“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.