11/7/10 What part of CONCERN don't you understand? The trouble with living too close to industrial scale wind turbines
LEADING EXPERTS POOL MOST RECENT UNDERSTANDING OF HARM OF INDUSTRIAL WIND TURBINES ON HUMAN HEALTH
SOURCE: Wellington Times, wellingtontimes.ca
November 5 2010
by Rick Conroy,
Piece by piece, presentation by presentation, the foundation upon which industrial wind industry and much of Ontario’s Green Energy Act sits was taken apart and dismantled this past weekend.
The industrial wind turbine business was always on shaky ground. It has been promoted by governments eager to be seen to be doing something about the western world’s reliance on fossil fuels—oil, gas and coal. In many respects wind energy policy has been a public relations exercise fuelled by governments’ willingness to spill billions of taxpayer dollars into developer’s pockets. They do so with a mix of wishful thinking and willful blindness in the expectation that technology leaps will fill in the significant operational gaps before most folks realize intermittent generating sources don’t work on a large scale.
None of these folks anticipated, however, that industrial wind turbines would actually make people sick. After the first international symposium in Picton on the weekend, there can be little doubt remaining.
Several analogies were made about how the
fight against the harmful effects of smoking tobacco began with just a few voices in the medical and scientific community. It would take decades, however, before governments would listen and begin to take action. The esteemed participants of the Picton gathering fervently hope it doesn’t take as long for governments and the broader public to understand the harm caused by industrial wind turbines.
Dr. Bob McMurtry, a physician and former deputy minister of health in Ontario, gathered doctors, scientists and researchers from around the world to Picton in reveal their findings and share the latest information on the impact of industrial wind turbines in what he termed a “consilience” or unity of knowledge.
WHAT WE LEARNED
Several alarming messages emerged. Every animal with a functioning hearing organ, including humans, is at risk of being affected by the low-frequency pulsating sound emitted by industrial wind turbines. Those most acutely affected tend to be disposed to motion sickness or car sickness— but even those without these symptoms may be responding to the noise, whether they are aware of it or not.
The low-frequency and subsonic (below the hearing range) noise from wind turbines has a demonstrable effect on the ear and hearing mechanisms. The most acute symptoms include nausea, dizziness and sleep disturbance. It is now becoming evident, however, that even those who don’t suffer these particular symptoms are likely realizing some harm. These hearing mechanisms are closely related to language development, learning and cognitive organization— as the fine components of the ear become stressed, learning in children becomes impaired, concentration becomes harder for adults, and sleep is disrupted.
Evidence was presented that people likely don’t “get used to” wind turbine noise. Even those who claim not to hear noise appear to endure physiological stress related to the pulsating low frequency noise.
Among the more worrisome bits of information gleaned from the weekend conference was that current assumptions of safe setbacks are likely wrong. Many opponents of large scale industrial wind factories have pressed for setbacks from homes of at least two kilometres. (Ontario’s Green Energy Act prescribes setbacks of just 550 metres.) But studies done by sound experts John Harrison and Richard James now show that in some conditions— over water and rocky terrain and beneath low cloud cover—the low-frequency noise can travel up to 15 kilometres.
Keynote speaker Dr. Nina Pierpont, the author of Wind Turbine Syndrome, explained that “our brains don’t function well” when subjected to long-term sustained low thumping noise from industrial wind turbines.
According to her research 90 per cent of those in her test sample exposed to the “pulsating tone” of the wind turbines suffered from cognitive performance deficit as compared to a control group. Generally they had more difficulty with reading, spelling, math, memorization and recalling the plots of television shows.
Pierpont’s findings extend beyond cognitive issues. She has also observed that stress to the hearing organ is linked to balance, which has a close relationship to emotions including panic and fear. These are the same triggers that cause in some a paralyzing fear of heights.
She observed that two-thirds of her test group—14 of 21—presented “disturbing symptoms” such as the need to flee, difficulty breathing, and panic.
Dr. Arlene Bronzaft recounted her groundbreaking studies on noise and learning done three decades ago in New York City. In her work she documented how children on one side of a school nearest a busy train line suffered from measurable learning impairment compared with students on the opposite side of the school. Her work led to legislation and changes in the classroom to ensure students has a quiet place to learn, not just in New York, but across the U.S..
