The latest environmental illness: windmill sensitivity

Never underestimate the power of nocebo. Beliefs in environmental illnesses have moved from electromagnetic field sensitivity from power lines, televisions and wifi to now, windmills. Sadly, we can expect more cases of mass sociogenic illness from windmills as this news spreads. The lawyers and alternative practitioners are already lining up in this latest case — of dueling alternative beliefs.

‘Wind Turbine Syndrome’ Blamed for Mysterious Symptoms in Cape Cod Town

Sue Hobart, a bridal florist from Massachusetts, couldn’t understand why she suddenly developed headaches, ringing in her ears, insomnia and dizziness to the point of falling “flat on my face” in the driveway. “I thought I was just getting older and tired,” said the 57-year-old from Falmouth. Months earlier, in the summer of 2010, three wind turbines had been erected in her town, one of which runs around the clock, 1,600 feet from her home. “I didn’t put anything to the turbines — we heard it and didn’t like the thump, thump, thump and didn’t like seeing them, but we didn’t put it together,” she told ABCNews.com….

In 2011, a doctor at Harvard Medical School diagnosed Hobart with wind turbine syndrome, which is not recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The name was coined by Nina Pierpont, a John Hopkins University-trained pediatrician, whose husband is an anti-wind activist, criticizing the economics and physics of wind power. Pierpont, who lives in upstate New York, calls wind turbine syndrome the green energy industry’s “dirty little secret.” She self-published “Wind Turbine Syndrome” in 2009, including case studies of people who lived within 1.25 miles of these “spinning giants” who reportedly got sick.

But her wind-turbine research has been criticized for improper peer review (Pierpont reportedly chose her reviewers), and for its methodology….

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29 responses to “The latest environmental illness: windmill sensitivity

  1. When the loonies are beating each other up, it seems like a good time to get some popcorn and enjoy the show.
    The problem is that the winning loony is still going to make life tough for sensible people.

  2. “But her wind-turbine research has been criticized for improper peer review (Pierpont reportedly chose her reviewers), and for its methodology….”

    The eco nuts will accept any poor piece of research if it supports the cause, but go against the green orthodoxy and dang if your research is poor and not well peer reviewed – even if it is the most thorough study ever.

    Of course in this case I agree the claim is rather dubious.

  3. In true scientific methodology, a double-blind study would have to be undertaken.The problem as I see it is that there would be subject bias,as the participants could tell if the turbine is spinning or making noise.Alternatively one could employ deaf people as subjects,but the reverse would be true,as they could not report symptoms if they could hear the turbines!
    Perhaps the real problem is just noise,as in living near an airport,or an expressway.This could lead to their symptoms,not some esoteric explanations from the proponents of “wind turbine syndrome”.
    Any feedback from our fellow Junksters on this? Unfortunately as a humble toothdoctor, this lies beyond my area of expertise.

    • It might be the noise that is causing problems. For instance listening to annoying high pitched squeeks all day can cause stress – a related whooping sound that prevents sleep at night can further cause stress and other problems.

      Maybe have three groups, one without noise, one with windmill noise and one subject to artificially made windmill like noises won
      Not that I believe this woman, but being deaf wouldn’t necessarily make the study valid.

  4. it sounds like a variant of “Hypoglycemicfibromyalgiclymosis” to me.

  5. I think that wind turbine syndrome should respond well to homeopathic remedies, which are often very effective in the treatment of psychosomatic illnesses.

    • Thats right treat crap with crap. Psycogenic illness almost always have underlying emotional drivers though which need to be resolved otherewise you are just treating symptoms.

      • Adam is correct. While the turbines are not the actual “cause”, the reaction is very real and often unconscious. These people do not get sick “on purpose”. They are reacting to an environmental stressor. It may be they are very angry at the wind turbines but don’t want to just walk away and lose everything because that’s not “fair”. So the anger becomes an “illness” and they really do feel sick. It’s all in their heads, but it’s very, very real. Don’t dismiss it as nothing. It’s just not tied to the actual physical attributes of the wind turbines.

  6. wedding Florist, real sustainable business. I lived up there many years ago. I know Stone as he worked in my lab at MBL. This is just a NIMBY, lets extort money from a power company. This is a typical, anti carbon crowd who does not really like the alternatives. Fantasy Land.

  7. Once upon a time, the US military was thinking of using ultra-low, sub sonic frequency sound generators as weapons. Such low frequencies, of sufficient power cause the internal organs to vibrate, and with intense enough power can cause damage, including vibrating the brain. The problem was lack of directional control.

    Also, one of the more esoteric forms of Kung Fu involves assuming various specific postures and making a specific sound for a specific organ to cause that organ to vibrate, to massage the organ.

