Horses get Wind Turbine Syndrome (Portugal)
May 13, 2013
Editor’s note: Horses, as well as humans, suffer from being in close proximity to wind turbines, strongly suggests a study performed last year at the School of Veterinary Medicine, Technical University, Lisbon, Portugal. The study was written up as a Master’s thesis, titled “Acquired flexural deformity of the distal interphalangic joint in foals.”
On this stud farm, the owner has been breeding normal and physically sound horses since 2000. There were no changes in diet, exercise or any other significant alteration in management. Until in 2008, wind turbines were installed adjacent to the property and grazing paddocks. Since this date, a good number of foals and yearlings have developed deformities.
The subjects of the study were: 11 Lusitano horses. Age between 0 and 48 months old. 6 males and 5 females . 9 were born at the stud farm, 2 were acquired from a different breeder.
The M.A. thesis was presaged in a conference paper by Professor Mariana Alves-Pereira et al. several years ago, and summarized as follows.
In 2007, at the 2nd International Conference on Wind Turbine (WT) Noise, held in Lyon, France, low frequency noise (<500 Hz, LFN)-induced pathology, consistent with vibroacoustic disease (VAD), was shown to be emerging in the R. Family, exposed to residential LFN generated by 4 WT installed in close proximity (300-700 m) to their home. Herein, a follow-up is provided.
The wife and 2 children no longer reside within that home. Mr. R., however, must remain to care for the thoroughbred Lusitanian horses and bulls that he trains and breeds for bullfights.
In addition to the continued deterioration of Mr. R’s health and well-being, his financial situation is aggravated by the condition now appearing in his horses during the first year of life. Between 2000 and 2006, 13 healthy thoroughbred Lusitanian horses were born and raised on Mr. R’s property. All horses (N=4) born or raised after 2007 developed asymmetric flexural limb deformities. WT began operations in November 2006. No other changes (constructions, industries, etc) were introduced into the area during this time.
Tissue analyses of the defected tendons were performed and revealed the classical features of LFN-induced biological responses: thickening of blood vessel walls due to proliferation of collagen in the absence of an inflammatory process.
In a personal communication, Alves-Pereira underscores, “The observation in these horses of abnormal growth of collagen in the absence of an inflammatory process is in conformity with the same observations found in low frequency noise (LFN)-exposed rats, and in vibroacoustic disease patients who are employed in LFN-rich environments.”
The following text is taken from here, with appreciation.
Since 2008, a high prevalence of front limb acquired flexural deformities was observed in a Lusitano stud farm. This work aims to evaluate this problem by reporting the results from tissue alterations in the affected animals as well as environmental conditions and management changes, which could have led to this observation. A total of eleven affected animals were studied. In these, a complete physical and orthopaedic examination were performed specifically the determination of the angle between the dorsal hoof wall and the floor. Radiographic examination, CT imaging, determination of the thickness of the cortical bone of the third metacarpian and histopathology of some tissues collected in biopsy and necropsy were done in a subset of affected foals.
All the animals had been supplemented with balanced commercial diet for equine. To investigate a possible genetic cause, two foals from distinct bloodlines were brought to the stud. These also developed the deformities after 6 months. Two of the affected foals were placed in a pasture away from the initial one and two others were admitted at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Lisbon. In those animals, except for one that had to be euthanized for humane reasons, an improvement was observed on their condition, with partial recovery of the deformity. Histopathology was performed from (i) the tendon obtained by surgical desmotomy in one foal, (ii) tendon biopsies were performed in three foals and (iii) from the tissue of one foal during necropsy. Histologically the most significant alterations were the dissociation of myofibrils of the smooth muscle. This was predominantly seen in the small intestine but also in the walls of small capillary vessels, including those of the tendon vasculature. The flexural deformities have a complex and multifactorial etiopathogeny. They occur due to uncoupling of the longitudinal development of the bone and its adjacent soft tissues, but also from shortening of the tendon-muscle unit in response to pain. In the case series presented here, there was no obvious cause for the development of this problem, therefore we hypothesised that unusual environmental conditions might have played an important role in the development of this condition, especially those introduced in recent years.
The following is the summary of a case study of a group of Lusitano horses that have been monitoried over 4 years which were the subject of a masters thesis at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Technical University, Lisbon, completed in 2012.
The study was performed by Teresa Margarida Pereira Costa e Curto, ADVISOR: Dr. Maria da Conceição da Cunha and Vasconcelos Peleteiro CO-ADVISOR: Dr. Maria Luisa Jorge Mendes.
The study reports the findings from a stud where 11 foals developed flexural deformities of the front limbs, after they were born. (Acquired flexural deformity of the distal interphalangeal joint.)
The above image shows the same foal at 3 and 6 months of age
A foal was bought from another breeder to exclude a possible genetic link to this problem. He came to the farm at 15 days old and like the others, developed a flexural deformity.
Radiological examination of front limbs
The following tests were used for the study: • Anamnesis • Clinical examination • Goniometry • Ultrasound and x-ray • Measurement of cortical bone • CT • Desmotomy of the check ligament • Histopathology • Sound measurements • Measurements of ground vibration
Proximity of horses to wind turbines
Aerial view of farm proximity to wind turbines
Measurements of ground vibration were made at different distances from the wind turbines, with the same equipment that is used to detect seismic vibrations (earthquakes). The results of these measurements, showed ground vibration at different frequencies. Research has shown that vibration effects bone metabolism.
The above research project was based solely on this case study. Therefore, further research is necessary in order to validate these preliminary findings and hypothesis. Regarding the sound that the wind turbines produce, measurements were taken and studies have demonstrated some cellular damage is caused by low frequency noise.
The full thesis can be downloaded here in Portuguese.