May 12, 2006

Canada taking low-frequency noise from wind turbines seriously

A Canadian Press article yesterday described the issue of low-frequency sound from wind turbine facilities. The problem has been raised by the case of the D'Entremonts, formerly of Lower West Pubnico, Nova Scotia, who started feeling ill as soon as the neighboring facility began operation.
"The noise is unbearable," [Daniel d'Entremont] says from Abrams River, the nearby community he recently relocated to with his wife and four of his six children.

"It's like a surround sound -- you can't avoid it, you can't ignore it. It just comes right into your head." ...

He says his family couldn't sleep, his children were constantly tired and suffering headaches, and nobody in the house could concentrate.

The d'Entremont family's complaints touch on a little-known -- and little-studied -- debate over whether inaudible sounds from wind farms can cause health problems for residents living nearby.

While the operator of the wind farm brushes off the family's claims, experts say vibrations from the turbines embedded deep into the ground have the potential to affect the health of some.

And new sound testing commissioned by the federal government hopes to offer more insight into what, if anything, is happening at d'Entremont's home. ...

"Around wind turbines, it appears there are always some people who are very disturbed by them," Dr. Nina Pierpont says from her office in Malone, N.Y.

"It's not everybody, so it creates a lot of controversy."

"When the exposure is inside a house, occurring 24 hours a day, even if the sound intensity is less, there is potential to produce serious pathology."
Charles Demond, president of the Pubnico wind company, insists the facility conforms to existing laws, but that's exactly the point: The laws do not consider the inaudible frequencies generated by the giant machines. Even the noise regulations for audible noise are inadequate for the rural areas in which wind plants are usually erected, especially as the turbines are more active and the noise more intrusive at night.
Michael Sharpe, another Dalhousie University audiologist, says even if someone isn't affected directly by low-frequency noise, the constant swoosh of the blades, even at allowable levels, can have psychological effects.

"If the sound is audible and it annoys you, then it can seem louder," says Sharpe, who compares it to a dripping tap that can keep someone awake at night.

"As your stress level increases, your awareness of the annoying sound increases as well. As we know, elevated stress levels for a prolonged period of time can have a negative health effect."
wind power, wind energy, wind farms, wind turbines