Acousticians confirm Wind Turbine Syndrome

Dec 17, 2011

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“The Bruce McPherson Infrasound and Low Frequency Noise Study:  Adverse Health Effects Produced by Large Industrial Wind Turbines Confirmed”

—Stephen E. Ambrose, INCE (Brd. Cert.) & Robert W. Rand, INCE Member

Executive Summary  (click here for the full report)

The idea that infrasound doesn’t or can’t affect the ear is just flat-out wrong.”
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Dr. Alec Salt, Dept of Otolaryngology,
Washington University School of Medicine
St. Louis, Missouri

This study was commissioned through a private philanthropic grant created to determine why there were so many strong complaints about the loss of well-being and hardships experienced by people living near large industrial wind turbines operating in Falmouth, Massachusetts.

The purpose of this study was to investigate and confirm or deny the presence of infrasonic and low frequency noise emissions (ILFN) from the “WIND 1”, a municipally-owned Vestas V82 industrial wind turbine.

In March of 2011, after many months of vigorous neighborhood complaints and strong appeals to the town, selectmen voluntarily decided to curtail WIND 1 operations when hub height wind speed exceeded 10 m/s. This required that this study focus on noise emissions from the nearby “NOTUS” wind turbine, an identical make and model..

Acoustics

This study was conducted at a representative neighbor’s home in Falmouth and confirmed that there are dynamically modulated low frequency acoustic amplitudes and tones produced by the nearby wind turbine.

Dynamic amplitude modulations occurred at 1.4 second intervals that were consistent with the blades rotating past the wind turbine tower (the blade pass rate).

Dynamic amplitude modulations below 10 Hz were stronger indoors than outdoors. Modulations measured indoors were 0.2 Pascal peak to peak, consisting mostly of energy below 20 Hz. Two tones were detected from both the NOTUS and the WIND 1 turbines, at 22.9 Hz and 129 Hz, and are considered signatures of the wind turbines’ acoustic profile.

Outdoors, the A-weighted sound level decreased at a predictable rate of 6 dB per doubling of distance from the nearest turbine.

The linear unweighted sound level decreased according to cylindrical spreading at 3 dB per doubling of distance and was controlled by acoustic energy below 20 Hertz. A-weighting does not reveal this low-frequency information. Sound-level averaging with Leq for any time length hides the low-frequency dynamic amplitude modulations.

Health effects

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. The dBA and dBC levels and modulations did not correlate to the health effects experienced. However, the strength and modulation of the un-weighted and dBG-weighted levels increased indoors, consistent with worsened health effects experienced indoors.

The dBG weighted level appeared to be controlled by in-flow turbulence and exceeded physiological thresholds for response to low-frequency and infrasonic acoustic energy as theorized by Salt.

The wind turbine tone at 22.9 Hz was not audible, yet the modulated amplitudes regularly exceeded vestibular detection thresholds. The 22.9 Hz tone lies in the brain’s “high Beta” wave range (associated with alert state, anxiety, and “fight or flight” stress reactions). The brain’s frequency following response (FFR) could be involved in maintaining an alert state during sleeping hours, which could lead to health effects.

Sleep was disturbed during the study when the wind turbine operated with hub height wind speeds above 10 m/s.

It took about a week to recover from the adverse health effects experienced during the study, with lingering recurring nausea and vertigo for almost seven weeks for one of the investigators..

Further epidemiological and laboratory research needed

The research is more than just suggestive. Our experiencing of the adverse health effects reported by others confirms that industrial wind turbines can produce real discomfort and adverse health impacts. Further research could confirm that these ill effects are caused by pressure pulsations exceeding vestibular thresholds, unrelated to the audible frequency spectrum but are instead related to the response of the vestibular system to the low frequency noise emissions. The vestibular system appears to be stimulated by responding to these pressure pulsations rather than by motion or disease, especially at low ambient sound levels.

Dysfunctions in the vestibular system can cause disequilibrium, nausea, vertigo, anxiety, and panic attacks, which have been reported near a number of industrial wind turbine facilities. The study emphasizes the need for epidemiological and laboratory research conducted by medical health professionals and acousticians working together who are 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..

