“Acoustic trauma produced by large wind turbines is real and significant,” Sandy Reider, MD (Vermont)

Feb 4, 2013


Editor’s note:  The following testimony was given by Harvard Medical School-trained physician, Sandy Reider, MD, to the Vermont Energy & Natural Resources Committee on January 31, 2013.

Dr. Reider documents classic, textbook Wind Turbine Syndrome among his patients.  (If he is aware of Dr. Pierpont’s peer-reviewed book on the subject, he chose not to mention it.)


Good morning, thanks very much for the opportunity to speak about some clinical observations regarding the health impacts of living in close proximity to large wind turbines.

My name is Sandy Reider.  Since graduation from Harvard Medical School in 1971 I have practiced more or less continuously in VT in various capacities, most recently for the past 17 years in a primary care setting in Lyndonville.

In the brief time I have, I’d simply like to share some of my clinical observations and impressions regarding the health impacts related to living near these turbines and leave a review of the available science to others.  (Parenthetically, I am delighted you will be hearing from Stephen Ambrose, because it was his on-site Falmouth, MA, study that I selected to pass on to Commissioner Chen when he came to speak in Newark this past summer.)

At this point I have seen 6 persons in my office with symptoms that seem to stem from these turbines, but for the sake of clarity and brevity, I will describe just one case in detail … keeping in mind that the symptoms described by all those I have seen are quite similar and characteristic of what has become known, somewhat euphemistically, as Wind Turbine Syndrome.

This was my first patient who turned out to suffer from this syndrome, and I must say that it took a few months for us to connect the dots. He was a healthy 33 yo man who I had treated for several years and knew quite well. He had no preexisting medical problems, took no prescription meds, was happily married (no children), and had lived in his home for several years before a single NPS 162 foot wind turbine was installed in the late autumn of 2011, approximately 1800 feet from his residence. At the time of installation he paid no attention at all to the turbine and had no particular feelings about it one way or the other, aesthetic or otherwise.

About 3 weeks after the installation he began to experience quite severe insomnia, something he had never dealt with before, and he had no clue why. He worked at home and spent most of his days as well as all nights there, unlike his wife who worked in Newport and was gone most days. He complained of abrupt waking 30-40 times a night, like a startle reflex, associated with some anxiety. As a result he was almost never able to fall into a deep restful sleep, very distressing for someone used to sleeping soundly for 10-11 hours every night.

Additionally he developed a kind of pressure headache, ringing in his ears, and slight dizziness. These symptoms weren’t constant but varied from day to day (eventually discovered to be related to wind speed and direction). His ability to concentrate diminished and it became difficult to get his work as a financial advisor done, as well as feeling irritable and somewhat depressed.

On his 3rd visit over 6-8 weeks during the spring of 2012, he quite emphatically declared that he was experiencing something called WTS. At the time I inwardly rolled my eyes, but after conducting some research, I decided it might just be possible. To test this hypothesis, he and his wife went on a 3 week vacation, and within 1-2 days of being away from home, ALL his symptoms resolved. On return, the same distressing sensations gradually returned. This amelioration when away was confirmed dozens of times … he became aware that when the wind was coming out of the north or northwest he was particularly affected, and so arranged to sleep at a friend’s house on those nights …. Generally he spent 3-4 nights away from home throughout the spring and summer of 2012, and on those nights felt and slept well.

Interestingly, at no time at home did he actually hear any noise … his distress was likely the reflection of very low frequency sound/vibration, sound below the audible range. In trying to compare this to something in my own experience, the closest image that comes to mind is that of a teenager driving around in the spring with those big bass speakers in the trunk of his car … a rhythmic thumping that can be sensed, and felt, from over a block away, while the rest of the higher frequency musical tones cannot be heard at all.

Most patients have complained about audible noise as well as a rhythmic flickering shadow as the turbine blade crosses the sun, also the rhythmic flashing glare from the reflection of the sun on the blades (such flickering lights are known in the medical literature to precipitate seizures in susceptible individuals ), and these are of course significant, but I have chosen to describe this case because so little attention has been given to inaudible low frequency vibration. My patient was fortunate, he and his wife were able to afford to abandon their home, and they are now living happily far from any wind turbine and feeling quite well.

