Nocebo Doubt About It: "Wind Turbine Syndrome" Is Catching

By Keith Kloor | October 23, 2012 11:22 am

Keith Kloor is a freelance journalist whose stories have appeared in a range of publications, from Science to Smithsonian. Since 2004, he’s been an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. You can find him on Twitter @KeithKloor.

Shutterstock

Last month, a group of Massachusetts residents filed an official complaint claiming that the wind turbine in their town is making them sick. According to the article in the Patriot Ledger, the residents “said they’ve lost sleep and suffered headaches, dizziness and nausea as a result of the turbine’s noise and shadow flicker [flashing caused by shadows from moving turbine blades].” A few weeks later, a story from Wisconsin highlighted similar complaints of health problems associated with wind turbines there.

Anecdotal claims like these are on the rise and not just in the United States. A recent story in the UK’s Daily Mail catalogs a litany of health ailments supposedly caused by wind turbines—everything from memory loss and dizziness to tinnitus and depression.

I expect so. For one thing, the alleged health problem has been adopted by demagogues and parroted on popular climate-skeptic websites. But the bigger problem is that “wind turbine syndrome” is what is known as a “communicated” disease, says Simon Chapman, a professor of public health at the University of Sydney. The disease, which has reached epidemic proportions in Australia, “spreads via the nocebo effect by being talked about, and is thereby a strong candidate for being defined as a psychogenic condition,” Chapman wrote several months ago in The Conversation.

What Chapman is describing is a phenomenon akin to mass hysteria—an outbreak of apparent health problems that has a psychological rather than physical basis. Such episodes have occurred throughout human history; earlier this year, a cluster of teenagers at an upstate New York high school were suddenly afflicted with Tourette syndrome-like symptoms. The mystery outbreak was attributed by some speculation to environmental contaminants.

But a doctor treating many of the students instead diagnosed them with a psychological condition called “conversion disorder,” as described by psychologist Vaughan Bell on The Crux:

It is unlikely that the New York teenagers’ problems are linked to an “unknown virus”, “mystery illness,” or “toxin,” which many media outlets mentioned as potential causes: Viruses, bacteria, or poisons are most likely to cause these symptoms by damaging the neural pathways—something we can normally detect fairly easily. So when the LeRoy cheerleaders were diagnosed with “conversion disorder,” the doctor was saying that although the symptoms appear to be due to neural damage, there were no problems with the neural pathways, and there was no evidence of faking, so the symptoms were likely due to psychological factors.

As for “wind turbine syndrome,” Chapman noted that “17 reviews [.docx file] of the available evidence about wind farms and health” had found no strong evidence that turbines were making people ill. One meta study released by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health early this year concluded that wind turbines cause no noticeable increase in health problems, though the turbines’ sound and shadow flicker might annoy nearby residents.

For a condition that seems to have no physical basis, Chapman says wind turbine syndrome has an impressive list of medical problems (“an astonishing 155” [.docx file]) attributed to it: “I have worked in public health on three continents since the mid-1970s. In all this time, I have never encountered anything in the history of disease that is said to cause even a fraction of the list of problems I have collected.”

While communication seems to be the infectious agent here, that alone cannot take all of the blame. We also come predisposed with our own anxieties and attitudes on particular issues. And that may also help to explain how some people get afflicted with “wind turbine syndrome” and why others spread the word about it.

 

  • Rucio

    The “hysteria” (telling choice of word) would seem to be Simon Chapman and the wind industry’s in their inability/unwillingness to entertain the possibility that their product has any shortcomings at all. The dismissal of the continuing testimony of people around the world about adverse health effects from giant wind turbines and the reversal of cause and effect is inexcusable. Someone like Chapman, active as he is in the fight against tobacco, should be especially sensitive to industry reflex to diminish field reports and the growing evidence of epidemiologic correlation.

    As for the “17 reviews”, they are all almost identical. They are not studies themselves, but reviews of published articles (none of them actual epidemiologic studies) and thus reveal only the lack of good research regarding this issue.

    Finally, Chapman’s self-serving timeline of complaints reveals his own lack of responsible study. It does not take long to discover that: 1) health complaints from wind turbines were recorded (around the world, in many languages, I should add) long before the common set of symptoms was described as “wind turbine syndrome”; and 2) health complaints have increased in more recent decades because the size of wind turbines, and thus their noise, especially lower frequencies, has increased dramatically.

  • Laura

    I just can’t believe how many people reference that Massachusetts study that is not even worth the 163 pages it is written on.
    1) The committee met a total of 3 times
    2) They based their report on “popular media”, public comments, and pre-existing studies
    3) Any information that they received that was inconsistent with previous studies was ‘disregarded’.
    4) Any information they reviewed from medical professionals around the world detailing the ill health effects of individuals living near wind turbines were also disregarded, because those professionals weren’t able to prove a causal link.

