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Scientist says wind farms bad for health

Published: Friday, Oct. 7, 2011 1:15 a.m. CST • Updated: Friday, Oct. 7, 2011 1:58 a.m. CST

DIXON – A scientist who has studied the effects of wind turbines argued Thursday that there was “overwhelming evidence” that they hurt people’s health.

A wind industry representative, however, said epidemiologist Carl V. Phillips didn’t answer many direct questions during an evening presentation.

Phillips, who lives in Pennsylvania, was allowed to present for up to an hour to the Lee County Zoning Board of Appeals, which is reviewing the county’s ordinance on wind turbines.

Then the public got to ask questions.

Phillips said that in his research, he has found that people who live up to 2 miles away from the turbines develop such things as sleep, stress and mood disorders once wind farms go up.

Wind turbines create noise, vibrations and shadow flicker, he said. But he acknowledged that scientists don’t know exactly how turbines cause the health problems.

That’s not unusual in science, he said, noting that experts have known for 60 years that smoking is linked to cardiovascular disease but don’t know exactly how.

Phillips said he didn’t know the exact percentage of residents within a mile or more of wind farms who suffer “substantial” health problems as the result of the turbines, but he said his best guess, based on research, was 5 percent.

Anyone who argues that wind turbines don’t have bad health effects are either ignoring the evidence or “trying to mislead,” Phillips said.

Victims of the health effects often move away and then see their health improve, he said.

“What had been their sanctuary is now a hostile environment,” he said. “People abandon their homes and sell at a loss.”

In questioning, Phillips acknowledged that he hadn’t compared people’s health both before and after wind turbines go up. But he said he would like such information.

Lee County now requires that the distance between turbines and homes be 1,400 feet – a little more than a quarter-mile. Phillips suggested that the setback should probably be somewhere between 1 and 2 miles, but he said there wasn’t enough evidence to determine what would be the best setback.

If the setback were at 1 or 2 miles, there may not be a feasible spot in the county for turbines, he said.

Near the end of the meeting, Susie Miller of Ashton questioned whether representatives of Ireland-based wind company, Mainstream Renewable Power, had anything to say.

Mainstream’s John Martin said the presentation was Phillips’ “philosophical” statements and “personal hypotheses.” He said Phillips essentially said that he wanted more studies.

Earlier in the meeting, Richard Boris, mayor of the village of Lee, said many landowners who allow turbines must sign confidentiality agreements with the wind energy companies. He suggested that such deals would prevent them from discussing health problems that they believed resulted from turbines.

At the end of the meeting, he asked Martin whether that were the case.

Martin said he couldn’t comment on the confidentiality agreements because they were “inherently confidential.”

Wind farm opponents laughed.

Another Mainstream representative, Keith Bolin, said no one would be barred from talking about their health. He said he was offended at the insinuation they couldn’t.

Mainstream is planning a wind farm in Lee, Bureau and Whiteside counties.

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