30 stories tall and spin up to 170 mph. With spinning rotors creating tornado-like vortexes, it’s no wonder that migratory birds, including protected species like the bald eagle, get caught in their line of fire.

Last year, a study surfaced revealing that 573,000 birds and 888,000 bats were being killed each year by wind turbines, more than 30 percent higher than federal government estimates.

This latest lawsuit suggests that that may be in part due to companies like Pacificorp trying to keep their real wind farm birds deaths under wraps.

When the government informed Pacificorp and other similar companies last month of their intent to release this information, Pacificorp then retaliated with a lawsuit filed on Oct. 17. It argued that keeping the number of bird deaths secret was actually in the public’s best interest because it will promote “open communication,” the AP reports, between it and the government.

However, the government deemed this excuse as “insufficiently convincing.”

It’s been reported that at least 20 eagle carcasses have been found on Pacificcorp wind farms in Wyoming in recent years – and that’s just on one farm. Dozens more deaths have occurred in California, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington and Nevada as well.

The dangers of wind turbines to birds – as well as bats, which confuse them for trees – is not a new issue. Back in May the American Bird Conservatory announced its intent to file a lawsuit when the federal government granted wind farm companies 30-year permits to kill eagles without legal repercussions.

Read the full story here.

Epidemiologist Joan Morris: Health Canada study “inexcusable”

Epidemiologist Joan Morris, who holds a Masters of Science degree in community health and has been studying wind turbine noise independently for six years, was interviewed by Dale Goldhawk yesterday.

The study team didn’t actually measure noise but relied on modelling, and excluded significant numbers of people. The study is “inexcusable,” she says. The study actually shows that 25% of the population within 2 km of a turbine are adversely affected.

Health Canada statements seem to indicate the study was really intended to promote the wind power industry.

Listen to the interview here.

Wind farm opponents on Health Canada study: doesn’t coalesce with reality

Wind turbine opponents question results of Health Canada study

Patrick Raftis, Wellington Advertiser, November

WELLINGTON CTY. – Wind turbine opponents are questioning the results of a federal study on wind turbine noise and health impacts that concludes there is no evidence of a link between exposure to turbines and a wide range of adverse health effects.

The two-year, $2-million Health Canada study, released on Nov. 6, concludes there is no evidence to link wind turbine noise to self-reported illnesses such as dizziness, tinnitus and migraines, or chronic conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes. Likewise, no association was found between exposure to turbine noise and measures of stress such as blood pressure and heart rate.

Health Canada states the results also show no indication of a connection between turbine noise and self-reported or measured sleep quality.

“While some people reported some of the health conditions above, their existence was not found to change in relation to exposure to wind turbine noise,” states a summary of the study posted on the Health Canada website.

The study did find an association between increasing levels of wind turbine noise and “individuals reporting to be very or extremely annoyed.”  The study also found wind turbine annoyance to be “statistically related” to some health effects, including “perceived stress.” …

Wind Concerns Ontario (WCO) president Jane Wilson said her organization is not surprised by the study results.

“They always said from the beginning that it was just going to be a view of what was going on in Canada and they had hoped to, and I think they say that, add to the global pool of information on wind turbine noise. So they did that, and they did find some health effects,” Wilson said in a telephone interview on Nov. 7.

“The disappointment for us is they haven’t said explicitly … that they’re going to continue to monitor the situation and they have not said that they are going to be doing more research.

“We would have thought, given the level of concern in Ontario in particular, and the fact they did find over 16 per cent of people with problems, that they would have pledged to kind of keep going on this.”

Wilson said the study results conflict with the information her organization is receiving.

“We’re hearing weekly, if not daily, of people having to leave their homes and people having health problems … You look at this paper and those two things don’t necessarily coalesce as two realities.”

Wilson said wind power is costing Ontarians in other ways, some of which can lead to health impacts. She said it’s costing billions of dollars to produce “surplus” power utilizing wind turbines and that’s impacting people’s wallets.

“As electricity bills are going higher and higher, people are feeling poorer and there are actually some people we know who are saying ‘I have to make a choice between paying the heating bill and buying the amount of food that I’d like to.’ So we’re looking at that as a very serious economic impact of wind power in particular,” said Wilson, adding the link between poverty and health is obvious.