    .If someone claims to have a problem due to the low frequency pressure pulse of a wind turbine consider it possible.

    • Howdy otec
      Certainly ambient noise can be troublesome. There’s no useful evidence that specific sound waves cause changes in organs, though. The amount of sound that would produce a harmful vibration would be so loud that it would already be a kind of area denial weapon.
      In a specific test, the Mythbusters (I know there’s a lack of rigor there) were unable to reproduce the “brown note” that supposedly caused incontinence.

  8. It is easy to discredit someone, if you have never experienced the problem, and do not understand the physiology behind their symptoms. A group of people might go on a carnival ride, and have a wonderful time, but there are some who will be dizzy, and nauseated. Before you accuse and make judgments against the victims, expose yourself to some real research, by professionals who were not bought out by the wind industry. The tobacco industry also tried to deny that smoking had any negative health effects, simply because it was difficult to prove, and they did not want to be held accountable. Hundreds of people have had to leave their homes, in order to escape their symptoms. This is happening in countries all over the world, wherever turbines have been erected too close to residences.

  9. I don’t doubt there are people who create their own sickness – it is in their heads. But just because everyone does not get sick, does not mean that the changes in pressure and low frequency sound don’t affect some people. I am not subject to migraines, but I know people who get them when the weather changes. I also know people whose joints ache when weather fronts move though. I know some people who love carnival rides and other who get sick with the least amount of motion.

    • Yes, some people are affected. I get migraines with weather changes and get sick from carnival rides. As you noted, these are specific to me. They are not a reason to not locate turbines near me (the only reason to not locate turbines is they’re a waste of money and harm the environment.) If we want to do something with the problem, rather than try to use it to keep out turbines, demand the developers buy out anyone who is adversely affected. People can and do buy land near turbines–three or four new houses have gone in less than 2 miles from the 11 Chevron turbines south of where I live (I’m 8 miles or more away).

      Personally, to me, this is just the price of modern life. I don’t like the subdivision a rancher threw in south of my home. I wanted open spaces. We don’t all get what we want. I either stay and deal or I leave.

  10. You haven’t done your homework on this and it shows. You can start with the work of Rick James or William Palmer.

    http://www.owensoundsuntimes.com/2013/10/21/peer-review-process-nearly-complete-for-wind-turbine-study

    “A local study that concluded that wind turbines cause distress among people who live near them is being peer reviewed and should be ready for publication in medical journals soon. Lynn and Arra’s review concluded that every one of the credible studies they looked at found some kind of association between wind turbines and distress among people who live near them. Three of those studies showed that the closer a person lives to the turbines, the greater the distress.

  11. The solution is simple.
    Force the top pro wind power people to live near them.
    If they have no problems, the windmills don’t cause problems.
    If they have problems, we dump the windmills ant they shut up about them.

  12. Generally speaking, I see no problem in accepting the claim that said windmills cause health problems. IMO it makes sense that the constant exposure to the relentless noise & vibration of these devices would generate a negative human response. That said, the yearly loss of hundreds of thousand of birds (some quite rare) caused by these monuments to absurdity seems well established. Thanks.
    Jon

  13. While it is undoubtedly true that this is a hypochondriacs’ paradise, I wouldn’t be too quick to discount adverse effects.

    The noise from windmills is at the low end of the range, and anyone who has had to live near a doof-doof fan knows that it is not the volume, but the vibration, that keeps you awake at night.

    Also, because they are allowed so close to houses, the flicker effect can be significant. Not only can it turn rooms in your house into discos when the sun is shining, it can cause severe discomfort to people who are made uneasy by flickering light – and the effects on epileptics are well-known.

    I’m not saying that we should uncritically swallow every person’s story. But, low-end noise and flicker are not very well understood. Unlike the “precautionary principle” that is applied to well tested technologies, windmills just got a free pass because they are supposed to Save the Planet.

  14. The solution here is simple. Take the ethanol out of gasoline and distribute it to those who live within 100 miles of a wind machine or a politician.

  15. Two notes:
    1. Part of the problem here is symptoms such as these were “real” when it was to the greens advantage. Now, the green become the “evil” corporation causing untold damage to people and the people suffer because of the uncaring nature of the greens. The greens are now evil.

    2. Proving any of the symptoms of living around a turbine are “real” is nearly impossible. Perhaps the low-level vibration, but the sound and the shadow flicker cannot be proven as harmful. You can’t do a double-blind test concerning how much sound or light it takes to make a person sick. You can’t hide the light or the sound–and once people know it’s there, they can and will react.

  16. Low frequency sounds have a disturbing effect on some people?

    Why not? the chatter above about psychosomatic illness drifts too far away from what is a problem.

