Scientists give wind power a clean bill of health

» By | Published 03 Dec 2010

There’s a great deal of exposure and chatter on the internet these days to two recent North American newspaper columns that are highly positive of wind power when it comes to public health issues.

One of the columns, published 26 November in The Oregonian, noted that “in fact, with no air or water pollution emissions, wind energy is essential to reducing public health impacts from the energy sector.”

Written by scientists Robert J. McCunney, Robert Dobie and David M. Lipscomb, the column went on to say that “while there are legitimate issues worth debating with regard to wind energy development, public health impacts are not among them.”

The authors acknowledged that in 2009 they participated in an international multidisciplinary scientific advisory panel that found no evidence that the audible or sub-audible sounds emitted by wind turbines have any direct adverse physiological effects.

“While opponents of wind energy have attempted to use self-published reports to block projects, the science is clear,” the scientists said last week in their column. “Independent studies conducted around the world consistently find that wind farms have no direct impact on physical health.”

Published the same day, a column in the Toronto Star notes that while health concerns are raised by the anti-wind-power lobby, coal plants in Ontario are the largest source of greenhouse gases in the province.

“But in the midst of this ruckus,” said Gideon Forman, “there’s an often-missed and very important distinction to be made: Coal plants are inherently harmful while wind turbines are not.”

Forman, executive director of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, said toxic by-products are produced when fossil fuels are burned.

“At their peak Ontario’s coal plants emit the greenhouse gases of 7 million automobiles. The plants also release lead and mercury (brain poisons), dioxin (an endocrine disrupter), chromium and arsenic (carcinogens), and sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide (which cause acid rain).”

Turbines “are not, in principle, destructive,” Forman said, adding wind power is essentially benign.

“Wind operations do not produce smog or acid rain,” he said. “They do not contribute to cancer. They do not contribute to brain damage. They do not contribute to climate change.”

Further reading on wind power and health effects can be accessed at the American Wind Energy Association’s blog “Into the wind.” And kudos to a posting by AWEA’s Tom Gray that first alerted me to last week’s newspaper columns.

Categories: Climate change