A disgrace to science and public health (Massachusetts)

Mar 21, 2011

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Editor’s comment
:  Read the following news story of a recent meeting between a group of residents (Falmouth, MA) and the town Board of Health (BoH).  The former, quite reasonably, asked the BoH to intervene in the egregious matter of the wind turbine which is making these people ill.  They presented both their own illness and worldwide evidence for the same—global Wind Turbine Syndrome.

We’re sorry, Misters Donald and Cool and Murphy and Ford, but our epidemiological metric tells us you’re not really sick.  You may think you’re sick.  And it’s conceivable that with your obvious irritation and angst, you’re making yourselves sick.  However, until we read an article in the New Eng. Jour. of Medicine letting us know this turbine is in fact making you ill—well, frankly, we simply can’t believe you.

Don’t take it personally, okay?

To repeat, our metric, our science, our hocus pocus tells us we can’t believe you when you say it’s from that turbine next door.  Remember, we all have PhD’s in epidemiology and science and stuff.  This means we’re smart—certainly smarter than you are about what’s making you ill.

Besides, it’s a political issue and source of revenue for the town.  We don’t get involved in that stuff.

John B. Waterbury, PhD
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Dr. John B. Waterbury is a member of the Falmouth Board of Health.  He’s a specialist in the “purification, developmental patterns and properties of some fresh water and marine cyanobacteria belonging to the orders Chamaesiphonales and Pleurocapsales” (title of PhD thesis)—presumably gazillions of which are swimming around in those brightly colored beakers.

But what expertise do Waterbury and his colleagues on the Board of Health have in old-fashioned, off-the-shelf, garden variety, plain vanilla, screamingly obvious common sense?  (You know, the kind of stuff you don’t have to measure in a beaker to know, “Hey John!  This shit is real!“)

Anyhow, read the article, below.  Then ask yourself why the good people of Falmouth tolerate these self-important fools.

If WTS.com had an Alfred E. Neuman award, the Falmouth Board of Health would win it.

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—Elise R. Hugus, Falmouth Enterprise, as submitted to National Wind Watch (3/15/11)

Falmouth Board of Health will request that health impacts from the town’s wind turbines be studied by the state Department of Public Health, and that a complaint log based on science be established online for residents to report adverse effects from the turbines.

In a meeting last night, the board heard a presentation from Ambleside Road resident J. Malcolm Donald on health effects from a 28-turbine wind farm in Mars Hill, Maine. The controlled study, conducted by Dr. Michael A. Nissenbaum, found that a large percentage of residents living within 1,100 meters of the turbines experienced symptoms, compared with residents who lived three miles away. According to Mr. Donald, the study found that 77 percent of abutters to the wind farm experienced feelings of anger, and over 50 percent felt feelings of stress, hopelessness, and depression. Over 80 percent reported sleep disturbances, compared with 4 percent in the control group, he said, and 41 percent of abutters experienced headaches.

The study, which was completed in March 2009, has yet to be published in a creditable journal—and, as several board members pointed out, has yet to stand up to the rigors of the scientific method, which include peer review and replication.

Board member John B. Waterbury, a biologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, said he had carefully read the study and other documents sent by Mr. Donald over the weekend. “As a scientist, I look and see there isn’t much peer-reviewed literature. Then there are people who are clearly impacted by this thing in a number of ways,” he said. Fellow board member George R. Heufelder said he was not convinced that the physiological symptoms listed in the study are connected to the turbines. “I can’t dismiss your irritation and angst, but my analysis says, show me the facts. It takes someone to do a good, controlled study,” he said. Mr. Donald cited the “precautionary principle,” a legal term that allows policy makers to make decisions that are not based on scientific evidence. “You don’t really need to know why something is happening. If we know it’s happening, we need to take preventive mesures to stop it from happening,” he said. Board member Jared V. Goldstone pointed out that although the principle has been adopted in the European Union, it is not law in the United States. “The legal underpinnings of [Dr. Nissenbaum’s study] just aren’t there. Right now it’s a political issue,” he said. 

…………..

Several residents of Blacksmith Shop Road, where the town-owned turbines are located, spoke about the health and quality-of-life impacts they started experiencing after the first turbine was erected last spring.

John J. Ford, who said he lives 2,745 feet from the Notus Clean Energy turbine at Falmouth Technology Park and 3,740 feet from Wind 1 at the wastewater treatment facility, said he is currently trying to soundproof his bedroom in order to sleep at night. With an elevated heart rate and blood pressure, he said his experiences are similar to those in the Nissenbaum study. “My neighbors and myself would be enthralled, if the board of health took a more active role in this,” Mr. Ford said.

Colin P. Murphy, also of Blacksmith Shop Road, said that he has felt all the effects listed in the study “at some point or other.” He invited board members to spend time in the neighborhood for a full 24-hour period in various wind conditions to feel the effects for themselves.

Mark and Annie Hart Cool, with appreciation to WGBH

Mark J. Cool, a resident of Fire Tower Road, asked the board to take a proactive approach by approaching state authorities for help and working with other town committees to address the residents grievances. “At the very least, acknowledge that something is going on in our neighborhood. It’s an enormous problem for everybody,” he said.