    In other words, they never left their cozy little meeting room — with air-conditioning and catered steak dinner, I’m sure.
    They never did any epidemiological studies.
    Never asked for medical or health records of anyone living near wind turbines.
    Never went out and SPOKE to anyone living near a wind turbine.
    Never went out and lived near a wind turbine for a week.
    Never even went out and visited just ONE home within a reasonable distance from an industrial wind turbine.

    In other words, that much-touted Massachusetts health study has as much relevence and importance as a first-grade copy of Dick and Jane.

    And yet those with their snouts firmly planted in the wind subsidy trough faithly use it as their bible.

  • Mary

    Sigh. I’ll bet every one of them gets in their car every day without fear of health consequences, too.

    It’s an interesting phenomenon though. And a curious side-effect of us all being able to share everything via social media now. I know a lot of people want to make progress with medical issues via sharing this kind of information. I wonder how much of that will be affected by infectious sharing.

  • Jay Fox

    As someone who suffers from myoclonus, the flickering caused by windmills would actually cause me problems. As do certain video editing effects. But my condition is really rare, and documented. Knowing all that, I know to avoid such triggers. I’d never settle near windfarms because of it, and if one were put in near me, I’d move.

    I’m not against the technology. I think it’s vital to develop alternative energy wherever it is available. I just cannot live next to a windfarm.

  • Mike Barnard

    Professor Chapman’s list has now reached 198 symptoms, a plague of truly apocalyptic proportions.

    Every mechanism for harm has been thoroughly assessed and eliminated. Wind farms don’t harm people’s health, anti-wind lobbyists harm people’s health. Medical practitioners (mostly non-practicing, oddly enough) are some of people most to blame for this psychogenic epidemic. Dr. Nina Pierpont (ex-pediatrician, USA), Dr. Amanda Harry (ex-GP, UK) and Dr. Sarah Laurie (ex-GP, Australia) are among a vanishingly small but very vocal set of medical professionals who are attacking wind farms instead of e. coli, coal particulate matter or the next SARS. Their ability to differentiate medical fact from medical fiction and to make any appropriate judgements seems to have been lost some years ago.

    In Dr. Pierpont’s case, perhaps it’s because she makes a bunch of money peddling her shoddy book and testifying against wind farms via Skype. In Dr. Laurie’s case, she’s in league with a surprising number of people who remain rich due to coal in Australia.

    Safe to say that if given a choice between having one of these three treat a flesh wound or leaving it untreated, I’d opt for the latter. I just don’t trust their medical judgement, nor should anyone else.

    For full references, quotations and links to medical studies and assessment of the various elements of this illusory ailment, please see this post:
    http://www.quora.com/Wind-Power/What-might-cause-people-who-live-near-wind-turbines-to-get-sick/answer/Mike-Barnard

  • http://niklowe.blogspot.co.uk/ The Filthy Engineer

    Various effects of sound on objects are well known, Just because you can’t hear it, doesn’t make it non existent.

    Low frequencies around the 7 Hz level has been found by experiment to actually damage structures.

    http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/munitions/accoustic.htm

    An example of the effects of blades is known as “flicker Vertigo.

    “As with any other aircraft, spatial disorientation can be a problem, but helicopter operations provide two additional problems. One is known as a flicker vertigo. In this situation, a light source, usually above the rotor blades, such as an overhead sun or moon, will be observed blinking off and on, and at certain frequencies of flicker, angular vection illusions occur. This may result in motion sickness or become a source of irritation and distraction.”

  • Nullius in Verba

    Keith, the ’17 reviews’ link doesn’t seem to work.

  • Amos Zeeberg (Discover Web Editor)

    @Nullius: Whoops! My error there. Fixed the link (and also the one in “155″).

  • K. Kearney

    Granted, Wind Turbine Syndrome is a dumb name, but is it really beyond comprehension that living too close to a turbine may just be too close? That noise will, in fact, interfere with sleep? That 30 minutes of flicker every afternoon will drive you mad?

    And to use the situation with those poor NY girls as a case in point is in bad taste. Consider this possibility: The doctors treating the NY girls simply can’t figure it out, because it’s beyond our science and capability. A cure for AIDS has eluded us for decades; it took us years to even understand what it was. The list of medical mysteries is very long. “Syndrome” is generally used when we don’t understand, or we don’t want to acknowlege.

    There’s more that we don’t know, than we do know. Some suggested reading: “A Short History of Nearly Everything”. It’s an interesting, fun summary of our mankind’s pusuit of knowledge, and it will leave any scientist, engineer or doctor humbled.

    In the meantime – If we develop our windfarms safely away from people, everyone wins.

  • David Norman

    Keith, the assertions made in this article cannot yet be proved wrong, statistically speaking that is… you as a journalist can be excused for your intentional naivety, however, Chapman knows this by profession. Whilst he is being disingenuous in the scientific sense this is never-the-less the circumstance to be expected with the very few survey and epidemiological case studies in this regard. When and if the studies you and Chapman make reference to are replicated, a criterion of scientific method, and psychological and physical indicators are researched in clinical/laboratory settings, the contraindications will at best be relative… this is already known. I do wonder what Chapman stands to achieve and there is assuredly something in it for him… how about you? And, do not confuse Chapman’s apparent condescending presentation with virtue… he is out to win. “Chapman syndrome” ( a pattern of social presentation indicative of inherent bias), like your own, is a great deal more insidious than Wind Turbine Syndrome but easier to diagnose.

