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

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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.

Hobart said her headaches only got worse, but at Christmas, when she went to San Diego, they disappeared. And she said the same thing happened on an overnight trip to Keene, N.H.

"Sometimes at night, especially in the winter, I wake up with a fluttering in the chest and think, 'What the hell is that,' and the only place it happens is at my house," she said. "That's how you know. When you go away, it doesn't happen."

Hobart and dozens of others in this small Cape Cod town have filed lawsuits, claiming that three 400 feet tall, 1.63 megawatt turbines (two owned by the town and one owned by Notus Clean Energy) were responsible for an array of symptoms. A fourth, much smaller turbine, is owned by Woods Hole Research Center, but it receives fewer complaints.

The wind turbines have blown up a political storm in Falmouth that has resonated throughout the wind energy industry. Are these plaintiffs just "whiners," or do they have a legitimate illness?

Written By: Susan Donaldson James
continue to source article at gma.yahoo.com

38 COMMENTS

  1. the AWEA, said that wind power did not hurt the environment

    What a brazen statement, given that it’s incorrect. Naturally, a wind industry rep. would expunge bird and bat deaths from the table.

    There are similar accounts reported, including a farmhouse couple in Europe. Not convinced this belongs in “pseudo science”. Whales are disturbed when depth charges are released by oil companies assessing drilling options in arctic waters. Doesn’t seem far fetched that turbines would affect some humans to a degree.

    • In reply to #1 by bluebird:

      the AWEA, said that wind power did not hurt the environment

      What a brazen statement, given that it’s incorrect. Naturally, a wind industry rep. would expunge bird and bat deaths from the table.

      There are similar accounts reported, including a farmhouse couple in Europe. Not convinced this belong…

      Hi bluebird,

      I’m open to there being a problem here as I am with overhead power lines. But as yet no evidence supporting this hypothesis. There have been a number of studies carried out which found some interesting data. Such as communities in which wind farms were welcomed have not reported these illnesses. These started to crop up after residents who failed to stop the wind farms being put in. There is also a doctor who is against wind farms going around telling residents in areas where people are fighting to have wind farms put up about all these as yet unproven connections between wind farms and health impacts. There may even be a placebo effect or depression brought on by hearing the noise (particularly if you don’t like wind turbines). This needs to be considered against the numerous well known health impacts of burning coal (which is how we get most of our power across Australia or in Tasmania loss of habitat due to damning rivers for numerous fish species etc). Politically its a big issue particularly in Tasmania where the economy is not so hot.

      As for bird strikes I acknowledge that this is an issue but has to be weighed against the alternatives huge open cut coal mines, massive loss of habitat and impacts of global warming which will ultimately have a far bigger death toll than wind farms. But you’re right to point out this as a factor.

    • In reply to #1 by bluebird:

      That really is a stretch, in fact it’s verging on an urban myth/zombie lie. Birds fly round wind turbines because they are not completely stupid. The number of deaths is tiny compared to other causes (including nuclear and fossil fuel power, per WP).

    • In reply to #1 by bluebird:

      There are similar accounts reported, including a farmhouse couple in Europe. Not convinced this belongs in “pseudo science”.

      It’s an assertion made without the backing of evidence

      Whales are disturbed when depth charges are released by oil companies assessing drilling options in arctic waters. Doesn’t seem far fetched that turbines would affect some humans to a degree.

      Whales, who communicate over long distances using sound, being distrubed by violent underwater explosions does not equate to apes going dizzy and falling over because of wind turbines spoiling their view. such dot joining is no less vague than astrology

      “to a degree” of course is an astrological fact. the position of jupiter does, “to some degree” affect the gravitational influence on water in your body ergo tuesday is a great day for meeting up with old friends but do take care of your finances over the next 2 months

      until there is some evidence (you could have helped by linking the european cases you refered to) it is not science so sorry but any conclusions drawn from such anecdotes fall comfortably within the category of pseudoscience

    • In reply to #1 by bluebird:

      the AWEA, said that wind power did not hurt the environment

      What a brazen statement, given that it’s incorrect. Naturally, a wind industry rep. would expunge bird and bat deaths from the table.

