Myth or Real: Wind Turbine Syndrome

The current debate on whether wind turbines have adverse effects on human health is being heated up day by day with actors from all around the world engaging in the discussion. The cons of wind turbines argue that industry driven wind “farms” generate a constant low frequency noise that is harmful to the people with risk factors living in close proximity. The pro group, on the other hand, asserts that there is no credible evidence to rectify the link.

wind-farm

Not many people, other than oil patrons I guess, would today deny the vitality of renewable energy. The awareness of Global Climate Change has been higher than ever. I sometimes even think that world has gone through a green craze. More and more people build up their own renewable energy production systems, in terms of solar panels and small wind turbines to  generate their own electricity and get off the grid. Corporate companies are either devoting their CSR budgets to green-related causes or their communicators to green washing efforts. What so ever, today green sells.

Cons: Its like a a jet engine that doesn’t go away and which you can’t get used to

Even though most people don’t question the concept of renewable energy, there is strong oppositions against certain practices. As Dr.Nina Pierpont put down in her article The Wind Turbine Syndrome back in 2006,  people living in close proximity to industrial wind farms display some common symptoms, such as:

1) Sleep problems: noise or physical sensations of pulsation or pressure make it hard to go to sleep and cause frequent awakening.
2) Headaches which are increased in frequency or severity.
3) Dizziness, unsteadiness, and nausea.
4) Exhaustion, anxiety, anger, irritability, and depression.
5) Problems with concentration and learning.
6) Tinnitus (ringing in the ears).

According to Pierpont, chronic sleep disturbance is the most common symptom; and exhaustion, mood problems, and problems with concentration and learning are natural outcomes of poor sleep. Due to the differences among people in susceptibility, not everyone near turbines has these symptoms but it is triggered with the presence of risk factors such as age and preexisting migraine disorder.

Pros: Noise perception is linked with attitude towards wind turbines

World Health Organization says there is “no reliable evidence that sounds below the hearing threshold produce physiological or psychological effects,” cites the report of an independent study by Australia’s National Health & Medical Research Council. In other words, even though people report annoyance stemmed from the infrasound, there has been found no direct causal link to health problems.

Rather, the pro camp  attribute the complaints to the negative perception of wind energy. Accoring to a recently conducted study, the reported annoyance is strongly associated with a negative attitude to the visual impact of wind turbines on the landscape. Further more, it is known that the noise produced by ten wind turbines at a distance of 350 m is 35 to 45 decibels, while the report compares, noise in a busy office is 60 dBA and car traveling at 64 km/h at a distance of 100 m is 55 dBA.

Who is right?

The arguments of both sides are compelling. If people report their disturbance, it is ought to be taken into consideration. On the other hand, since energy industry is the scene for many conflicting interests, it wouldn’t be strange to expect misinformation and manipulation from all parties of the debate.

Moreover, and more importantly, as wind power has been gaining prominence vis a vis other forms of energy production, further rigorous research should be encouraged.

 

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7 Responses to “Myth or Real: Wind Turbine Syndrome”

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