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2/20/08 What's Something Tobacco, Asbestos, and Industrial Wind Turbines Have in Common? And what's the difference between informal peer review and formal peer review.


Are you old enough to remember when asbestos was considered to be not only harmless, but helpful?

Are you old enough to remember when we were assured tobacco wasn't bad for us?

If you aren't and you'd like to watch an old ad that says more doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette, click here. To see the Chesterfield man explain how Chesterfield Cigarettescause no harm, click here 

The same thing is going on with industrial wind turbines. We are told by the wind developers that 1000 feet from our homes is safe, and the state of Wisconsin includes this in its draft wind ordinance.

But what is the safety of a 1000 foot set back based on? These machines are 40 stories tall and have a blade span wider than a 747 and we're told not to worry, they are quite safe.

It was recently discovered there were no scientific or medical studies used back up the safety of the 1000 set back. On the contrary, the set back seems to have been determined by wind lobbyists and a power company in Florida.

However there are scientific studies that show industrial wind turbines sited closer than 1.5 miles from a residence can have serious negative impacts on human health.

The wind developers tell us 1000 feet is safe. What they really should be saying is 1000 feet is profitable. 

In response to the Union Township's Large Wind Turbine Citizen's Study Committee's final report (click here to download a copy of it), a representative of Wisconsin Public Power Inc. (WPPI) contacted one of the doctors whose findings are used to support a larger setback.

We thank Dr. Calvin Luther Martin, PhD, for his kind permission to reprint his response to WPPI and urge anyone who is alarmed as we are by this letter to write their legislators.

AN IMPORTANT NOTE FROM THE BPRC RESEARCH NERD!: The United States National Library of Medicine (NLM) (click here for source) defines peer- review this way:

Peer review: the process by which manuscripts submitted to health, biomedical, and other scientifically oriented journals and other publications are evaluated by experts in appropriate fields (usually anonymous to the authors) to determine if the manuscripts are of adequate quality for publication.

We are still researching the difference between informal and formal peer reveiw, but prefer to err on the side of caution! 

 We believe Dr. Martin is referring to INFORMAL peer-review in his letter, and not formal peer review. The letter is also a bit sassy, which puts it on the informal side as well. Still,  it makes many good points and we are glad to post it with the cautionary note that to the best of our knowledge, formal peer review of Dr. Pierpont's work has not yet happened.

(Download a pdf of the original signed letter by clicking here) 


Nina Pierpont M.D. PH.D.
19 Clay Street
Malone, New York 12953

                                                          February 20, 2008

Erick Kostecki
Renewable Energy Project Coordinator
Wisconsin Public Power Inc.
1425 Corporate Center Dr.
Sun Prairie, WI 53590

Dear Mr. Konstecki,

Dr. Pierpont has asked me to reply to your note, excerpted below. (She’s buried by her medical practice. You understand. I’m her husband.)

     “I am an employee of Wisconsin Public Power Inc. a regional non-profit electric power supply company serving 49 customer-owned electric utilities in Wisconsin, Iowa and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. As an electric utility in the state of WI…we are using a diverse mix of renewable technologies that includes wind…. The major portion of wind energy comes from power purchase agreements from large wind farms…

As you may know, a recent report by the town of Union Large Wind Turbine Citizen’ s Committee on wind turbine siting issues makes reference to your testimony before the New York Legislature March 7, 2006 and describes you as “author of several peer reviewed studies on Wind Turbines” on page 22. As part of our ongoing dialogue with community members and stakeholders, we’ve been asked to respond to questions based on those articles, however, we have been unable to locate any such peer-reviewed articles. So that we may follow up on these questions, could you please refer me to the titles and publication details for any of your peer reviewed articles on Wind Turbine Syndrome? “

The Town of Union, Wisconsin, Large Turbine Citizens Committee is altogether correct to note that Dr. Pierpont’s reports have been peer- reviewed. They all have been peer-reviewed.