Chairman Gail A. Harkness said it was clear that residents are affected, but the turbines are related to the town’s finances, over which the board of health does not have jurisdiction. Mr. Murphy said that money should not be a concern for the board of health. “Aren’t I worth more than $178,000? I think I’m worth more than that,” he shouted, referring to the town’s estimate of how much money will be saved through wind energy each year.

Mr. Donald said that those savings should be enough to fund a study.

“Why can’t the board take some milk from those ‘cash cows’ to fund an epidemiological study?” he asked.

Dr. Harkness, an epidemiologist by training, suggested approaching the schools of public health at Harvard or Boston University to do a controlled study. “One residential study does not give you the truth. Repeated findings do not lead to a cause-effect scenario,” she said.

Mr. Cool asked board members whether they had seen the noise complaint log, which Falmouth Wastewater Superintendent Gerald C. Potamis explained is being kept by a private consultant. Dr. Goldstone said that could be helpful, especially if the log featured “controlled vocabulary” that could be used as scientific data for the sometimes subjective complaints.

Several residents said they had not heard of the log, and had been sending their complaints directly to selectmen or the town manager. Dr. Waterbury suggested posting the log, along with wind turbine data, on the town website so that it would be easily accessible.

Board members questioned whether pending litigation between a group of residents and the town would affect the online log, but they said they would explore the idea, along with the possibility of getting state health authorities to conduct a study in the affected neighborhoods.

  1. Comment by Mark Cool on 03/21/2011 at 7:01 pm

    Board Member Heufelder stated he, and everyone else in town, is anxiously awaiting being shown the facts. Studies involving industrial wind turbines say they may cause adverse health effects. But then, the next study says that they may not. It’s a confusing and controversial topic.

    The “Noise Complaint Log”, however, isn’t confusing or controversial. When I brought this log into the discussion asking, “are you privy to the volumes of complaints in the Noise Complaint Log?” ALL board members were stupefied that a log even existed. It should, in a rudimentary fashion, provide a starting point. It’s got times, dates, wind data and self diagnosis. This tool can be developed to yield findings that will clearly demonstrate some kind of harm being imposed.

    As implied by the board members, we neighbors of the turbines have irritations and angst, to coin a board member’s phrase. The Noise Complaint Log clearly documents this. And it’s important to note, as with other noise sources, there are individual variations to the effect of turbine noise. It would be a fallacy to attempt to argue that because only some suffer symptoms while others do not, then those who claim to be suffering the symptoms are making them up. In assessing the health impact of turbine noise on and around Blacksmith Shop, Firetower, Brush Hill and Scraggy Ridge, it is crucial that noise sensitive individuals be assessed in isolation and not averaged out. This metric assessment is currently under the scrutiny of the ZBA regarding sound data collection.

    Ms. Harkness stated “one residential study does not give you the truth. Repeated findings do not lead to a cause-effect scenario”. I contend that a Falmouth controlled study (a good step at being proactive) would only provide fractional data to support correlational studies that have already emerged in relation to the health effects of wind turbine noise. If the Board would only entertain the possibility (the may instead of themay not) of detrimental health effects due to wind turbine noise, then the board would signal that current and future turbine projects must be taken with utmost seriousness.

    Yes, a finding of the truth would be nice. We citizens, however, desire only the protection this Board is able to render. If scientific method is employed by the schools of public health at either Harvard or Boston University to do a controlled study, a cause-effect relationship need not be established. The mere indicators of some harm would dictate a protective, measured approach.

    This being said, as a best practice and goodwill to the community, the board should consider a balance of “preventive medicine”, and a proactive desire for further research. These two facets can be fostered by supporting Article 8 of the Spring Town Meeting warrant. I have urged the Board of Health to make a formal recommendation of support for Article 8 of the Spring Town Meeting warrant. So far… They only sit on those ‘oh so intelligent’ hands.

    Editor’s comment: If Mr. Heufelder would use his steel-trap mind and read the studies of WTS (my wife, with more science training than he can comprehend, wrote a 300-page peer reviewed book on the matter—over a year ago), he would quickly discover that this is neither a confusing nor a controversial topic.

    The phrase has a nice ring to it, but it’s rhetorical horseshit.

    Nina Pierpont’s is one of numerous studies of WTS and its many facets. Big Wind took these studies and sought to rebut them with absolute scientific farce written by wind shills. (I write this as someone with a BA degree in biology, who began his graduate study in an MA/PhD program in molecular biology, then aborted it to do a PhD in history. While a professor of history at Rutgers, I did a year of formal academic training toward a PhD in Immunology at the Waksman Institute of Microbiology. I understand science and how it works.) Big Wind’s lame, even hilarious, response to WTS does not make WTS “confusing” and “controversial.” (Take a look at Pierpont’s evisceration of McCunney’s junk science.) Nor does the media’s lame and even hilarious reporting on WTS and its victims.

