Scientists say wind farm noise can harm your health

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In a peer-reviewed scientific study, American and British scientists have come to the conclusion that wind farm noises cause significant damage to people’s sleep and mental health.

The scientists looked into two groups of residents in Maine, United States with one variable: one group lives within a mile of a wind farm and another that did not. The researchers found that both groups of subjects were demographically and socially similar, yet they different in quality of sleep. Quality of sleep was measured using two standard scientific scales—the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (which measures the quality of night-time sleep) and the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (which measures how sleepy people feel when they are awake).

“Participants living near industrial wind turbines had worse sleep, as evidenced by significantly greater mean PSQI and ESS scores,” wrote the researchers, as reported by The Telegraph. “There were clear and significant dose-response relationships, with the effect diminishing with increasing log-distance from turbines.”

What’s more, the researchers also compared “mental component scores” and found a significant correlation between wind turbines and poorer mental health—most likely a side effect of poor sleep quality. Not convinced? Consider this: More than a quarter of the subjects living near turbines had been medically diagnosed with depression or anxiety after the wind farm began and none of the control subjects not living near turbines reported such problems. Additionally, more than a quarter of residents living near the wind farm reported having been prescribed sleeping pills will less than a tenth of those living away from the farms had been prescribed sleeping pills.

The findings of this study, published in the journal Noise and Health, are significant as they support claims by residents living near turbines that the sound from the rotating turbine blades disrupts their sleeps and will be used by those opposed to wind power to prevent turbines from being built near residential areas.

The researchers—Michael Nissenbaum, Jeffery Aramini and Chris Hanning—note that this is the first peer-reviewed study to show a link between wind farms and “important clinical indicators of health, including sleep quality, daytime sleepiness and mental health”.

  • Susmita Baral

    Susmita is a writer and editor in the Greater New York City area. In her spare time, Susmita enjoys cooking, traveling, dappling in photography, art history and interior design, and moonlighting as a therapist for her loved ones.

23 thoughts on “Scientists say wind farm noise can harm your health”

  1. Well, let’s be clear:
    1. The authors are all long-time anti-wind lobbyists. Aramini and Nissenbaum are both on the Advisory Group of Wind Vigilance, an anti-wind lobbyist group that has been cherry-picking data for years. Their bias is clear, long-lasting and unstated in the study.
    2. The thanked reviewers — Phillips, Rand and James — are professional anti-wind testifiers. They are bolstering their courtroom and anti-wind siting submissions, and are equally biased.
    3. The authors have found a minor correlation which would likely be diminished with a linear fitting of data, but are claiming to have found a causation. They are claiming dose-effect causation specifically, and the data does not support that reading.
    4. Nissenbaum has studied these two wind sites before and is well known to the locals. The study format he used is the same very poor and leading study structure used by Nina Pierpont, author of the shoddy Wind Turbine Syndrome. He has been active in creating bias against wind farms in these sites.
    5. The authors dismiss bias, which is a much more likely candidate for noise annoyance and the minor correlation they have found. A study recently published analyzed anti-wind bias as well as negatively oriented personality traits and found that they were much better predictors of noise annoyance than actual noise from wind turbines.

    Full references and details are here:
    http://www.quora.com/Wind-Power/A-study-in-Noise-and-Health-shows-that-wind-farms-cause-people-to-lose-sleep-How-reliable-is-this-study/answer/Mike-Barnard

    Reply
  2. Well, let’s be clear also:

    1) Mike Barnard is well known throughout the rural communities of Ontario as someone who makes money through wind energy. He has denied this in the past, but he’s been called out about this many times now so he no longer bothers.

    2) What is wrong with the authors being anti-wind if they know that these industrial wind turbines are causing serious health effects in the people who have had these 500 foot machines forced upon them by Dalton McGuinty’s draconian policies which stripped rural residents of their democratic rights to health and quality of life?

    3) It’s very interesting that the wind industry has used studies for years where the authors had vested interests in wind energy. Certainly no bias there, huh? Billions and billions of dollars to be made, but we trust that their motives for stating that wind turbines are safe are completely pure.

