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Is 'Wind Turbine Syndrome' Real or an 'Example of Community Panic'?

"The more you look into it, the more you realize there's some science behind this."

In this Feb. 24, 2006 file photo, a wind turbine stands, generating power next to Hull, Mass. , High School in the shadow of Boston. Establishing a New England market to buy renewable energy seemed a laudable goal when governors committed last year to bulk purchases of wind and solar power to cut the price of alternative energy while reducing the region s reliance on fossil fuels. But putting together details about what the six states will buy is snared in a patchwork of rules, state laws and disagreements among the states over how to even define alternative energy. (Photo: AP/Stephan Savoia)

Turbines on wind farms have already been said to kill wildlife and even noted to create localized warming, but could they be spurring health problems as well?

An increasingly talked about, although unofficial condition described as "wind turbine syndrome" by Dr. Nina Pierpont is said to cause nausea, vertigo, trouble hearing, blurred vision and unsteadiness, among other symptoms in those who claim to be sensitive to it.

Pierpont in a talk last year in Massachusetts cited several studies that have been conducted on wind turbine syndrome:

  • Dr. Amanda Harry from the UK published in 2007 a series of 42 affected patients from her practice with typical symptoms of Wind Turbine Syndrome.
  • Dr. David Iser from Victoria, Australia, in 2004 formally notified the Victoria government of his patients’ becoming unwell after the startup of a wind farm.
  • Dr. Sarah Laurie in Australia has interviewed over 100 affected people in Australia in the last 15 months. She has extended the study of the adrenaline surge effects into the cardiovascular realm.
  • Members of the Society for Wind Vigilance in Ontario, Canada, members of which include physicians and other health professionals, have collected 131 cases by questionnaire since 2008.

Turbines in Germany. (Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Even more recently, a study published last month in the The Journal of Laryngology & Otology found that there is evidence "infrasound" can have effects on the ear. The study notes that it is currently "impossible to conclude that wind turbine noise does not cause any of the symptoms described." But some people believe the symptoms of those experiencing wind turbine syndrome are actually caused by "stress [... of] unwanted noise exposure."

NPR reported co-author of this study, Dr. Amir Farboud, a ear, nose and throat surgeon at Glan Clwyd Hospital in Wales, saying, like others, he too thought the condition was "rubbish" at first. But "the more you look into it, the more you realize there's some science behind this," he said.

Currently, the symptoms and their relation to infrasound produced by wind turbines is not conclusive enough and more research needs to be done.

NRP went on to report University of Sydney public health professor Simon Chapman calling wind turbine syndrome "probably an example of community panic."

A paper by Chapman that was submitted to a peer-reviewed journal in March shows that it might be a "mass psychogenic illness."

"The rapid development of fear and anxiety is key to the transmission of disease by disruption of [behavior] and activities of those involved. Transmission or contagion is increased by the general excitement related to the phenomenon, including media reports, researcher interest, and labeling with a specific clinical diagnostic term. It is enhanced by monetary factors, and related to underlying personality types or stress," the report said of these types of "illnesses."

Discover Magazine noted Chapman's similar "nocebo" viewpoint in 2012 after a group in Massachusetts filed a complaint against local wind farms, citing health issues. The nocebo effect is one where hearing about the negative side effects of something psychologically causes them to come true. The New Yorker recently reported about the nocebo effect as is it related to wind turbines and those claiming sensitivities to Wi-Fi. TheBlaze has reported about Wi-Fi syndrome before, from which 5 percent of Americans reportedly suffer.

Another recent study has called wind turbine syndrome a condition that seems to be all in people's heads as well.

“We measured the actual noise from the turbines and used environmental noise modeling software that helped us to predict how much sound is actually heard by those living in the vicinity," Claire Lawrence with the University of Nottingham said, according to "We found there was no relationship between the ‘real’ level of noise and reports of ill health. ”

Last year just after President Barack Obama's re-election Steven Colbert even took it upon himself to tease the syndrome:

With calls for continued research to better understand what some think are possible connections between wind turbines and these symptoms, studies claiming it the syndrome psychological, and some government officials wanting to make it easier for those claiming symptoms to take legal action, we're sure to see more on wind turbine syndrome in the future.



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