Wind Turbines- a Danger to Human Life

The installation of eight giant wind turbines in the Bourbonnaise Mountains in the Auvergne, has led to a legal complaint against parties unknown for ‘deliberately endangering the lives of others’ — a first in France.

Auvergne residents opposed to wind turbines have filed a legal complaint

(Read more online French News here)

According to the rue 89 website the townsfolk of Allier, a remote village about an hour north-east of Clermont-Ferrand in central France  fear for their health. The resident’s association has filed a formal complaint stating that the noise from the turbines is capable of causing tachycardia (a medical condition where a patient’s heart rate can soar above 100 beats per minute).

The plaintiffs base their case on research and studies that purport to  show the harm to human health caused  by giant wind turbines, part of France’s commitment to EU-imposed renewable energy programmes (The European Climate Change Programme).

Using independent research by physicians, biologists and auditive specialists Nicole Lachat, a Swiss biologist and a member of the Greens Party in the Jura Parliament (the elected body for Jura, the newest of Switzerland’s cantons), has identified the harm the turbines allegedly provoke.

She said the noise from the turbines causes “adverse effects on health and not just on people’s  hearing.”  (The research paper as provided by rue89 is here). She says wind turbines cause two kinds of noise: one that is audible —  at the level of the turbine hub this can reach 120 decibels and at 300 metres distance it is about 45 decibels (compared with 95-105 decibels emitted by a boisterous nightclub).  She cites researchers such as Petersen et al who have shown that wind turbine noise is more aggravating than that from other sources such as road traffic or airports while the turbines have also been shown to increase the “sense of disturbance” for residents.

Nicole Lachat adds: “At speeds not exceeding 15 m/s, turbine blades emit the same kind of noise as a glider. Higher speeds create turbulence around the blades causing a buzzing sound while in addition each turn of the blade on the axis causes a “woofing” sound. “

The researcher suggests that the issue of infra-sound — that which we do not hear but which the body perceives — is  more controversial still. Some researchers believe that because we do not hear them these sounds pose no danger to health. But increasing numbers of scientists are arguing that the infrasound generated by turbines appears to cause some of the most significant harm complained of by people residing near them.

In France, the minimum distance at which a wind turbine park can be sited from homes  is 500 metres. Researchers are now  recommending this be increased. Nicole Lachat suggests that: “a consensus is emerging around a minimum distance of 1.5 to 2 km. However this will vary according to each particular environmental situation. “

Faced with increasingly angry resistance by residents, the need for long-term studies to determine the lasting effects of wind turbine syndrome on humans, is becoming urgent says rue89, especially as France prepares for massive and controversial expansion.

The stated objective of the government’s environment programme (Grenelle de l’environnement) is to deploy 8,000 wind turbines by 2020 where currently there are some 3500.

The American behavioral pediatrics specialist Nina Pierpont who holds a Ph.D. (1985) in behavioural ecology from Princeton, has coined the term ‘wind syndrome’ for the suffering experienced by residents and attributed to wind turbine disturbances.

Dr Nina Pierpont

Her initial research was among 38 residents living adjacent to industrial wind turbine parks with symptoms which developed after the turbines came on stream. The sample is small, but the study is qualitative rather than quantitative. It found several recurrent symptoms among those affected: sleep disorders, headaches, tinnitus, sensation of increased pressure inside the ear, vertigo, nausea, visual disturbances, tachycardia, irritability , problems of concentration and memory, anxiety associated with palpitations or sensations of internal tremors during wakefulness or  sleep.

Dr Pierpont is the author of a book — Wind Turbine Syndrome. According to her website promoting the work: “in this engagingly written, peer-reviewed report by a Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine trained M.D. and Princeton (Population Biology) Ph.D., we discover wind energy’s dirty little secret. Many people living within 2 km (1.25 miles) of these spinning giants get sick. So sick that they often abandon (as in, lock the door and leave) their homes. Nobody wants to buy their acoustically toxic homes. The “lucky ones” get quietly bought out by the wind developers—who steadfastly refuse to acknowledge that Wind Turbine Syndrome exists. (And yet the wind developers thoughtfully include a confidentiality clause in the sales agreement, forbidding their victim from discussing the matter further.)”

