A soon-to-be released study of the health effects of living near wind turbines challenges the popular image of the graceful, benign windmill gently coaxing free megawatts from the passing zephyrs.
Dr. Nina Pierpont, a New York pediatrician, has studied subjects who live near windmills in the U.S., the U.K., Italy, Ireland and Canada for the last five years. She concludes that some, but not all, of the near-windmill dwellers show signs of a newly-identified health risk which she calls Wind Turbine Syndrome, or WTS.
[WTS] is the disruption or abnormal stimulation of the inner ear's vestibular system by turbine infrasound and low-frequency noise, the most distinctive feature of which is a group of symptoms which she calls visceral vibratory vestibular disturbance, or VVVD*. They cause problems ranging from internal pulsation, quivering, nervousness, fear, a compulsion to flee, chest tightness and tachycardia – increased heart rate.** Turbine noise can also trigger nightmares and other disorders in children as well as harm cognitive development in the young, she claims.
*[A girl I dated once told me she had VVVD. She stuttered, too.]
**[I experienced symptoms of WTS during Obama's last televised press conference. Memo to self: Search for nearby wind turbine.]
Of course, the reaction of the U.K. Government and "Big Wind" are all too predictable:
Until now, the Government and the wind companies have denied any health risks associated with the powerful noises and vibrations emitted by wind turbines. Acoustic engineers working for the wind energy companies and the Government say that aerodynamic noise produced by turbines pose no risk to health...
[Dr. Pierpont:] "The wind industry will try to discredit me and disparage me, but I can cope with that. This is not unlike the tobacco industry dismissing health issues from smoking. The wind industry, however, is not composed of clinicians, nor is it made up of people suffering from wind turbines."...
Dr. Pierpont added that the wind turbine companies constantly argue that the health problems are "imaginary, psychosomatic or malingering". But she said their claims are "rubbish" and that medical evidence supports that the reported symptoms are real.
At the heart of Dr. Pierpont's findings is that humans are affected by low-frequency noise and vibrations from wind turbines through their ear bones, rather like fish and other amphibians. That humans have the same sensitivity as fish is based on new discoveries made by scientists at Manchester University and New South Wales last year. ...
[Portuguese doctors found that low-frequency noise] exposure may also cause the rare illness, vibroacoustic disorder or VAD, which causes changes to the structure of certain organs such as the heart and lungs and may well be caused by vibrations from turbines. Another powerful side effect of turbines is the impact which the light thrown off the blades – known as flicker – has on people who suffer from migraines and epilepsy.
Is Dr. Pierpont just another anti-Big Wind eco-nut? Not according to Dr. Christopher Hanning, founder of the British Sleep Society:
"Dr Pierpont's detailed recording of the harm caused by wind turbine noise will lay firm foundations for future research. It should be required reading for all planners considering wind farms. Like so many earlier medical pioneers exposing the weaknesses of current orthodoxy, Dr Pierpont has been subject to much denigration and criticism and ... it is tribute to her strength of character and conviction that this important book is going to reach publication." [ellipsis in original]
My vestigal amphibian ear bones are picking up a low-frequency vibration or two about wind turbines. They're telling me I don't want to live near a wind farm: Not In My Back Yard! (Or in the South 40, for that matter!)
How can we be sure that the Obama Administration is not in the hip-pocket of Big Wind in their push for renewable energy?
Oh, wait! Maybe it's vice-versa...