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.