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Posts Tagged ‘deaths from air pollution in Ontario’

The Ontario Liberal government and the wind power business lobby responds to concerns about the environment and specifically human health as a result of industrial wind power generation projects with the riposte that “thousands of people are dying from coal” every year: specifically, they claim that over 9,000 (sometimes they round it up to 10,000) die EACH YEAR, with a cost of $3 billion in health care.

This is preposterous.

It is based somewhat on a consultants’ report done 20 years ago for the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) which is still being used as a foundation for further “research”—not research at all, but statistical modelling.

Thoughtful people are saying, WHAT?! Nine THOUSAND people a year? Our own research (in progress) indicates that, obviously, that number is not accurate, but in reviewing Health Canada data, the numbers start out in the low hundreds (nationally) with the proviso that the numbers are NOT to be “piled”, i.e., you can’t take data from asthma, and other respiratory problems plus emergency room visits etc. etc., pile them together, and come up with a huge, magical, politically useful number. Worse, now the Liberals, urgently seeking re-election in October, have amped it up to say “our kids are dying,” which is a misuse of statistics on childhood asthma.

Even Chatham Medical Officer of Health David Colby, who has taken assignments for the corporate wind lobby, himself said this week that the deaths in Ontario were about 250 per year, associated with air pollution.

The media is finally waking up to this discrepancy, as seen in an article by a Maclean’s magazine asociate editor, appearing in today’s Kitchener-Waterloo Record. The story is here, with full text below. http://www.therecord.com/print/article/512878

Air pollution death toll claims just blowing smoke

Anyone tossing around allegations that a “crime” has been committed had better be prepared to defend those claims with solid evidence.

Two weeks ago on these pages local entrepreneur Derek Satnik made such a claim. In defending the viability of wind power Satnik, who works in the green energy industry, warned readers that they must consider the deadly impact of other forms of electricity. (“Does any potential health risk from wind power even matter? March 26, 2011)

Satnik writes: “The chief medical officer of Ontario publishes annual reports that talk about the 9,000 Ontarians who die every year from respiratory aliments caused in part by the emissions from coal based electricity plants.” He claims anyone who uses electricity is somehow “involved” in this devastating annual death toll. “It’s a crime that we’ve gone so long thinking it’s OK for anyone to turn on their fridge without thinking of who dies at the other end of the wires.” It seems a damning argument. If true.

So where is the provincial government’s list of coal-fired deaths?

I phoned the chief medical officer of Ontario in Toronto and was told her office has never produced any reports on respiratory deaths due to electricity or air pollution. Hmm.

However, the Ontario Medical Association – a non-government organization that represents doctors – did produce a report in 2008 on the death toll resulting from air pollution. While it does not explicitly finger coal power as the culprit, it’s possible Satnik just made a sloppy reference.

Then again, over 9,000 deaths a year is a massive loss of life. A closer look at the original source material is necessary.

The Ontario Medical Association’s Illness Costs of Air Pollution report states that “air pollution is a contributing factor in almost 9,500 premature deaths per year in Ontario.” It then provides a surprisingly detailed account of these fatalities. In Waterloo Region exactly 348 deaths were caused by air pollution. In Guelph and environs, the toll was 158. Hamilton: 445. Toronto: 2,130.

But there is something absurd about the precision with which the doctors’ organization claims to have identified death by smog. Air pollution never shows up as a cause on a death certificate. So how can anyone be sure of these numbers? In fact not all doctors agree with the outlandish claims.

Last year I asked Cambridge family physician Paul Cary about the smog deaths attributed to our region. He called it “quite ludicrous. In 40 years of medicine I have never once seen or heard of a patient struck down by air pollution.” While smog alerts can be associated with mass hospitalizations and an increase in deaths, Cary explains this is a spurious link. Heat-exhaustion and fluid loss are the real culprits, not pollution.

The numbers for smog deaths do not come from any tangible real world evidence, but have been inferred using computer models.