Peer-review means that peers (scholars, clinicians or scientists) in the same or cognate field as the author have reviewed that individual’s work and passed judgment upon it. Dr. Pierpont’s reports have been reviewed by numerous physicians and scientists over the
3 ½ years she has been writing her reports. (Peer review is always an invisible part of one’s report, or, in the case of a published article, one’s article and even book. Incidentally, as a former university professor I have published numerous scholarly books and articles and refereed and reviewed may book and article manuscripts.)

In your note you say you have been unable to find these peer-reviewed studies by Dr. Pierpont. They’re right in front of your nose, my friend!

I can take this a step further. As a result of the positive judgment of her peers (clinicians and scientists) who have reviewed her work and communicated their judgment to her (like a good clinician-scientist, Dr. Pierpont has sought out such judgment and review by her peers), Dr. Pierpont is about to submit a major article on Wind Turbine Syndrome to a leading clinical journals for publication. (This article, too, will be peer-reviewed.) I will be happy to send an offprint when it comes out: however that might be necessary since it will undoubtedly be picked up by the major media. (Nevertheless I’ll try to remember to mail you an offprint)

I should add that Dr. Pierpont strongly disagrees with the Town of Union “Large Wind Turbine Citizen’s Committee’s report in one respect. (She’s glad you contacted her so she can convey her dissent to you, hoping you may prevail on the committee to fix their blunder.) In her forthcoming article she establishes 1-½ miles as the minimum, clinically defensible setback from homes, etc. The committee’s ½ mile set back is clinically and scientifically indefensible, and she urges you and your colleagues to take the committee to task on their shoddy work and insist they bump that setback up to 1.5 miles.

We gather from your reference to community members and stakeholders that you are sensitive to proper setbacks, so we appeal to you to use your good offices to insist the committee fix it’s absurd, and as I say, indefensible ½ mile setback. (We were so exercised by this slip-up I actually contacted a committee member and expressed Dr. Pierponts strong disapproval of this figure. Privately, our hunch is they got it from wind developer, not unlike the 1000’ setback heretofore favored by the State of Wisconsin)

I might add (since I gather you’re neither a scientist or a physician—and that’s okay, I’m not either) that whenever Dr. Pierpont gives expert testimony in court (something she often does) she is never asked by the judge if she has published her clinical assessment of the a particular patient in a refereed professional journal. The judge properly assumes that, given her credentials, and her license to practice medicine, she is qualified to offer such clinical judgment. Of course she substantiates her judgment  and claims by clinical evidence, just as she does in the Wind Turbine Syndrome reports and papers which you’ve doubtless read. (See the footnotes: It’s all there. Lots of it.)

One might rightfully say that she invoked the customary court-of-law approach to evidence and authority (her authority, in this case) in her work on Wind Turbine Syndrome. Of course if the wind developers can find a similarly qualified physician-scientist (MD-PhD, like Dr. Pierpont, or simply MD will suffice) who feels he can refute her work, based on standard clinical protocols and evidence, she would be eager to consider that evidence.

In 3 ½ years of researching and writing reports on Wind Turbine Syndrome, not a single clinician-scientist can come forward to refute her work. Nowhere in the world. Impressive, yes?

An aside about Dr. Geoff Leventhall, whose name is often mentioned by wind developers. Mr. Leventhall, with whom Dr. Pierpont has enjoyed a spirited and mutually cordial correspondence, is not a clinician- scientist. He is a PhD in physics. (I would be happy to forward his c.v.) Dr. Leventhall has no training, that we are aware of , in anything clinical. It’s quite proper for him to comment on turbine noise as physicist, but any opinion he might offer about health effects from turbines would have no standing among clinicians—for the simple reason that, after all, he’s not one. (This would be like me, with my PhD in history, commenting authoritatively on matters of physics. You understand.)

Thanks for your interest in Dr. Pierpont’s work and we do hope you will insist that the committee fix its setback recommendation.


Calvin Luther Martin, PhD
Associate Professor of History (retired)
Rutgers University
New Brunswick, NJ

 A Note from the BPRC Research Nerd: They say there are two sides to every story: Here are two billboards that happen to be right next to each other. There may be badadplacementcigarettes.jpgtwo sides to this story, but----

Posted on Wednesday, February 20, 2008 at 06:53PM by Registered CommenterThe BPRC Research Nerd | Comments Off

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