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SURVEY

Survey indicates devices cause sleep disturbance

By Bob Boughner, Special to The Daily News

Ridgetown's Monica Elmes, spokesperson for the Chatham-Kent Wind Action Group, makes a statement in the wake of a recent survey concerning health impacts from turbines. (DIANA MARTIN, The Daily News)

Ridgetown's Monica Elmes, spokesperson for the Chatham-Kent Wind Action Group, makes a statement in the wake of a recent survey concerning health impacts from turbines. (DIANA MARTIN, The Daily News)

RIDGETOWN  - 

A University of Waterloo survey indicating wind turbines cause sleep disturbance comes as no surprise to Monica Elmes of Ridgetown.

Elmes, spokesperson for the Chatham-Kent Wind Action Group, said Friday, "it's criminal that it continues to go on."

Of the 4,876 surveys sent out to homeowners across Ontario only 396 were returned.

Researchers studied the relationship between how close a person lived to a turbine and the quality of their sleep.

University of Waterloo Prof. Phil Bigelow, an epidemiologist at the School of Public Health and Health Systems, said data shows that a subjective measure of sleep quality and self-reported vertigo do significantly vary with distance from the closest wind turbine.

"However, we were disappointed with our response rate for the study which was impacted by circumstances beyond our control," he said.

Bigelow said the overall response rate of under 10% is "very problematic and we recognize the opportunity for bias that would invalidate the findings."

He said the study results are currently being written up for publication in a peer-reviewed journal and at that point the scientific community will weigh-in on the validity of the findings.

"Studying outcomes as complex as sleep, vertigo, tinnitus and their relationship with environmental exposure is challenging," he said. "Getting the full picture of the impacts of wind turbine noise on these outcomes will require many studies and this is only one."

Loren Knopper, senior scientist with Intrinsik Environmental Sciences, said the information about turbines and sleep was from a poster showing preliminary results from a student's unpublished and un-peer-reviewed study.

"We look forward to seeing the final results of this study and until such time no weight should be given to its contents,'' said Knopper.

Elmes said the findings are not surprising to anyone unfortunate enough to live near a wind turbine and be impacted by them.

"We've been hearing these complaints for years from people living close to wind turbines," she said. "And the number of complaints are increasing at the same time more and more turbines are being erected."

Elmes said some of the symptoms are hard to pinpoint.

"They come and go depending on wind direction and speed," she said.

Elmes said it's a form of torture for those people living close to wind turbines.

"And yet the province continues to grant approval for new turbines," she said. "More than 100 new turbines are currently being constructed south of Highway 401 between Blenheim and Ridgetown."

Elmes is calling for an immediate halt to new construction.

"The evidence just can't be ignored any more and our government really needs to do something to properly protect people who are in this situation."

Researchers recommend future studies should focus on the impacts wind turbine noise has on inner ear problems.

The Municipality of Chatham-Kent, along with the counties of Bruce, Dufferin, Elgin, Essex, Frontenac, Huron and Norfolk were included in the Quality of Life and Renewable Energy Technologies Study from the University of Waterloo.

Bigelow said, in an earlier interview, the survey was conducted because plenty of people have complained about health problems and believe they are caused by renewable energy facilities, in particular wind turbines.

He said the difficult part has been coming up with the scientific proof to support the claims.

Bigelow said the survey is part of the provincial-funded research group Ontario Research Chair program in Renewable Energy Technologies and Health.

While the survey received provincial funding, Bigelow noted it is an independent survey and the university isn`t concerned what the provincial government thinks.

bob.boughner@sunmedia.ca


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