November 16, 2013

6 Problems with Wind Turbine Syndrome by Skeptoid Brian Dunning

(Skeptoid episode #4388 — Most of the following is by courtesy of commenter El Rucio.)

Problem #1: There is no consensus on what it does or who it affects.

1. It is the consistency of symptoms reported by significant numbers of people after large wind turbines began operating nearby that led to the conclusion that those symptoms were probably caused by the turbines.

Problem #2: The symptoms attributed to Wind Turbine Syndrome do not require any cause.

2. It was Nina Pierpont's insight that the combination of symptoms and the pattern of susceptibility were signs of inner ear disturbance, suggesting infrasonic and/or low-frequency noise as the cause. Other physicians have noted that many of the symptoms can be caused by sleep disturbance due to the pulsating peaks of audible "blade swish". In any case, the symptoms vary with wind strength and direction and quite clearly diminish when affected individuals leave the area of the turbines or the turbines stop operating.

Problem #3: The timing of complaints is too unlikely.

3. PubMed lists 21 studies of the health effects of wind turbine noise published from 2003 to 2012, 9 of them dating from before Pierpont's book. In 2006, the French Academy of Medicine recognized the impact of wind turbine noise on human health and recommended a 1.5-km minimum distance from homes. Also in 2006, the British Noise Association wrote about the infrasound from wind turbines and recommended a setback of 1-1.5 miles.

Problem #4: The geographic dispersion of complaints is too unlikely.

4. Again, 21 studies published in English show a correlation, and only 7 of them come from English-speaking countries. Furthermore, most of the research showing the physiological effects of infrasound and low-frequency noise over the past few decades has been in non-English-speaking countries (see item 5). A review was recently recently published in Lakartidningen, the Journal of the Swedish Medical Association: "Infrasound From Wind Turbines – An Overlooked Health Hazard". In the comments of that article, the author, a specialist in otoneurology, addresses many of the arguments attempted here to dismiss the evidence.

Problem #5: Only implausible causes have been suggested.

5. PubMed lists well over 100 studies of the physiological effects of infrasound. And infrasound levels of concern from wind turbines have indeed been measured in homes. When Denmark proposed adding infrasound to its noise regulations in 2011, the wind industry forced the government to water it down.

Problem #6: Almost nobody seems to agree that it exists.

6. There is a list of 35 – at latest count – reviews of the health effects of wind turbines, and those by physicians overwhelmingly express concern and the need for further research and revised regulation.

[Problem #7:] Wind Turbine Syndrome ... bears all the signs of a psychogenic condition.

7. If there is any psychogenic condition around this issue, it is clearly the determination of so many otherwise intelligent people to vehemently deny the mounting evidence.

But at Skeptoid, all science is settled, all knowledge is absolute, and Brian Dunning, entrepreneur/convicted felon (read: huckster), is the final arbiter of both.

This whole subculture of smartypants skepticism is a sad aspect of our fascist era. Their pose of intellectual rigor appears more often to be simple contempt for people who think differently from them, and often as a desperate attempt to avoid facing facts that don't fit their vision of a technocratic utopia (or sales plan). Why do they feel so threatened? Why is the truth as they see it so unconvincing to others? Perhaps their own cultishness (like, never wondering what makes Brian Dunning such a know-it-all) betrays their claim of reason. Any reasonable person would be a lot more skeptical than these servants of power.

For their keen eye seems to be quite selectively applied to industries, since the "skeptics" themselves are invariably promoting or directly profiting by several of them, for example, industrial wind energy development. As in this episode, a lazy attempt to refute evidence of adverse health effects due to noise from wind turbines transparently serves only to promote wind energy companies by defaming their victims and those who listen to them. It is a contemptible performance, and it has nothing to do with science.

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights