Medical doctor sees Wind Turbine Syndrome in his patients (Vermont)

Aug 1, 2014

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“Wind Turbine Noise & Adverse Health Effects”

Testimony before the Vermont Public Service Board (PSB) 7/29/14

….— by Sandy Reider, MD

My name is Sandy Reider, I am a primary care physician in Lyndonville, and I have been practicing clinical medicine in Vermont since I received my license in 1971.  [Dr. Reider is a graduate of the Harvard University School of Medicine — Editor.]

In the interest of full disclosure, I am not being paid for involvement in this issue, nor did I seek this out; rather, it found me by way of a patient I had known well for several years, and who, in late 2011, suddenly developed severe insomnia, anxiety, headaches, ringing ears, difficulty concentrating, and frequent nausea, seemingly out of the blue. This puzzled us both for a few months before we finally came to understand that he suffered from what was, then, a relatively new clinical entity known as “wind turbine syndrome”, related in his particular case to the comparatively small NPS 100 KW turbine that began generating power atop Burke Mountain in the fall of 2011.

In the course of the 2012 legislative session, I described this patient in detail in testimony for the Senate Natural Resources and Health Care Committees, as well as the Governor’s Siting Commission. Since his symptoms were so typical and similar to those described by thousands of other individuals living too close to large wind turbines all over the globe, I have attached my testimony for the Senate Health Care Committee and encourage you to review it for its very characteristic description of what it is that this board, I trust, hopes to mitigate by recommending more protective sound standards for these industrial wind installations.

I should add that I have seen 4 additional patients living close to the large Sheffield and Lowell projects, as well as an individual living near another single NPS 100KW turbine in Vergennes. All presented with similar, though not identical, symptoms to those described in my testimony.

That there have already been so many complaints here in Vermont related to wind turbines suggests that the current noise standards may be inadequate. Either the utilities have been regularly out of compliance with the current existing standards (Shirley Nelson’s detailed daily records suggest this has indeed occurred with some regularity) and/or that the scientific data and studies upon which the current noise standards are based is incomplete, or possibly just plain wrong.

Over the past 2 years I have reviewed much of the relevant scientific literature, and out of my 42 years of experience and perspective as a clinician, respectfully offer the following observations and comments.

Firstly, I do not doubt at all that these large turbines can and do cause serious health problems in a significant number of persons living nearby, even though the vibrational-acoustic mechanisms behind this harm are not yet completely understood (1,5). Repetitive sleep disruption is the most often cited adverse effect, and disturbed sleep and its resulting stress over time is known to cause or exacerbate cardiovascular illnesses (2, ), chronic anxiety and depression, as well as worsening of other pre-existing medical problems. This is especially concerning for the most vulnerable among us — children, the elderly, those who are naturally sensitive to sound,  or prone to motion sickness or migraine headaches, and, as mentioned, those who are  unwell to start with.

The position adopted by developers of large industrial wind projects, and thus far supported by regulatory and health agencies, has been that there is no evidence of a direct effect on health from wind turbines; rather, that the claimed adverse health effects are indirect, due mainly to the individual’s negative attitude about the wind turbines (so-called “nocebo” effect), and therefore it is their fault, it’s all in their heads, and so on. Not only is this incorrect, it is disingenuous. There is simply no clinical justification for ignoring harm being done to individuals and communities, whether direct or indirect, on these grounds — simply put, harm is harm, whatever the mechanism.

However, good evidence for direct adverse effects has existed since the mid-80’s when Neil Kelley headed a group of researchers, under the auspices of the US Department of Energy and NASA, and found conclusive evidence that adverse effects, very similar to those that describe “wind turbine syndrome”, were due primarily to very low frequency sound and inaudible infrasound (6). This role of infrasound was subsequently confirmed by Kelley’s team under controlled laboratory conditions, and resulted in a complete redesign of turbines from the downwind trestle-mounted turbines to today’s upwind turbine on a single massive tower.  Furthermore, he recommended protective maximum levels of this low frequency sound.

The joint radiation levels (expressed in terms of acoustic intensity and measured external to a structure) in the 8, 16, 31.5 and 63 Hz standard (ISO) octaves should not exceed band intensity threshold limits of 60, 50, 40 and 40 dB (re 1 pWm –2) more than 20% of the time. These figures compare favorably with a summary of low-frequency annoyance situations by Hubbard.

