To the editor:
This is in response to the letter to the editor from Dennis Stout, the E.ON spokesman who recently spoke at a public meeting concerning the proposed Big Valley wind farm projects. Mr. Stout refuted the existence of wind turbine syndrome, the name given to the constellation of symptoms experienced by some, but not all, people who live in proximity to industrial wind turbines, or IWTs. Specifically, Mr. Stout asked "What about health issues concerning turbines?" He then declared "there is no support for claims that there is a wind turbine syndrome In fact, no reputable source has published anything on it." However, this does not seem to be true.
In his October 2009 paper "Summary of Recent Research on Adverse Health Effects of Wind Turbines," Dr. Keith Stelling, MA, MNIMH, Dip Phyt, MCPP, stated "Authorities and politicians in Ontario have been repeatedly warned that industrial wind turbines are having an adverse effect on the health of those living nearby. Health complaints are not peculiar to this province but are consistent throughout the world wherever large industrial wind turbines have been installed. Contrary to the claims of the industry, there is a growing body of peer-reviewed research substantiating these health claims."
Mr. Stout apparently dismisses the large body of information published by Dr. Stelling and many other researchers from nations including but not limited to New Zealand, Sweden, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Canada, and United States. In the current issue of the "Canadian Journal of Rural Medicine," authors Dr. Roy D. Jeffery, MD, and Carmen M.E. Krogh concluded "If placed too close to residents, IWTs can negatively affect the physical, mental and social well-being of people. There is sufficient evidence to support the conclusion that noise from audible IWTs is a potential cause of health effects. Inaudible low-frequency noise and infrasound from IWTs cannot be ruled out as plausible causes of health effects."
In their article, Jeffery and Krogh also reference studies conducted in the United States including a Minnesota Department of Health report that stated "the most common complaint in various studies of wind turbine effects on people is an annoyance or an impact on quality of life." The authors go on to cite research in support of their conclusion that "A causal chain exists between strong annoyance and increased morbidity, and chronically strong annoyance must be classified as a serious human health risk." Symptoms associated with annoyance are similar to those identified by Dr. Nina Pierpoint in describing Wind Turbine Syndrome: Stress, sleep disturbance, headaches, difficulty concentrating, irritability, fatigue, dizziness or vertigo, tinnitus, anxiety, heart ailments and palpitations.
More significantly, besides dismissing the research, Mr. Stout discredits the many personal accounts of individuals who suffered from living near IWTs and resorted to extreme measures like sleeping in vehicles or basements lined with mattresses, or altogether abandoning their homes. Having to pay mortgages or rent on more than one home, these individuals often also suffer financially upon relocating. The financial burden experienced by people living near IWTs in Brown County Wisconsin prompted the local board of health to pass a resolution seeking "temporary emergency financial relocation assistance from the State of Wisconsin for those Brown County families that are suffering adverse health effects and undue hardships caused by the irresponsible placement of industrial wind turbines around their homes and property."
As we contemplate how the proposed IWTs could impact the health of the residents of the Big Valley, we should also consider the effect of the topography. Studies done for the Minnesota Department of Health and by Dr. Pierpoint reflect that hilly or mountainous terrain can serve as natural channels for noise. In Dr. Pierpoint's opinion, there should be a minimum 1.25 mile setback from homes for all IWTs and a 2- to 3-mile setback when located overlooking valleys. Her position on setback distances would also seem supported by the results of a survey conducted of residents who live near IWTs conducted by Dr. Robyn Phipps in New Zealand. Dr. Phipps' survey included 614 households sited near wind farms on the Tararua and Ruahine mountain ranges (their highest peaks are less than 5,800 feet). To Phipps' surprise, "over 52 percent of the households located 5 to 9.5 kilometers away believed they heard wind turbine noise, and 25 percent of households located 10 kilometers away said they could hear the wind farms."
In his letter and public appearance, Mr. Stout tried to dispel the incidence of adverse health effects related to living in proximity to IWTs. The evidence provided by researchers and the people who have lived nearby them confirms that the impact on health is real. Additionally, as Dr. Stelling commented in his study, it must be observed that " there is no credible research to back up (wind) industry claims that wind turbines do not threaten human health."