  • Pingback: Are wind turbines making people sick? Or is it all just psychological?

  • Bearpaw

    Anecdotal claims about health effects from wind power? Look, everybody!

    Thousands of actual deaths every year attributable to coal-fired power plants? [crickets]

    Some birds killed by wind turbines? Look, everybody!

    Entire bird populations devastated by Gulf oil spills? Eh, accidents happen.

  • Brian Too

    Uh, doesn’t this all assume that these complaints are honest? What about deception?

    Some of the opposition to wind turbines seems to stem from esthetic concerns, property value concerns and the like. However such complainants may feel that these sound trivial (esthetic), base (lucre), or insufficient (more = better).

    Under such conditions, throw in a medical complaint and it helps firm up the whole oppositional position.

  • julianpenrod

    This may cause this not to be printed, but this article has all the characteristics of cravenness.
    Depraved indifference to the sufferings of others. Indeed, a contemptuously light hearted diffidence. Using a pun title to down grade the people’s feelings. Adopting the common technique for ignoring the feelings of others, saying it’s “all in their heads”.
    And that denial of people’s feelings is facilitated by another quality of cravenness, violation of principle. The symptoms reported by many subjected to wind turbines are demeaned by describing them as “anecdotal”. In a sense, everything is “anecdotal”! Until and unless the “rank and file” are presented absolute, incontrovertible, tangible proof literally in their hands that “fossils” are real and not resin casts, the claims of “evolution” being rue are only anecdotal! No member of the “rank and file” have ever seen anything that makes claims of “relativity”, the “Higgs boson”, “black holes”, for example, anything but anecdotal! But, the ruling of “scientists” is that they claim they saw the proof, that is all the “rank and file” deserve to be told! But, then, consider, crooks who want to deny everything from insurance claims to the dangers of some pollutions say things like headache, pain, losing sleep are “anecdotal”, to avoid giving them validation. But various manifestations like pain and such are accepted in “medicine” as accepted phenomena, even though they supposedly have not been “objectively” observed.
    But the issue of anecdotal nature is itself illegitimate. Loss of sleep is something that can be directly observed and tested for. Likewise, a commonality of manifestations among those affected suggests a real cause.
    But depraved sophistry is so often called upon to “disprove” the real. Another common tactic of malignance.
    Note, for example, the careful pointing out that those suffering from wind turbine effects were described as reporting as many as 155 symptoms! The carefully curried impression is that each made up a different symptom, that’s why there were so many, and that proves it’s all imaginary. What is calculatedly left out is that 97% report a commonality of five or six symptoms, while only 3% of cases report the 150 others!
    In the same depraved vein, note the hoary trick of reporting a situation in which “power of suggestion” or “mass hysteria” is “diagnosed” as the cause of general reported symptoms, and “diagnosed” by only one “scientist” note, and, on the basis of that one incident, it is “concluded” that this incident must also be “mass hysteria”!
    Incidentally, in their rabid desire to eventually define everyone who isn’t a “scientist” as having autism, the “scientists” have expanded the list of “symptoms” for that “ailment” to about 300 now. That’s why they call it a “spectrum”!
    Constant sound above or below human hearing; incessant oppression by irritants, even if minor; perpetually changing conditions, like flickering light; even just the constant reminder that someone else has gotten rich by imposing something on you that never asked for, all are proved to cause legitimate ailments.
    Denial of wind turbine syndrome seems just another craven act by the “scientists”, all of them in the corporatist New World Order’s pocket.

  • Rucio

    @Brian Too: Your skepticism is admirable, but it should also be, perhaps more appropriately, applied to the wind industry, the ones who are actually making piles of money as long as most of the public believes their product is not only helpful but also harmless.

    Because unfortunately, giant wind turbines are not only harmful but also not very helpful.

  • http://duggyvans.blogspot.com.au/ Doug Evans

    1. Whenever the proponents of wind turbine syndrome (WTS) are pressed for evidence (anecdotes are not evidence) they fail to produce it.

    2. In Australia there is no doubt that there are strong links between these folk and powerful individuals with links to both fossil fuel industries and conservative politics.

    3. Study after study has shown no evidence of negative health impacts from wind turbines. Multiple parliamentary reviews of the evidence driven by a coalition of industry and conservative politicians have concurred with this.

    Nevertheless even if WTS was more than a form of induced hysteria. Even if there is some as yet undiscovered link between wind turbines and ill health the claimed negative health impacts of this the most cost effective mode of low carbon power generation pale beside the proven health costs of the alternative, fossil fuel powered electricity generation.

    In Australia ill health and deaths associated with fossil fuel use costs the community billions of dollars annually from respiratory, cardiovascular and nervous system diseases caused by exposure to the extraction, transportation and combustion of coal, oil and gas.