As I said, I have seen 5 other individuals with similar syndromes, and it easy to imagine how this state could easily presage more chronic illness … depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, chronic headaches, the list goes on … and all the pharmaceutical drugs that these maladies might eventually necessitate. I would be concerned for those whose nervous systems are sensitive and vulnerable …. infants and small children, children with ADHD or autism spectrum syndromes, and constitutionally nervous adults. I know you will hear stories this morning from Vermonters who have already been directly impacted.

The old saw that a doctor’s best teacher is his patient is true and obviously applicable here. From a purely clinical perspective I believe the acoustic trauma produced by large wind turbines is real and significant, and that this makes the siting of these turbines especially critical.

Keep in mind that the turbine affecting the person I described previously is only 160 feet high, whereas the turbines already spinning in Lowell and Sheffield are about 450 feet high, and those proposed for the Newark/Brighton/Ferdinand project are close to 500 feet. I note that a minimal setback of 1 mile from the nearest residence is specified in S.30 , but due to the great variety of atmospheric conditions and geography in VT, who knows if even this is adequate?

Also, I was surprised that in the bill there is no specific mention of effects on health, though “quality of life” comes close. These health effects are more than nuisances, a term used in much of the literature to characterize the symptoms. A nuisance might be something like black flies buzzing around your head, whereas these vibratory and acoustic effects are something else altogether, and describing them a nuisances seems a disservice and demeaning to those who experience them. What about “chronic vestibulo-acoustic trauma syndrome” … we certainly need better science, and more study is needed.

I believe these health impacts should be specifically cited in the bill, with a recommendation directing the VT Department of Health to adopt a more direct, proactive role in the public health issues raised by these huge turbines.

I fully support the three year moratorium on all industrial wind development as outlined in the current bill, in order to try to understand more clearly the sacrifices we are asking of our citizens and of the complex ecology of our sensitive and beautiful ridgelines.

Sandy Reider, MD
P.O. Box 10
East Burke, VT  05832

(802) 626-6007

  1. Comment by sue Hobart on 02/04/2013 at 8:11 pm

    Docs need to stick up for us and recognize that what we are feeling is not in our heads … This is how we will win this battle.

    Nina knew it all along and first, but the stuff is now being proven … Keep talking with our docs and give them copies of the book!

    Nothing makes better sense than the truth, after all!

  2. Comment by Jackie on 02/04/2013 at 8:23 pm

    One more Great Document to add to the pile. Pretty soon it will be higher than those darn turbines . . .

  3. Comment by Bill Carson on 02/04/2013 at 10:20 pm

    Commercial megawatt wind turbine noise causes clear and significant damage to people’s sleep and mental health. There are peer-reviewed scientific studies world wide. Massachusetts has had hundreds of noise complaints from the Falmouth wind turbines. After the Falmouth installation turbines were installed in Fairhaven, Kingston and Scituate thousands of complaints have been reported.

    Those concerned residents/abutters near wind turbines are facing real health probl­ems.

    The cities,towns and private companies that purchased these turbines in the past three years now face a growing population of residential abutters with health problems. But that’s not all.

    This year should prove to be really interesting on the operation and maintenance of the megawatt turbines.The wind turbines were sold to last twenty to thirty years. The owners of these turbines are quickley finding out the turbines only last three to five years.

    The negative facts about wind energy show a dirty little secret about gearbox failures. Commercial wind turbines in Portsmouth (Rhode Island), Princeton (Massachusetts) and Otis AFB (Cape Cod) all have catastrophic gearbox failures. All the turbines are three years old.

    Keep your eye on the ball! In the past three years the state, cities, towns and wind turbine companies have stalled health studies as much as they can. The complaints grow by the hour. They continue to stall.

    The catastrophic gearbox failures will quickly bring public attention to the economics of the turbines. What if the Town of Falmouth had to tell the Town Meeting Members they need one million to repair a three-year-old wind turbine?

  4. Comment by Colette McLean on 02/05/2013 at 8:49 am

    I am posting this info. on the Ill Wind site. We are now up to 372 verified complaints across the world.

  5. Comment by Aaron on 02/05/2013 at 11:57 am

    It’s very possible that people would have been spared the harm from wind turbines if physicians like Dr. Reider hadn’t been “inwardly rolling their eyes” in 2012.

    How would somebody like Dr. Reider make up for a lapse in clinical objectivity like this?

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