Riina I. Bray MD: Impacts of wind turbines on human health

Dr. Riina Bray, the Medical Director of the Environmental Health Clinic at Women’s College Hospital, Associate Professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine and former Chair of the Environmental Health Committee of the Ontario College of Family Physicians submitted this letter to the Premier of Ontario, The Honorable Doug Ford, addressing the health concerns related to wind turbines. The letter is provided below. The full letter including all references can be accessed at the links on this page.

Dear Honourable Mr. Ford, Ministers, and MPPs, colleagues,

I am writing to express concern about the potential for harm for human health represented by Ontario’s Industrial Wind Turbines (IWTs) and their supporting infrastructure. 

Research has demonstrated how various forms of pollutant from IWTs can adversely affect human health.1 These include noise, infra-sound, dirty electricity, and ground current which can each, along with shadow flicker, contribute to ill-health among those who live near wind turbines.2 

Havas and Colling’s research draw on Frey and Hadden’s work to note that “most people who live near wind turbines and complain of ill effects blame the effects on the noise generated by the turbines.”3 Indeed, research globally has suggested that noise from turbines does indeed contribute to ill-health, and the literature suggests best practices for IWT placement to avoid noise issues.4 5 

Havas and Colling also draw on existing research to note that “pressure waves at levels outside the range of human hearing can also have unpleasant side effects”. The combination of low-frequency noise and infra-sound may produce, in patients, “a set of symptoms that include depression, irritability, aggressiveness, cognitive dysfunction, sleep disorder, fatigue, chest pain/pressure, headaches, joint pain, nausea, dizziness, vertigo, tinnitus, stress, heart palpitations, and other symptoms.”6 This combination of symptoms has been described by Pierpont as ‘wind turbines syndrome’7 and elsewhere as vibroacoustic disease.8 9 They note how U.S. Military research has also demonstrated that acoustic infrasound can have dramatic and serious effects on human physiology.10 This research states that:

Acoustic, infrasound: very low frequency sound which can travel long distances and easily penetrate most buildings and vehicles. Transmission of long wave- length sound creates biophysical effects, nausea, loss of bowels, disorientation, vomiting, potential organ damage or death may occur. Superior to ultrasound because it is “inband,” meaning it does not lose its properties when it changes mediums such as air to tissue. By 1972 an infrasound generator had been built in France, which generated waves at 7Hz. When activated it made the people in range sick for hours.11 

A significant impact on human health from IWTs can also result from electromagnetic pollution. The inverters and other technologies present within the turbines generate high levels of electrical distortion on the 60HZ sine wave of electrical current put on to the electrical grid by the renewable source.12 This research around high levels of electrical distortion is confirmed by research by the Wind Plant Collector System Design Working Group, a part-industry organization, and published by the Institute of Electrical
and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). 13 Also resulting from power generation in IWTs are increased levels of ground current often measured as voltage and often described as ‘stray voltage.’14 The circulation of these levels of distorted high-frequency signals, also known in the vernacular as ‘dirty electricity,’ as well as ground current or stray voltage in areas extending kilometers beyond individual IWT sites can contribute to electromagnetic injury and sensitivity to electromagnetic emissions.  

Sensitivity to EMF has been termed Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (EHS).15 It is thought to occur in 3- 20 per cent of our population and poses the greatest risk to patients with pre-existing cardiac, neurological, dermatological and immunological conditions.16 17 18 19 20 However, healthy individuals are often affected as well and those affected complain of sleep disturbances, headaches, fatigue and difficulty concentrating. Symptoms are reduced by avoidance measures. Long-term and serious health
effects can also result for those not immediately experiencing initial sensitivity.21 22 This cumulative effect of these various health impacting factors combined with the prevalence of IWTs across the province suggest that significant steps at various levels and in various areas need to be taken to:

1) widely acknowledge the potential risks that IWTs represent 

2) fully respond to the thousands of demonstrated complaints of adverse effects of IWTs across the province23

3) carefully measure noise, infrasound, and electromagnetic emissions in and around all of Ontario’s IWT installations

4) follow mitigative steps around electromagnetic pollution (high frequency distortion, ground current/stray voltage) as suggested by the wind industry’s own publications and by other noninvested experts 

5) re-site IWTs to other locations without human populations when mitigation cannot be effectively undertaken 

The risks for the short and long-term health of Ontarians of not undertaking such mitigating and remediating steps is significant.


Riina Bray

Riina I. Bray BAsc, MSc, MD, FCFP, MHSc
Medical Director, Environmental Health Clinic, Women’s College Hospital
Assistant Professor, Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Toronto
Cross-Appointment Dalla Lana School of Public Health

The author grants permission to post this letter for public viewing and sharing.

Riina Bray Iwt Ontario Letter

Download file (165 KB) pdf


NOV 28 2018
back to top