Ruminations

Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Friday, November 28, 2014

Blighting The Atmosphere?

"[Wind turbine noise] annoyance was found to be statistically related to several self-reported health effects including, but not limited to, blood pressure, migraines, tinnitus [ringing in the ears], dizziness [and sleep disorders]."
"The findings support a potential link between long-term high annoyance and health."
Health Canada

[Failure to take infrasound seriously is quite astounding] ... Given the knowledge that the ear responds to low frequency sounds and infrasound, we knew that comparisons with benign sources were invalid and the logic [of relying on audible] sound measurements was deeply flawed scientifically."
"Given the present evidence, it seems risky at best to continue the current gamble that infrasound stimulation of the ear stays confined to the ear and has no other effects on the body."
Alex Salt, Jeffery Lichtenhan, acoustic authorities, Washington University School of Medicine

"The patients deserve the benefit of the doubt. It's clear from the documents that come out of other industry that they're trying very hard to suppress the notion of WTS [wind turbine syndrome] and they've done it in a way that [involves] a lot of blaming the victim."
Steven D. Rauch, Harvard Medical School
and more features
Photo credit: Sameer Shah

Thousands of people living close to those humongous wind turbines reflecting one of the assets in the arsenal of the environmental movement to harness natural phenomenon for energy, don't feel too personally confident of the usefulness of wind as an energy source, the way it is currently being harnessed. They might perhaps think more kindly of it as a resource tool if it were not directly affecting their quality of life, with those turbines too close to where they live for comfort.

The reported deleterious impact on the health of many people in communities that have had wind turbines erected within their home ground include complaints of adverse health effects, some of which so seriously affect the complainants they feel forced to remove themselves from the source physically, abandoning their homes and moving elsewhere. Primarily it is the sound that the turbines emit when they are responding to prevailing winds.


The audible sound waves are known to medical science as "annoyance" , reflecting a state of health whose potential can lead to a full range of illnesses named wind turbine syndrome. Health Canada had commissioned a Statistics Canada survey on the issue of impact to health of people living in the direct vicinity of wind turbines, reporting on migraines, tinnitus, dizziness, blood pressure and sleep disorders. Annoyance was discovered to be statistically associated with chronic stress measurements and blood pressure.

Aside from the large amounts of sound waves at a frequency above 20 Hz the audible level, the turbines produce large amounts of sound waves as well below 20 Hz; inaudible to the human ear, and as such, according to wind-energy proponents, completely harmless. Sound waves below 20 Hz are detectable by animals, many of which communicate at that sound frequency. As well, that human-inaudible sound communicates a sense of danger to animals relating to earthquakes or oncoming tornadoes.

Essex, ON. November 7, 2014 --  Wind turbines dot the landscape near Essex, Friday November 7,  2014.  (NICK BRANCACCIO/The Windsor Star)Essex, ON. November 7, 2014 -- Wind turbines dot the landscape near Essex, Friday November 7, 2014. (NICK BRANCACCIO/The Windsor Star)

While it is known that the signals from infrasound enter the human brain, scientists have no knowledge yet of the effect of what occurs when the brain absorbs infrasound stimulation for prolonged periods; no long-term study exists. A 2001 review by the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences called the Infrasound Toxicological Summary found over 100 infrasound studies globally with many of those reporting similar adverse health effects inclusive of fatigue, sleeplessness, nausea, heart disorders afflicting people living near wind turbines.

In a 2003 U.K. experiment by the National Physical Laboratory, Britain's largest applied physics institute, two music concerts were arranged to be staged one directly following on the other in London's Purcell Hall. Two different musical pieces in each concert included infrasound, the result being that when the infrasound-impacting pieces were played the audience reported elevated sensations of nausea, dizziness, increased heart rates and neck and shoulder tingling.

In the absence of long-term studies, the short-term studies that have been scrutinized may not provide the whole picture of what is occurring. Wind turbines may yet be found to be entirely benign. It is not outside the realm of possibility that a kind of affective hysteria may be responsible for the deleterious health symptoms reported by people living close to the turbines. There is also the possibility that the turbine manufacturers might conceive of a solution to the sound emitted, thus eliminating the problem.

This without considering additional complaints about the visual impact of the wind turbines marching across a landscape. On occasion, depending upon where the wind turbine farms are located, disturbing the natural visual serenity of well-loved areas, including those dependent on tourism. That also, without including the dreadful toll that wind turbines take on the avian population, killing thousands upon thousands of birds with their revolving blades.

In the meanwhile, a Canadian court is mulling the situation and is soon to make a decision whether wind turbines are in violation of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms through raising a risk to human health in their use to people held hostage to the sound by wind turbines installed in their geographic vicinity. One can only wonder whether, when such energy-derivative sources, beloved of environmentalist are placed where the environmentalists live, what their reaction might be.

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