(It is worth noting that very often infrasound levels are higher inside a building than outside, the structure acting as a resonating chamber and amplifying the lower “vibration” frequencies. Thus measurements for low frequency sound should be made inside the structure as well as outside. Also, low frequency sound levels are not only building design and geometry specific, but also site specific, especially in a place like Vermont where the topography and climactic conditions are so variable. There may be unacceptable indoor infrasound levels in one home, while another home over the hill may have undetectable or very low levels.)

The wind industry’s assertion that the Kelley study is irrelevant and that infrasound levels are negligible with the current, newer turbine design and may be ignored is unfounded, and more recent evidence confirms this.  (See the 2012 Falmouth study by Ambrose and Rand; Bob Thorne’s excellent quality of life study in 2011 [12]; Steven Cooper’s preliminary results in Australia, final results due in September 2014 [11]; and others.)

The aforementioned studies were performed by independent professional acousticians not connected to the wind industry.  Incidentally, the severely affected patient described in my 2012 testimony never did perceive any audible noise from the turbine (and this is quite typical, the sound is more felt than heard), nor did he harbor any feelings pro or con about the installation when his problems began, though after he understood the source of his ill-health, I have no doubt that the “nocebo” effect may have added to his stress, adding insult to injury.  He has since abandoned that home, and is once again sleeping soundly and feeling well.

The current sound standards, based as they are on dBA weighted acoustic measurements, gives particular weight to audible frequencies in the soundscape, but very little or no weight to low sound frequencies and infrasound, particularly below 10 Hz, which comprises a significant proportion of the sound generated by large turbines. People do not hear dBA, they hear qualitatively different sounds, birds, insects, running water, wind in the trees, etc.  Basing noise criteria solely on this single number ignores the unique nature of the sound produced by large wind turbines, with its constantly  changing loudness, frequency, harmonics, pitch, and impulsive quality.

It is precisely these qualities that make the sound feel so intrusive and annoying, especially in quiet rural environments where these projects are usually located (12).  Parenthetically, the word “annoying” is somewhat misleading, as it implies a minor, temporary, or occasional nuisance that perhaps might be mostly ignored, rather than what it is: a  repetitive stressor that can degrade one’s short and long term health and well being, and from which there is no escape over the lifetime of the project short of having to abandon one’s home.

It is worth repeating here that the current Public Service Board threshold  of 45 dBA of audible sound, averaged over an hour, has never been proven safe or protective, and that most studies agree that  audible sound should not exceed 35 dBA, or 5dBA above normal background sound levels. (This is especially important in rural areas where background noise is minimal.)  The level should be a maximum, not an hourly average. Above 35 dBA there are likely to be significantly more complaints, particularly difficulty sleeping.

chart

Before concluding, I would like to emphasize that the bulk of scientific evidence for adverse health effects due to industrial wind installations comes in the form of thousands of case reports like the patient I described. One or two sporadic anecdotal cases can legitimately be viewed with a wait-and-see skepticism, but not thousands where the symptoms are so similar, along with the ease of observing exposure and measuring outcomes, wherever these projects have been built. I agree with Epidemiologist Carl Phillips, who opined that “these case reports taken together offer the most compelling scientific evidence of serious harm.  Just because the prevailing models have failed to explain observed adverse health effects does not mean they do not exist”, and, as he succinctly, though in my opinion a bit too harshly, concluded: “The attempts to deny the evidence cannot be seen as honest scientific disagreement and represent either gross incompetence or intentional bias” (13).

I am aware that the members of the PSB bear a heavy responsibility for Vermont’s overall energy future and have many other issues on their plate besides this one. Rather than presenting you with a long list of literature references, most of which would likely go unread (but they are included just in case ), I recommend a careful review of just one study in particular:  Bob Thorne, a professional acoustician in Australia, presented an excellent and well thought-out clinical study to the Australian Senate in 2011 (12). It really does cover the waterfront, including WHO quality of life measures, audible and infrasound measurements, and health measures, in a balanced and scientific way. For your convenience there is a hard copy of this study included with my presentation today.

His comprehensive (including the full sound spectrum, not only dBA weighted sound) and protective recommendations for sound criteria are reasonable, and if adopted, would be likely more acceptable to neighboring households and communities. However, given that wind developers are these days building bigger turbines atop taller towers in order to maximize power generation and profits, adoption of these safer limits would necessitate siting the installations farther from dwellings.  A 1-2 km setback is not nearly sufficient; significant low frequency sound pressure measurements have been recorded in homes 3-6 miles from large projects in Australia.