    For example ever been around irritating light source or a noise source of a another frequency? Ever worked in a noisy environment and then moved to a quieter one and found it less stressful.

    So my advice is don’t thrown

  17. to finish. Don’t throw away the preliminary findings that may be somewhat anecdotal–anecdotes and observations are the basis for inductive reasoning, and then when the premise is well defined we move to evidence based testing for reproducibility.

    The thunking wooping noise that turbines make could be bothersome to a sensitive tuba player, for example, who would be upset at a lack of proper tuning.

  18. My comment concerns the actual ability to scientifically “prove” causality in the case of noise and light. The only reason low-level vibration might be testable is you can theoretically do a double-blind test, if the vibration is low enough. I don’t see how one can actually reproduce evidence in this–you can do surveys and questionnaires but bottom line, you have no way to actually know if this is psychosomatic (which does not mean it’s not real–your mind can make you physically sick) or not.

    Yes, some people are bothered by these things. My answer has always been to just walk away. You can try and sell the house, but if you can’t and you believe that where you are living is making you sick, walk away. Lose your credit rating–your health is more important. Find a way. It’s your health. (And no, it’s not fair. Life’s not fair.)

  19. Not with my hypoglycemicfibromyalgiclymosis.

  20. Hey, anybody heard about HOME. KINDOF A PRIMITIVE CONCEPT, SORT OF LIKE OTHER TRADITIONS THAT ARE IGNORED.

    Let’s assume someone, anyone has decided to install a MULTI MILION DOLLAR set of wind tubines close TO YOUR HOME.

    Anybody think that moving from YOUR HOME is a simple thing?

    So let’s take, for example, riding along on what you might think is a nonsensical installation fo a 40 or 50 turbine wind farm in southern Mills county, south of me in Mid Texas on my weekly trip to Fort Hood.

    Now the DOE has declared mid Texas to be a poor to middling source of wind energy, but no matter, this is driven by tax subsidies and another thing–A MANDATE THAT ALL ELECTRICITY COMPANIES IN TEXAS HAVE A 15 PERCENT SET ASIDE FOR ALTERNATIVE ENERGY,
    authored by a pathetic State Senator named Troy Fraser, who is my State Senator and a former pallet maker in a town south of me named Marble Falls. Now Troy Fraser is my 1000 dollar suit State Senator, ensconced for a decade or more, sold his business and he is into the Austin political creep scene, big time. A long time ago, under pressure from wind and other alternative sources “energy sources” he wrote a 15 percent mandate into the electric company’s mandate–they had to burn trash or do solar or wind to meet TEXAS REQUIREMENTS, Imagine that, Texas the home of fossil fuel energy production.

    So a wind farm just went up in the last 2 or 3 months, very rapid, in a county that is described by the DOE as a poor producer of wind energy, but it’s on a ridge where i can see it for 10 miles.

    I see it going up on my trips to work at Fort Hood.

    So now in rural Texas we have another wind farm, just like i see in other rural areas of Texas and other places, regardless of the energy efficiency that might derive, considering the DOE map of wind efficiency locations, which are limited in Texas, for example as coastal and the panhandle.

    I must say, what is going on here, other than government subsidies and mandates?

    Make any sense to those who don’t have a wind farm close?

    John Dale Dunn MD JD

  21. The question is not whether these people are making it up or their symptoms merely psychosomatic.
    The questions are: if these enormous wind turbines were erected near rich peoples’ homes, would we not have a cacophony of protests?
    And: why weren’t people given a choice as to whether or not they wanted these monoliths erected in their back yards?
    While anecdotal evidence is difficult to ascertain, with the regards to the illnesses that have been attributed to living near near wind turbines, the fact that many have had no choice but to completely uproot themselves and their families is an indicator that something is amiss.
    When families begin to be ill with little or no explanation as to the cause and the symptoms are not attributable to any known illnesses, where pathology tests over many months are inconclusive, the fact that the only, only, thing that has changed is the erection of wind turbines nearby, then a direct correlation can be drawn.
    Whilst it is still difficult to prove without direct studies, there is no doubt that this has become a problem and should not be dismissed lightly.

    • If we can’t prove it with direct studies, how do we justify saying the illness is “real”? This is no different than the claims that fracking ruined the water and made people sick, that living next to a refinery made people sick, that swimming in water with tiny fractions of chemicals made people get cancer, etc. If there is no way to prove causality and yet we demand something be done, where does it end?

      It’s not being dismissed lightly. It’s just impossible to prove. Again, that’s why one sticks to the uselessness of the turbines and not to things like wind turbine syndrome or property values. (And no, rich people don’t have these things next door. They don’t have a lot of things next door. It’s the advantage to being rich. The UN did say wind plants stepped on the rights of rural residents, so at least someone did notice.)

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