    4) Why is it that when the wind industry produces studies stating that there are no health effects, those studies were done “right”? When the other side produces studies that show people are suffering, those studies are always done “wrong”? A recent Massachusetts study which is now used by the wind industry as its bible, was shoddy and poorly done, at best. It involved no epidemiological studies and relied on things like “popular media” and made no effort to contact people who lived or were suffering near wind turbines, yet it is referenced repeatedly by wind proponents. The Massachusetts study is a joke. But people like Mike Barnard hope that no one will take the time to read it and find out just how pathetic it is.

    This study at least contacted people who actually live near turbines, but their experiences should just be ignored and scorned. That’s usually done by people who live no where near wind turbines….like Mr. Barnard.

    5) Mike Barnard and others whose income depends on wind aren’t concerned about people getting sick, because it will affect their livelihood. Why else are they so scared to admit that there may be a problem? These negative health effects are well-documented all over the world. Rather than continuing to push forward with these industrial machines, with no care or concern at all, let’s make sure it’s done right and place them a safe distance from people’s homes. What is so wrong with that?

    6) If these things are as completely harmless as Mike and others like him claim, and he is SO pro-wind, then why isn’t he out there petitioning to have them built all along the GTA shoreline and greenbelts? Oh, wait, could it be that then they would be in his backyard? In typical wind proponent fashion, these giant industrial machines are great, as long as its rural residents who have to put up with them and have their lives and quality of life compromised.

    Reply
    • Ms. Griffin continues to spread lies about me despite having been corrected clearly and with verifiable background. She also claims that I am stealing others identities and posting under multiple user ids. She mistakes anyone who references my writing on wind turbines — clear, referenced, logical and once again verifiable — as me. She seems to think that the only person who can link to something they wrote is that person.

      Sound a little paranoid? Sound a little loopy? Yeah, to me too.

      Every once in a while I spot another personal, senseless and inane attack like this and say again: I make no money from wind energy. I write on wind energy and counter anti-wind lobbyists online as a volunteer advocate for clean, safe, CO2e-neutral wind energy.

      That Ms. Griffins continues to spread lies about me speaks volumes to her complete lack of anything useful, coherent, referenceable or verifiable to say. And speaks volumes about how much to trust what she does say.

      Reply
  3. Let’s be clear:

    Mike Barnard is a hateful little man who works for IBM. He obviously has nothing better to do than sneak around, often using aliases, bashing hard working families of rural Ontario. Does his employer know he spends all his time authoring comments on obscure websites?

    Reply
    • Ah, MA, former webmaster of the Wind Concerns Ontario anti-wind lobbyist website. She and Ms. Griffins seem to think that I post under aliases when in actual fact there are enormous numbers of people who disagree with them. I always post under my own name. Can’t say the same for MA or Ms. Griffins (aka morninglori aka MorningGlori aka who knows).

      Reply
  4. Thank-you Susmita Baral for writing this article.
    More and more, the public is realizing that wind power does nothing as advertised, except make a few very rich while placing more and more into what’s known as “energy poverty”. As you can see, those who rely on the fallacy that is wind power are always quick to pounce on and dismiss credible studies. Jeffery Aramini in a recent interview stressed the fact that this study was only to discern what set-backs would be appropriate for siting wind turbines and the criteria were the detrimental health effects on the local populace. We are now witnessing, all over the world, the house of cards that is wind power, toppling down and those with vested interests resorting to infantile remarks and attacks to defend the indefensible.

    Reply
  5. Thankfully, the full dangers of infrasound created by wind turbines are now being published in the mainstream media and the public at large is finding out the true hazards behind these giant industrial machines.

    Industrial wind turbines produce infrasonic waves. The vibration frequency of a wind turbine’s turning blade is about 1 hertz, a huge omnidirectional wave of VERY low frequency that’s inaudible to human ears.

    We’ve all heard of sonic warfare. Germany developed infrasonic weapons in WWII to debilitate the enemy. The US army did tests on low frequency acoustic weaponry that can make internal organs resonate, causing a variety of physiological problems and death.

    Anyone who says that they’ve stood near a wind turbine and didn’t hear anything doesn’t understand the complexities of infrasonic waves. They cannot be heard. The wind industry has counted on this lack of knowledge to push forth their biased and misleading studies saying that the noise from wind turbines doesn’t harm humans. They completely neglect the infrasonic and vibration aspect.