The Ontario Medical Association combines hospitalization and death rates, air quality readings and various other factors to create a guess at how many fatalities are due to air pollution. This includes short-term impacts arising from smog alerts as well as longer-term effects. Toronto Public Health uses the same technique to conclude that 1,700 residents die annually from air pollution.

But computer modeling of this kind is a highly subjective exercise. It is necessary to apply some common sense to the results.

Ross McKitrick, a University of Guelph economist, has taken a close look at the usefulness of the computer methods producing these smog death figures. First he took Toronto’s computer model and gave it data from the 1960s, when air pollution was noticeably worse than today. Back-testing is a common way to judge a computer model’s reliability. If it cannot explain what has already happened, then it’s usefulness in explaining the future is highly suspect.

The output was nonsense. In February 1965, for instance, the computer model claimed more people died from air pollution than died in the real world from all causes.

“The results I got suggest the models are implausible,” McKitrick told me. “They’re attributing over 100 percent of all deaths to air pollution. It just doesn’t make sense.”

Given the obvious flaws in existing computer models, McKitrick created his own simulation. With two Scottish academics he gathered 20 years of data from five Canadian cities – a far larger data set than used by the Ontario Medical Association – and performed a more sophisticated computer test. These results show air pollution to be almost entirely irrelevant to hospital admissions or death. Smoking and income are the most significant factors in explaining respiratory ailments.

“We can find no evidence that air pollution levels observed from 1974 to 1994 had a detrimental effect on either excess hospital admissions or time spent in hospital,” concludes the report in the academic journal Environmental Modelling & Software.

According to McKitrick, even if all forms of air pollution miraculously disappeared from Ontario over night, there would be no noticeable decline in the death rate. Claims of a massive death toll do not stand up to scrutiny.

Fans of wind power can blow all they like, but 9,000 people do not die every year because of coal-fired electricity.

Peter Shawn Taylor is editor-at-large of Maclean’s. He lives in Waterloo.

……

Our chairperson engaged Energy Minister Brad Duguid on this topic via a web-chat and he replied, Why quibble about numbers when it doesn’t matter how many but people–our children–are dying? This was meant to show that if you are opposed to industrial wind power generation projects, you obviously don’t care if people are dying.

Fact is, the truth matters–and 9,500 people a year dying in Ontario isn’t the truth.

NOTE—-Air pollution in Ontario today, April 7: all areas reporting air quality of GOOD to VERY GOOD.

Email northgowerwindactiongroup@yahoo.ca and you may follow us on Twitter at northgowerwind

The North Gower Wind Action Group Inc. is a community group of more than 300 families in the North Gower-south Richmond area of the City of Ottawa; we are a member of Wind Concerns Ontario Inc., a coalition of more than 50 such community groups devoted to the appropriate siting of industrial wind turbine installations.

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A report on the International Symposium on the Global Wind Industry and Health Effects, which was attended by several people from the North Gower area, as well as several hundred participants from the UK, US, and Australia.

The first international symposium on The Global Wind Industry and Adverse Health Effects put on by The Society For Wind Vigilance was solid and powerful.
 
Dr. Robert McMurtry, M.D., F.R.C.S.(C), F.A.C.S., was moderator for the event and did a wonderful job of keeping everything moving along.  There was time for questions and comments set aside after speakers.
 
On Friday evening, we heard Orville Walsh speak to different setback distances.  
 
John Harrison, Ph.D., reviewed deficiencies in regulations and limitations in noise modeling.
 
On Saturday morning, Nina Pierpont, M.D., Ph.D., keynote speaker, spoke to navigating the surreal landscape of massive and systematic denial, cover-up and apathy to the suffering of many near wind turbines and to her work on Wind Turbine Syndrome.  The Society for Wind Vigilance recognized Dr. Pierpont as the pioneer in raising the issue of adverse health effects from industrial wind turbines.  She received a standing ovation!
 
Alec Salt, Ph.D. Cochlear Physiology, M.Sc.,B.Sc, Biology, demonstrated that the ear is far more complex than a microphone and that it actively amplifies high frequency sounds as it cancels out infrasonic sounds.
 