Acknowledgements

This study was initiated by the concerns of a private citizen, Bruce McPherson, who enjoyed the many quality of life benefits of living on Cape Cod. He was disappointed that there were no efforts being made by developers or government agencies to determine the real cause for the many complaints from Falmouth residents living near three new industrial wind turbines. He knew that neighbors were constantly complaining to town officials about receiving excessive noise, adverse health effects and the loss of well-being. Thanks are given by so many for the generosity of Mr. McPherson, who initiated and funded this independent investigation.

To the residents of Falmouth who welcomed us into their homes and lives, extended us their hospitality, told us their stories, and gave us their time and assistance, our deepest appreciation.

Sincere appreciation is given to Dr. Alec Salt, Dr. Timothy Hullar, Mr. Richard James, and Mr. Charles Ebbing for their insightful correspondence, professional reviews and comments.

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Click here for the full report.

  1. Comment by Anonymous on 12/17/2011 at 11:42 pm

    This report is a major step towards official recognition of the Wind Turbine Syndrome. It’s now up to the media to get it known by the public, the medical profession, and the political class.

    Let’s hope they won’t act as with global warming, maintaining the fiction against all evidence, to please their masters.

  2. Comment by Linda Salamon on 12/17/2011 at 11:42 pm

    This is wonderful confirmation of what we on Cape Cod, and all over the world, have been saying for years.

    You may have heard that Massachusetts has effectively stopped the Wind Energy Siting Bill that was looming in our State House. After hundreds of letters and emails, and many hours of in-person testimony, we were actually able to get our legislators to listen. It ALMOST restores my faith in government!!

    Thanks especially to the people suffering in Falmouth who have dedicated so much of their time to testify before the WESRA hearing.

  3. Comment by Gail (Italy) on 12/18/2011 at 4:32 am

    Thank you so much for this confirmation!

  4. Comment by Preston McClanahan on 12/18/2011 at 9:54 am

    Thank you Robert Rand and Stephen Ambrose for this very important study!

  5. Comment by BARRY FUNFAR on 12/18/2011 at 10:22 am

    A tremendous THANK YOU to Mr. McPherson for funding this study. I wish he were here to accept and enjoy the appreciation and validation that so many of us battered abutters feel over the summary judgement of this study.

  6. Comment by Michael Spencley on 12/18/2011 at 10:35 am

    Congratulations to Stephen Ambrose, Robert Rand, and Bruce McPherson and all who contributed time, money, energy and expertise to this landmark study.

    Combined with the ground- work led by Dr. Nina Pierpont, it is this added empirical evidence that will force open the eyes of all state and provincial politicians, and lead Washington and Ottawa to call for a full moratorium until full epidemiological, wildlife and economic impact studies can be commissioned and conducted.

    The world owes all of you a debt of gratitude!

  7. Comment by Linda Ohkagawa on 12/19/2011 at 1:13 pm

    Thank you to those who have prepared and supported the funding of this important study. People all over the world now have documented confirmation that health can be impacted by the poor siting of industrial wind turbines.

    Most especially, my respect and gratitude go to my stalwart Falmouth neighbors who have never given up in the face of hardship and in their dedication to make the truth known.

  8. Comment by robert mcmurtry on 12/19/2011 at 2:00 pm

    Wonderful work!

  9. Comment by Kelly R. on 12/19/2011 at 4:17 pm

    What awesome news! A better Christmas gift I cannot imagine!

  10. Comment by Anonymous on 12/20/2011 at 1:09 am

    We failed to lend support with our presence to the Tyendinaga First Nation at the road block of the highway 49 bridge to Prince Edward County 2 years ago. Maybe they will give us a second chance and come to help if wind resistance groups have road blocks.