      There is a study showing bird deaths in the US. Buildings were first, followed by power lines, cats, cars and other things. Wind turbines were in the 0.01% range. I’m sure it’s easy to find.

      look it is, check out table 2

      With a name like yours it good news on the wind turbine front!

  2. People have a habit of assigning causality when any two things occur together

    The woman can experiment for herself by going away, coming back, going away to see if the symptoms follow. Let’s say they do. They can still be psychosomatic. You need to get other people to do the same thing. If none of them notice any difference, probably the best way to proceed is to move. The alternative is to shut down the windmills and generate the energy with polluting fossil fuels that generate greenhouse gases. The thing that is amusing is if there were a diesel plant there, she would expect to feel rotten and would not complain.

    Frequencies of about 7Hz make people feel sick. A windmill should not be designed to emit in that range.

    There was a case where a woman complained about the unbearable noise. Yet the nearby road generated quite a bit more noise.
    People get weird around any new technology. Here in BC, we have a problem with people terrified of digital AC usage meters, even though the amount of radiation is a small fraction of many other common sources.

    My dad worked for the electric company. One day they send him out to deal with a woman who was convinced her toilet was electrocuting her. It turned out the woman was quite fat, and had cracked the toilet seat, which when she shifted her weight, pinched her flesh.

    • In reply to #2 by Roedy:

      People have a habit of assigning causality when any two things occur together
      Frequencies of about 7Hz make people feel sick. A windmill should not be designed to emit in that range.

      I couldn’t agree more. In concert audio reinforcement, we use low end and sub harmonics all of the time to evoke physical responses from an audience. Loud, extended low end makes adrenaline pump, but in my experience, I find that sickness is not that easy to induce. It only seems to happen when the frequency of the offending sound is lower than 10 Hz, and higher than 125dB, and concussive or sudden in nature. If this couple’s house is 1600 feet away, the turbine would have to be generating low-frequency noise at over 180dB. I refuse to believe any mechanical engineer would ignore a design flaw like that.
      As for “prolonged exposure” arguments, why do we not see this syndrome in railroad employees, aviation staff, musicians, or any other profession of people who spend extended periods of time around sub-audible noise?
      Did their night light give them skin cancer too?

      • In reply to #24 by SoundGuyLuke:

        In reply to #2 by Roedy:

        If this couple’s house is 1600 feet away, the turbine would have to be generating low-frequency noise at over 180dB

        Interesting analysis. Measurement required, in case there’s something in the location or shape of the house that makes it resonate at the offensive frequency, so the turbine’s emission need not be so energetic. Spin-off for the military perhaps? Build a wind turbine, accidentally invent a sick-ray.

  3. “I thought I was just getting older and tired,” said the 57-year-old from Falmouth.

    You actually are just getting older its not a delusion. The pro hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy is. However there may be something in this that needs a closer look, frequencies near to human body resonance will make people feel ill.

    • In reply to #5 by Serdan:

      The reviews conclude that pre-existing negative attitudes to wind farms are generally stronger predictors of annoyance than residential distance to the turbines or recorded levels of noise. In other words, people who don’t like wind farms can often be annoyed and worried by them: some might even worry themselves sick.

      People can be annoyingly stupid.

      This is probably correct, although I think wind turbines are valuable sources of green energy, I would not like one within earshot of my home. There are better sites away from populated areas, but “cheap” installations, will look for short transmission cables, rather than socially considerate options.

  4. “headaches, ringing in her ears, insomnia and dizziness to the point of falling “flat on my face” in the driveway.”

    Sounds like Meniere’s disease. But I am not a doctor. I do have Meniere’s disease though and those are all symptoms.

  5. I would be interested to know if this was as big a problem or if it even exists at all in mainland Europe. Europe has had wind turbines longer and in greater numbers in higher density populated areas than in the US.

    You would expect crowded Netherlands one of the most densely populated countries in the world, which is full of wind turbines to have tens of thousands of people suffering these symptoms.

  6. Another factor is the visual appearance. I actually think they are beautiful, elegant wonders of symmetry and design. But that is an opinion, many consider them a blight on the landscape. However I think they are not considering an open cut coal mine or potentially destroying the water table with coal seam gas or damning a flowing river and flooding much farmland in their aesthetics.

