Report on Environmental Review Tribunal Hearing on White Pines Wind Project
Paula Peel, APPEC
APPEC’s health case proceeded on Day 8 with two experts providing evidence to the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) on the White Pines wind project: Dr. Alum Evans and Dr. Robert McMurtry.
Dr. Evans, Professor Emeritus at Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, has studied cardiovascular disease for 30 years. Dr. Evans told the Tribunal that his involvement in wind turbines is tangential to his interest in noise, sleep disturbance, and cardiovascular disease. But he has also met many people severely impacted by wind turbine noise.
Citing published studies, Dr. Evans explained that the major adverse health effects of wind turbines seem to be due to sleep disturbance and sleep deprivation, mainly from loud noise and low-frequency noise (LFN), particularly infrasound. Dr. Evans finds the “impulsive, intrusive and incessant nature” of wind turbine noise a particularly troublesome feature that is highly discernible in rural areas. LFN, which is inaudible, is propagated over long distances and penetrates buildings where it can be amplified by insulation and closed windows. Dr. Evans noted that sleep deprivation is associated with increased likelihood of developing a range of chronic diseases, including Type 2 diabetes, cancer, coronary heart disease, and heart failure. His recent systematic literature review found 18 published studies establishing an association between wind turbine noise and human distress.
While agreeing with James Wilson, counsel for WPD, that “human distress” is not a medical term Dr. Evans said that human distress needs to be taken seriously nonetheless. He also agreed with Wilson that the results of observational studies do not constitute “proof”. But what is important about these studies is the strength of the associations, which are certainly enough to point to the Precautionary Principle.