The article about Dr. Colby was published in Today’s Farmer as well as the Chatham Daily News
‘Annoyance’ factor exists
Posted By PETER EPP, SUN MEDIA
Posted 8 days ago
Dr. David Colby doesn’t doubt that some people are bothered by the noise generated by a wind turbine, but the acting medical officer of health for Chatham-Kent says there’s no direct link between wind turbine noise and health problems.
Colby, speaking to the Rotary Club of Chatham on Wednesday, said research he’s read suggests there are no health problems that can be directly attributed to wind turbines and their function.
But he acknowledges that some people might find turbines to be “annoying” and that annoyance could create stress that might lead to an illness.
“But it’s a subjective quality,” he said. “I’m not denying that some people are really bothered by the noise.” Colby last year was asked by Chatham- Kent council to examine the health problems that could be possibly attributed to turbines and their function, and he concluded there are none. His report has since been referenced across Canada, and last week CBC television said Colby is the nation’s foremost expert on wind turbines and health problems.
But Colby told Rotarians that he’s not an expert and that he’s never conducted any of his own research on the subject. But he did conduct an investigation into existing research before drawing his conclusion.
“I’m not a spokesman for wind energy, and I don’t have an axe to grind. I’m not in anybody’s pocket. I was simply asked to develop a report and a conclusion, and I did that.”
Colby said he examined five potential causes of health problems arising from wind turbine function, but determined that none offer a public health menace. They include turbine failure, icing, sound emissions, shadow flicker and construction concerns.
On the issue of turbine failure, he said 68,000 of the units have been built globally and there have been few if any examples of failure. In Ontario, there have been none.
In regard to icing, however, Colby said the potential exists for ice to fall from moving turbine blades, “and they could be thrown a considerable distance.”
He said there have been some reports in Europe of people being hit by falling ice, but said the incidents are so few that the potential can’t be considered a public health worry. He added that setback requirements are in place to help reduce such concerns.
Colby said sound and noise concerns are the biggest issues, but are frequently misunderstood. He said anti-turbine “activists” often use sound and noise terms incorrectly to “justify their beliefs,” but the terms are used incorrectly.
He said infrasound is a phenomenon that comes from the amplitude and frequency of waves, but these waves are inaudible and aren’t harmful. Meanwhile, mid-frequency noises come mostly from the audible swoosh created by the turbine blades. Colby said “some mid-frequency noise has a high annoyance factor, but present no health concerns.” He said some people are tolerant of large amounts of noise, while others aren’t.
Colby added that some people who live near turbines have complained that the generated noise “has ruined their lives, but that’s very subjective. Yet I can’t argue with them. But it won’t lead to tissue damage or health problems.”
As for shadow flicker, he said the issue is also one of annoyance.
“Some people say that the flicker causes epileptic seizures, but the frequency isn’t high enough. Again, it’s a subjective quality.”
> Your article on Dr. Colby, who is being quoted as saying that health concerns are not a factor for those who are living near Industrial Wind turbines is NOT coinciding with the reality presently happening right here in Ontario.
> Former Dean of Medicine of the University of Western, Dr. Robert McMurtry reported on April 22 at Queen’s park the results of a health based self-survey conducted by Wind Concerns Ontario, a grass roots coalition of 28 citizen groups across Ontario trying to get the truth out about Industrial Wind Turbines. Of the 76 respondents in the
> community based self-survey, 53 people living near different wind power plants reported that industrial wind turbines were having a significant negative impact on their lives. The adverse effects range from headaches and sleep disturbance to tinnitus (ringing in the ear) and depression.
> Chatham/Kent council, when initially trying to deal with Industrial Wind Development went to Dr. Colby to help “identify any health impacts and recommended mitigation measures for the placement of WT’s”. In his weak literature review prepared for this municipality, you will find many misleading conclusions. For example, the World Health Organization recommends a maximum of 35 dB (inside the bedroom) at night for sleeping. MOE guidelines presently allow noise levels of up to 51 dBA’s and yet Dr. Colby makes no reference to this information. Dr. Colby
> continues in his report to justify these levels with a reference from Greenpeace which compares noise emitted from wind turbines to be less than levels generated by road traffic, trains, construction and industrial noise. One should understand that every increase of 10 dBA, which is a tenfold increase in the noise intensity, is perceived as a doubling of the sound level.
> Also within this report Dr. Colby sites a reference from a CanWEA document, indicating that “rumours surrounding infrasounds are not supported by research. (ref. # 53)”. I question the peer reviewed status of this document as well as the unbiased stance of the source since CanWEA is a lobbying organization representing Industrial Wind Proponents.
> He then sites (ref. #58) a Canadian study, “which indicates that infrasound is generated by wind turbines but not at a level perceptible to human ear”. Infrasounds are generally at wave lengths below perceptible levels by the human ear, but there are several studies (which have not been referenced in Dr. Colby’s review) that show that they are still perceived and are being linked to conditions such as VAD (VibroAcoustic Disease) and Wind Turbine Syndrome.
> Also included in this review is a section titled ‘Consultation’. Dr. Colby’s name is listed with others in having “provided expertise and guidance throughout the development of the attached report”. Page 17 includes a ‘quote from Chatham-Kent’s Acting Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Colby’. This reference to himself, suggests a conflict with the authorship of this document.
> Within your April 21th article, Dr. Colby is also quoted on the issue of turbine failures. He said “68,000 of the units have been built globally and there have been few if any examples of failure. In Ontario, there have been none.” Ontario has had failures and turbine failures worldwide are not nearly as rare as Dr. Colby assumes. Approx. 28 turbine incidents have been reported in the last year and Ontario has experienced 2.
> The most perplexing issue found in researching Dr. Colby’s stance on ISkypower. It’s with great interest I noted his participation in the March 5, 2009 Byran Wind Project Community Information Session as a ‘Representative from Skypower’, and ‘Health Expert’:
> I lack the understanding, however, of why a Chief Medical officer (a Public servant) should attend such a function and potentially accept any payment and/or expense money for his participation in this meeting outside his own area of responsibility (Picton) ? Yet, in your article Dr. Colby is quoted as someone who is “NOT a spokesman for wind energy” and “not having an ax to grind”
> As for stating that victims are relaying a “subjective” experience from living near turbines I believe is at minimum unfounded and despite reported problems within his own municipality, it appears that DR Colby is ignoring the fact that people are suffering. Note letter to the Editor from Barbara Ashbee living within the Melancthon Wind Project(
> April 21).
> I recently understand that Chatham/Kent is now looking for a new Chief Medical Officer. Good thing.