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11/29/07 Are There Health and Safety Problems Associated With Living Too Close to Wind Turbines?


This home in Nova Scotia is now abandoned due to noise from industrial wind turbines the same size as those proposed for our community. There are 17 turbines in all at this wind farm. The closest one is 1000 feet from the house. (Read Full Story Here)

Q. Are there health and safety issues associated with living close to industrial wind turbines which I should be concerned about?

Here is the October 10, 2007 response to this question by Dr. Nina Pierpont, MD, PhD, who has conducted some of the most intensive medical studies on the effects of wind turbines on human health and safety:

"Yes, there are indeed medical problems caused by noise and vibration from current, upwind, three bladed industrial wind turbines. I am in the process of preparing a paper for publication in a medical journal documenting the consistency of these problems from family to family, the study subjects being a collection of families in several different English-speaking countries who have been driven from their homes by problems with sleep, headaches, tinnitus, equilibrium, concentration, memory, learning, mood, and child behavior -- problems which started when the turbines went into operation and which resolve when the family is away from the turbines. These problems all occur in proximity to recently built industrial turbines, put into operation in 2005, 2006, and 2007.

The ear is indeed the most sensitive receptor for noise and vibration. This does not mean, however, that if you cannot hear it, it cannot hurt you. The ear does more than hear. A number of the effects of noise and vibration from wind turbines appear to be mediated by the inner ear, which is a complex organ, one of whose functions is detecting certain sorts of vibration as noise. The inner ear also detects movement, acceleration, and position relative to gravity, has direct feedback onto eye movement, and has established linkages with anxiety centers in the brain.

People disturbed by noise and vibration from industrial wind turbines generally can hear the noise when it bothers them, though it may not seem particularly loud. Several people I have interviewed speak favorably of living next to an elevated urban train line, compared to living at their rural home next to wind turbines. They can sleep with traffic or train noise, but not with the wind turbine noise/vibration. They consistently described a penetrating and intrusive quality to the wind turbine noise, several describing in different ways a very disturbing feeling that the noise is somehow inside their bodies. This latter effect suggests detection of vibration in body cavities, especially since people who say this generally localize the feeling to their chest or their head.

Published research from Sweden (thesis by Pedersen and published papers incorporated into the thesis) shows that the percentage of annoyed people (which include people who move out or undertake major house renovations to try to do something about the noise) goes up at 37.5-40 dBA. This is probably because A-weighted noise representations are not capturing the parts of the wind turbine noise and vibration spectrum which are disturbing. The Pedersen studies are also based on modeled noise, not actual measurements, though there is a close correlation between actual dBA measurements and the Swedish governmental modeling protocols, the author says. Even if we do not know exactly what parts of the noise and vibration spectrum are bothersome, and to what extent these are represented in a dBA measurement, we have in the Pedersen research clear evidence that when noise is modeled prior to wind turbine construction, the allowed levels of noise should not be over 37.5 to 40 dBA outside of dwellings. Because the noise level is especially important at night, and it is at night that there tends to be a "stable atmosphere," with cool, still air at ground level and a brisk wind at turbine hub height, modeling of noise prior to wind turbine construction should use both a 37.5 to 40 dBA ceiling of tolerability, and van den Berg’s models of noise propagation in a stable atmosphere.

Nina Pierpont, MD, PhD


   Although wind developers downplay or even deny there are adverse affects of living too close to wind turbines, there are serious, documented health and safety issues for people living closer than a mile and a half of an industrial wind turbine. There are concerns about effects on livestock. In Wisconsin there is no set back law. An industrial wind turbine could be built 1000 feet of your house or barn whether you want it there or not. The wind developer for our area has said they will not site a turbine closer than 1150 feet from a residence, but they admit they are measuring from the center tower supporting the turbine. The blades are 130 feet each, which means that the distance from the blade tip of the turbine to your door can be 1020 feet

On the issue of setbacks, Dr. Pierpont says, "I consider a 1.5 mile set-back a minimum figure. In hilly or mountainous topographies, where valleys act as natural channels for noise, this 1.5 mile set-back should be extended anywhere from 2-3 miles from homes.
Let me be clear: there is nothing, absolutely nothing, in the wind energy proposition that says windmills must be sited next door (often 1000 feet) to people's homes and workplaces. Siting, after all, is the crux of the issue.
Irresponsible siting is what most of the uproar is about. Corporate economics favor building wind turbines in people's backyards; sound clinical medicine, however, does not.
(Read the full report here)

 The Townships of Magnolia and Union are in the process of drafting ordinances which will include set back distances. Since a total of 70 turbines are proposed for our area (67 in Magnolia, 3 in Union) nearly everyone stands to be affected. (see a map of Magnolia high ground by clicking here. Though the wind developers say they don't yet have a reliable map of where the turbines may be sited, the high ground of our area is where the turbines will most likely be placed if the proposal goes through) There will be a meeting on Thursday, December 13, 2007 at 7pm for Magnolia Township at the Magnolia Town Hall, west of hiway 213 on County Road A, across from the church. ALL RESIDENTS OF MAGNOLIA, UNION AND SURROUNDING TOWNSHIPS ARE ENCOURAGED TO ATTEND! You can also contact us with your concerns and questions and we'll forward them to the zoning board. Contact us by clicking here or by writing to us at Better Plan, Rock County, PO Box 393, Footville, WI 53537. All names and contact information will be kept confidential. We will forward your questions and concerns only. The BPRC will not share your contact information with anyone.

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