She urged the physicians and scientists in the room to continue to produce evidence of the harm of industrial wind turbines.
“You need the studies and the research,” said Dr. Bronzaft. “You need to teach. You need to be political. But I ask you not to give up if you are successful in one area—there are communities in Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Maine and across North America with small groups who are fighting these developers. They will continue to need your help.”
Alec Salt heads the Cochlear Fluids Research Laboratory at Washington University in St. Louis. He illustrated that sound emitted from industrial turbines is many times greater than the audible hearing range—prompting him to work through the answer to his own question—does sound that you can’t hear hurt you?
Salt’s research has shown how low-frequency sound affects the transport mechanism of the ear and hearing structure.
“A big part of the sound created by an industrial wind turbine can’t be heard,” explained Salt. “That doesn’t mean it can’t hurt you. When these structures move frequently and dramatically it can have an effect on a range of symptoms.”
He asked the audience to consider this proposition against other human senses.
“Apply this notion to taste, smell, sight and touch,” said Salt. “Does anyone believe that you have to taste something in order for it to be harmful? We know that ultraviolet light (light we can’t see) can have a dramatic effect on skin and other organs. The notion that we can’t be harmed by sounds we can’t hear is nonsense. We need to stop ignoring the effects of infrasound on people.”
He is less clear about whether symptoms persist after exposure to industrial wind turbine infrasound is discontinued.
Sleep expert Dr. Chris Hanning travelled from the U.K. to explain the effect of industrial wind turbines on sleep. He observed that the need for sleep is universal among animals—that poor sleep leads to a range of disorders from obesity to heart disease.
“Disrupted sleep over time leads to heightened states of frustration, anger and feelings of loss of control,” said Hanning. “This noise is viewed as an invasion of the place in which we go to retreat from life, where we go to feel safe.”
He also observed that the pulsating tone when measured on a spectragraph appears very similar in pattern to a fire alarm: “the tone we use to arouse people from sleep and warn them of danger.”
He has found that the persistent low frequency throbbing of industrial wind turbines is more disruptive to sleep than traffic, aircraft and industrial noise. The only thing worse, according to Dr. Hanning, is the rhythmic bass pounding from a loud stereo or “boombox” nearby.
Like Dr. Bronzaft, Hanning urged his colleagues in the room to continue to produce research and studies. He said illconsidered government policies have created thousands of guinea pigs around the world.
“There are enough folks being affected right now that together we can do the work that government and industry should have done in advance,” said Hanning.
After the physiological mechanics of the effect of industrial wind turbines had been described the conference turned to the victims. Dr. Michael Nissenbaum has conducted a controlled study of effects of industrial wind turbines on residents of Mars Hill in Maine. The subjects in his study live within 1,100 metres of an industrial wind installation consisting of 28 1.5 MW wind turbines. His control group consisted of 27 adults living on average 5,000 metres from the wind turbines.
Eighty-two percent (18 of 22) of those closest to the turbine reported “a new onset or worsened sleep disturbance” since the turbines went online. Only one of the 27 of those five kilometers away reported a new or worsened sleep disturbance. One hundred per cent of those closest to the turbines had considered moving away.
Much of this evidence presented this weekend, will likely be used in January as Ian Hanna of Big Island takes on the Ontario Government in court. Hanna is arguing that the province failed to use the “precautionary principle” when it lowered and removed regulatory hurdles to developers of industrial wind energy through the Green Energy Act. The precautionary principle states that governments or organizations must ensure that its policies do not harm individuals or communities prior to enactment.
It seems clear from this weekend’s Picton conference that the province failed to meet this test.
Eastern Oregon residents near wind farms express health concerns over noise, lights, stress.
SOURCE: The Oregonian, www.oregonlive.com
November 5, 2010
By Richard Cockle
LA GRANDE — If there’s anything that worries Linda Bond, it’s the prospect of living in the shadow of hundreds of wind turbines with their noise and blinking lights.
“I am really concerned about their proximity to the schools,” said Bond, a 59-year-old retired Oregon City teacher who now lives in Union, where a huge wind-energy project is proposed. She attended one of several Oregon Public Health “listening sessions” this week in eastern Oregon.
“There will be some people adversely affected,” she said.
Bond isn’t alone in her nervousness. For scores of residents, the luster of renewable green energy has all but disappeared behind an unwelcome march of gigantic, rolled-steel wind towers.
