Resource Documents: Health (280 items)
Documents presented here are not the product of nor are they necessarily endorsed by National Wind Watch. These resource documents are provided to assist anyone wishing to research the issue of industrial wind power and the impacts of its development. The information should be evaluated by each reader to come to their own conclusions about the many areas of debate.
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Impact of wind turbine sound on annoyance, self-reported sleep disturbance and psychological distress
Author: Bakker, R.H.; Pedersen, E.; van den Berg, G.P.; Stewart, R.E.; Lok, W.; and Bouma, J.
PURPOSE OF THE RESEARCH: The present government in the Netherlands intends to realize a substantial growth of wind energy before 2020, both onshore and offshore. Wind turbines, when positioned in the neighborhood of residents may cause visual annoyance and noise annoyance. Studies on other environmental sound sources, such as railway, road traffic, industry and aircraft noise show that (long-term) exposure to sound can have negative effects other than annoyance from noise. This study aims to elucidate the relation between exposure to the sound of wind turbines and annoyance, self-reported sleep disturbance and psychological distress of people that live in their vicinity. Data were gathered by questionnaire that was sent by mail to a representative sample of residents of the Netherlands living in the vicinity of wind turbines
PRINCIPAL RESULTS: A dose-response relationship was found between immission levels of wind turbine sound and self-reported noise annoyance. Sound exposure was also related to sleep disturbance and psychological distress among those who reported that they could hear the sound, however not directly but with noise annoyance acting as a mediator. Respondents living in areas with other background sounds were less affected than respondents in quiet areas.
MAJOR CONCLUSIONS: People living in the vicinity of wind turbines are at risk of being annoyed by the noise, an adverse effect in itself. Noise annoyance in turn could lead to sleep disturbance and psychological distress. No direct effects of wind turbine noise on sleep disturbance or psychological stress has been demonstrated, which means that residents, who do not hear the sound, or do not feel disturbed, are not adversely affected.
Science of the Total Environment. 2012 May 15;425:42-51
Department of Applied Research in Care, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, The Netherlands
Halmstad University and Environmental Psychology, Department of Architecture and Built Environment, Lund University, Halmstad, Sweden
G.P. van den Berg
GGD Amsterdam Public Health Service, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Department of Community & Occupational Health, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, The Netherlands
Department of Health Care, Science shop, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, The Netherlands
Author: Jeffery, Roy; Krogh, Carmen; and Horner, Brett
Canadian family physicians can expect to see increasing numbers of rural patients reporting adverse effects from exposure to industrial wind turbines (IWTs). People who live or work in close proximity to IWTs have experienced symptoms that include decreased quality of life, annoyance, stress, sleep disturbance, headache, anxiety, depression, and cognitive dysfunction. Some have also felt anger, grief, or a sense of injustice. Suggested causes of symptoms include a combination of wind turbine noise, infrasound, dirty electricity, ground current, and shadow flicker. Family physicians should be aware that patients reporting adverse effects from IWTs might experience symptoms that are intense and pervasive and might feel further victimized by a lack of caregiver understanding.
There is increasing concern that energy generation from fossil fuels contributes to climate change and air pollution. In response to these concerns, governments around the world are encouraging the installation of renewable energy projects including IWTs. In Ontario, the Green Energy Act was designed, in part, to remove barriers to the installation of IWTs. Noise regulations can be a considerable barrier to IWT development, as they can have a substantial effect on wind turbine spacing, and therefore the cost of wind-generated electricity. Industrial wind turbines are being placed in close proximity to family homes in order to have access to transmission infrastructure. In Ontario and elsewhere, some individuals have reported experiencing adverse health effects resulting from living near IWTs. Reports of IWT-induced adverse health effects have been dismissed by some commentators including government authorities and other organizations. Physicians have been exposed to efforts to convince the public of the benefits of IWTs while minimizing the health risks. Those concerned about adverse effects of IWTs have been stereotyped as “NIMBYs” (not in my backyard).
Global reports of effects
During the past few years there have been case reports of adverse effects. A 2006 Académie Nationale de Médecine working group report notes that noise is the most frequent complaint. The noise is described as piercing, preoccupying, and continually surprising, as it is irregular in intensity. The noise includes grating and incongruous sounds that distract the attention or disturb rest. The spontaneous recurrence of these noises disturbs the sleep, suddenly awakening the subject when the wind rises and preventing the subject from going back to sleep. Wind turbines have been blamed for other problems experienced by people living nearby. These are less precise and less well described, and consist of subjective (headaches, fatigue, temporary feelings of dizziness, nausea) and sometimes objective (vomiting, insomnia, palpitations) manifestations. A 2009 literature review prepared by the Minnesota Department of Health summarized case reports by Harry (2007), Phipps et al (2007), the Large Wind Turbine Citizens Committee for the Town of Union (2008), and Pierpont (2009). These case studies catalogued complaints of annoyance, reduced quality of life, and health effects associated with IWTs, such as sleeplessness and headaches. In 2010, