Got Wind Turbine Syndrome? This Harvard Medical School Professor believes you!

Jun 27, 2014

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Editor’s note:  You’ve heard of the Harvard Medical School, correct? And I’ll bet you’re aware it’s one of the finest medical schools in the world, right?   Harvard Medical School has a number of world-class institutes and centers.  One being the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (MEEI).

Put it this way. Let’s say you are a Saudi Arabian prince, or a head of state (president, prime minister) of a foreign country. Or Bill Gates or Warren Buffet. You’re someone in this stratum of society, in other words, and your doctor says you have an inner ear disorder, something affecting your utricle or saccule or semicircular canals, or your cochlea.  Because you don’t want to mess around with medical mediocrity, you have your physician make an appointment for you at Massachusetts Eye & Ear.

You fly to Boston and meet with a specialist at MEEI.  The specialist is likely to be a physician doing a fellowship in neuro-otology.  (He’s called a “Fellow in Neuro-otology.”)  Or perhaps it’s one of the senior, attending physicians — that is, one of the full-time faculty.

The doc does a bunch of tests, but he’s still mystified about what’s going on. He needs to consult with some colleagues.  If he’s really stumped (or “she,” if the doc’s a woman), he asks the director of the Clinical Balance & Vestibular Center for a consult. (Think of going to the Vatican and being seen by one of the archbishops or cardinals about a spiritual problem. If the cardinal can’t help you — and if you’re really lucky — the cardinal may ask the pope for a consultation.)

When the Medical Director of Mass. Eye & Ear’s Clinical Balance & Vestibular Center comes on board, you can safely assume you are seeing the ultimate authority on balance and vestibular disorders — in the world. The pope.  Or at least, you’re seeing one of the half-dozen best qualified and knowledgeable and trained and recognized specialists in the world.

Follow me so far?

When Dr. Stephen Rauch says the following, it’s worth paying attention to.   (Incidentally, Dr. Rauch has read Dr. Pierpont’s  book, “Wind Turbine Syndrome.” Dr. Rauch met with Dr. Pierpont in Cambridge, Mass., several years ago.)

Dr. Steven Rauch, an otologist at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and a professor at Harvard Medical School, believes WTS is real. Patients who have come to him to discuss WTS suffer from a “very consistent” collection of symptoms, he says. Rauch compares WTS to migraines, adding that people who suffer from migraines are among the most susceptible to turbines. There’s no existing test for either condition but “Nobody questions whether or not migraine is real.”

“The patients deserve the benefit of the doubt,” Rauch says. “It’s clear from the documents that come out of the industry that they’re trying very hard to suppress the notion of WTS and they’ve done it in a way that [involves] a lot of blaming the victim.”

When the Medical Director of Harvard’s Clinical Balance & Vestibular Center says the above, and says this, the question becomes: “Why are we still discussing the veracity of Wind Turbine Syndrome in these pages, and in the media, and with wind developers, and with wind turbine manufacturers, and with politicians — with anyone, for that matter?”

Why are we even considering ludicrous theories like the “nocebo effect” advanced by Australian sociologist Simon Chapman, whose scholarly speciality is “tobacco industry advertising”?  (I’m serious.)  Why are we listening to British physicist Geoff Leventhall (whose physics Dr. Pierpont has had to correct on at least one occasion), who for years has been a paid consultant to wind energy companies and has absolutely no clinical credentials, who for years maintained that wind turbines produce negligible infrasound, and for years argued that “if you can’t hear something audibly, it can’t affect you negatively” — why are we still paying attention to this irrelevant man?

Who gives a goddam whether Geoff Leventhall or Simon Chapman think Wind Turbine Syndrome is real or not?  (Am I missing something in this discussion?)

In addition to Dr. Rauch, there is Dr. Alec Salt, worldclass neuro-physiologist at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, where he is head of the Cochlear Fluids Research Laboratory.  Dr. Salt specializes in inner ear disorders. He’s been doing this for decades, publishing in major clinical journals.  Dr. Salt is the one who demolished Leventhall’s silly thesis that “if you can’t hear it, it can’t hurt you.” (Leventhall was not the originator of that stupid idea; he’s just parroted it for decades and, like a wind-up toy, refuses to stop.)