Oregon is a national leader in wind energy production, ranking fourth behind Texas, Iowa and California — up from sixth place last year, according to the American Wind Energy Association in Washington, D.C. The state boasts more than 1,200 wind turbines on more than a dozen wind farms across central and eastern Oregon, and it produces 2,095 megawatts of wind capacity, enough to power 500,000 houses.
At listening sessions in La Grande and Pendleton, the conversation often turned on fears that wind-energy projects degrade human health, property values, scenic views and wildlife habitat.
Bond’s adopted town of Union, with its frontier-era red-brick storefronts and gracious Queen Anne and Victorian homes, could face a thicket of 182 wind turbines if the 300-megawatt Antelope Ridge Wind Power Project gets a go-ahead. Some of those wind towers, with their blades extended, will reach 520 feet into the sky, nearly equal to the height of Oregon’s tallest building, the Wells Fargo tower in Portland.
Houston-based Horizon Wind Energy has proposed the $600 million project in a semicircle on 47,000 acres above and around Union, with towers as close as 1 1/2 miles to schools, homes and businesses.
Many of the more than 60 people attending the La Grande meeting admitted they’re unsure what to expect, but they fear that the blinking lights on the towers and the low-frequency roar and whoosh-whoosh-whoosh of giant turbine blades would become an unhealthy and permanent fixture in their lives.
“You can’t imagine the stress it’s caused,” said Dennis Wilkinson of Cove, organizer of Friends of the Grande Ronde Valley, a political action group that opposes the Antelope Ridge project. He attended the Pendleton listening session, which drew about 30 people.
Due largely to his group’s efforts, Union County voters formally opposed construction of Antelope Ridge by a slim 52 percent to 48 percent vote in Tuesday’s general election. The nonbinding advisory vote capped months of controversy. The Oregon Energy Facility Siting Council is evaluating Antelope Ridge, and Wilkinson said his group’s goal is to stall the council’s approval until alternative energy tax incentives dry up and the project goes away. It would power about 72,500 homes.
While more than a dozen Oregon wind projects are in the planning stage, “there is a serious curtailment in building wind projects,” said John Audley of Renewable Northwest Energy, a Portland-based coalition of companies and groups that promote renewable energy.
“The state incentives have gone away, the markets of renewable energy are full and the price of fossil fuel is cheap,” he said at the Pendleton meeting.
Nationally, the third quarter of 2010 was the slowest since 2007 for the U.S. wind-energy industry — down 72 percent since last year and a third the rate of China’s wind-energy installation, according to the American Wind Energy Association.
Enthusiasm for wind-energy projects by rural eastern Oregonians who must live with the turbines has waned since the 1998 completion of the Vansycle Ridge Wind Farm Oregon’s first wind project, in Umatilla County.
In 2007, organized resistance helped block the proposed 40-turbine Massachusetts-based First Wind project between The Dalles and Mosier. The following year, a group called the Blue Mountain Alliance set out to ban turbines on the western face of the Blue Mountains in Umatilla County.
Near Boardman, opposition to the 2-year-old Willow Creek Wind Energy Project has proved bitter. Nearby homeowners, at the meeting in Pendleton, said the towers’ noise and proximity to their homes disrupts their lives. One, builder Dan Williams, complained of panic attacks, lost sleep and fractures to family relationships caused by stress.
“I don’t want to see what’s happened to our community ever happen to anybody else,” he told members of the state health panel and siting council Chairman W. Bryan Wolfe of Hermiston, who attended the session.
The study of the effects of wind turbines on human health is an emerging and much-debated science whose leader arguably is Dr. Nina Pierpont of Malone, N.Y. Pierpont coined the phrase “wind-turbine syndrome.” She says low-frequency noise and vibrations from wind turbines can affect the inner ear, triggering a variety of symptoms ranging from headaches and difficulty sleeping to learning and mood disorders, irritability and panic attacks. Her research suggests wind turbines should never be built nearer than two miles from homes.
Jae Douglas, Oregon Public Health’s moderator, said the most frequent wind-farm concern she’s heard is about stress.
Her office is charged with writing an assessment of any health impacts from turbines for consideration by the siting council, Oregon Department of Energy and county commissions — agencies that make the decisions on wind-energy projects. A draft will come in March and the final assessment in June, Douglas said.