McMurtry, Krogh rebut wind industry-funded commentators on diagnostic tool

Carmen Krogh: no conflict of interest
Carmen Krogh: no conflict of interest, while doctors criticizing work done to help patients affected by wind turbine noise are paid by the wind power industry

Four years ago, Dr Robert McMurtry (former Dean of Medicine and Western University, companion of the Order of Canada) and independent health researcher (retired pharmacist and health care executive) Carmen Krogh published a “case definition” and diagnostic criteria as a diagnostic tool to help family physicians and others caring for patients who may have been exposed to wind turbine noise emissions. The paper was first published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, in 2014.

The diagnostic criteria, McMurtry and Krogh explain, were “intended to be used by licensed medical practitioners trained in diagnostic procedures. The case definition requires application of professional medical judgment and diligence including the conduct of a thorough history, physical examination and investigation to rule out alternative explanations” for the patient’s symptoms.

Dr. Robert McCunney and Dr David Colby, with two other authors, published a critique of the case definition which was published in 2015. Among other comments, the doctors alleged that Dr McMurtry and Carmen Krogh failed to give any “indication of potential conflicts of interest” in their original article.

McCunney and Colby fail to disclose wind industry payments

In the article published yesterday, McMurtry and Krogh responded that as health care professionals both were quite aware of the need to disclose any conflict of interest … there simply wasn’t any. Moreover, they wrote in rebuttal, “the obligation to state potential conflicts of interest would also extend to the authors McCunney et al. Any statement should include Drs McCunney, Mundt and Colby relationships with the wind industry including, but not limited to, payments received from the wind industry to serve as experts and/or prepare reports. ”

“The declaration by McCunney et al. is incomplete,” McMurtry and Krogh conclude, “as it omits disclosure of payments received for other services …”

Mathematical exercise could mislead

Other aspects of the McCunney group critique are discussed and refuted, and McMurtry and Krogh make the particular point that the “display of combinatorics” by McCunney and colleagues was an exercise in math that had the potential to “mislead readers as it fails to use the case definition as it is presented and intended.”

Read the full article in Noise & Health, here .

Ontario turbine setback A-OK with wind industry-paid physician

Report on Environmental Review Tribunal Hearing on White Pines Wind Project

December 8

 

On Day 19 the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) of the White Pines wind project heard the testimony of Dr. Robert McCunney, an expert witness for developer WPD.

Robert McCunney, MD, has a Boston clinical practice and is a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.   Funded by the Canadian and American Wind Energy Associations, he headed teams in both 2009 and 2014 that produced status reports such as the recent “Wind Turbines and Health: A Critical Review of the Scientific Literature.”   Though not licensed to practice medicine in Ontario, Dr. McCunney has testified on behalf of the wind industry at other ERT hearings.

The Tribunal qualified Dr. McCunney as “a medical doctor specializing in occupational and environmental medicine, with the particular implications of noise exposure.”

WPD counsel James Wilson asked Dr. McCunney to comment on wind turbine sounds.  He said that noise is characterized by loudness and pitch, low frequency is associated with vibrations, and infrasound is inaudible below 107 db(A).  The last feature also occurs in the natural environment (e.g., wind and waves) and in actions of the human body such as breathing.  Turbine infrasound cannot be distinguished beyond 300m.

Dr. McCunney’s 2014 literature review, based on 162 published papers, concluded that “(1) infrasound sound near wind turbines does not exceed audibility thresholds, (2) epidemiological studies have shown associations between living near wind turbines and annoyance, (3) infrasound and low-frequency sound do not present unique health risks, and (4) annoyance seems more strongly related to individual characteristics than noise from turbines.”   Nothing Dr. McCunney has read since publication changes his opinions.

In cross-examination, APPEC counsel Eric Gillespie established that Dr. McCunney has never treated anyone complaining of turbine-related symptoms or conducted any original field research. Though he lives near a wind turbine, his home is 1500m away.

Mr. Gillespie asked Dr. McCunney to confirm the findings in several studies cited in his literature review that turbine sounds annoyed 7-18 percent of nearby residents.  But Dr. McCunney said this is similar to other environmental noise.  Moreover, he does not accept the concept of “wind turbine syndrome,” in which a number of symptoms are associated with wind turbines and disappear in their absence.

Dr. McCunney was then asked to consider the 2015 Australian Senate inquiry, which received almost 500 worldwide submissions on wind turbine noise.  He said he had not read it, but he was critical of its reliance on a range of unverified reports rather strictly published studies.  He did accept, however, the finding that the “distinction between direct and indirect effects is not helpful.”

Finally, Mr. Gillespie asked at what distance from turbines complaints would cease.  Dr. McCunney expressed confidence in Ontario’s 550m minimum setbacks.

In re-examination WPD’s Wilson asked about sleep anxiety and deprivation, which can lead to serious medical conditions.  Dr. McCunney said no study shows a causal relation between these symptoms and wind turbines.   His 2014 literature review identifies “longitudinal assessments of health pre- and post-installation” and “enhanced measurement techniques to evaluate annoyance”—but not sleep problems—among “further areas of Inquiry.”

Henri Garand, APPEC

CanWEA buys its very own “health” study

The wind power development lobby group in Canada, the Canadian Wind Energy Association or CanWEA, funded a research project by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology/MIT on wind turbine noise and health. The “study” contained no”case-control” studies…in fact, the “study” is simply an updated literature review. Not a single person was contacted for the study, and no actual noise measurements were ever done.

A report from the American wind power trade journal reads:

A new Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) study has found no direct link between wind turbines and human health problems.

According to the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA), which funded the project, the study provides an independent, comprehensive and multidisciplinary review of scientific literature on wind turbines and human health. The report has been peer reviewed and published online in the Journal of Environmental and Occupational Medicine.

The authors will be familiar to many, as they were involved in the previous industry-sponsored review in 2009. Many have testified in tribunals on behalf of the wind power development industry, but “the authors declare no conflict of interest.”