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Between Harvard’s Dr. Rauch and  Washington University’s Dr. Salt, and Dr. Pierpont’s meticulous, peer-reviewed research (M.D. from the Johns Hopkins Univ. School of Medicine, Ph.D. from Princeton in Population Biology), there really need be no further discussion about the legitimacy of WTS.  Yes, the neuropathology of WTS needs further elucidation, but there is absolutely no question whether the illness is real. Anyone who denies it is simply playing games — and the moon (don’t you know?) is made of Swiss cheese and the Easter Bunny, folks, is honest-to-god real.

Read on. The author of the following article, Alex Halperin, requested an interview with Dr. Pierpont before writing the article. She declined. (At this point, she prefers that specialists like Dr. Rauch speak to the issue.)

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“Big Wind Is Better Than Big Oil, But Just as Bad at P.R.” 

— Alex Halperin, The New Republic (6/15/14)

Nancy Shea didn’t learn about the wind farm until after she moved to northwest Massachusetts to enjoy a quiet country life. The news didn’t bother her. Shea, who describes herself as “green” and “crunchy,” favors clean and renewable energy. But just days after the 19-turbine project went online Shea sensed something wrong. She “felt kind of queasy,” one day in the kitchen. Later she woke up feeling like she had bed spins.

Shea’s husband did some research and learned about wind turbine syndrome (WTS), a condition said to be caused by “infrasound,” an inaudible low-frequency sound produced by the turbines. Sufferers complain about symptoms like insomnia, vertigo, headaches and disorientation. “It’s a hard to describe sensation, you just want to crawl out of your skin,” Shea says.

A few nights later, the couple could hear the turbines spinningthe closest is 2,200 feet away. It sounded, Shea says, like a jet repeatedly flying over their cabin. Neither of them could sleep and they drove through a snowstorm to another property they have several miles away. Shea felt better immediately. Similar symptoms have been reported worldwide by people who live near wind turbines. But America’s wind industry says their condition is psychological.

There’s a great deal to like about wind power. It’s a domestic, renewable power source that doesn’t produce greenhouse gasses. It doesn’t require digging anything out of the ground and, unlike nuclear energy, doesn’t create any risk of catastrophic accidents. According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), more than 70 percent of the public view wind energy favorably. Following President Obama’s recent push to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, there’s every reason to believe that these giant pinwheels will become more familiar sights on the American landscape. (The towers alone are hundreds of feet high.)

Clean energy, however, is not the same thing as flawless energy. Producing power on a large scale involves processes and infrastructure which disrupt ecosystems and have other unintended consequences. Dams, for example, remain the most important source of renewable power in this country and environmentalists hate them.

Wind farms have raised objections for ruining views and being noisy. But the fight over WTS presents a more difficult challenge for the industry. And while wind power advocates like to think of it as a forward looking and pragmatic fix for America’s energy needs, when it comes to managing this mysterious phenomenon, they’re foolishly borrowing from the bad old energy playbook.

Earlier this year, two physiologists at Washington University in St. Louis published a paper in the journal Acoustics Today detailing several mechanisms by which infrasound from wind turbines could have detrimental effects. One, for example, is “excitation” of nerve fibers in the inner ear that are related to tinnitus and “aural fullness.” The article concludes that more study of infrasound is needed and pointedly states:

If, in time, the symptoms of those living near the turbines 
are demonstrated to have a physiological basis, it will become apparent that the years of assertions from the wind industry’s acousticians that “what you can’t hear can’t affect you”… was a great injustice.

Last year the same journal published an article by an England-based acoustician named Geoff Leventhall who argues that wind turbines don’t produce infrasound at sufficient levels to cause health problems. When I called Leventhall, whose clients have included wind power developers, he said he doesn’t believe WTS exists. Leventhall doesn’t dispute that infrasound can distress people. His disagreement with the Washington University scientists, grossly simplified, is in how the infrasound produced by wind turbines should be measured.