The outcomes of the study are concerned with the potential for adverse health effects due to wind farm modified audible and low frequency sound and infrasound. The study confirms that the logging of sound levels without a detailed knowledge of what the sound levels relate to renders the data uncertain in nature and content. Observation is needed to confirm the character of the sound being recorded. Sound recordings are needed to confirm the character of the sound being recorded.

The measures of wind turbine noise exposure that the study has identified as being acoustical markers for excessive noise and known risk of serious harm to health (significant adverse health effects):

(1) Criterion: An LAeq or ‘F’ sound level of 32 dB(A) or above over any 10 minute interval, outside;
(2) Criterion: An LAeq or ‘F’ sound level of 22 dB(A) or above over any 10 minute interval inside a dwelling with windows open or closed.
(3) Criterion: Measured sound levels shall not exhibit unreasonable or excessive modulation (‘fluctuation’).
(4) Criterion: An audible sound level is modulating when measured by the A-weighted LAeq or ‘F’ time-weighting at 8 to 10 discrete samples/second and (a) the amplitude of peak to trough variation or (b) if the third octave or narrow band characteristics exhibit a peak to trough variation that exceeds the following criteria on a regularly varying basis: 2dB exceedance is negligible, 4dB exceedance is unreasonable and 6dB exceedance is excessive.
(5) Criterion: A low frequency sound and infrasound is modulating when measured by the Z- weighted LZeq or ‘F’ time-weighting at 8 to 10 discrete samples/second and (a) the amplitude of peak to trough variation or (b) if the third octave or narrow band characteristics exhibit a peak to trough variation that exceeds the following criteria on a regularly varying basis: 2dB exceedance is negligible, 4dB exceedance is unreasonable and 6dB exceedance is excessive.
(6) Definitions: ‘LAeq’ means the A-weighted equivalent-continuous sound pressure level [18]; ‘F’ time-weighting has the meaning under IEC 61672-1 and [18]; “regularly varying” is where the sound exceeds the criterion for 10% or more of the measurement time interval [18] of 10 minutes; and Z-weighting has the meaning under AS IEC 61672.1 with a lower limit of 0.5Hz.
(7) Approval authorities and regulators should set wind farm noise compliance levels at least 5 dB(A) below the sound levels in criterion (1) and criterion (2) above. The compliance levels then become the criteria for unreasonable noise.

Measures (1-6) above are appropriate for a ‘noise’ assessment by visual display and level comparison. Investigation of health effects and the complex nature of wind turbine noise require the more detailed perceptual measures of sound character such as audibility, loudness, fluctuation strength, and dissonance.

To exclude careful independent well-designed case studies like Thorne’s ( and others ) in a review of the scientific literature that purports to be thorough is, I repeat, a serious omission and is not “scientific”. Careful consideration of these independent well done studies, if nothing else, should encourage regulatory agencies to adopt a much more precautionary approach to the siting of today’s very big industrial wind projects in order to adequately protect public health.

For better or worse, in today’s “information age” we are perhaps too fascinated by computers and mountains of data, but truth is truth, wherever you find it, even in small places.

Contact:

….Sandy Reider, MD
….PO Box 10
….East Burke, VT 05832
….(802) 626-6007
….sandyreider@yahoo.com

*Many thanks to Dr. Sarah Laurie, CEO of the Waubra Foundation, for her tireless work, and generosity in sharing so much information.

1.  Pierpont, N 2009  from the executive summary of her peer-reviewed study, http://waubrafoundation.org.au/resources/wind-turbine-syndrome-executive-summary/

2.  Capuccio et al 2011 “Sleep Duration predicts cardiovascular outcomes: a systemic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies” European Heart Journal, (2011) 32, 1484–1492 http://waubrafoundation.org.au/resources/sleep-duration-predicts-cardiovascular-outcomes/

3.  Nissenbaum, M Hanning, C and Aramini J 2012  “Effects of industrial wind turbines on sleep and health”  Noise and Health, October 2012

4.  Shepherd, D et al 2011 “Evaluating the impact of wind turbine noise on health related quality of life” Noise and Health, October 2011  http://waubrafoundation.org.au/resources/evaluating-impact-wind-turbine-noise-health-related-quality-life/