    A lot of farmers love them because the regular income they get by hosting a few turbines helps give them some financial stability when crop or animal prices fluctuate wildly. They end up often pitted against people who have had a sea change and brought land in some natural wonderland (and Tasmania is staggeringly beautiful) and suddenly the next door neighbours farm has a giant turbine poking (in my opinion) majestically out of the landscape. It often seems to be a case of good idea but not in my backyard. Pity.

    • In reply to #12 by Reckless Monkey:

      Another factor is the visual appearance. I actually think they are beautiful, elegant wonders of symmetry and design. But that is an opinion, many consider them a blight on the landscape.

      To the backward-looking and nostalgic, only obsolete technology (- like old Dutch oil paintings of windmills), is “beautiful”!

  7. Perhaps the future of wind turbines lie in producing small turbines that can be fitted atop of your house.
    This could still generate a significant amount of power, if whole towns adopt such technology.
    Also this way they won’t be any uglier than those satellite dishes right?
    Although if they still continue make annoying noises then I guess it will still fail.

  8. The only criticism I’d levy is the Doctor whose husband is anti doing shoddy science (and knowing it is shoddy) and then announcing her conclusions. I do not know enough as of yet to reach my won conclusion about people faking symptoms or it being psychosomatic or a case a actual harm being done. MY jury is still out. I’ll keep listening and gathering info until I can reasonably process the situation.

    HOWEVER, i recognize shitty science when I see it.

  9. Input much appreciated.

    @R M 4

    Yes, hideous problems where ever one turns. Mountain top removal in Appalachia affects birds (esp. the cerulean warbler), debris washes into streams. Folks and coal companies engage in bitter fights over this. World wide population control would help. Earth needs a break.

    @PERSON 8

    That post was a stretch.

    @STC 16

    Can’t find the farmhouse couple link (been too long ago, but I remember their photo); similar article

    I did not jot join whales to humans, just the possibilty (not probability). Also, considering the jumbled plethora of “investigations, anecdotes, reports”, what should the OP be filed under?

    • In reply to #18 by bluebird:

      Input appreciated.

      @R M 4

      Yes, hideous problems where ever one turns. Mountain top removal in Appalachia affects birds (esp. the cerulean warbler), debris washes into streams. Folks and coal companies engage in bitter fights over this. Population control is the only answer, imo.

      @PERSON 8

      Tha…

      What exactly is a stretch about this sentence: “The number of deaths is tiny compared to other causes (including nuclear and fossil fuel power, per WP).” written by PERSON? I’ll never understand the ultra critical environmental attitude of finding small faults about a technology which replaces an older technology that has many more faults.

    • In reply to #18 by bluebird:

      I did not jot join whales to humans, just the possibilty (not probability). Also, considering the jumbled plethora of “investigations, anecdotes, reports”, what should the OP be filed under?

      that’s fair, the possibility is definitely there but then so is the possibility of homeopathic medicines remembering only what they’re told to remember; in other words, its a begging the question falacy; not a solid starting point for investigation.

      I still think the OP belongs under pseudoscience, it has all the ingredients; anecdotes, assertions . when actual evidence is found, the article that reports it may be filed as science

      the key is in the OP

      “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.

      Hobart said her headaches only got worse, but at Christmas, when she went to San Diego, they disappeared. And she said the same thing happened on an overnight trip to Keene, N.H.

      this at best is anecdotal evidence that taking vacations may be linked to a reduction in stress-related symptoms but has been reported as turbines cause headaches

  10. To me, the post comes across as “in the field expertise research” testimony. Sounds as if he has worked along side the American Bird Conservancy folk counting dead birds.

    small faults

    Maybe that’s premature. I am not anti wind turbine, or solar fields – three cheers when green tech. can escape the stranglehold of the oil/gas/coal juggernaut.

  11. Reminds me of those who claim they are electrosensitive, claims power lines cause cancer and the same for wi-fi. Hundreds of studies have been done to establish if electrical power or wi fi radio frequency energy can affect the human body and not one has found a link. The biggest was a few years ago by the Eu into phone masts and wifi stations and cost millions.
    None of this stops the cottage industry of amateurs who rake in large amounts money providing various protective measures for those who think they are afflicted.
    Its most likely the pro hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy as mentioned.
    Crops up time and time again.

