"I wear these every single night," she says, though occasionally she'll "switch to headphones" to muffle the sound of the wind turbine near her home. "But it doesn't matter. The noise still gets into your ears."
And, she insists, it's making her sick.
Standing at the entrance of the Ontario Legislature, enduring rain on a chilly spring day, MacLeod is among a small group of rural citizens that call themselves Wind Concerns Ontario. They've gathered to protest the rapid development of wind farms in a province determined to go green, with Ontario insisting there is no credible scientific link between human health and the noise or electromagnetic fields generated by properly sited wind turbines.
Ironically, it's April 22 Earth Day a time when more are likely to celebrate the positive environmental role that wind power plays in the battle against climate change and air pollution.
Indeed, a March survey of 301 residents in Essex County found that 87 per cent of those polled support plans to develop wind farms in their rural corner of southwestern Ontario.
Most of them "strongly" support such projects, according to the Pollara-conducted poll.
But this small, highly organized group occupying the front steps of Queen's Park is having none of it. Its members consider modern wind turbines over-hyped, underperforming industrial eyesores that threaten their rural way of life and, many say, their health.
MacLeod has a large turbine about 800 metres from her home, part of Suncor Energy's Ripley wind farm located in the Townships of Huron-Kinross. She says the turbines disturb her sleep, trigger headaches and cause heart palpitations. Others cite nausea, ringing in the ears, high blood pressure, heightened anxiety and depression as side effects.
They can't prove it, but MacLeod argues that nobody has demonstrated that wind turbines don't make people sick. That's why Robert McMurtry, former dean of medicine at the University of Western Ontario and a supporter of Wind Concerns Ontario, has called on the government to launch a large scientific health study to settle the issue.
Until such a study is complete, he argues, all turbines should be set back at least 1.5 kilometres from the nearest residence, though the group would prefer a complete halt in development. McMurtry says the government has a moral obligation to act.
Either wind turbines do have health effects or they don't, he says. "Both claims can't be true."
What is true is that the wind industry in Europe has grown at a phenomenal rate, and North America is catching up fast. There are more than 1,700 wind turbines in Europe generating enough electricity to meet 4 per cent of continental demand.
Total wind-power capacity in the United States grew by 50 per cent in 2008 and is proceeding at another record pace this year. Here at home, Ontario boasts the country's highest wind capacity and, under a new Green Energy Act and European-style feed-in tariff program, it hopes to accelerate development and attract green manufacturing jobs.
There's no shortage of projects on the drawing board. A recent survey commissioned by the Ontario Power Authority found there were 164 wind-energy projects under various stages of development, representing 13,382 megawatts of potential capacity.
That works out to the equivalent of 7,000 wind turbines, most scattered across southern Ontario. That's on top of the 900 megawatts of wind capacity built and connected to the provincial grid and another 600 megawatts being developed under contract.
The Green Energy Act is designed to speed those kinds of projects along, by removing roadblocks that have typically emerged during municipal approval processes. It's here where citizens, even if just a handful, have been able to use procedural delay to stall development, for example, when there is disagreement over how far a turbine should be set back from a property.
Under the new law, the province uploads that responsibility and the Ministry of Environment sets a universal minimum setback standard that all municipalities must meet.
The current setback distance recommended by the Ministry of Environment is 400 metres. "At the moment, what they should do is set back 1.5 kilometres, and I would argue two kilometres," says McMurtry, citing an unscientific survey he recently conducted that found 53 of 76 people living an average of 780 metres from the nearest wind turbine experienced what they described as negative health effects. Anything greater than a kilometre, however, appears highly unlikely.
"I don't take it seriously when they ask for a two-kilometre setback," said Energy and Infrastructure Minister George Smitherman on the day in February when he tabled his green-energy legislation. In his view, a 500-metre minimum is a "reasonable starting point" that goes beyond the distances previously set by most municipalities.
The Star approached several wind developers about the setback debate. Most said any setback one kilometre or more would kill the economics of most wind projects in Ontario. Developers would have to purchase or access significantly more land and lay more electrical cable to accommodate such distances.
Smitherman said his government is reviewing the scientific literature, particularly out of Europe where the wind industry is more mature. Last month, he announced that the Ministry of Environment will create and fund an academic research chair dedicated to examining the potential public health impacts of renewable energy projects, including wind.
At the moment, however, there's no convincing evidence that wind turbines located a few hundred metres from a dwelling negatively effect health, Smitherman said. A 2008 epidemiological study and survey, financed by the European Union, generally supports that view.
Researchers from Holland's University of Groningen and Gothenburg University in Sweden conducted a mail-in survey of 725 rural Dutch residents living 17 metres to 2.1 kilometres from the nearest wind turbine.
The survey received 268 responses and, while most acknowledged hearing the "swishing" sound that wind turbines make, the vast majority 92 per cent said they were "satisfied" with their living environment.
Perhaps most telling is that those most annoyed by turbine noises had a negative view of wind turbines to begin with, while those least annoyed gained economically by having turbines on their land or owning shares in a community wind-turbine venture.
The study also concluded there was "no indication that the sound from wind turbines had an effect on respondents' health."
The study's findings suggest that those drawing a link between their health and the nearness of an unsightly and annoying wind turbine may be suffering from a nocebo effect. Just as the placebo effect makes a sick individual feel better after taking a sugar pill disguised as medication, the nocebo effect would make a healthy individual feel sick after taking a sugar pill disguised as medication with supposed side effects.
The effect has been studied as it relates to people living near cellphone towers or hydro lines. French newspaper Journal de Dimanche wrote in April about a household in Paris that blamed three recently installed cellphone antennas in the area for causing headaches, nosebleeds and a metallic taste in the mouths of some residents. It would be a plausible explanation, but for one detail: The antennas were never activated.
"There do seem to be strong similarities between the symptoms people attribute to wind turbines and those they attribute to mobile phone masts," says Dr. James Rubin, who researches the nocebo effect at the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College, London.
"But if a wind turbine has just gone up next to your house, that becomes the obvious cause of your symptoms," he says.
But as any politician knows, gaining complete public acceptance is rare indeed, impossible in the world of energy planning.
Smitherman says opposition to energy plans comes from every corner: groups opposing nuclear, communities against natural gas plants, farmers against solar parks, and rural residents against wind farms.
If the province's overarching goal is to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and air pollution from coal-fired electricity, then wind, while not the only answer, must be part of the answer.
The known and well-documented health effects from coal use and the threat that climate change poses to humans and other species must be weighed against the unproven links between wind turbines and human health, Smitherman insists.
"As people see more information come forward on green energy, they will see that the pursuit of renewable energy is not about overriding concerns for the health or the environment," he says.
It's a position that doesn't sit well with MacLeod and other members of Wind Concerns Ontario, who are convinced beyond all doubt that the wind turbines around their homes are the direct cause of their suffering.
"I'm the human level of it," says MacLeod.
"We just want our lives back."