Here’s some more fodder for the Not in My Backyard (NIMBY) crowd: A doctor says she’s conducted research that suggests that people living close to wind turbines are susceptible to what she calls Wind Turbine Syndrome (WTS), an illness with symptoms including sleep disorders, heart disease, […]

windturbinegeneric1Here’s some more fodder for the Not in My Backyard (NIMBY) crowd: A doctor says she’s conducted research that suggests that people living close to wind turbines are susceptible to what she calls Wind Turbine Syndrome (WTS), an illness with symptoms including sleep disorders, heart disease, panic attacks and headaches, the Independent reports this weekend. So literally, a wind turbine in your backyard could be hazardous to your health.

Nina Pierpont, a pediatrician based in New York, studied 10 families who lived close to wind farms, and says eight out of the 10 ended up moving away from their homes because of WTS-related illnesses. That’s a small survey sample, but it’s a continuation of research done by other scientists in the field. Pierpont recommends that wind turbines should be built at least 2 kilometers (a little over a mile) away from people’s homes, and she tells the Independent that: “It is irresponsible of the wind turbine companies — and governments — to continue building wind turbines so close to where people live until there has been a proper epidemiological investigation of the full impact on human health.”

The problem, according to Pierpont, is that the wind farms emit a constant low-frequency vibration and noise, which human beings are sensitive to (not unlike fish’s sensitivity to noise in the water) and the wind farm vibrations can disrupt the inner ear’s vestibular system (responsible for balance and spatial orientation). Over a sustained period of time, people living too close to the wind farms can develop a disorder related to the inner ear disruption, WTS, which can cause nervousness, heart disorders, nightmares, problems and even cognitive development issues in small children.

Other researchers, from Salford University and UK government agencies, have previously said that noise and vibrations from wind turbines do not cause health problems, says the Independent, so it will be interesting to see how the scientific community responds to Pierpont’s latest research. While Pierpont’s research sounds plausible, her reactionary comparisons, do her a disservice:

The wind industry will try to discredit me and disparage me, but I can cope with that. This is not unlike the tobacco industry dismissing health issues from smoking.

The tobacco industry covering up cancer from smoking, one of the biggest causes of preventable death in the world, is a slightly larger problem (yes, that’s sarcastic) than an industry just learning about the possibility of panic attacks caused by wind turbines. But if the research is reproduced and backed up by further studies, it could actually have a big effect on the siting and zoning of wind farms — a 2-kilometer buffer between wind farms and buildings is substantial. It’s not like we needed more reasons to slow down the installation of clean power, but if there’s merit to the findings, they should be taken seriously.

Image courtesy of NREL.

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By Katie Fehrenbacher

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  1. A sample of 10 families… hmmm… not very compelling. Also question claims of it being “peer-reviewed.” This is published by a group in which Pierpoint is a editorial board member, and it wasn’t pear-reviewed in the conventional sense by a panel of experts unknown to the author.

  2. From what you’ve reported it sounds like a worthless ‘study’ to me. Anyone can come up with a ‘study’ to prove anything they don’t like by zeroing in on 10 families who share the same view.

    By the way it start to occurs to me that the noise problem of wind turbine is largely a myth. I have gotten close to several small wind turbines and I can hardly hear a thing. In fact, the wind itself is far more noisy. Even heard of the term ‘howling’ wind? Anyone have experience with large wind farm? Does it really produce any noise over the background noise of wind?

  3. clayton krenek Sunday, August 9, 2009

    Ive worked on wind turbines four the past four years now and ive never experienced any of these symptoms. I dont know of anyone who works on them that has. So how is it that the people who are right next to them and even in them while there running all the time do not feel any of these symptoms?

  4. waltinseattle Monday, August 10, 2009

    Can we say “psychosomatic”, children? to paraphrase the well known t.v. personality.

    Indeed, we allow folks to live next door to power stations, transformers, cell towers, radio towers, train tracks. Not to mention trains carrying liquid ammonia, propane, natural gass…..

    Re above comment “what noise?” I have to agree after visiting the installation run by my power provider. Whisper…oh, and no big pile of dead birds either. I guess all those centuries of living with trees has taught them to be carefull while flying.

    I bet the last “research” those scientists “did” was aboyut the horrors of cell phones. Which I’m more inclined to have an ear for, but not the one commonly screamed at me by the likes.

  5. Before anyone passes judgement maybe they should live within a 1,000 ft. of the large industrial sized wind turbine. Although the study is of less than 100 people Dr. Nina Pierpont would not lack for people that have the same wind turbine syndrome symptoms here in Wisconsin. The noise, flicker and vibrations are causing problems with their health that goes away only when they leave their homes. I admire Dr. Pierpont for financing this at her own expense to help others. Her book is peer-reviewed.

  6. I am looking for information on any legal action that may have been taken on the issue of health damage by wind turbines – especially in the UK. Can anyone help pleaase? Note: I personally have no issue with wind turbines.

  7. It’s amazing how succeptible the human mind is to the power of suggestion. I would be inclined to believe that there are many people who live very close to wind towers that suddenly realize that they have WTS only after they listen to the fearmongers. A further, more unbiased, study might show that the symptoms these people are experiencing are no different that those caused by the stresses of everyday life, the current economy, unemployment, looking for a new job,and myriad other things that can cause nausea, dizziness, and migraines. I don’t live anywhere near a wind tower, but I get stress-related migraines that cause nausea and dizziness. Nuf sed

  8. It’s in the Sweetwater: Texans Wax Poetic Over Wind Power – Environmental Capital – WSJ Monday, October 19, 2009

    [...] have filed lawsuits against wind developers and ranchers. There have also been concerns about the health effects of the noise generated by [...]

  9. In fifty years will people be saying the same things about wind turbines as we are saying about dams today?

    destroying landscapes, relocating people, and threatening species?

    perhaps we should stop looking for new ways to create energy and start using our current methods of energy production more responsibly.

  10. I totally agree with Floyd. We need to focus on reducing our demand for energy instead of just lock step building more and more supply. Then we can build the right size devices that we need.

    In terms of this study. There’s no question that there are appropriate places to place turbines and inappropriate ones. Being two miles from these devices isn’t unreasonable. Saying that they should be sited in a environmentally friendly manner that doesn’t risk hurting either habitats or people isn’t NIMBY it’s SMART.

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