In written responses to questions, AWEA says that waves on the seashore, a child’s swing, a car and even a human heartbeat expose people to higher levels of infrasound than wind turbines do. AWEA relied heavily on Leventhall’s work and calls him “the most cited and referenced acoustician regarding wind energy in the world.” The organization cited two studies, one from Australia, one from New Zealand, which suggest that WTS results from a “nocebo” effect, essentially that if people are told wind turbines make them sick, they will feel sick around wind turbines. Leventhall endorses this view.

In an email, one AWEA manager wrote that “Independent, credible studies from around the world have consistently found that sound from wind farms has no direct impact on human physical health.” AWEA also cites a 2012 report prepared for two Massachusetts state agencies by an independent panel which found no evidence of the existence of WTS. (Activists who oppose situating turbines near homes have numerous objections to the report.)

Anyone who has ever played the NIMBY game knows the power of a scientific imprimatur. But the two sides are wielding their science to achieve asymmetrical goals. In the Washington University paper, Alec Salt and Jeffrey Lichtenhan write:

Whether it is a chemical industry blamed for contaminating groundwater with cancer-causing dioxin, the tobacco industry accused of contributing to lung cancer, or athletes of the National Football League (NFL) putatively being susceptible to brain damage, it can be extremely difficult to establish the truth when some have an agenda to protect the status quo.

In these cases, industry’s primary goal isn’t to be right on the merits, though that would be nice, but to continue operating. As long as it’s planting turbines, the wind industry is winning. But as long as it’s simply dismissing WTS, the industry is putting itself at risk of losing its sympathetic, clean image.

Dr. Steven Rauch, an otologist at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and a professor at Harvard Medical School, believes WTS is real. Patients who have come to him to discuss WTS suffer from a “very consistent” collection of symptoms, he says. Rauch compares WTS to migraines, adding that people who suffer from migraines are among the most susceptible to turbines. There’s no existing test for either condition but “Nobody questions whether or not migraine is real.”

“The patients deserve the benefit of the doubt,” Rauch says. “It’s clear from the documents that come out of the industry that they’re trying very hard to suppress the notion of WTS and they’ve done it in a way that [involves] a lot of blaming the victim.”

In fact, the inconstant nature of symptoms can compound WTS. Even when someone doesn’t feel the effects, they’re always conscious of wind speed and direction as they try to sense when their symptoms might return. (Turbines produce infrasound independently of audible noise.)

Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick aims to increase the state’s wind energy capacity to 2000 megawatts by 2020, a total equal to roughly 15 percent of the state’s current electricity production. In a densely populated state that means more people are inevitably going to feel affected by WTS, even if it doesn’t exist.

As wind power has become more prominent, so have complaints. Scores of residents of Herkimer County, N.Y. are suing the Spanish wind power company Iberdrola over a wind farm. A judge has ordered that two wind turbines in Falmouth, Mass. can only be operated 12 hours a day and not on Sundays.

The wind industry might take a lesson from Nancy Shea: People are generally reasonable, maybe more reasonable than they should be. Shea refuses to spend any more nights in the house she and her husband bought. She calls it a “dead asset.” Nonetheless, she still considers herself pro-wind.

In the annals of corporate public relations debacles, WTS is a relatively minor one, at least for now. It would be self-defeating if the industry squanders this promising moment by failing to candidly address WTS concerns. Not doing so invites further attacks from Fox News and National Review and other conservative groups looking for an excuse to bash clean energy.

The best advice might come from the Salt and Lichtenhan article. Big Wind, it argues, should “acknowledge the problem and work to eliminate it.”

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  1. Comment by Itasca Small on 06/27/2014 at 4:09 pm

    Fascinating how so many journalists think they’re writing an unbiased article, but their words betray them.

    I can’t believe Dr. Rauch really didn’t discuss the physiology so aptly described by Dr. Pierpont in her report on WTS! After all, this is the same prestigious doctor who:

    “In 2011, a doctor at Harvard Medical School [Steven D. Rauch, MD, Director of the Clinical Balance & Vestibular Center] diagnosed Hobart with wind turbine syndrome, which is not recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” Click here.

