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Letter to DEP, DPH Cites New Research

March 25, 2013

The report commissioned by the Mass DEP and MDPH has never been finalized–despite hours of oral testimony and reams of written responses. Wind Wise ~ Massachusetts asked the DEP to revisit the original  findings. The main text of that letter is reproduced here. It concludes:

In order to protect the health, safety and well being of the citizens in Massachusetts, it is critical that when a final report is issued it incorporates the conclusions of the three peer-reviewed reports, as reviewed by selecting experts in the authors’ fields of study. We believe it is also critically important that the report acknowledge a full scope of the testimony by people who live with and work in the proximity of wind turbines.

There is more about health and adverse impacts from wind turbines on WWMA’s health page.

Dear Commissioners:

We are writing to inform you of important new peer-reviewed research studies involving the
heath impacts of industrial wind turbines that have appeared since you held public hearings and a comment period for your Wind Turbine Health Impact Study. We believe these studies
contradict some of the Study’s findings and, we believe, it would be advisable to examine them before releasing a final report.

The new research is particularly important in light of the fact that the panel only reviewed
selected literature on the health impacts of the wind turbines and stated that there was a dearth of peer-reviewed literature on the subject. We believe that these new studies will significantly change your final recommendations.

New Research Findings

The peer-reviewed studies have added to the growing evidence that individuals living near
industrial wind turbines face significant health risks. The three studies:

2012. Nissenbaum, M., Aramini, J., and Hanning, C. “Effects of industrial wind turbine noise on sleep and health.” Noise & Health 14 (60) 237-243. 2012. [full text]

The authors conclude that “noise emissions of IWTs [industrial wind turbines] disturbed the sleep and caused daytime sleepiness and impaired mental health in residents living within 1.4 km of the two IWT installations studied.”

2012. Ambrose, S., Rand, R., and Krogh, C. “Wind turbine acoustic investigation: infrasound and low frequency noise – A case study.” Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society 32(2) 128-141. 2012. [abstract only available]

Ambrose, et al. found infrasound and low frequency noise (ILFN) or “dynamically modulated low-frequency and infrasonic energy” was produced by a 1.65 MW industrial wind turbine. Also “there was a strong correlation with wind speed, power output and health symptoms.” “This acoustic study suggests that health effects reported by residents living near wind turbines may not be exclusively related to audible sounds.” But “inaudible amplitude modulated acoustic energy can be detected by the inner ear and can affect humans more at low ambient sound levels, consistent with complaints of worse conditions indoors than out near IWTs.”

2012. Alec N. Salt and Jeffrey T. Lichtenhan. “Perception-based protection from low-frequency sounds may not be enough.” Internoise 2012. August 19-22, 2012. [full text]

The Salt and Lichtenhan paper concludes that “there are potential mechanisms by which low-frequency sounds could influence vestibular physiology which are being ignored by some.” Salt and Lichtenhan report that their “measurements showing that the ear generates large electrical responses to low-frequency stimulation suggest that the effects of low-frequency sound on people living near wind turbines should not be dismissed by those with little understanding of how low frequency sounds indeed affect the ear.”

Review new studies before issuing final report

The Nissenbaum (et al.) and Ambrose (et al.) studies were reviewed when they were in a preliminary or draft form and were inappropriately dismissed by the “expert panel.” The fact that they have since been peer-reviewed and published indicates that they should not be dismissed in making your decision.

Avoid civil litigation and criminal penalties

Our governmental bodies and even the wind energy industry should be protective of human
health. Failure to assess the effects of wind turbines on neighboring properties is the premise of a lawsuit brought by 60+ plaintiffs against Iberdrola, two consulting firms and a professional engineer at the Hardscrabble wind project in New York. The largest wind project in Massachusetts, Iberdrola’s Hoosac project was built this year. Will it result in similar litigation?

A recent lawsuit has received international attention in the scientific community. Members of an Italian earthquake risk commission – four scientists, two engineers, and a government official – have been sentenced to prison terms.

“Prosecutors didn’t charge commission members with failing to predict the earthquake (in L’Aquila Italy) but with conducting a hasty, superficial risk assessment and
presenting incomplete, falsely reassuring findings to the public.”[our emphasis added] (Science, Vol. 338, pp. 184-188, 451, 452).

A review of wind energy feasibility studies prepared in numerous communities around
Massachusetts where wind turbines have been sited finds many major discrepancies between
predicted (modeled) and actual noise and flicker effects.

To conclude, Massachusetts government officials and the “experts” responsible for the MA
Study have given the public a false sense of assurance that there are no health impacts from wind turbines. The studies certainly differ from that impression.

In addition, it is critical that the written submissions and personal testimonies of the life-altering experiences of those most affected by the wind turbines – the people living and working near the wind turbines – be incorporated into the final report in order to provide a more comprehensive picture of the impact of the turbines on the lives of individuals.

In order to protect the health, safety and well being of the citizens in Massachusetts, it is critical that when a final report is issued it incorporates the conclusions of the three peer-reviewed reports cited above, as reviewed by selecting experts in the authors’ fields of study. We believe it is also critically important that the report acknowledge a full scope of the testimony by people who live with and work in the proximity of wind turbines.

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