Health Canada’s Wind Turbine Noise and Health Study—A Review Exploring Research Challenges, Methods, Limitations and Uncertainties of Some of the Findings

This important paper examines the highly touted Health Canada study that looked at wind turbine noise and its impact on human health. The authors cite serious limitations of the Health Canada methodology and the failure of Health Canada to honor its original intention of releasing the raw data for other researchers to confirm and test Health Canada's findings. Readers are encouraged to read this paper closely before accepting the reported findings of the Health Canada study.


Background: Risk of harm associated with wind turbines is debated globally. Some people living or working in proximity to wind turbines report adverse health effects such as sleep disturbance, noise annoyance, and diminished quality of life. Due to public concern, Health Canada announced its wind turbine noise and health study which included subjective and objective measurements. Findings were published between 2014 and 2016. In 2018, Health Canada published clarifications regarding the design and interpretation of study conclusions. Methods: Methods and subjective/objective findings were reviewed. Peer reviewed publications, conference presentations, judicial proceedings, government documents, and other sources were evaluated and considered in context with advanced methods for investigating reports of adverse health effects. 

Objectives: To review and explore some of the research challenges, methods, strengths and limitations of findings and conclusions. To participate in scientific dialogue and contribute towards an understanding of reported health risks associated with wind turbine noise.

Results: Wind turbine human health research is challenged by numerous variables. Knowledge gaps and individual human and wind turbine variables are identified. Strengths and advisories of limitations are considered and acknowledged. Health Canada’s advisories that its study design does not permit any conclusions about causality and results may not be generalized beyond the sample taken in Canada are supported. Enhanced methods for investigating health outcomes are proposed including establishing referral resources within medical facilities for physicians. It is proposed staffing of the resource center includes multidisciplinary teams of physicians, epidemiologists, acousticians and other specialists to investigate suspected wind turbine adverse health effects.

Discussion: A review and the appraisal of some of the research challenges associated with wind turbine human health research are presented. Given the identified methods, research/knowledge gaps, and limitations and cautionary advisories, Health Canada’s results should be carefully considered when predicting or protecting from health risks of wind turbine noise.

Excerpt from Introduction

In 2013 and 2014 Health Canada cautioned that regarding the Health Canada Study design:

• results will not provide a definitive answer on their own [37];

And that:

• results may not be generalized to areas beyond the sample as the wind turbine locations in this study were not randomly selected from all possible sites operating in Canada;

• results do not permit any conclusions about causality; and, 

• results should be considered in the context of all published peer-reviewed literature on the subject [25].

The Health Canada Study findings have been referenced in support of various procedures such as: an Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change regulatory framework [38] and during various legal and other proceedings [39]-[46].

Indications are in some cases, the Health Canada Study findings appear to have been interpreted beyond Health Canada’s advisories of the above limitations and/or failed to differentiate these. This article considers WT related research challenges and knowledge gaps. In addition, it reviews Health Canada’s subjective/objective methodologies and explores some of the limitations and uncertainties related to published findings and conclusions.


396097169 Health Canada S Wind Turbine Noise And Health Study A Review Exploring Research Challenges Methods Limitations And Uncertainties Of Some Of The Find

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DEC 20 2018
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