    Air pollutants account for a huge proportion of the health costs, contributing to: respiratory diseases such as asthma and lung cancer; cardiovascular diseases which lead to heart attacks; while mercury contributes to developmental delay and permanently reduced intellectual capacity in exposed children.

    Somewhat outdated estimates put the health damage from Australian coal-fired power stations for the Australia community at $A2.6 billion annually. Together with estimates of health damage from fossil fuel powered transport emissions, this amounts to an annual health bill of almost $6 billion for Australian taxpayers as well as contributing to thousands of deaths each year.

    A pity that the concern of the WTS proponents for the health of ordinary folks does not include those affected by coal and gas fired power plants.

  • http://duggyvans.blogspot.com.au/ Doug Evans

    @Rucio

    Get yourself up to speed. Wind power is making a significant and rapidly expanding contribution to electricity generation globally. Global wind power installations increased by 41,236 in 2011, bringing total installed capacity up to 238,351 MW, a 20.6% increase on the 197,637 MW installed at the end of 2010. For the last two years more than half of all new wind power was added outside of the traditional markets of Europe and North America, mainly driven by the continuing boom in China which accounted for nearly half of all of the installations at 18,000 MW. China now has 62,733 MW of wind power installed.

    Several countries have achieved relatively high levels of wind power penetration, such as 21% of stationary electricity production in Denmark, 18% in Portugal, 16% in Spain, 14% in Ireland and 9% in Germany in 2010.

    As of 2011, 83 countries around the world are using wind power on a commercial basis. In Australia South Australia is up to more than 20% wind power and it is driving DOWN power prices via the merit order effect.

    There is no EVIDENCE of negative health effects from wind turbines and even if there were – well see my comment above.

  • http://www.windvigilance.com beth

    The reported adverse health effects from industrial wind turbines have been documented and peer reviewed. When bloggers start to report on a global crisis created by a mad rush to be green, the truth is the victim.

    This is wind turbine syndrome- a suite of symptoms caused by audible modulated noise and inaudible low frequency noise which have a deleterious effect on the human body leading to morbidity.

  • Mike Barnard

    @Beth: please provide links. UofT deregistered hobby journal of Associate Professor doesn’t count. Sorry.

  • Gabriel

    In Spain we have a lot of windmills and we are not sick. Perhaps because we didn’t know that we should?

  • Michael Lowe

    Different people react to noise in different ways. Personally, I can’t stand low frequency noise. I would have to move away (if I could) it would drive me crazy

  • http://www.windvigilance.com beth

    http://www.windvigilance.com Summary of peer reviewed evidence
    Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society, 31, http:bst.sagepub.com/content/early/2012/07/30/0270467612455734 August 2011
    Noise and Health(D.Shepherd) Oct. 2011 http://www.noiseandhealth.org
    British Medical Journal Essay (Hanning) March 2012 http://www.bmj.com
    Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (Moeller/Pedersen) 2011

  • Elizabeth

    At this point, since some people seem unwilling or unable to “get” the pathway to ill health effects from the audible noise produced by wind turbines and the sound pressure/infrasound/low frequency noise, I would suggest you go to the children’s section of your local library, and pick up a copy of “Scaredy Squirrel at Night.”

    There, documented in a nice cartoon format that everyone can understand, is Scaredy Squirrel’s health effects when he stops being able to sleep at night.

    Simple.

    To deny these basic effects and further to insinuate that people are imagining this, or participating in some mass hysteria, is preposterous.

  • M Anderson

    Rather than the ill-informed author just making things up as he goes along, due to his lack of exposure to the issue, perhaps he should focus on these studies and get back to us.

    http://ontario-wind-resistance.org/health/

  • http://N/A robert mcmurtry

    In the spring of 2011 there was an Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) in Chatham Kent Ontario. A record 26 witnesses were called including 16 by the wind industry and government i.e. testifying for the proponents. Although there were witnesses from New Zealand and Australia not surprisingly Simon Chapman was not involved. The reason is simple; whatever his expertise it is not in the area of adverse health effects in the environs of industrial wind turbines. The results of the ERT were clear. On July 18 2011 the tribunal found that there are indeed adverse health effects but in the absence of actual victims providing evidence the severity of those effects could not be determined. That will be addressed in future ERTs since nearly 30 victims have sworn affadavits. In short the bluster and denial of Chapman means little in the face of a measured judicial process, a process that also found that the government had failed in its duty of precaution as well as failing to consider indirect health effects. The truth will out in spite of all the stone-walling, it always does.
    R Y McMurtry CM MD FRCSC FACS

  • Tom

    You mean that all those families that across Ontario who have abandoned their homes are not really sick and the hundreds of other families who sleep at the homes of friends and relatives or motels etc ( some paid for by wind companies) or the ones who have signed gag clauses so they can be bought out by the wind companies are all liars – somehow I very much doubt it.

  • Rucio

    @Gabriel: In Spain, the turbines are not close to people’s homes. Instead they are slaughtering raptors.

