Carl V. Phillips MPP, PhD, an Epidemiologist formerly from the University of Alberta School of Public Health provided this powerful testimony before the Wisconsin Public Service Commission.
Duration: 5 minutes 40 seconds
A transcript of Dr. Phillips’ testimony is provided below with special thanks to Lynda Barry :
PSC: Please raise your right hand. Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
Carl V. Phillips: Yes I do.
PSC: OK, spell your name.
PHILLIPS: Carl V. Phillips, C-A-R-L, initial V as in Vincent- Phillips- P-H-I-double L-I-P-S
PSC: All right go ahead.
So. I’m an epidemiologist and policy researcher. I’m specifically expert in how to optimally derive knowledge for decision making from epidemiological data.
I have a PhD in public policy from Harvard University, and I did a post doctoral fellowship in public health policy and the philosophy of science.
I’ve spent most of my career as a professor of public health and medicine, most recently at the University of Alberta and I currently direct an independent research institute.
I reviewed the literature on health effects of wind turbines on local residents, including the reports that have been prepared by industry consultants and the references therein and I have reached the following conclusions which I present in detail in a written report that I believe will be submitted [to the commission]
First, there is ample evidence that some people suffer a collection of health problems including insomnia, anxiety, loss of concentration, general psychological distress as a result of being exposed to turbines near their home.
The type of studies that have been done are not adequate to estimate what portion of the population is susceptible to the effect, the magnitude of the effect or exactly how much exposure is needed before the risks become substantial, but all of these could be determined with fairly simple additional research.
What is clear is there is a problem of some magnitude. The evidence may not be enough to meet the burden of a tort claim about as specific disease, but in my opinion it’s clearly enough to suggest that our public policy should not just be to blindly move forward without more knowledge.
The best evidence we have -which has been somewhat downplayed in previous discussion -is what’s known as case cross-over data, which is one of the most useful forms of epidemiological study, where both the exposure and the disease are transitory.
That is, it’s possible to remove the exposure and see if the disease goes away, and reinstate it and see if the disease recurs which is exactly the pattern that has been observed for some of the sufferers who have physically moved away and sometimes back again.
With that study design in mind we actually have very substantial amounts of data in a structured form, contrary to some of the claims that have been made. And more data of this nature could easily be gathered if an effort was made.
Moreover, people’s avoidance behavior. They’re moving from their homes and so forth, is a clear revealed preference measure of their suffering.
Such evidence transforms something that might be dismissed as a subjective experience or perhaps even fakery to an objective observation that someone’s health problems are worth more than the many thousands of dollars they’ve lost trying to escape the exposure.
My second observation and the remaining ones are much shorter. The second observation is that these health effects that people are suffering are very real.
The psychologically mediated diseases that we’ve observed and in fact overall mental well being are included in all modern accepted definitions of either individual health or public health.
It’s true that they are more difficult to study than certain other diseases but they probably account for more of the total morbidity burden in the United States than do purely physical diseases, therefore should not be in any way dismissed.
Third, the reports that I have read that claim that there is no evidence that there is a problem seem to be based on a very simplistic understanding of epidemiology and self-serving definitions of what does and what does not count as evidence.
I don’t think I can cover too much of this in the available time right now but I explain it in detail in my report, why these claims — which probably seem convincing to most readers prima facia [at first glance], don’t represent proper scientific reading, more over the exclusion of the reports don’t even match their own analyses.
The reports themselves actually concede that there are problems, and then somehow manage to reach the conclusion that there is no evidence that there are problems.
And my final point, as I’ve already alluded to is it’s quite possible to do the studies it would take to resolve the outstanding question, and they could actually be done very quickly by studying people who are already exposed.
This is not really the kind of circumstance where we cannot really know more until we move forward and wait for years of additional exposure.
The only reason we don’t have better information than we do is that no one with adequate resources has tried to get it.
That’s the conclusion of my points.