The effect of wind turbines on human health

wind mills

We have already seen documentation of the effects of wind turbines on wildlife, see for instance:

Wind turbines versus wildlife, and Wind turbines killed 600000 bats last year on my WryHeat blog.

Now, with the proliferation of utility scale wind turbine installations world wide, we are beginning to see some unintended consequences: deleterious effects on human health. The Bulletin of Science Technology & Society has recently published 21 peer-reviewed articles on the health problems associated with wind turbines. You can read summaries of the articles here.

“People who live near wind turbines complain of symptoms that include some combination of the following: difficulty sleeping, fatigue, depression, irritability, aggressiveness, cognitive dysfunction, chest pain/pressure, headaches, joint pain, skin irritations, nausea, dizziness, tinnitus, and stress. These symptoms have been attributed to the pressure (sound) waves that wind turbines generate in the form of noise and infrasound. However, wind turbines also generate electromagnetic waves in the form of poor power quality (dirty electricity) and ground current, and these can adversely affect those who are electrically hypersensitive. Indeed, the symptoms mentioned above are consistent with electrohypersensitivity. Sensitivity to both sound and electromagnetic waves differs among individuals and may explain why not everyone in the same home experiences similar effects.”

A major problem with wind turbines is that they produce “infrasound” a very low frequency vibration, usually inaudible but detected by the body in other ways.

According to Doctors for Disaster Preparedness:

Infrasound has been used in Sweden in a nonlethal weapon for riot control. The infrasound from air-conditioning systems has been implicated as a cause of sick building syndrome (S.S.). Infrasound affects the vestibular system, causing symptoms resembling seasickness, accompanied by headache, dizziness, and “deep nervous fatigue.” It can affect ocular reflexes, causing nystagmus; spinal reflexes, causing tremors; and autonomic reflexes, causing shortness of breath. In the 1970s, army physiologists carried out studies on how long military personnel could perform their duties under conditions of high levels of infrasound, as in a tank, the engine room of a ship, or a space capsule, but results are secret.

The wind turbine syndrome also includes sleep problems, irritability, and depression. The variable audible noise results in frequent awakenings or arousals, which may not be remembered. The disruption of sleep prevents the proper laying down and storage of memory. It is also associated with an increased incidence of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. Arousals during slow wave sleep may trigger parasomnias (sleepwalking, night terrors).

Persons especially vulnerable to wind turbine syndrome include elderly, young children, children with developmental disabilities (especially autism spectrum disorders), and migraine sufferers.

There is also a vibroacoustic disease, which has been studied mostly in aviation workers. Different parts of the body, especially the chest and skull, have differing resonance frequencies. Air pressure (sound) waves of certain wavelengths resonate within these closed spaces, setting up vibrations to which the body responds by reinforcing soft tissue with extra collagen, which could cause thickening of the pericardium and cardiac valves, fibrosis of the lungs, and proliferation of glial cells in the brain.

Still another problem is shadow flicker, or a strobe effect. Some people lose their balance or experience symptoms of seasickness. Like other flashing lights, the strobe effect can trigger seizures in persons with epilepsy and migraine headaches.

John Droz Jr., of the Alliance for Wise Energy Decisions provides A Review of Human Health & Safety Concerns. The end of that article provides links to many articles on the health effects of wind turbines.

It seems that there may be a heavy price to pay to use “free” wind energy.

See also:

Wind turbine farm proposed for Willcox area

British study shows wind power generates only 2 percent of rated capacity

IER documents Obama administration actions that increase energy costs

Impact of Solar and Wind Electricity Generation

Avian mortality from solar farms