  • David

    For all of the doubters commenting, this reminds me of the village in South Africa who claimed that the cell phone tower that was installed was making them all sick. All with similar symptoms. All of the getting worse. Until the phone company pointed out that they had turned off the cell tower 6 months earlier. Suddenly everyone was well again. Ta Da! Magic no dooubt.

    http://www.dailytech.com/Radio+Tower+Fearing+Residents+Get+Punked+Vow+to+Continue+Their+Battle/article17418.htm

  • http://etwasluft.blogspot.com.au/ Ketan Joshi

    Note closely that Robert McMurtry (CM MD FRCSC FACS) neglects to provide a link to the full text of the ERT finding of July, 2011. His counterpart in Australia, Sarah Laurie, does the same thing with regularity.

    One possible reason for this is the actual outcome of the judicial process. The final decision states that “The Appellants have not shown that engaging in the Project in accordance with the REA will cause serious harm to human health as required by section 145.2.1(2)(a) of the EPA.”
    http://www.ert.gov.on.ca/files/201107/00000300-AKT5757C7CO026-BGI54ED19RO026.pdf

    Page 200, in particular, addresses and negates McMurtry’s above claims directly.

    The proponents of Wind Turbine Syndrome have become skilled experts in the misrepresentation of research and documentary evidence. This fits neatly with the classification of a pseudoscience.

  • R. D. McConnell

    $100 to 5 Cents that the persons behind this are the anti-envitonmental nut cases financed by the coal and oil industries.

  • onslo

    I thought it was well established, years ago, that low frequency noise could affect humans. Those in favour of wind power would naturally be biased against any reports to the contrary. I will wager that the researchers do not spend time or camp under the wind towers for any length of time. It is ironic that Ted Turner, a committed conservationist, refuses to have these wind towers erected on his vast ranch holdings. Says it all.

  • Peter

    Raptors, yes, the blades do contact birds in flight. Coal extraction kills and displaces thousands of animals too. What man efforts don’t??? I don’t even have to go into oil’s issues. They’re too well known. In days past, we didn’t have to do exhaustive studies. People didn’t have a lot of say in where and when different industries were established. Now that we do, a certain set of people want to stop a viable alternative to the energy efforts that daily, hourly and minutely kill as surely as cancer took its last victim. Simple: Wind energy is BY FAR the lesser evil! I have stood under the largest blades, listening, straining to hear even the faintest sound. There are 86 on an island just off the shore of my city and they are each going day and night. (against what some people would say of 40 percent capacity or what not) I wouldn’t want another coal fired plant as I can always see the pall of smoke browning the horizon from that. The turbines, I’ll gladly take and let’s face it. The symptoms of turbinitis are the same as any self induced, psychosomatic illness, vague, multifaceted and easily felt by anyone who has cause to want to support the anti turbine movement.

  • taerog

    “spreads via the nocebo effect by being talked about, and is thereby a strong candidate for being defined as a psychogenic condition,”
    This is SO crazy common that people would be surprised the extent Effect can spread and effect people.

    Viewed under controlled conditions EVERY one of the “sensitivity syndromes” Like the various electromagnetic sensitivity sufferers. Have been found to be really suffering, but not from what they believe they are from but from a self induced psychogenic condition. Everyone of them can be “spoofed” my just making them think the stimulus is really there or not regardless if it IS there.

    Tell people there is a gas leak some WILL start smelling it and will get physically ill over it. They are not faking! they really suffer from there mind simulating the event. And since NO one wants to be told or to tell anyone that it is TRULY in there head and can be cured that way . . the insanity spreads.

  • Tug

    The nocebo effect is real. Mass hysteria is real. While I’m not a doctor, I do have a pretty good grounding in psychology. While I am certain that the people experiencing symptoms really do have problems, I doubt that the problems truly spring from the wind turbines. In fact, there are some fairly simple ways to test that hypothesis. Allow me to suggest an experiment.

    Find a place where a large number of people are experiencing symptoms. Get a lot of instrumentation and measure the conditions and output of the wind turbines. Record those conditions. From a population of those experiencing symptoms, take a random sample of people. Take a similar sample from those not experiencing symptoms. Take them to a lab and do a series of interviews. Recreate the conditions present in the environment around the wind turbines WITHOUT INFORMING THE PARTICIPANTS. Place participants in that environment to do an unrelated task.

    If people experience symptoms at that time without the turbines nearby and with no knowledge of what’s going on, then you have a way to isolate exactly what effect is causing those symptoms. If no symptoms are experienced under the exact same conditions when the participant doesn’t know that they are in those conditions, then the effect is likely unrelated to the actual environment and related to the IDEA of the environment.

    A similar test can be run in reverse. Place participants in an environment where you inform them that the conditions will be replicated and change nothing. If they experience symptoms when the conditions are not replicated, again, it’s likely that it’s not related to the effects of the environment, but the idea of the environment.

    Symptoms are symptoms. These people are suffering, there’s no doubt about that. However, if it’s the idea itself that’s causing them rather than the environment, then people will have a better idea how to treat it.