  12. STC ~ not a solid starting point for investigation

    Your point is conceded to; where does one begin? To me, the wind turbine “situation” is like a pack of cards fanned out. Process of elimination.

  13. With a name like yours…

    Eastern bluebirds habitat is brushy fields/prairies next to woods. They wouldn’t be caught dead, errr, near wind turbines, so yeah, ’tis good news for sialia sialis. Can’t speak for Mountain and Western bluebirds per turbines.

    Windows on professional buildings can be fitted with special glass – I presume that would make them eligible for a LEEDS award (leader of environmental excellence design).

    Spay and neuter!! Problem is, most folks don’t want to spend the time and $$. Animal shelters offer the service for free sometimes, but as Picard would say “not good enough dammit!”.

    Link appreciated.

    • In reply to #26 by bluebird:

      LEED

      I hate LEED for many reasons, they’ve done some good but they should abolish LEED silver and focus on Leadership in Environmental Design not making money for “certified consultants.”

      I don’t use slaves in any of our projects nor thankfully is there a demand for us to pay people vast sums of money to prove we haven’t. LEED the pyramid scheme of environmental leadership.

  14. An honest objector to a wind turbine installation will disconnect from the grid, and live without externally generated electricity. Will the noise of their diesel generator bother them? And no replacing electric heaters with coal fires, that’s not helping either.

    • In reply to #28 by OHooligan:

      An honest objector to a wind turbine installation will disconnect from the grid, and live without externally generated electricity. Will the noise of their diesel generator bother them? And no replacing electric heaters with coal fires, that’s not helping either.

      I think their objections cannot be categorised as “environmental” so I think you missed the target. Honestly objecting to the noise of turbines leaves everything else still on the table, hydro, coal and rabbit power, before you have to go to noisy diesel.

  15. Sue Hobart’s symptoms sound a lot like Meniere’s disease or labyrinthitis – disorders of the inner ear and vestibular system that cause tinnitus (ringing in the ears), nausea, extreme dizziness, and headaches. They can be recurrent or chronic. Both are more common in people over 50. How old are the people supposedly affected by the turbines? Are any children experiencing these symptoms? Not saying that the turbines don’t bother some people – just that the kind of problems this woman describes could be signs of several different disorders that should be ruled out before knee-jerking to some external (and lawsuit-liable) cause.

  16. mr_DNA wrote: “The biggest was a few years ago by the Eu into phone masts and wifi stations and cost millions.”

    Yes, I remember that. I distinctly remember an office colleague of mine trying to enlist my support in opposing a mobile phone mast being constructed near the office, on the grounds that the radiation from the mast could cause cancer. I pointed out to her that research showed that the mobile phone which she had glued to her ear most of the time emitted far higher levels of radiation in her immediate vicinity than any phone mast would.

    She was not too pleased and continued canvassing for support, often by using her mobile phone.

    • In reply to #35 by Dubhlinneach:

      I pointed out to her that research showed that the mobile phone which she had glued to her ear most of the time emitted far higher levels of radiation in her immediate vicinity than any phone mast would.

      Yes, because it is a two way system, it does not do any good for the mast to put out more power in any given direction than the phones use to get a signal back. They have multiple antennas so that the masts can put that level of power out in multiple directions at the same time, but you can only be in one place at a time, so that also, does not matter.

  17. @bluebird
    Yes let’s talk about the birds. First off let’s ban people from having cats as pets since they kill a staggering number of birds every year. And then let’s make sure every window in the world is tinted enough that birds won’t fly into them, since yeah birds kill themselves by flying into them. And then let’s ban all air pollution because…oh wait wind turbines replace fossil fuels which are the primary source of air pollution which directly kill birds, and accelerates global warming which will increase the extinction rate of bird species everywhere. Sooo, can you stop pretending that you actually care about birds and just want something bad to say about wind turbines. That and, where is the actual evidence that they do kill birds in the first place?

  18. Aimed at someone out there who knows:

    Could there be a “nano windmill” that gets engineered to be in huge copy number on the outside face of vinyl siding of houses? The back side of the piece of siding could have wires (albeit small ones), that are used to harness the wind power from the outside of the house and run into a battery that sits inside the house????? I was rolling solar powered houses around in my head and thought, “hey what about a wind powered house?”

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