    Extended exposure to these low frequency vibrations can eventually cause serious health issues, both mental and physical.

    Little by little as the public becomes more educated on these issues, they will realize that Big Wind doesn’t care about people or their families or their health. The bottom line is the billions of dollars that they’ve made so far and hope to continue making at the expense of those who live next to their dangerous machines.

    Reply
    • Infrasound has been fully debunked as a concern related to wind farms. The studies where damage was found were literally 1 million times ‘louder’ than wind farms generate. The a-scientific bent of the anti-wind crowd is quite literally breathtaking.

      Please see the following for full references to appropriate studies, citations and links:
      http://www.quora.com/Wind-Power/Is-the-infrasound-emitted-by-wind-turbines-harmful-to-humans-or-animals/answer/Mike-Barnard

      Reply
      • “The studies where damage was found were literally 1 million times ‘louder’ than wind farms generate”

        Anyone who knows anything about infrasound, etc. knows that the comment you just made is so far beyond the ridiculous, it truly indicates how uneducated you are on this topic. You cannot HEAR infrasound.

        You should quit while you’re ahead, instead of continuing to post and make yourself look worse.

        It is a well known and accepted fact that wind turbines kill bats, not because the bats fly into the blades, but because the infrasonic waves generated by the turbines cause the lungs and internal organs of bats to hemorrhage and explode. Anyone can google this to see that this is true.

        If infrasonic waves can do that to bats, imagine what they do to the human body. If we accept the effects of various things on lab rats, than we should not discount the effects that wind turbines have on bats. Bats are the ‘canaries’ of wind power and we need to ensure that people are not being harmed by them.

        You have to wonder why Mr. Barnard, who claims to have no financial interest is so frantic to get people to believe his lies. Those who live near wind turbines and are suffering, are protesting and fighting these machines to save their health and the health of their families.

        What’s the wind industries’ stake in the game? $$$$$$$$$$$$

        Reply
        • Actually, anybody who knows anything about infrasound knows I’m exactly right. Wind farms generate in the range of 65 dB of infrasound. The damaging infrasound studies were at 125 dB.

          Follow along on your fingers, Valewood. The decibel scale is non-linear. A 60 dB difference is literally a 1,000,000 (one million) times different sound intensity. It’s in the textbooks exactly like that.

          But you wouldn’t know, never having read anything about infrasound that wasn’t published solely on an anti-wind blog. Heck, you didn’t even read my post on the subject and all of its referenced links to credible, peer-reviewed sources.

          Don’t sully your mind with ugly facts, Valewood, they’ll just make you apoplectic instead of merely incoherent.

          Reply
  6. Sure, of course. And the noise of the cars 24 hours a day is not harmful, nor the aircraft noise is not detrimental, nor the sound of a factory next to your house is not harmful. Only harmful noise windmills. And because such studies do not harm the sound of computers to which you are stuck every day, maybe it would take a horrible surprise.

    Reply
    • @ Albert — Have you ever heard of the Chinese water torture test? Where the rhythmically drop water onto your forehead, one drip at a time. It is called “torture” because that’s what it is. The same principle is true for industrial wind turbines. All the other things you mentioned do not have a rhythmic quality to them.

      In order to get to sleep, you have to be in a relaxed state. You can’t get in a relaxed state when you have a continual, constant AND rhythmic….

      “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp” “whomp”….

      ….sound resonating in your head.

      Now. Did you read every single “whomp” that was typed or did you glaze over it and skip ahead? If you skipped ahead, why did you do that? Why didn’t you read every single “whomp”?

      Because reading that many “whomps” would start to irritate you? Start to annoy you?

      Hmmmmm…imagine spending hours and hours each night LISTENING to that “whomp”. And has been stated already, it’s not just the sounds you hear, but the sounds you don’t hear.

      The infrasounds and vibrations are the ones that can do a tremendous amount of damage to the human body, which is why governments have been using it against the enemy in wars going all the way back to WWII.