  • Jay Warner

    This is a topic we really need more (LED type) light on. The little serious digging I have done suggested very incomplete data collection or analysis, performed by people unable/unwilling to consider the possible error of preconceived hypotheses. The reports were also older than this growing subject needs.

    What I think is needed is some serious evaluation of original data, by people who are willing to consider the possibility of both serious maladies and psychological group persuasion. Analysis by people whose axes have not been ground & sharpened immediately prior to the work. If it’s done well, I expect material to disillusion both wind turbine -phobes and -philes. Maybe such a work has already been done, however, I am skeptical when a report is firmly promoted as having “the” answer, by anyone.

  • Mage

    Alright, well…

    I believe that this is ridiculous and should be ignored. I mean… almost 200 symptoms? REALLY? Next they will be saying that the wind farms cause cancer, autism in unborn children and dementia in older people.

    Personally, I kind of like the wind farms… they are pretty. And they make a nice, relaxing sound (if you aren’t too close).

  • Brian Too

    @14. Rucio,

    Sorry, I did not mean to imply that all medical complaints of wind turbine syndrome are deceptive.

    However the title of this article is ‘Nocebo Doubt About It: “Wind Turbine Syndrome” Is Catching’. The premise is that communication and knowledge of the syndrome increases it’s asserted prevalence, and further that “… apparent health problems that [have] a psychological rather than physical basis”.

    Such an increase needs an explanation. I am offering deception as one explanation.

    Of course ignorance of a syndrome decreases it’s diagnosis too. So it’s a matter of delicate analysis to figure out what the driving factors really are.

  • WindTruth

    Those who are convinced there are no valid health effects sign up for first studies, live at the 500 ft. setback we are given in homes. Make study appropriate length: somewhere between the 3 months and several years that health studies last, and where timeline can show any effects. Those believing in health effects, live at 2 miles, and beyond. Check blood pressure, blood, etc., request diary entries for sleep patterns, headaches, etc. Begin large scale epidemiologic study. Fund by way of wind industry tax. Do coal plant, oil emission study by tax, also. But, be ready for coal, oil, and wind and solar to pass cost on to consumer. At same time immediately stop all subsidies to all energy sources. Answers will come forth.

  • Edward

    Hello all,

    I think the response is more complex than any of the alternatives offered. Everyone is right to a certain extent.

    I am an ecologist but also suffering of a syndrome that makes me very sensitive to flicker. I have seizures at certain frequencies, especially at visual stimuli and also sound. Many symptoms on my list as well.

    I support windfarms, but only where they do not pose a risk of seizures to people and only if they would deter big birds from coming their way.

    I think there might be hysteria as well, but the effect of certain frequencies on normal people is not researched well. I know that sounds of a certain frequencies are used in order to change brainwave patterns in people. This cannot be without effect. How about actually doing more research on this and leaving witch-hunt for later, when we’d have enough peer-reviewed evidence on brainwave entrainment, or lack of it?

  • David Norman

    Dr. Simon Chapman, Senior Researcher of Public Health at the University of Sydney, calls Wind Turbine Syndrome a classic case of a “communicated disease” (http://theconversation.edu.au/wind-turbine-syndrome-a-classic-communicated-disease-8318). Chapman disparages “wind turbine syndrome, by using obscure and absurdly exaggerated health claims associated with proximity to Industrial Wind Turbines (IWTs) which he has gleaned off of the internet and has not provided reference. Chapman has never conducted scientific/epidemiological research regarding health effects associated with IWTs. He conveniently, and despite his erroneous claims of “funding” impartiality, ignores contemporary findings by the World Health Organization and, for example, literature reviews such as “Wind Turbine Noise Seems to Affect Health Adversely and an Independent Review of Evidence is Needed,” British Medical Journal, March 8, 2012”( http://betterplan.squarespace.com/todays-special/2012/3/10/31012-british-medical-journal-wind-turbine-noise.html). Chapman states that “wind turbine syndrome produces zero returns from the United States National Library of Medicine’s 23 million research papers”. He cleverly ignores the fact that so little research has been conducted/supported in this area that it does not yet have the clinical criteria necessary for inclusion as a diagnostic category, hence no reference key words… curiously he goes on to state that he does reference 17 reviews of available evidence in this regard – clearly none of this “evidence” is of a clinical scientific merit to warrant inclusion in that database.
    Chapman, while not guilty of scientific misconduct in this respect, since he has not conducted any “science” or scientific analysis, is stretching the limits of academic freedom of speech. And, that the “tabloid” that published this article would allow such unsubstantiated commentary on an is a testament to its journalistic integrity.

