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Are Wind Farms Making People Sick?

By Roberta Kwok


Tags: wind farms, wind turbine syndrome, home wind power, Conservation Magazine, Roberta Kwok,

This article is published with permission from the University of Washington's Conservation Magazine.

People living near wind farms have complained of headaches, dizziness, and other health problems. Now researchers have found that simply watching videos about these complaints is enough to make others report the same symptoms. (Hat tip: Slate.)

Many residents have fought wind farm development because they worry that sound from the turbines will make them sick. Turbines produce low-frequency sound that isn’t audible to humans, called infrasound. But scientists haven’t found a plausible way that infrasound could cause the symptoms people describe.wind farm

The authors tested whether people might be influenced by the widespread reports of wind farm-related health complaints on the Internet. The team told 54 college students that they were being exposed to infrasound for two 10-minute sessions. During one session, the researchers were indeed transmitting infrasound. But the other session was a sham treatment; no sound was actually transmitted.

One group of students watched a video of people describing symptoms that were blamed on wind farms. The other group watched a video of scientists saying that wind turbine infrasound didn’t cause illness. During the infrasound and sham infrasound sessions, the students reported whether they experienced symptoms such as headaches, itchiness, and nausea.

Students who watched the video of health complaints reported more symptoms and more intense symptoms during the exposure sessions than the other group did, the team found. Their symptom scores increased regardless of whether they were being exposed to infrasound or the sham treatment, “confirming that infrasound exposure itself did not contribute to the symptomatic experience,” the authors note in Health Psychology.

The results suggest that Internet reports of wind farm-related health problems could make other people more likely to report the same symptoms. Some people have suggested keeping wind turbines farther away from residents, the team writes, but such efforts “may do little to alleviate health complaints and related opposition to wind farm development.”

Photo by fotolia/Edelweiss

mojaveladybug
7/5/2013 8:30:41 PM

Well it's a good question, but I live near one of the biggest wind farms in ca over 400, 45 story machines.  I  do not listen to the noise from these things for 10 minutes, start with 10 hours, 10 days, 10 months..... Imagine a simi truck ideling in front of your home for those periods of time at all hours.  I suspect that at minimum it would have an effect on hearing, but consider the issues this nuisance noise and shadow flicker impose on nearby residents who ARE in their HOMES.  Health concerns are important but we really should be asking why all this NEW construction of green projects when there are much more envoronmentally friendly solutions.  Why are we ruining peoples' quiet enjoyment of their homes, property values, building miles of transmission lines, and building 45 story structurs when there are millions of acres of rooftops already connected to the grid. As a long time greenie, I ask what happened to reduce, reuse, recycle, take an honest look at windmills and you will realize they are not so environmentally friendly.  Why replace something dreadful with something equally dreadful, are corperate profits more important than producing a truly environmentally friendly solution.


phin.worthington
5/24/2013 9:52:59 AM

The study on students does not confirm that the low frequencies emmited from wind turbines has nothing to do with the locals symptoms. The effect of watching someone complain about sickness is valid but we need another study on the frequencies of sound produced by the wind turbines and their affect on human health to truely "confirm" this allegation that wind turbines are harmless. This seems to me like someone trying to protect their assests rather than conduct real science.