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Wind Turbine Syndrome: Are Wind Farms Hazardous to Human Health?
[Click Here for Source: Reuters.com ]
By Stephen Boles
June 8, 2009
Over the last few years, the wind energy sector has been experiencing tremendous growth as governments and utilities around the world seek sources of energy that generate reduced greenhouse gas emissions. In Ontario, the province has plans to increase the wind component of its electricity generation from the current 1 percent to 15 percent by 2025.
For the most part the wind energy industry has coasted along with favorable press and public opinion. The industry has had to weather some resistance, particularly pertaining to wildlife impacts (primarily birds and bats) and the consistency and reliability of wind power. Yet these criticisms have not gained enough traction to have a noticeable effect on the growth of the industry, which is being hailed as a source of tens of thousands of potential new jobs in the evolving green economy.
Wind turbines emit inaudible sound waves in the low end of the sound spectrum and rhythmic vibrations caused by the spinning blades. These are suspected to cause a host of adverse health effects in some people that live in close proximity to the turbines, including:
acute hypertensive episodes,
high blood pressure,
the sensation of bugs crawling on the skin,
humming in the head,
continuous ringing in the ears,
The condition has been given a name: "Wind Turbine Syndrome", coined by Dr. Nina Pierpont, the subject of her recently published 150-page book. Wind Concerns Ontario is a coalition of 32 individual anti-wind citizens' groups that have joined together from across the province of Ontario; they have named Wind Turbine Syndrome as one of their key focus areas. Both Dr. Pierpont and Wind Concerns Ontario recommend a minimum 2 kilometer setback for wind turbines from residential homes, along the lines with what is recommended by the World Health Organization (1.5 kilometers).
The assignment of setback distances in Ontario is currently governed by municipalities (the province will be taking control under its new Green Energy Act) with most setbacks being under 500 meters. Given the mounting evidence indicating adverse effects that wind turbines can have on human health, it is critical that more research be conducted into adequate setback distances. With the emphasis that the world is placing on wind energy as a critical piece of our future energy puzzle, setback distance research would be time and money well spent to ensure that wind power grows in harmony with the environment and its citizens.
NOTE FROM THE BPWI RESEARCH NERD: Scroll down to read a summary of the report on wind turbine impacts on human health put out by the Minnesota Department of Health in May of 2009. This report echoes concerns mentioned in the article above.
Key Points from the Minnesota Report:
--Problems with turbine noise in general, low frequency noise specifically and also trouble from shadow flicker are not a major concern at a setback of half a mile.
--There is nothing in the report which advocates a closer setback.
--Shadow flicker is a bigger problem than predicted by the modeling software developers use, can last an hour and a half.
--The common calculations for predicting turbine noise are not adequate and because of this, noise levels are underestimated.
--Noise from wind turbines bothers people more quickly than noise at equal levels from traffic, planes or trains.
--The most common complaints from residents living within half mile are lack of sleep from turbine noise and also headaches. ( The report also addresses the same list of symptoms Reuters reports.)
--Turbines emit both high frequency and low frequency sounds. High frequency sounds can be lessened by walls and closed windows but low frequency sounds penetrate walls and windows easily.