  • lilyloo

    the NOCEBO was indeed brought into play in 2 recent Massachusetts Board of health meetings within the last month by wind developers to refute claims made by residents who are feeling impacts…the wind developers claimed that NOCEBO is found to effect 15% of complaints (no tot do with turbines, just in general it is found…by whom it was not cited…that with any set of health complaints there is 15% that are found to be susceptible to the power of suggestion)…HAVING SAID THAT…the wind developers NEVER DISCUSSED the 85% of health complaints that the ellusive NOCEBO study showed to be valid…this talk of NOCEBO is a red herring meant to divert attention.

    the final poster says it is a “matter of delicate analysis to figure out what the driving factors really are”…may i venture to be less delicate…horse sh**! The analysis is as simple as people who, prior to the turbine operation were able to sleep at night, their ears did not ring, they did not have vertigo and headaches…and now they do…if they go away they feel relief…SLEEP DEPRIVATION is a terrible thing…and it is negligent to steal the safe haven of one’s home by siting wind turbines 600 feet from the doorstep of a family as they have in Scituate Ma…and Kingston Ma

  • Matt B.

    Now consider Gulf War syndrome, which also had a wide range of symptoms. Someone probably got sick from something in Iraq, but once others find out about it and unchecked speculation gets hold of their minds, they get phantom illnesses.

  • David Pratt

    I’ve got an old GameCube with a warning on it about flashing lights and seizures. It is common knowledge that a fixed point of focus, placed into motion, is hypnotic to people, and less commonly known that the more physically and mentally healthy a person already is, the less likely they are to become hypnotized using this method. Just as many have differing but consistent first reactions to a ball thrown toward their face by surprise (catching, dodging, freezing, holding out arms as if to stop something other than the ball, etc.), it is entirely conceivable–and testable–to find out whether consistent blinking of the light triggers a headache in one person but nausea in another, while a third feels panic and a fourth regret, while not affecting 30 or 40 others around them. It would likely follow the pattern of hypnotism: the healthier among them, mentally and physically, would be the least affected. In the end, it would be found that people were commenting on conditions they already had which were made worse by the blinking light and sound, not caused by them. Just a prediction.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Roger-Faulkner/1059666184 Roger Faulkner

    I believe this is akin to the placebo effect. The placebo effect is very strong for some people. It is also akin to the psychology of true believers of all kinds. And this does have easy to understand survival benefits. Our ancestors were war-like, and the true believer gene is a requirement for following an idiot like Hitler to war.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JAGBIT5Q4RYBJDRMFCVSOSEJJA Bob Smith

    Peter. Let’s come up with a hypothetical situation. Let’s say Ontario was an island, not connected. Let’s say that 100% of its electricity was generated from non-emitting sources. And lets say that its generation capacity was 40% greater than its demand and that electricity demand was forecasted to be stable or decreasing for a minimum of the next five years. Would you believe that there was a business case or a need for installing a few $Billion worth of Utility scale wind turbines on the Island?

    What if there was 85% of the electricity generated by non-emitting sources? No coal generation. And the addition of Wind Turbines required that additional, otherwise unneeded emitting generation be built as well. And by making it mandatory that Wind generation be “first to the grid”, other non-emitting, cheaper had to be reduced, spilled, or steamed off. Would that be worth it? Is that a benefit?
    What if in additional to the above scenario, Wind projects were allowed to be built in bird sanctuaries, and that projects were planning to put nearly 900 turbines directly in the path of the major migratory fly-way? Would that be worth it? Is that still a benefit?

    What if other projects were going to put a half dozen 600ft turbines directly in the flight path of a regional airport, thereby requiring the approach and safety protocols to be changed. And thereby decreasing the efficiency of that airport? Would that be worth it?
    What if, say, 100-200 families had to leave their homes, without compensation of any kind, for whatever the health reason because they simply couldn’t tolerate living INSIDE a power plant? Would that be worth it?

    In Ontario, today, the last scenario is the reality. No placebo effect. Just the reality. The Wind Industry/Ontario Liberal Government partnership is completely out of control. If you are an Ontario taxpayer, you are paying tax money for no benefit to your province.

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Michael Keener

      What if, say, you name the ‘non-emitting sources of electricity you refer to??…. Besides wind-power, I can think of only one…

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JAGBIT5Q4RYBJDRMFCVSOSEJJA Bob Smith

    Nope. Just regular people – all over the province, living (or going to be) living inside these wind power plants. Fund raising is via coffee-cans and paypal donations. Haven’t seen an oil guy other than Suncor and Enbridge at the “consultation” meetings. Many of us are long time environmentalists, wildlife advocates, park defenders, etc. Sorry to burst that bubble…. Can you donate the $100 to the CCSAGE Ostrander Point ERT Legal Fund please?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JAGBIT5Q4RYBJDRMFCVSOSEJJA Bob Smith

    This is the conclusion from the report – no misrepresentation of any kind.

    The Tribunal has found that the Appellants have not met the legal test set out in section
    145.2.1(2)(a) of the EPA and the appeals must, therefore, be dismissed. The Director’s
    decision on the REA is, therefore, confirmed pursuant to section 145.2.1(5). While there are
    certainly legitimate concerns and uncertainties about the effects of wind turbines on human
    health, the Tribunal cannot conclude that engaging in the Kent Breeze Project as approved will
    cause serious harm to human health according to the evidence tendered in this Hearing. The
    Tribunal notes that the research in this area is at quite an early stage and that our collective
    understanding of the impacts of wind turbines on human health will likely progress as further
    research and analysis is undertaken.

