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MassDEP Commissioner Ken Kimmell

Kenneth Kimmell

Commissioner, Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP)

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On Jan. 17, an independent panel of scientific experts released a report entitled “Wind Turbine Health Impact Study:  Report of the Independent Panel”  and we're holding three meetings (two this week) to collect public feedback about the report.

MassDEP and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) sought the development of this report by a panel of independent experts in order to help the Commonwealth, as well as local governments, address some of the questions that have been raised about possible human health impacts associated with proximity to wind turbines.  

Among the key findings of the panel are:

  • There is no evidence for a set of health effects from exposure to wind turbines that could be characterized as a “Wind Turbine Syndrome.”
  • Claims that infrasound from wind turbines directly impacts the vestibular system have not been demonstrated scientifically. Available evidence shows that the infrasound levels near wind turbines cannot impact the vestibular system.
  • The weight of the evidence suggests no association between noise from wind turbines and measures of psychological distress or mental health problems.
  • None of the limited epidemiological evidence reviewed suggests an association between noise from wind turbines and pain and stiffness, diabetes, high blood pressure, tinnitus, hearing impairment, cardiovascular disease, and headache/migraine.
  • There is limited epidemiologic evidence suggesting an association between exposure to wind turbines and annoyance. There is insufficient epidemiologic evidence to determine whether there is an association between noise from wind turbines and annoyance independent from the effects of seeing a wind turbine and vice versa.
  • There is limited evidence from epidemiologic studies suggesting an association between noise from wind turbines and sleep disruption. In other words, it is possible that noise from some wind turbines can cause sleep disruption. Whether annoyance from wind turbines leads to sleep issues or stress has not been sufficiently quantified. While not based on evidence from wind turbines, there is evidence that sleep disruption can adversely affect mood, cognitive functioning, and overall sense of health and well-being.
  • Scientific evidence suggests that shadow flicker does not pose a risk for eliciting seizures as a result of photic stimulation. There is limited scientific evidence of an association between annoyance from prolonged shadow flicker (exceeding 30 minutes per day) and potential transitory cognitive and physical health effects.

The panel is composed of physicians and scientists with broad expertise in areas including acoustical noise/infrasound, public health, sleep disturbance, mechanical engineering, epidemiology, and neuroscience. The members of the panel are: 

Dr. Jeffrey M. Ellenbogen of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital; Dr. Sheryl Grace of Boston University; Dr. Wendy J. Heiger-Bernays of the Boston University School of Public Health; Dr. James F. Manwell of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst; Dr. Dora Anne Mills of the University of New England; Dr. Kimberly A. Sullivan of the Boston University School of Public Health; Dr. Marc G. Weisskopf of the Harvard School of Public Health; and Dr. Susan L. Santos (panel facilitator).

Wind Turbine Health Impact Study

I urge anyone with an interest in this topic to review it, and I encourage anyone with comments to submit them to us or to participate in one of three public meetings in February. This panel functioned independently of MassDEP and MDPH and consisted of seven individuals with backgrounds in public health, epidemiology, toxicology, neurology and sleep medicine, neuroscience, and mechanical engineering.  Each of these individuals is considered an independent expert from academic institutions, and I personally want to thank each of them for their time and commitment to this important public project.  

Windblog
We’ve seen the public interest around this topic steadily grow.  It is extremely important that we have the best science available to us as we make future decisions on wind energy.

As MassDEP begins to digest the panel’s report and findings,  MassDEP will accept written public comments on the report until March 19, 2012 and is hoolding three upcoming public meetings.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. – Gardner Auditorium in the State House, 24 Beacon St.

Thursday, February 16, 2012, from 5-8 p.m. – Bourne High School, Beth Bourne Auditorium, 75 Waterhouse Road, Bourne.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012, from 5-8 p.m. – The Lee Middle and High School Auditorium, 300 Greylock Street, Lee. Snow date: February 29th.

We hope that interested parties will participate in this process so the Commonwealth will have the full benefit of public feedback before taking steps to implement or adopt the findings or recommendations by the independent panel.

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