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Fond du Lac Reporter July 8, 2016 Wisconsin

By Elizabeth Ebertz

Commentary: Health director shouldn't ignore victims

“Unnecessary noise, then, is the most cruel absence of care which can be inflicted either on sick or well.”

Florence Nightingale
Florence Nightingale, founder of modern nursing

This excerpt is from “Chapter IV Noise” of Florence Nightingale’s famous 1898 work: “Notes on Nursing What It Is, and What It Is Not”, which offers many cautions about noise and health that she believed nurses should practice. Her understanding was very progressive. Not until the 1960s did epidemiology demonstrate that long-term exposure to low levels of noise causes significant adverse health effects. Not until the 2000s did epidemiology prove that low sound levels over long periods at night result in significant health effects including cardiovascular impacts. Nurse Nightingale did not wait for that epidemiological evidence when she saw the evidence directly in the sick people she was trying to help.

In contrast, county Health Officer/Director Kimberly Mueller claims to be waiting for scientific evidence that proves adverse health effects are caused by the wind turbines before she will take action to address the reported harmful effects. Is this what Florence Nightingale would have decided?

Mueller needs to take action based on evidence in her own community. Fond du Lac County has seen a long list of people filing complaints about wind turbine noise and the resulting health effects. Ignoring evidence that should be relied upon from direct witnesses, residents who have been pleading before the Board of Health at meeting after meeting, is not the way a health officer should respond.

What more “evidence” is needed to motivate Mueller to act? How many more people must stand before her begging for relief? County health officers should be protecting the community, not defending the wind energy projects.

The board is seeking more studies. Why? The evidence has been before them for years. The people who are ill remain ill as a result of the board’s failure to act on complaints, and the poor advice from the health director.

Denial of evidence from the people who are adversely impacted by the noise, both audible and inaudible infra sound, is not acceptable for public health officials. They have a duty to act to protect public health, yet continue to ignore the evidence brought to them by their residents.

Florence Nightingale taught that a nurse must address the concerns of a person who complains of symptoms that make them sick. By her standards, the medical professionals advising the county should be ashamed.

The recent Health Canada study shows that living within 1.25 miles of a wind energy utility can double risks of adverse health effects like migraines, dizziness and tinnitus. It covered people living near six wind projects in Ontario where the sound limits are not to exceed 40 dBA. This is well below the 50 dBA that the county accepted for wind energy projects. The county decided it would make the rural areas industrial noise zones. It is time they stand up and take ownership of the problems they created.

Elizabeth Ebertz is from St. Cloud.