Most comprehensive meta-study to date concludes: wind turbines don’t make people sick

A seven-expert independent panel came out with a major study today that looks into the health impacts on people who live close to wind turbines, and they determined that what some call “wind turbine syndrome” does not exist and that, beyond annoyance, the swishing and low-frequency sounds that come from wind turbines don’t directly make people sick. But, of course, annoyance can lead to stress and stress can lead to loss of sleep, and … well you get the picture.

As the study concludes: “Annoyance is not a disease.”

The question then becomes: Do we outlaw annoying things that we can’t control? Well, we do have rules that keep airplanes from flying too close to residential areas, and which try to minimize street traffic and keep loud and obnoxious neighbours from disturbing the peace. Now, a neighbour who shares a wall with you and snores fiercely, well, can’t do much about that as annoying and stressful that can be for a light sleeper. Regarding wind turbines, we do have rules that require wind turbine noises to be within acceptable limits. Some may argue those acceptable limits aren’t acceptible at all, but clearly the line must be drawn somewhere after careful consideration of the evidence.

I have a story in the Toronto Star that hits on the key points of the study, which should be emphasized was funded by the American Wind Energy Association and Canadian Wind Energy Association. Two of the doctors/scientists who were part of the panel told me that the American wind association tried to get a government agency to sponsor the study but none felt obliged to do it, so the industry decided to be proactive and commissioned the study itself (at risk of the study’s independence being attacked). To add credibility to the study’s findings, the panel will be submitting it this year to several peer-reviewed journals for publication.

There is one portion of the study that, in my opinion, explains why some have become suspicious of wind turbines. It refers to symptoms like headaches, dizzyness, fatigue, sleeplessness, and ringing in the ears that those who complain of “wind turbine syndrome” say they have:

Yet these are all common symptoms in the general population and no evidence has been presented that such symptoms are more common in persons living near wind turbines. Nevertheless, the large volume of media coverage devoted to alleged adverse health effects of wind turbines understandably creates an anticipatory fear in some that they will experience adverse effects from wind turbines. Every person is suggestible to some degree. The resulting stress, fear and hypervigilance may exacerbate or even create problems which would not otherwise exist. In this way, anti-wind farm activists may be creating with their publiclity some of the problems that they describe.

6 thoughts on “Most comprehensive meta-study to date concludes: wind turbines don’t make people sick”

  1. I could watch that and not feel ill. Perhaps a bit annoyed for the hour it would affect me each day but not ill. From personal experience having lived under a flight path 10 miles from an international airport i find you adjust to these sorts of local environmental quirks fairly rapidly.

  2. In fairness Scatter, you chose your home and location with either an existing airport or a planned airport nearby (I am also guessing significant ambient noise from the city included…I too live in a flight path just west of Canada’s busiest airport with little other noise pollution).
    I have been following the wind story for quite some time, and this video is the first real documentation of true effects on neighbors I have seen. I am one who leans towards the argument with regards to hysteria etc. relating to the sickness (not actual disorders). However, it would be very difficult for me to see how one could argue that your comparative be sufficient in comparing the shading impact occurring on those residences. If these people did not build the units or benefit from them, how can one justify those impacts. I would not move there, that feeling in of itself devalues these peoples’ homes and causes real negative economic impacts and resulting mental stresses. I am no nay sayer, and know we need greener solutions. However, we need to properly and fairly account for all of the real impacts and clarify the perceived impacts, as this article has begun to deal with.
    I now see better justification for set backs. I welcome more information as has been provided.

  3. The one aspect of the study I found interesting and something I hadn’t given much credence to prior was the part about “anticipatory fear”, which is essentially, if you think about something or worry about it enough over and over in your mind your create an anxiety or negative image of it. Most anti-wind people I’m sure would say this isn’t true but the power of the media to shape our views and fears is not uncommon.
    So if someone hears about the negative effects of wind turbines in the media and in their community long enough, when a turbine is placed near them, they automatically develop this fear and it negatively effects their health.

  4. This study is one of several useful overviews of wind farm noise released in 2009. It found no evidence of DIRECT health effects from noise exposure near wind farms, which is unsurprising since noise levels are moderate. However, it nearly completely omitted any consideration of sleep disruption, which is likely to be the direct effect that CAN sometimes be severe enough to lead to related health effects. See an assessment of this, with links to other recent studies on night noise issues from WHO and others, at
    http://aeinews.org/archives/584

    The noise issues near wind farms is complicated by the well-known individual variability in sensitivity to noise. Well-designed surveys seem to indicate that while a majority of those who can hear turbines from their homes are not particularly bothered, a significant minority can be quite severely disrupted. Nearly all serious problems occur when turbines are within a half mile (though again, among a minority of these neighbors); virtually no major impacts appear to occur beyond a mile. Ongoing relatively non-adversarial coverage is available at the url in the header.

  5. The explanation that anticipatory fear of wind turbines is a possible cause of adverse health effects doesn’t explain why toddlers and small children are experiencing the same symptons as adults. Are children too young to understand adult anxieties about health issues also getting sick because of suggestibility?

Comments are closed.