      Reply
    • Mr. Wrightman, like Ms. Griffin, has been corrected time and again. To repeat, Dan, I’ve worked on very peripherally related utilities proposals for about 10 weeks of the last decade. I don’t make money from this.

      However, as Mr. Wrightman doesn’t actually have any real data, evidence or arguments to bring to the table, I imagine he’ll continue to post his damp squib rather than be a useful contributor. His ad hominems define him.

      Reply
  7. Much of the information contained in the recently published paper, “Effects of industrial wind turbine noise on sleep and health” by Michael A Nissenbaum, Jeffery J Aramini, and Christopher D Hanning (all directors/ scientific advisors for the Society for Wind Vigilance), was previously reviewed and considered by experts at the first Environmental Review Tribunal (Erikson v. MOE 2011) hearing on wind energy in Ontario and in the Queen’s Bench of Saskatchewan case McKinnon v. Martin (Red Lily Legal Case in 2010).

    This information was also reviewed by an expert panel on wind turbines and human health commissioned by The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MassDEP/MDPH, 2012), which concluded “attributing any of the observed associations to the wind turbines (either noise from them or the sight of them) is premature”.

    Both courts, as well as the Massachusetts independent expert panel, found no justification for halting wind energy development as a result of the information presented by Nissenbaum.

    The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) and the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) jointly commissioned experts to conduct a scientific critique of this now published paper. The review by Intrinsik Environmental Sciences has identified “concerns related to study design, methodology, sample size and administration of questionnaires to participants.”

    The Intrinsik critique noted that no new sound data were obtained for this study and the use of limited information visually obtained from other reports “is not scientifically defensible and should not have been used to draw conclusions about the findings of the questionnaires with distance from turbine locations.” Intrinsik also found the “authors extend their conclusions and discussion beyond the statistical findings of their study.” Furthermore, Intrinsik concluded “[the authors] have not demonstrated a statistical link between wind turbines – distance – sleep quality – sleepiness and health.” Download the full Intrinsik critique here: http://www.canwea.ca/pdf/Intrinsik-Review-of-Nissenbaum-2012.pdf.

    AWEA continues to work with and medical and scientific experts from around the world to ensure all credible information on this subject is reviewed and that Americans have access to fact-based answers to their questions in order to make informed decisions about our energy future.

    Reply
    • AWEA does NOTHING to investigate the medical information around the world.

      Your job is to sell wind energy. Would it not be counter-productive to actually be objective and fair? Stop with the BS, AWEA.

      People know you don’t deal with the facts anymore than the used car salesman at your local chop-shop.

      Reply
    • Careful, Kevin. Your $$$$$ bias is showing. No one in the wind industry can possibly be taken seriously when they try to assure us that there are no ill health effects.

      YOU have a financial interest in this game. The men who did this study have no financial interest.
      What are you so afraid of Kevin? Perhaps you know full well that as soon as the general public find out just how serious the effects of industrial wind turbines are on people, you’re turn at the subsidy trough will be over.

      As someone said at one of our town hall meetings about IWT’s……industrial wind turbines are the Asbestos of the 21st century. Very very true.

      And I’ve read that Massachusetts study. It’s a 163 page pile of garbage. Absolute, totally useless garbage. Oh, and I notice you don’t mention that one of the panel members on that study just happened to be part of the wind industry. No bias there, huh?

      Reply
  8. Update: Two critiques have been published in the journal Noise and Health Nissenbaum et al’s orginal report was in debunking their findings. Please see them here:

    http://www.noiseandhealth.org/article.asp?issn=1463-1741%3Byear%3D2013%3Bvolume%3D15%3Bissue%3D63%3Bspage%3D148%3Bepage%3D150%3Baulast%3DOllson

    http://www.noiseandhealth.org/article.asp?issn=1463-1741;year=2013;volume=15;issue=63;spage=150;epage=152;aulast=Barnard

    For the full analysis of backgrounds and the intersection of the Society for Wind Vigilance with all of this, please see the full post here:

    http://barnardonwind.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/a-study-in-noise-and-health-shows-that-wind-farms-cause-people-to-lose-sleep-how-reliable-is-this-study/

    Full disclosure: I am the author of one of the two critiques published in the Noise and Health journal.

    Reply

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