5.  Arra, M & Lynn H  2013  Powerpoint presentation to the Grey Bruce Health Unit, Ontario, “Association between Wind Turbine Noise and Human Distress” http://waubrafoundation.org.au/resources/association-between-wind-turbine-noise-and-human-distress/

6.  “Acoustic noise associated with Mod 1 Turbine, its impact and control” http://waubrafoundation.org.au/resources/kelley-et-al-1985-acoustic-noise-associated-with-mod-1-wind-turbine/

7.  James, R 2012  “Wind Turbine Infra and Low Frequency Sound: Warning Signs That Went Unheard” Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society 32(2) 108 – 127, accessed via Professor Colin Hansen’s submission to the Australian Federal Senate Inquiry Excessive Noise from Windfarms Bill (Renewable Energy Act) November 2012  http://waubrafoundation.org.au/resources/testimony-hansenc-excessive-noise-bill-inquiry-submission/.  James references another useful bibliography of references of the early NASA research, compiled by Hubbard & Shepherd 1988 “Wind Turbine Acoustic Research:  Bibliography with selected Annotation” http://waubrafoundation.org.au/resources/hubbard-h-shepherd-k-nasa-wind-turbine-acoustics-research/

8.  Hubbard, H 1982  “Noise induced house vibrations and Human Perception” http://waubrafoundation.org.au/resources/hubbard-h-1982-noise-induced house vibrations-human-perception/

9.  Ambrose, Stephen and Rand, Robert  2011 “Bruce McPherson Infrasound and Low Frequency Noise Study” http://waubrafoundation.org.au/resources/bruce-mcpherson-infrasound-low-frequency-noise-study/

10.  http://waubrafoundation.org.au/resources/schomer-et-al-wind-turbine-noise-conference-denver-august-2013/

11.  http://waubrafoundation.org.au/2014/pacific-hydro-commended-initiating-wind-turbine-noise-acoustic-survey/

12.  http://waubrafoundation.org.au/resources/wind-farm-generated-noise-and-adverse-health-effects/

13.  “Properly interpreting the Epidemiological evidence about the health effects of Industrial Wind turbines on nearby residents” Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society vol 31 No 4 (August 2011) pp 303–315 http://waubrafoundation.org.au/resources/properly-interpreting-epidemiologic-evidence-about-health-effects/

See:  Bob Thorne, “The Problems with ‘Noise Numbers’ for Wind Farm Noise Assessment,” Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society 2011 31: 262.  DOI: 10.1177/0270467611412557, http://bst.sagepub.com/content/31/4/262

  1. Comment by Marshall Rosenthal on 08/01/2014 at 7:16 pm

    Kudos to Dr. Sandy Reider for his report on his patients presenting with symptoms of WTS. He is much too kind, however, to government and the wind power industry because if they were truly concerned with public health, government would demand full spectrum noise testing and force the wind industry to abide by the standard of safe setbacks where ZERO wind turbine ILFN can be measured in neighboring homes. Until this takes place, both government and wind power industry must be seen as inimical and implacable foes to human and animal health.

    This struggle must be fought out in the courts and new laws must be promulgated to protect innocent victims of the wind folly and greed that now prevails.

  2. Comment by Annette Smith on 08/02/2014 at 2:11 pm

    Here is the video of Dr. Sandy Reider’s presentation to the Vermont Public Service Board on July 29, 2014.

  3. Comment by Protecting the Nests in the Midwest on 08/04/2014 at 12:29 pm

    First, Dr. Calvin Martin, Dr. Sarah Laurie, Dr. Nina Pierpont, and Dr. Sandy Reider. THANK YOU!

    Second, we will NOT be silent! I am sending more research and testimony to our Ohio Power Siting Board today.

    Third, we must move forward positively, courageously, boldly, and wisely. We can, we must, we will!

  4. Comment by Curt Devlin on 08/24/2014 at 12:22 pm

    Thank you, Dr. Reider, for lending your clinical observations, your research, and your professional credibility to the growing chorus of doctors and clinicians who are recognizing the truth about the adverse health effects caused by living too close to these industrial power generators.

    It is increasingly obvious to me that it is doctors like yourself, who practice medicine in rural areas, who are most likely to recognize this pattern of symptoms, perhaps because your patients are the ones mostly likely to be exposed and effected.