    The current article says nothing about Dr. Rauch having actually diagnosed a patient with WTS. Why not?

    I understand Dr. Pierpont’s reluctance to give an interview when there are neuro-otologists who could do so with their specialized credentials and potentially gain greater respect from the interviewer. But, if a specialist such as Dr. Rauch limits his comments to simply acknowledging the victims’ reports of their experiences and perceptions must be considered, it should be simple for these writers to also read Dr. Pierpont’s book.

    Now there’s a thought: they might just learn the truth and be able to write really useful articles. Mr. Halperin certainly could have written a better one had he read the definitive report on WTS with his mind open to truth.

    As for Drs. Salt and Lichtenhan, at least their article is quoted with some physiological buzzwords:

    “. . . detailing several mechanisms by which infrasound from wind turbines COULD have detrimental effects. One, for example, is ‘excitation’ of nerve fibers in the inner ear that are related to tinnitus and ‘aural fullness.’ ” [All-cap emphasis added.]

    I guess I need to refresh my memory of Dr. Salt’s work; apparently, I must have forgotten that he only said wind turbine infrasound COULD have detrimental effects.

    That does make the next quote from their article simply address nebulous possibilities, rather than stating a scientific explanation of the otological aspect of WTS:

    “IF, IN TIME, the symptoms of those living near the turbines 
are demonstrated to have a physiological basis, it WILL BECOME APPARENT that the years of assertions from the wind industry’s acousticians that ‘WHAT YOU CAN’T HEAR CAN’T AFFECT YOU’… was a great injustice.” [All-caps added.]

    Again, I find it preposterous that the authors actually denied the ALREADY-KNOWN FACT that, What you CAN’T HEAR CAN MOST CERTAINLY AFFECT YOU! If the current article is accurate, then, this last quote is at the very least, disingenuous. If Drs. Salt and Licthenhan did not make these statements, or, if they truly do not know that “inaudible” sound waves can “AFFECT” you, please forgive me.

    However, if they are aware of the long-known truth, then, whatever the source of their reluctance to stand on the facts and proclaim the truth of wind turbine-generated infrasonic wave radiation effects on living beings, I am extremely disappointed.

    Reiterating, “If, in time, the symptoms . . . are demonstrated to have a physiological basis, it will become apparent . . .”

    I really thought Dr. Salt had already tied the symptoms to a physiological basis! My bad! I must have read and remembered his work in the past with willfully blind, rose-colored glasses.

    Oh, but, then, Drs. Salt and Lichtenhan may not have been as reluctant to acknowledge the truth as the earlier quotes imply! In the last line of the current article, the author says:

    “The best advice might come from the Salt and Lichtenhan article. Big Wind, it argues, should ‘acknowledge the problem and work to eliminate it.'”

    As noted above, in 2011, Dr. Rauch actually diagnosed WTS, but, now, three years later, it appears that he defers to victims’ reports and perceptions, rather than declaring his own experience in diagnosing at least one victim’s WTS.

    I’m sorry, I can see the perennial hope-raising comments about someday in the future used in the current article, as reassurance to the wind industry and its minions that there is no end in sight for their gluttonous homicidal juggernaut. I’m not as willing to see hope in such articles as I was in the past — the IWTs are still turning in Navajo County, Arizona, keeping me from being able to live on my own property. Thousands of them are still turning all over the country and the “developed” world. At this moment, IWT’s are turning and destroying lives all over the planet.

    A concluding comment, below, from the current article says it all. WTS is a minor myth without foundation, but the industry needs to step-up it’s rhetoric to re-enforce the brainwashing by countering the nebulous assertions of a few pseudo-scientists. It’s Newspeak that could have come straight out of “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley:

    “In the annals of corporate public relations debacles, WTS is a relatively MINOR one, at least for now. It would be self-defeating if the industry squanders this promising moment by failing to candidly address WTS concerns.” [All-caps added.]