Dr. Pierpont has gathered a strong series of case studies of deleterious effects on the health and well-being of many people living near large wind turbines. Furthermore, she has reviewed medical studies that support a plausible physiological mechanism directly linking low frequency noise and vibration (like that produced by wind turbines and which may not in itself be reported as irritating) to potentially debilitating effects on the inner ear and other sensory systems associated with balance and sense of position. Thus the effects are likely to have a physiological component, rather than being exclusively psychological. . . . (from the referee report by Henry S. Horn, PhD, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Associate of the Princeton Environmental Institute, Princeton University) and cited on her website

In separate Testimony before the New York State Legislature Energy Committee in 2006 she stated: ” I am here to talk to you today as a physician-scientist about a clinical phenomenon called Wind Turbine Syndrome … Current siting practices of industrial wind turbines (which are solely industry-driven) disregard public health…”

Meanwhile the movement in Europe against wind turbines is growing:  see this 2011 open letter from Mark Ducham CEO of European Platform Against Windfarms to “Danish victims of windfarms”
The European Platform Against Windfarms website (which groups  French, German, Spanish and Belgian associations against wind turbines)  features an exchange of correspondence with the European Commission and the European Parliament.

On the other side of the fence the pro-wind energy argument is sustained on websites such as: Yes to Wind ;  Renewable Energy World together with industry supporters:

Story: Ken Pottinger

UPDATE: James Delingpole writing September 2012 in the UK Daily Mail has much more on the alleged health dangers posed by wind turbines. Here is a brief extract: “Dr Alec Salt, a cochlear physiologist at the Department of Otolaryngology at the Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, Missouri, has studied the topic since the Seventies.

‘The idea that there is no problem with infrasound couldn’t be more wrong,’ he says.

‘The responses of the human ear to LFN are just enormous. Bigger than to anything in the audible range.’

Audible sound stimulates the inner hair cells on the cochlea (the auditory portion of the inner ear), but LFN triggers the outer hair cells, sending neural signals to the brain. Military special ops departments have known about it for some time.

A 1997 report by the U.S. Air Force Institute For National Security Studies notes: ‘Acoustic infrasound: very low frequency sound which can travel long distances and easily penetrate most buildings and vehicles.

‘Transmission of long wavelength sound creates biophysical effects, nausea, loss of bowels, disorientation, vomiting, potential organ damage or death may occur.’

Yet as Dr Phillips notes, instead of protecting the public, governments are actually complicit by encouraging wind farm development via generous subsidies.”


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8 Responses to Wind Turbines- a Danger to Human Life

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  3. Mike Barnard April 17, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    Study after study by independent professionals have found that wind turbines are one of the safest forms of electrical generation, and have no direct impacts on people living nearby. What they show is that a small subset of people get annoyed by the minor noise of wind turbines, some of those people get stressed and some of those people lose sleep, although there’s no evidence that shows their sleep loss is particularly related to the wind turbines. It is likely they would have been losing sleep over bird cannons, tractors at dawn or dogs barking otherwise.

    The minor noise of wind turbines is easily dealt with the same way rural and urban dwellers worldwide deal with minor noises: white noise generators (<$30), iPhone white noise apps ($0.99), earplugs (cents), closing windows (free) or installing noise-baffling blinds (don't break the bank).

  4. Mike Barnard May 11, 2012 at 3:14 am

    It is worth assessing the quality of Dr. Nina Pierpont’s study. She interviewed exactly 23 people over the phone (minuscule sample size) who responded to an ad for people who attributed their health issues to wind turbines (selection bias) and had no control group (study design failure). From this deeply flawed study, she identified a syndrome, named it, assigned a dozen symptoms and published a 294-page book via a vanity press with 60+ pages of charts, graphs and tables. It is un-peer reviewed unless you count, as she does, the review by her husband and long-time anti-wind advocate and other heavily biased sources.

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