Falmouth, MA – Last Wednesday eight Falmouth wind turbine neighbors traveled to Waltham to hear three Department of Environmental Protection [DEP] / Department of Public Health [DPH] expert health panel members present their Wind Turbine Health Impact Study report. That document, released only two weeks ago, caused great controversy not only in Falmouth but also across the Commonwealth. … [panel member] Wendy Heiger-Bernays PhD of Boston University School of Public Health explained that “it is possible that living too close to wind turbines can cause annoyance and sleep disruption, but we don’t have measurements that can show levels that disrupt sleep.” She agreed that sleep disruption can bring on a whole host of adverse health impacts.”
Dr. Heiger-Bernays is to be commended for her statements. It is a step in the right direction and acknowledges what the neighbors in Falmouth know. Sleep is being disturbed. Yet there is much more to be acknowledged which has nothing to do with sleep deprivation.
It is unfortunate that the Expert Panel was unable to acknowledge in their report a most compelling fact presented in the case-study Bruce McPherson Study reports [1,2]. From , “The investigators were surprised to experience the same adverse health symptoms described by neighbors living at this house and near other large industrial wind turbine sites. The onset of adverse health effects was swift, within twenty minutes, and persisted for some time after leaving the study area. … This research revealed that persons without a pre-existing sleep deprivation condition, not tied to the location nor invested in the property, can experience within a few minutes the same debilitating health effects described and testified to by neighbors living near the wind turbines. The debilitating health effects were judged to be visceral (proceeding from instinct, not intellect) and related to as yet unidentified discordant physical inputs or stimulation to the vestibular system.”
I understand that what the investigators experienced in their case-study may inadvertently fall into a branch of analysis called “time-series”. Before they arrived at the study site, they felt fine. Soon after they arrived at the study site they soon felt debilitated. Later when they left the study site, they started to feel better. When they returned to continue work their health worsened. When the turbine stopped and they left, they started to feel better. It took some time for them to regain full health (days to weeks). The reports’ figures and tables illustrate the health changes experienced by the investigators with an unexpectedly clear correlation to wind turbine operations.
While the Bruce McPherson study was limited in time, the experiences of the two investigators will remain compelling. The study confirms that large industrial wind turbines can produce real and adverse health impacts and suggests that this is due to acoustic pressure pulsations, not related to the audible frequency spectrum, by affecting the vestibular system especially at low ambient sound levels. The study results emphasize the need for epidemiological and laboratory research by medical health professionals and acousticians concerned with public health and well-being. This study underscores the need for more effective and precautionary setback distances for industrial wind turbines. It is especially important to include a margin of safety sufficient to prevent inaudible low-frequency wind turbine noise from being detected by the human vestibular system.
Rob Rand, Member INCE
1. Peer-reviewed journal: Robert W. Rand, Stephen E. Ambrose, and Carmen M. E. Krogh, Occupational Health and Industrial Wind Turbines: A Case Study. Published online before print August 22, 2011, doi: 10.1177/0270467611417849, The Bulletin of Science Technology & Society, August 22, 2011.
2. Stephen Ambrose and Robert Rand, The Bruce McPherson Infrasound and Low Frequency Noise Study: Adverse Health Effects Produced By Large Industrial Wind Turbines Confirmed. December 14, 2011.