    And, the icing on the cake reassures the industry that its dreadnought can continue rolling across the planetary landscape, destroying Life in its tracks:

    “The wind industry might take a lesson from Nancy Shea: People are generally reasonable, MAYBE MORE REASONABLE THAN THEY SHOULD BE. Shea refuses to spend any more nights in the house she and her husband bought. She calls it a ‘dead asset.’ Nonetheless, SHE STILL CONSIDERS HERSELF PRO-WIND.” [All-caps added.]

    “As long as ‘setbacks’ are agreed-to, declared and/or imposed-upon, we, the victims, our own demise is just as certain as if we actually said, ‘Put them wherever you want; we have to save the planet. Just NOT IN MY BACKYARD!’” [Quoted from my comments to this article, “Why didn’t they tell us about health problems before we signed leases?” (Michigan) posted on June 21, 2014.]

    Sadly, WTS victim Nancy Shea has been forced to cede HER OWN BACKYARD — joining our ranks as a Wind Energy Refugee — but, she still drinks the Kool-Aid spewing from the Wind Monsters’ blades, brainwashing millions (billions?) of uninformed dupes along with her, across the globe.

    Fellow-Warriors Against Wind Energy: This is our biggest hurdle!

    As long as Fellow-WTS-Victims actually remain brainwashed, any of our efforts are like taking one-step forward and three steps back!

    May I say it one more time? THERE IS NO SAFE DISTANCE FOR WIND TURBINES ON PLANET EARTH!

    Itasca Small
    Wind Energy Refugee

  2. Comment by Katarina Dea Zetko on 06/27/2014 at 4:13 pm

    Dear Dr. Rauch,

    I am writing to you on behalf of one of our first victims of WTS, Barbara Marišek from Slovenia where, so far, thank goodness, only one wind turbine has been set up — 800 metres away from her home. Since then her daughter, 18, has become seriously ill — terrible headaches, eyesight problems, inability to sleep and concentrate. Barbara and her husband have noticed a number of WTS symptoms in themselves: insomnia, inability to concentrate, irritability, loss of life force among many other symptoms — all this before they even KNEW that WTS exists. (They actually supported the wind turbine installation, initially.)

    As I write, another 40 or more turbines are on the way. Can you imagine how many victims of WTS there will be? Owing to deep economic crises in Slovenia, the people affected will not be able to move somewhere else.

    What makes me especially nervous is that the “wind experts” say it is all psychological. I know it isnt, but let us say it is, for argument’s sake. So what? Psychological illnesses are even worse than concrete illnesses and should not be neglected, but ought to be taken very, very seriously.

    Barbara and I would like to thank to Dr. Rauch, Dr. Pierpont, Dr. Salt and all doctors who believe us and take us seriously. Thank you for your wonderful scientific work.

    Katarina Dea Zetko & Barbara Marinskek
    Slovenia

  3. Comment by Mrs. Valerie C. Malicki, MA, LPCC on 06/27/2014 at 11:36 pm

    Politician: “But I just don’t know if I believe in the health effects!”

    Me, with a very firm tap on the shoulder: “Do you have a medical degree? Do have a PhD, from Princeton, no less? Maybe we should listen to some of this research.”

    Civil disobedience is the way to force people to listen. I’m learning.

    Thank you to everyone for sharing of themselves.