  11. Comment by Itasca Small on 12/21/2011 at 11:21 pm

    Very welcome news!!! However, I would like to add personal experience as to the distance WT infrasound can propagate. I had to leave my home of 21 years on November 30, because of the adverse health effects caused by WTs approximately 11.25 miles from my home. After two weeks away, I was able to realize that I was beginning to feel and think better with less stress and the other symptoms beginning to improve. I’m not well, yet, but the progress is perceptible and further proof that the WT correlation is NOT MY IMAGINATION, nor is it simple dissatisfaction with the insult to the aesthetics of my region!

    This study is terrific. However, I urge caution in decisions as to how far the monsters can be sited from humans (and/or animals!). I am not alone in experiencing health effects this far away, and farther, from the neighboring WTs. It is critical to consider all the physical factors of the area swept by the WT sound waves and contributing factors that can and do propagate the infrasound for many more miles than is even now commonly thought.

    As Nikola Tesla warned more than a century ago, the infrasound generated by these Behemoths of Destruction is anathema to all living cells. The distances they can travel – including through the ground – must be thoroughly investigated. How about starting with the seismic detection station in Scotland and how it can detect the infrasound from WTs at many miles distant?

    Many thanks to all who are diligently fighting this Wind War. It is quite frustrating to not do more, but, when you’re suffering the effects it sabotages the ability to do anything more than try to cope physically. May we see 2012 dawn as the Year of Wind Energy’s Second Death – after its resurrection by short-sighted activists, non-scientists, scientists with an agenda, and business people and politicians who either don’t care, or are willfully blind. The masses just believe the propaganda until they “hear” the facts.

  12. Comment by Cary Shineldecker on 12/23/2011 at 8:39 pm

    Many thanks to the professionals that will not be defeated by the wind industry and its claims. There are many of us who live the nightmare and everyday the number increases.

    God bless Mr. Rand, Mr. Ambrose, Mr. James, Dr. Salt and others who continue to research, learn, and document our unfortunate plight. My house will always be open to those who dare to challenge, but dare not to back down.

  13. Comment by Emyr Griffiths on 12/28/2011 at 9:58 am

    I’m delighted someone has finally conducted research on this problem which is brushed under the carpet by wind farm developers.

    Has anyone done a study to find out how far the low frequency noise (LFN) from industrial wind farms can travel?

    In the winter of 2006 after returning from a trip abroad my wife, who is very sensitive to low frequencies, started hearing unexplained LFN.

    We live in a very rural location in Wales without electricity from the grid, so we have no electromagnetic pollution. There are no nearby industries or industrial noises apart from the occasional tractor, and there are no nearby main roads.

    We also know other people who were hearing LFN—they all started hearing the noises at about the same time—Autumn 2006.

    Two years later we were told the LFN could be coming from a wind farm. When I researched the possibility I discovered that people started hearing LFN afer a wind farm was commissioned—25 miles SSE from our home and hidden by nearby hills!

    Observations over 5 years lead me to conclude that the above mentioned wind farm could be the source of the LFN: When the wind blows from a northerly direction my wife hears no LFN. When the winds blow from a southerly to easterly direction the LFN tends to be loudest—sometimes almost unbearably so for my wife.

    Does anyone else hear unexplained LFN? We would like to find out how widespread the problem really is.

    Editor’s reply: Infrasound and low frequency noise can travel many miles. In the North Sea, noise from oil rigs travels 100 miles.

    With regard to those turbines, Dr. Pierpont notes that when there is a density or temperature change in the air such that the atmosphere develops a reflective layer above and another reflective layer below, the result is the wind at hub height can “skate along” with no friction (and without being dispersed spherically, since the layers reflect the rapidly moving air back and forth)—then turbine LFN can indeed travel 25 miles.

  14. Comment by Emyr Griffiths on 12/28/2011 at 10:15 am

    One more fact I forgot to mention in relation to my previous post—we actually had an environmental health officer record LFN at our home when the noises were particularly loud. Frequencies as low as 10 Hz were recorded.

    The loudest noise average recorded noise was in the 12.5 Hz (24.4 dB), 16 Hz (28.1 dB) and 20 Hz (27.0 dB) frequency bands.

    Nearly all noise in the frequency ranges of normal human hearing was below 10 Hz.

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