When News is Hazardous to Your Health

By Keith Kloor | October 25, 2013 2:41 pm

Earlier this week, ABC News asked:

Can wind power be hazardous to your health?

Some residents of a Cape Cod town have complained about headaches, nausea and other symptoms that they attribute to noise from wind turbines near their homes. I’ve written about “wind turbine syndrome” a bunch of times, including here at Discover and over at Slate. I’ve also chided a journalist who’s become obsessed by it, and who after seeing the ABC piece, tweeted:

This is of course not true. I think these people are sincere. In fact, I think believers in wind turbine syndrome are just as sincere as those who believe they are being sickened from power lines and WiFi signals and cell phones. Similarly, I’m certain that some people truly believe that GMOs cause 1) cancer, 2) autism, 3) Parkinson’s disease, 4) obesity, and 5) Alzheimer’s.

I won’t question the motives or sincerity of people who fall into any of the above categories. But the cause and effect they assert is not backed by scientific evidence. That doesn’t mean someone’s high blood pressure or insomnia aren’t real–it just means they can’t be attributed to the noise from the wind turbine in their town. Science does not support the link, just as science does not support a link between’s someone’s brain tumor and cell phone use.

However, there is evidence to suggest that some people who consume news about such purported linkages are prone to becoming symptomatic. Those who are serial propagators of alarmist, thinly supported news should take note.


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Collide-a-Scape is an archived Discover blog. Keep up with Keith's current work at http://www.keithkloor.com/

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets.From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine.In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest.He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.


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