    🙂 valerie

  4. Comment by Faux Green on 06/28/2014 at 7:00 am

    Alex Halperin states:
    -“There’s a great deal to like about wind power.”
    What’s to like about useless monster towers that don’t produce power when you need it, that slice and dice birds and bats, that ruin good farmland, that are a blight on the landscape, amongst many other evils?
    – “It’s a domestic, renewable power source that doesn’t produce greenhouse gasses.”
    Perhaps not directly, but indirectly, since it wind power is intermittent and requires gas plants as backup, it produces more CO2 than it saves. (Never mind that we don’t even need to reduce CO2, which is nothing more than a harmless trace gas and food for plants!)
    – “It doesn’t require digging anything out of the ground…”
    What about the huge hole you have to dig to accommodate 800 tons of often toxic concrete that goes as far as 50 feet into the ground, serving as the huge platform for just one turbine? And yes, in Ontario, wind companies are not required to dig it out of the ground when the turbine is decommissioned. The concrete will stay there in perpetuity.
    – “…and, unlike nuclear energy, doesn’t create any risk of catastrophic accidents.”
    Have you seen pictures of turbines that have caught fire and catapulted their burning bits in huge arcs over the surrounding area?
    – “According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), more than 70 percent of the public view wind energy favorably.”
    A dubious claim, given that most urbanites know none of the facts, which AWEA and their ilk suppress, especially that wind turbines are economically useless and would not survive were it not for huge, lucrative government (i.e. taxpayer) subsidies.
    – “Following President Obama’s recent push to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, there’s every reason to believe that these giant pinwheels will become more familiar sights on the American landscape. (The towers alone are hundreds of feet high.)”
    There is no evidence that greenhouse gas emissions cause man-made climate change. There hasn’t been any global warming for 17 years, during which time CO2 levels have risen. The demonization of CO2 is part of the UN’s Agenda 21 plan for global governance, being carried out by governments that have been unduly influenced by unelected, unaccountable zealots and opportunistic carbon traders (trading in thin air) like Al Gore who pretend to be concerned about the environment.

    But don’t take our word for any of this. Do your research. Dig deep. Bear in mind that most of the mainstream media do not report the facts on this subject and are helping to maintain the fiction.

  5. Comment by terri on 06/29/2014 at 12:35 pm

    People are generally reasonable, maybe more reasonable than they should be. Shea refuses to spend any more nights in the house she and her husband bought. She calls it a ‘dead asset.’ Nonetheless, she still considers herself pro-wind.”

    Debating people who make up facts with actual facts! This is what is happening. Instead of sending the crazy ones away, we have very “reasonably” allowed them to run the show, and we have very reasonably considered their made-up facts and charts, and very reasonably debated with real data.

    Amazing how people will gladly embrace something that makes them feel good. Perhaps its time the anti-wind turbine people (maybe a name-change is in order, “People for Ethical Energy Sources”) run their own ad campaign. Opening shot a dramatic sunset sky and cloud. Eagle serenely flying close-up, as a turbine blade slashes the eagle. Mortally wounded, the eagle free-falls to the ground. This takes a long time, as the turbine is over 400 feet tall. As the eagle spirals and tumbles, the massive turbine installation comes into view.

    The eagle is wounded but not dead. It falls at the feet of a Native American. The eagle looks up at him, misery and pain evident in its eyes. Zoom to eagle’s teary eye. Cut to nest with unfledged eagles. Cut back to Native American, who looks into camera. Close-up of tears streaming down his face.

    Fade to slogan, “Some things are not renewable.”

  6. Comment by Rob McMillan on 06/29/2014 at 7:57 pm

    Vermont. Georgia Mountain. Wind turbines and all the symptoms. Peak hours, increased ADHD-like behavior and sleep disturbance, inner ear problems affecting balance and memory loss, problems concentrating, electromagnetic sensitivity, sound sensitivity.

    ALL OF THESE THINGS BECAME A REGULAR ROUTINE WHEN GEORGIA MOUNTAIN PUT UP THEIR WIND-POWERED PROJECT. ALSO, I AM A PSYCHOLOGY MAJOR AT JOHNSON WHO CAN NO LONGER CONCENTRATE LONG ENOUGH TO FINISH A PAPER OR HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT.

    HOW THE FUCK AM I OR MY WIFE OR CHILD SUPPOSED TO SURVIVE LIVING IN AGONY?

    PEOPLE HAVE BECOME SO IGNORANT AND BELIEVING OF PEOPLE WITH DEGREES. HAVING SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH FROM A STUDENT SEEMS TO MEAN NOTHING. I WATCHED MY FRIENDS, MY FAMILY, AND OTHERS STRUGGLE WITH THESE ISSUES, AND NOBODY LISTENED, NOBODY BELIEVED.

    PEOPLE STILL DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY HITLER USED INFRASOUND TO GET A REACTION FROM THE CROWD. NOW I KNOW, BECAUSE MY WRITING TO YOU IS MY REACTION.

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