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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Wisconsin's renewable energy community sheds light on misinformation used in debate over the impact of Fond du Lac wind turbines

Laura Ritger's article for the Fond du Lac Reporter published last Friday provided an outline of the continued debate over the impact of wind turbines on human health. Demonstrating the misinformation frequently used to attack wind farms, Barbara Vanden Boogart of the Brown County Citizens for Responsible Wind Energy anti wind group incorrectly reported to Ms. Ritger that a health study had been conducted to assess the risk for cancer in Brown County residents near a local wind farm. Wisconsin's renewable energy community was quick to identify and correct the misinformation used by Ms. Boogart's group with wind energy expert Mike Barnard responding in Barnard on Wind and RENEW's Michael Vickerman writing the following response to the Fond du Lac Reporter.

By Michael Vickerman

Dear Ms. Ritger:

You recently wrote an article describing an effort on the part of certain Fond du Lac County residents to advocate for a state-funded health study analyzing impacts of utility-scale wind generators on neighboring residents. Your article contained the following sentence:
Barbara Vanden Boogart, representing Brown County Citizens for Responsible Wind Energy, spoke Wednesday about health issues. She referred to a study that measured increased cancer risk for people living in Brown County homes near turbines and how some residents were compelled to leave their homes.

The highlighted statement is completely false.Yes, a team of acoustical engineers took measurements of infrasound and low-frequency sound levels at three houses near the Shirley wind farm. The results were recorded and written up in a report  titled "A Cooperative Measurement Survey and Analysis of Low Frequency and Infrasound at the Shirley Wind Farm in Brown County, Wisconsin." While these acoustical engineers are experts in their field, their expertise does not extend into medical science. They took sound readings, nothing more. Moreover, they were unable to persuade the owner of the Shirley Wind Farm to shut down the turbines at any time during the testing. Without a baseline sound reading, it is impossible to determine to what extent, if any, the Shirley wind turbines are responsible for any sounds recorded by this team. That being the case, the statement is in error on two grounds:

1. This was an acoustical inquiry, not a medical inquiry.

2. The measurements taken neither implicate or exonerate the Shirley wind turbines for any readings taken, because they were always operating during the testing.

It's quite a leap to interpret the data and conclude, as Ms. Vanden Boogart did, that living near wind turbines increases the risk of contracting cancer. No peer-reviewed medical study I'm aware of connects wind generation to any illness or disease recognized by the medical profession. Moreover, every reporter who covers this issue ought to know that Wind Turbine Syndrome is not a medically recognized phenomenon. 

I would ask that your newspaper issue a correction on this point. Ms. Vanden Boogart completely misrepresented the report in question, and her quote suggests that there is a risk from wind generators when in fact none has been determined to date by many researchers working around the world. 

For a balanced presentation of the Shirley report, please review the latest post on Barnard on Wind, which sets the record straight on what the Shirley infrasound report says and does not say. 

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