    While the Appellants were not successful in their appeals, the Tribunal notes that their
    involvement and that of the Respondents, has served to advance the state of the debate about
    wind turbines and human health. This case has successfully shown that the debate should not
    be simplified to one about whether wind turbines can cause harm to humans. The evidence
    presented to the Tribunal demonstrates that they can, if facilities are placed too close to
    residents. The debate has now evolved to one of degree. The question that should be asked
    is: What protections, such as permissible noise levels or setback distances, are appropriate to
    protect human health? In Ontario, recent regulations have provided guidance in that regard. In
    cases such as this, where the Appellants have not sought to demonstrate any type of unique
    harm associated with the design of this Project and have not attempted to demonstrate the
    sensitivity of a particular receptor, it was essentially up to the Appellants to prove that the
    Ontario standards are wrong in the context of the specific Project under appeal (leaving aside
    the related question about possible non-compliance with the standards). Just because the
    Appellants have not succeeded in their appeals, that is no excuse to close the book on further
    research. On the contrary, further research should help resolve some of the significant
    questions that the Appellants have raised.

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Michael Keener

      I hope your efforts to thwart the construction of the ‘wind farm’ are successful… causing the energy company who wanted to build the farm (due to demand for more electricity by you and your neighbors) to just give up and decide to sell the building site to the government so that, say, they could then use the site for a prison or, say, even better, a garbage landfill…

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JAGBIT5Q4RYBJDRMFCVSOSEJJA Bob Smith

    So all they have to do is turn the wind turbines off? Seems straightforward to me.

  • http://twitter.com/aligatorhardt aligatorhardt

    The article states 17 major studies that show there is no physical evidence of harm from wind turbines.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Barnard/604449062 Mike Barnard

    BSTS is non-registered hobby journal by an Associate Professor of ‘cross-disciplinary studies’ at UofT. The articles in that issue don’t pass the basic tests of research papers: documented methodology, clear results, replicability. It’s not even worth debunking them individually.

    The Hanning piece in BMJ was a guest editorial, not a peer-reviewed article. Once again, no methodology, data or replicability.

    Pedersen has done significant peer-reviewed research on wind energy and noise annoyance. Her studies included the key major study that showed strong correlation between annoyance and two factors: visibility of the wind farm and lack of revenue from the wind farm. Basically people who could see it and weren’t getting money from it were annoyed by the noise. I find it amusing that the Society for Wind Vigilance doesn’t see fit to include all of Pedersen’s work in its list, just the one it can cherry pick the right conclusions from.

    Shepherd’s work is equally frail.

    Care to try again?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Barnard/604449062 Mike Barnard

    No, actually some very shoddy and sensationalist work was done on this, but none of it stands the test of time.

    For the full story on low-frequency and infrasound, please see this material:http://barnardonwind.wordpress.com/2013/02/20/humans-evolved-with-infrasound-is-there-any-truth-to-health-concerns-about-it/

  • rightside100

    Not just in US. Family leased land in Ireland to government where they built three and they and next farm had reduced milk from cows just days later after turbines turned on. His cows and neighbors cows showed symptoms within a few days and after a few months about a quarter of the cows went dry. Moved the cows away from turbines and they produced again. Sheep didn’t seem affected. Bird feathers cover the ground around them and the rodent population along with fox population exploded as they fed on the dead birds. Freaked them out and they are happy the things are out of earshot of all their homes.

  • Emkay

    elephants communicate by uttering low frequency sounds that can be heard (by elephants) up to 5 miles away….

  • Emkay

    “Get yourself up to speed”… I like it.. and you (and everyone else should expect to get rich by investing in companies specializing in solar energy) they WILL have breakthroughs that will cause the cost of solar cells to drop like computer chips…I am reminded of buying my first LCD calculator which cost me about $30.00 I think.. now they are $2.99 at the Walmart….. but, anyway, this is the up to speed part:

    During full direct sunlight, you can safely assume about 100 watts of solar energy per square foot. If you assume 12 hours of sun per day, this equates to 438,000 watt-hours per square foot per year. Based on 27,878,400 square feet per square mile, sunlight bestows a whopping 12.2 trillion watt-hours per square mile per year. Put another way, the solar energy hitting the earth (in one year) exceeds the total energy consumed by all of humanity by a factor of over 20,000 times.

    I am telling you.. Find the most forward thinking ‘solar energy companies and invest-invest-invest… I am also reminded of the Sharp Corporation in Japan.. Developers of the Sharp Aquos LCD display… they basically pioneered LCD display technology from 20 years ago… At any rate I think they also tinker with solar cells and have made enough to cover the roof on their entire plant in Japan.. they are totally off the grid and electrically independent.

  • Emkay

    uh, how about getting support from the Netherlands Department of Health and Environmental Services… The country has had windmills pumping water for centuries..

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

The Crux

A collection of bright and big ideas about timely and important science from a community of experts.

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.

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »