The Chief Medical Officer of Health report: an exercise in denial
The Ontario government and others who are “pro” industrial-scale wind power generation development, like to rely on a select group of reports–many of them paid for by the wind industry–to demonstrate that there are no health effects from the environmental noise and vibration produced by the turbines. In 2010, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Arlene King, released a report called The Potential Health Impact of Wind Turbines.
First points about this 14-page report: it was a literature review of selected papers; it is not a peer-reviewed paper; and it was never published in any journal.
The paper concludes that “while some people living near wind turbines report symptoms such as dizziness, headaches, and sleep disturbance, the scientific evidence available to date does not demonstrate a direct causal link between wind turbine noise and adverse health effects.”
Since that time, the report has been criticized by many analysts, including physicians, researchers, and epidemiologists.
Dr Carl V. Phillips, who is an expert in epidemiology and has a PhD in public policy from Harvard University, wrote soon after the report was released that “The King report was pretty much a joke, ignoring most of the evidence. It provides a great example of how medics are typically not very good at evaluating scientific evidence (“medical officers of health” are an odd Canadian institution that puts physicians rather than public health science experts in charge of the science-side of public health policy…). Of course, being a physician does not prevent someone from understanding health science, it just does not promise it.” (from Phillips’ blog EP-ology, reproduced in Dirty Business 2011, page 66)
The Society for Wind Vigilance, an international group of health care professionals and others concerned about the effects of the global wind power industry, undertook an analysis of the CMOH report, which spans 55 pages. It was reviewed by a panel including four physicians, a PhD in physics and several health researchers. Their conclusion was that yet another literature review wasn’t very helpful at a time when reports of physical symptoms resulting from expsoure to the turbines’ environmental noise were increasing. Other points from the review follow. (The review may be downloaded at http://5468964569013158095-a-1802744773732722657-s-sites.googlegroups.com/site/windvigilancecom/cmoh_analysis_june_03_2010.pdf?attachauth=ANoY7cphBBkeRN_hJlZV8zbTXoYrOi4zFwpCVQ6lguRhmMlIvM5QQmM1iJXxTz9nKq8bwU7b8LJjJzU4dBorqI2mOxv-2ZSD7u4IW9wltYbyCRrZAW0ZwtnDhDoiLBHNKsqGCtF0lh50FCzS9yrrcXWz4t5nOsBCO7u098J2cu7ktfe4SJTMlsrEn2nFufNxZMTKYr9DXYQdgUfQzP0AqonZ1f2Lpl6Mdm52ZGhINU3MyLGvY0zCTqM%3D&attredirects=0 )
The CMOH Review is a document fraught with inaccuracies, contradictions and misinformation:
Specifically the CMOH Review:
- is not a study; it is an incomplete literature review
- contains conclusions which contradict the content of the CMOH review
- contains conclusions which contradict listed and cited references
- contains conclusions which contradict authoritative research on noise and health including that of the World Health Organization
- contains conclusions which have no references to support their scientific validity
- displays selective bias in the presentation of the reference material
- displays selective bias by omission of relevant refeences, including recent research on issues related to noise and health
- contains misleading statements
- contains statements without appropriate supporting references
- exhibits a deficient understanding on Ontario setback regulations and noise guidelines for wind turbines
- exhibits a deficient understanding of the authoritative research and noise guidelines of the World Health Organization.
1. The CMOH Report is a literature review with no original research.
2. There are a number of errors of commission and omission.
3. The reality of global reports of adverse health effects has not been addressed.
4. The report does acknowledge the World Health Organization as a definitive authority broadly writ as well as on the subject of community
5. Crucial evidence gaps remain unaddressed but paradoxically the widely affirmed and urgent need for further research is not acknowledged.
6. The Society for Wind Vigilance expresses both its surprise and disappointment with the quality of the CMOH’s report. The victims deserve
consideration not denial.
The report did say that “sound measurements at residential areas around wind turbines and comparisons with sound levels around other rural and urban areas, to assess actual ambient noise levels prevalent in Ontario, is a key data gap that could be addressed.” (At the time of the report’s release, the Ministry of the Environment in Ontario had NO capacity to measure noise, and thus could not assess whether the machines were in compliance with its own regulations.)
So, is this a report to be relied upon by policy-makers? Is this a report that should guide decision-makers in health care? Is this a report that should be the foundation of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario’s policy on the environmental noise produced by industrial wind turbines? Many say “no.”
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