Arline Bronzaft, B.A., M.A., Ph.D., shared her knowledge on the effects of intrusive noise on child development and learning. 
 
Dr. Christopher Hanning, B.Sc., MB, BS, MRCS, LRCP, FRCA, MD, told us that the most common complaint of those exposed to industrial wind turbine noise is sleep disturbance.  Many of the other symptoms, fatigue, headache, nausea, memory problems and tiredness are probably secondary to sleep disturbance.  He says there is now a large body of evidence proving beyond any reasonable doubt that sleep is disturbed and health impaired by wind turbines at distances up to 2km, at noise levels claimed to be safe by the industry.
 
During a working luncheon,[PowerHungry author and journalist] Robert Bryce explained that the growth of the wind industry came about because of the industry’s ability to portray itself as “green”.  He told us that the growth will be difficult to sustain because the industry has overstated its ability to deliver meaningful savings on carbon dioxide emissions, it faces a growing backlash from affected landowners and from ratepayers who are learning about the high cost of “green” energy.
 
After lunch, Michael A. Nissenbaum, MD, discussed his findings on the world’s first controlled study of adverse health effects related to industrial wind turbines.  He reports that adverse effects are real and significant.  Since the pilot study was completed, a larger, more detailed and standardized controlled study has been undertaken at Mars Hill and Vinalhaven, Maine, utilizing validated questionnaires.
 
Carl V. Phillips, Ph.D., sent his presentation for us to hear in his absence.  He is awaiting the arrival of a new son/daughter at any minute and was unable to travel to the symposium in person.  He says the claim that there is no evidence of negative health effects from wind turbines near residences is clearly false since there are ample credible reports of people experiencing problems.  He is working on developing a research tool for collecting case-crossover data for use by any community.
 
Carmen Krogh, B.SC. Pharmacy, spoke to the consequences of the violation of social justice for families worldwide who are affected by turbines.  She states that those experiencing symptoms also feel victimized by the very systems that would normally protect them.  In some cases, Ontario families have abandoned their homes to protect their health. 
 
Eric K. Gillespie, LLB, spoke to legal challenges and opportunities that are being pursued, strategies that include private litigation brought by individuals, public interest litigation raising broader issues, by-laws, resolutions and other steps taken by local government and administrative hearings outside of the court system.
 
On Sunday morning, the room was full again to listen to Ross McKitrick, Ph.D., ask if coal kills, where are the bodies?  He explained the nature of the coal plants currently operating in Ontario and air pollution trends.  He was able to show that the claims that current air pollution levels result in thousands of cases of illness and death are not supported in up-to-date, peer-reviewed literature.
 
Dale Goldhawk, broadcaster, told us that everyone thought dump site 41 was a done deal, that nothing could be done to stop it.  He says there are no done deals with projects that are counter to the best interests of people – and that includes wind turbines!  He wants us to remember the words of Gandhi:  First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.  Mr. Goldhawk will be speaking to industrial wind turbines all this week on his show, Nov. 1st to Nov. 8th and he would love to hear from you!  Shows start at 11:00a.m. each day on 740am radio or http://zoomerradio.ca 
Call in at 1-866-740-4740 or 1-416-360-0740 or email to fightback@goldhawk.com
 
Dr. Robert McMurtry eloquently summarized the weekend for us and thanked our speakers, all traveled to the symposium at their own expense, for sharing their knowledge with us.  It was uplifting to see the caring and concern in the room. There was an award and a standing ovation for all of the speakers! 
 
There were hundreds of messages of support from around the world for the first international symposium on the global wind industry and adverse health effects!  There will be a comprehensive list posted on www.windvigilance.com when the team catches their breath again.  Messages came from New Zealand, Canada, Australia, Germany, EPAW, Japan, Spain, Sweden, Untited Kingdom, United States, Belgium, Crete, Denmark, Estonia, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands and Poland. 
 
From all around the globe, people spoke of correcting an unethical wrong and of their gratitude to the Society for arranging this powerful weekend of speakers.

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