    In the end it comes down to Big Wind’s palpable junk science versus a respectable, laudable, scientifically sound, and determined effort by Pierpont and Salt and Laurie and Hanning and Harry and many others to understand the pathophysiology of what these Falmouth unfortunates (WTS victims) are reporting—reporting entirely accurately, by the way. Their symptoms are textbook!

    There is no justification, either in the canons of science or public policy or municipal governance, for the inhumane and downright stupid response of the Falmouth Board of Health to this petition for redress by suffering neighbors.

    Stupid? Absolutely! This Thursday evening, Pierpont will be testifying before the Australian Federal Senate regarding WTS—at the Senate’s request, I add. What she will tell this august group is the following: “Honorable Senators, this is not rocket science. In fact, it’s not even … science. It’s as obvious as the nose on your face. To wit, people around the world report and suffer terribly from the same constellation of symptoms once the turbines are erected and start turning. When these same people go away from the vicinity of the turbines—their symptoms disappear. When they return home—their symptoms reappear.”

    Mark, you don’t need a PhD in epidemiology or marine biology or anything, for that matter, to realize the turbines are the cause. This is being reported by thousands, globally.

    Where’s the controversy, for Chrissakes? Where’s the confusion?

    The precise pathophysiological mechanisms for WTS are still being worked out, but there is no doubt among real clinicians that WTS is absolutely genuine. The “nocebo” bullshit being blown around with a straight face by Big Wind is a cruel joke. A complete fantasy dreamed up by Big Wind physicists and other knaves who hire their credentials to industry for a buck. It’s like Big Tobacco telling you that your lung cancer from smoking is a “nocebo.”

    The Falmouth Board of Health remains an embarrassment to science and common sense.

  2. Comment by Brad Blake, Cape Elizabeth, ME on 03/21/2011 at 7:02 pm

    Here’s an idea. Pack up the Falmouth Board of Health and Town Council and send them up to live at the Todds’ and Boyds’ homes on Mountain Rd in Mars Hill, Maine, for 2 weeks.

    At check-in, they have the controlled study questions asked by Dr Nissenbaum. He interviews them at the end of two weeks, along with a lie detector so they don’t try to scam the results.

    I’m willing to bet they report results similar to the 18 people suing UPC/First Wind.

    Meanwhile, let the Todds and the Boyds, who are decent people, have a 2-week vacation on Cape Cod during Maine’s notorious mud season.

  3. Comment by EdD on 03/21/2011 at 7:03 pm

    Why doesn’t the Board of Health of Falmouth make the Town prove that they are not doing harm?

    Why wasn’t the Town required to get a permit to build the windmill and prove at that time by using “peer reviewed” studies that the windmills would cause no harm?

    Why should the residents have to furnish the proof?

    The Board of Health is just playing games with these poor people’s lives.

    Disgraceful!!

    Editor’s comment: Amen!

    There comes a time to stop being polite. There comes a time when you tell a pettifogging bureaucrat resplendent with I-don’t-care-how-many-goddam-academic-degrees, that he’s harming people. Barry Funfar, one of the Falmouth turbine victims, repeatedly notifies the Town and its Health Department that he is suicidal over this.

    Funfar’s suicidal urge makes perfect clinical sense to a Johns Hopkins-trained MD, a Princeton PhD in Population Biology (which, by the way, is away more sophisticated a tool for studying WTS than is epidemiology), and former Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at Columbia University’s College of Physicians & Surgeons. When I say “perfect clinical sense,” I mean: Funfar’s clinical reaction to the infrasound-generating turbine next door is supported by the clinical literature. Not fantasy, not Pierpont’s imagination, but by abundant clinical literature.

    At the end of the day, the Board of Health should resign in humiliation—or be fired by the citizenry.

  4. Comment by Don Faits on 03/21/2011 at 7:22 pm

    There is apparently no denial that irritation and angst are being experienced by the complaining residents, that the residents apparently weren’t experiencing irritation and angst prior to the turbine erection, that denying that the irritation and angst being suffered by these citizens is a direct result of the presence of the wind turbine would be a ludicrous contention, that a citizen’s right to relief from government-imposed irritation and angst is a reasonable expectation.

    Now, if this thing goes on much longer, it’ll be obvious that it’s degraded from a matter to be resolved by government applying some basic common sense, into one of a contest of wills.

    As government loses the support of its people, it no longer deserves to exist. Your town administration best take a tip from the Middle East.

    The purpose of town government is to serve the needs of the people, not to interpose irritation and angst.

  5. Comment by sue Hobart on 09/03/2011 at 10:36 am

    Or so they said…but these folks are in so deep all they can do now is paddle and squirm…

  6. Comment by Wanda on 01/11/2012 at 8:36 am

    I live in a town called Waterloo, Australia, and we the residents of this town have the same problems.
    We are sick from the turbines and sick from constantly being told by the big wind farms’ so-called experts (with their big letters before and after their names) that there is no problem with noise and infrasound. Well, all the people living near wind farms don’t need to be experts to know what we are feeling. We are the ones that should be the subjects of their scientific studies. Why don’t they just go and interview the people living near wind farms? (The “experts” would save millions of dollars, since it is all about the almighty dollar.)

    Regards,

    Wanda

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