“Clearly if you are not able to pay for certain things, then that’s going to affect your health.”

She said WCO has already convened an expert panel to review “this study and whatever else we get from Health Canada,” and will be delivering comments back to the government agency within a few weeks.

David Hurlburt, vice-president of Oppose Belwood Wind Farm, says members of his group “weren’t too surprised” by the study findings.

“You know the political implications of all this is quite significant,” said Hurlburt. “We can’t understand how they arrive at these conclusions from the findings they got.

“We’re disappointed with their conclusions obviously, but we are encouraged by the findings around this whole thing of annoyance,” said Hurlburt, noting 16.5% of survey subjects in the Ontario portion of the study reported they were “highly annoyed” by wind turbines.

“To the common person I guess that doesn’t sound significant, but the high level of annoyance is actually recognized by the World Health Organization as an adverse health effect,” Hurlburt continued.

“The bottom line to all of this, especially in Ontario … They’re just putting these turbines too close to homes, it’s as simple as that, and that’s borne out in the study,” he said, explaining the study indicates the further the turbines are from homes, “the less the annoyance and less the implications.”

Hurlburt said linking annoyance, health effects and proximity to turbines in the study is advantageous to his group’s aims.

“Our message from our group and other groups in Ontario has got to be that if you’re going to build these turbines, place them further away from people’s homes. Our recommendation is two kilometres, but this report really supports at least one kilometre and currently Ontario’s got 550 metres as their setback, which is not enough.”


Read the full article here.

Wind farm noise study politics, not science says professor

Health Canada "study" ignores reality of wind turbine noise, favours industry profits
Health Canada “study” ignores reality of wind turbine noise, favours industry profits

Elliot Ferguson, Kingston Wig-Standard, November 12, 2014

KINGSTON, Ont. – One of the key experts backing opposition to a wind energy development on Amherst Island said a recent Health Canada study is more politics than science.

John Harrison, a Queen’s University professor emeritus in physics and a member of the Association to Protect Amherst Island, located near Kingston, Ont., said the report contradicts itself and was not peer reviewed.

In a report released last week, Health Canada said there is no link between noise from wind turbines and adverse health effects.

Health Canada scientists looked at communities that host wind farms. Two dozen government, academic and industry experts contributed to the study.

Researchers examined 1,200 participants living within 2 km of wind turbines in Ontario and P.E.I.

Scientists found that while some residents living near wind turbines noted some indicators of stress — sleep disruption, headaches — there was nothing to indicate those stressors were the result of the wind turbines.

Harrison pointed out that the report later states that annoyance caused by the noise from wind turbines is linked to sleep problems, illness, stress and quality of life.

“I can’t help, as a scientist, to link those together and say annoyance increases with the noise, health effects increase with the annoyance, so health effects must increase with the noise.”

Harrison also criticized the report, which is a summary of conclusions reached by a larger study, for not including the scientific data the study collected.

Harrison said he originally supported Health Canada’s research plan, called the release “premature.”

And the lack of scientific data makes it impossible to have it reviewed by other scientists, he said.

“This is political. This is political because the provinces want to build turbines. This is political because the provinces want the wind energy companies to build them and use their own money.”

Harrison also took exception to statements in the report that he says are either not supported or attributed to any scientific research or too general to mean anything.

“Something as fuzzy as parts of this summary would never make it through the peer review for a reputable journal,” he said.

Read the full story here.

Dr Robert McMurtry on the Health Canada study: “lousy”

Dr Robert McMurtry was interviewed by consumer advocate Dale Goldhawk on Zoomer radio yesterday. In uncharacteristically blunt speech, he branded the Health Canada wind turbine noise study (for which only a summary exists, not a full report) “lousy” and a piece of “crap.”

He said the study is now being used by the Province of Ontario to justify its unfounded wind power program, and by industry to accelerate its invasion of rural communities.

Dr McMurtry is the former dean of Medicine at Western University, and has held an executive position at Health Canada.

Listen to the interview here