    I have noticed a disturbing trend in which the wind industry attempts to discredit the veracity of medical observations from doctors such as yourself on the basis that these are only the opinions of a few “rural” doctors, implying that the practice of medicine in these settings somehow diminishes the value or credibility of your medical opinions.

    In fact, I believe that practicing medicine outside of urban areas, often requires very keen skills of listening and observation, and medical expertise that is both broad and deep. To be effective, doctors such as yourself, Dr. Laurie, and Dr. Pierpont must work with great self-reliance. Contrary to the what the wind industry would have us believe, therefore, the designation of rural doctor is one that demands our great respect and appreciation.

    Finally, I would like to call special attention to a detail in the Noise chart from Rand and Ambrose which you have cited above. These guidelines were established by the EPA in 1974, some forty years ago. Yet, the wind industry has been permitted to flagrantly disregard them. They were developed without any consideration for sound in the ILFN range, suggesting that they should be even more restrictive today when audible emissions are accompanied by components in this sub-audible range–as they surely are IWTs are nearby.

    Thank you again for your valuable contribution.

    Curt Devlin, Fairhaven, MA

  5. Comment by Frank Haggerty on 10/09/2014 at 4:24 pm

    The Town of Falmouth Massachusetts always knew about the poor placement of wind turbines
    Document
    Vestas raises concerns about turbine noise (Letter)

    After noise complaints started coming in following the erection of WIND 1, the first Falmouth turbine at the wastewater treatment facility, Vestas required confirmation that the Town of Falmouth “understands they are fully responsible for the site selection of the turbine and bear all responsibilities to address any mitigation needs of the neighbors.” WIND 2 would not be released to the town for erection until the letter was signed. The letter explaining the situation is provided below and can be accessed by selecting the link(s) on this page.
    August 3, 2010
    Mr. Gerald Potamis
    WasteWater Superintendent
    Town of Falmouth Public Works
    59 Town Hall Square
    Falmouth, MA 02540

    RE: Falmouth WWTF Wind Energy Facility II “Wind II”, Falmouth, MA
    Contract No. #3297

    Dear Mr. Potamis,

    Due to the sound concerns regarding the first wind turbine installed at the wastewater treatment facility, the manufacturer of the turbines, Vestas, is keen for the Town of Falmouth to understand the possible noise and other risks associated with the installation of the second wind turbine.

    The Town has previously been provided with the Octave Band Data / Sound performance for the V82 turbine. This shows that the turbine normally operates at 103.2dB but the manufacturer has also stated that it may produce up to 110dB under certain circumstances. These measurements are based on IEC standards for sound measurement which is calculated at a height of 10m above of the base of the turbine.

    We understand that a sound study is being performed to determine what, if any, Impacts the second turbine will have to the nearest residences. Please be advised that should noise concerns arise with this turbine, the only option to mitigate normal operating sound from the V82 is to shut down the machine at certain wind speeds and directions. Naturally this would detrimentally affect power production.

    The manufacturer also needs confirmation that the Town of Falmouth understands they are fully responsible for the site selection of the turbine and bear all responsibilities to address any mitigation needs of the neighbors.

    Finally, the manufacturer has raised the possibility of ice throw concerns. Since Route 28 is relatively close to the turbine, precautions should be taken in weather that may cause icing.

    To date on this project we have been unable to move forward with signing the contract with Vestas. The inability to release the turbine for shipment to the project site has caused significant [SIC] delays in our project schedule. In order to move forward the manufacturer requires your understanding and acknowledgement of these risks. We kindly request for this acknowledgement to be sent to us by August 4, 2010, as we have scheduled a coordination meeting with Vestas to discuss the project schedule and steps forward for completion of the project.

    Please sign in the space provided below to indicate your understanding and acknowledgement of this letter. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call me.

    Sincerely,

    (Bruce Mabbott’s signature)
    _____________________
    Bruce Mabbott Gerald Potamis
    Project Manager Town of Falmouth

    CC: Sumul Shah, Lumus Construction, Inc.
    (Town of Falmouth’s Wind-1 and Wind-2 Construction contractor)

    Stephen Wiehe, Weston & Sampson
    (Town of Falmouth’s contract engineers)

    Brian Hopkins, Vestas
    (Wind-1, Wind-2’s turbine manufacturer, and also Webb/NOTUS turbine)
    Click on link to download file
    http://www.windaction.org/posts/41357-vestas-raises-concerns-about-turbine-noise-letter#.VDCRCrlMvIU

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