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Wind Turbine Syndrome: Living Near Wind Farms May Be Hazardous to Your Health

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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.

19 Responses to “Wind Turbine Syndrome: Living Near Wind Farms May Be Hazardous to Your Health”

  1. Its complete nonsense. Any company that is prepared to invest up to €1,000,000/$1,500,000 (yes people take notice of all the zero’s!!) per turbine is definitely going to make sure that there is negative vibrations. does anyone know what happens with resonance? The whole project comes crashing to the ground. And, regardless of the frequency, vibrations lead to degredation of the moving parts, which leads to premature wear of the moving parts and hence premature breakdowns. I really do not think anyone with that type of collateral to invest, really wants to be investing in new parts and turbines before the original turbines have paid for themselves?

  2. mtumba djibouti

    A number of comments make light of the possibility (shall I say probability?) that industrial scale wind projects have an impact on human health. Those with open minds might want to check out the site windaction dot org, which simply collects and posts constantly updated articles from newspapers, books, public hearings, etc, worldwide – primarily from Europe, Canada, the UK and the USA, which repeatedly indicate that people around the world are experiencing very significant health and quality of life issues when living within one-two miles of industrial wind projects. The more you read, the more you will find it difficult to deny the possibility that these turbines are not benign – and that siting of land based projects is an important consideration for human as well as animal and bird health.

    This doesn’t mean we can’t build industrial scale wind projects — but it does mean that legitimate setbacks must be developed. In fact, land based wind projects are problematic for many reasons – not the least of which is that most produce only between 8-20% of their “rated capacity” – and so, sadly, conventional power plants must remain on to make up for their tiny, unpredictable power contribution. Germany and Denmark – two huge users of wind power – recently reported that all of their wind projects have NOT reduced national carbon emissions – because coal plants have had to remain constantly on in order to fill in the large gaps of unpredictable wind power.

    China is building more wind capacity that any other nation – and it is building brand new COAL power plants to provide backup for the wind power. In China, wind power is actually leading to an increase in carbon emissions.

    For a technology that claims to be green and is most often located in pristine rural and wilderness areas, that disturbs animal habitat, kills birds and bats by the thousands – for a miniscule power return on a huge environmental scale disruption – land based wind power is problematic at best.

    Anyway, please check it out for yourselves. The more people find themselves living near industrial scale land based wind projects, the more reports are of people having health problems to the point of having to abandon their homes.

    In many instances, turbine projects have bought out land owners who complain of health effects, with the legal requirement of binding gag orders not to discuss the circumstances following settlement.

    Why the need for gag orders if the technology is benign?

  3. “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.”

    Whoever the person is that said this is a complete an utter moron and should not be given the opportunity to have his words published about anything, anywhere. That’s the most ridiculous statement I’ve ever seen in print and you should have called him out on it to his response. In which I’m sure he would have further discredited his “expert opinions”.

  4. fay stein

    I have been sick from day one when they started these wind towers. The blades gave off a chemical and that caused my face, eyes, and throat to swell. I couldn’t sleep, still can’t. I got a rash, had chest, joint, and heart pains, get headaches, throbbing in my ears, they bled, had blood come out of my mouth and nose, get migraines…never had these problems, have stress, memory loss, and suffer from depression, aniexty, and other sleep deprieved ills. I get nausea, dizzy spells, and had vertigo for two months, with severe feeling of great loss in memory…funny that it would go away once I leave our home. We are surrouned by these huge towers that are 1500-2000 feet away. It is a real problem and we are not rich, so where do we go at our ages and since we loved our home of 27 years, what can we do? Laugh about it and us and call wind power a great thing, but if you had these shoved up your butt, so to speak, you would be singing a different song than, these people are crazy or the findings are wrong…I am a university graduate and a vegan, environmentalist that has seen the dead birds, bats, plant and insect life destroyed, the habitats and migratory routes destroyed and yet, it goes on with the movement of wind energy….let me tell you that wind cost more than it produces and they are breaking the taxpayers backs and making foreigners and billionaires richer…

    • Kathy Lowe

      This is comical, not that you are sick, but, that you blame it on wind towers. It sounds more like were a victim in a low budget horror flick If it causes all the problems you have, how would they ever get erected. The construction crew would never make it up the ladder, to get the turbine hooked up. It sounds to me like you have a severe emotional disorder along with heart and respiratory problems. I would maybe even agree with the fact you may be a turbiphobic (extreme fear of wind turbines.)
      I would also suggest you quit allowing large objects to be shoved up your butt, and perhaps eat more meat. Your claims are insane.

  5. Energy Guy

    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.

  6. 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.

  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. 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.

  9. Greenhome

    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.

  10. 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.

  11. clayton krenek

    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?

  12. 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?

  13. 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.