By Helen Schwiesow Parker, P.hD., LCP
Like the tobacco industry before it, the wind industry has spent decades vehemently denying known harmful consequences associated with its product, while promoting its fraudulent feel-good image. Dismissing or denying the serious health impacts of industrial-scale wind turbines is wishful thinking, akin to insisting that tobacco is harmless because we enjoy it.
The problem with wind energy is not just its costly, subsidized, unreliable electricity; the need to back up every megawatt with redundant fossil-fuel power; or its impacts on wildlife and their habitats.
Infrasound (inaudible) and low-frequency (audible) noise (slowly vibrating sound waves collectively referred to as ILFN) produced by Industrial-scale Wind Turbines (IWTs) directly and predictably cause adverse human health effects. The sonic radiation tends to be amplified within structures, and sensitivity to the impact of the resonance increases with continuing exposure.
These facts have been known to the wind industry and the U.S. government since the 1980s when it became a ‘hot topic,’ with numerous studies presented and published by acousticians working under grants from the Departments of Energy and Defense and NASA.
The wind industry response?
Deny the science. Insist that “what you can’t hear can’t hurt you.” Claim that “neighbors will get used to it.” Measure only outside dwellings, and allow only noise measurements in the field that reflect the relative loudness perceived by the human ear, while drastically reducing sound-level readings in the lower frequencies that are known to cause problems.
From a distance, many view the massive turbines as majestic – as a clean, seemingly quiet and free source of endless energy. To untold thousands of families clustered within 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) or more of the pulsing machines, however, the IWTs bring strangely debilitating illness – increasingly incapacitating for some, yet scoffed at by wind proponents.
Common sense tells us that 50-story-tall metal structures with blades as long as football fields moving at 180 mph at their tips would negatively impact quiet neighborhoods. But the extent and severity of the IWT’s effect on body, mind, and spirit comes as a surprise to most people.
“When I’m at home I’m usually sick with headaches, nausea, vertigo, tinnitus, anxiety, hopelessness, depression. My ears pop a lot and I hardly ever sleep…. Suicide looks to be my only relief. Land of the FREE Home of the BULLSHIT! … Million to one odds anybody contacts me back.”
The primary pathway of turbine assault on human health is no mystery. The Israeli army has used low-frequency sound pulses as high-tech crowd control for years. People are made nauseous and confused, with blurred vision, vertigo, headaches, tachycardia, heightened blood pressure, pain and ringing in the ears, difficulties with memory and concentration, anxiety, depression, irritability, and panic attacks.
This also describes the Wind Turbine Syndrome (WTS), a constellation of symptoms first given a name by the brilliant young M.D./Ph.D., Nina Pierpont. She followed her astute and compassionate observations of turbine neighbors around the world with epidemiological research, using a robust case-crossover statistical design: subjects experienced symptoms that varied with proximity to the turbines. When the same subjects were placed at a greater distance from the turbines, their symptoms abated; returning them to the scene brought the symptoms back.
Michigan State University noise engineers explain that, “Inaudible components [ILFN] can induce resonant vibration in liquids, gases and solids … bodily tissues and cavities – potentially harmful to humans.” A subject in the groundbreaking Cooper study describes how the resonance shows up in a glass of water on her kitchen table, and in the toilet bowl, and how she feels it in her body.
Pierpont hypothesized that a significant pathway from ILFN to symptoms might include disruption to balance mechanisms located in the inner ear.
Dr. Alec Salt and colleagues, otolaryngologists at Washington University, later found that inaudible ILFN reaches the brain via inner ear Outer Hair Cell (OHC) displacement, leading indeed to unfamiliar and disturbing sensations paralleling WTS.
As turbine size trends upward, the sickening ILFN emissions worsen. There’s a lot of money riding on keeping the science under the radar of public awareness and keeping regulations to a minimum.
When Denmark’s EPA proposed tightening turbine noise regulations to protect turbine neighbors from increasing ILFN (May 2011), the Vestas CEO wrote the DEPA Minister, asserting: “It simply isn’t technically possible to curtail the ILFN output,” and “Increased distance requirements [setbacks from residences] cannot be met whilst maintaining a satisfactory business outcome for the investor.”’ DEPA folded, turning instead to looser standards that were “likely to be copied by other countries.”
Although alerted to the increased endangerment of turbine neighbors around the world, the press remained silent, and Big Wind’s central players ramped up their game plan undeterred.
In addition to the impact of ILFN radiation, turbine neighbors suffer from Turbine “Flicker” – a strobe-like effect caused by turbine blades alternately blocking and allowing sunlight to skim rhythmically and repeatedly across the land, or ricochet in bursts across interior walls and stairwells.
The direct impact extends to nearly a mile from the turbine – long after sunrise, and again long before sunset. It is mesmerizing, disorienting, and often brings on nausea, dizziness, light-headedness, irritability, even panic, whether indoors or outside.
Repetitive sleep disturbance and stress-related symptoms are the most common health complaints of IWT neighbors. The audible sound constantly fluctuates, described as akin to low-flying jets or the rumble of helicopters, “freakish, screeching sound sludge.” It is unnatural. People say the noise gets into your head, and you can’t get it out.
Advising the Falmouth, MA, Board of Health, Dr. William Hallstein wrote: “All varieties of illnesses are destabilized, secondary to inadequate sleep: diabetic blood sugars, cardiac rhythms, migraines, tissue healing. Psychiatric problems intensify … all in the ‘normal’ brain. Errors in judgment and accident rates increase.”
As with seasickness, not everyone is similarly affected. But for many, the experience becomes literally intolerable. Devastated families and individuals around the world, having lost their health, jobs, or farms, return their keys to the bank, sell their homes at fire-sale prices, or simply pack up and flee. Some never recover their health.
(For more details on this human health travesty, see my three-part series on MasterResource.org)
The continuing expansion of Big Wind is a tale of money and power shunting aside integrity and compassion, abetted by a disinterested news media, leading to an un-informed public, further betrayed by “human rights advocates” loathe to break ranks from popular positions.
The myth that “saving the world” requires tolerating the costs of Big Wind could not be further from the truth. Responsible stewardship demands critical thinking, common sense, and grade school science, not just following Big Wind’s Pied Piper and supposedly good intentions.
In fact, allowing wind into the energy mix squanders our non-renewable environment and taxpayer billions that are greatly needed elsewhere, wasting them on the most idiotic of engineering conceits.
Reliance on wind actually increases emissions and fossil fuel use overall, due to inefficiencies introduced into the system. Big Wind eliminates none of the need for conventional capacity, but rather consumes vast quantities of additional fuel and raw materials, while spewing emissions during the manufacture, transportation, construction, and maintenance of the enormous redundant turbines and their uniquely demanding infrastructure.
The Wind Game is nothing but an obscenely costly, mostly useless energy redundancy scheme. It funnels unimaginable profits from our taxpayer and rate-payer pockets to its inner circle, while knowingly ignoring its victims’ desperate pleas for relief – and indeed ridiculing them and trying to bury all the growing evidence of harm to their health and well-being.
We’ve witnessed three decades of this callous, mercenary assault, this arrogant denial of what is known to be true, this untold suffering of thousands of innocent victims around the world. It’s time to bring in the human rights and social justice referees – and call “game over.”
Helen Schwiesow Parker, Ph.D., is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and a Past Clinical Supervisory Faculty member at the University of Virginia Medical School. Her career includes practical experience in the fields of autism, sensory perception, memory and learning, and attention deficit and anxiety disorders, including panic disorder and PTSD.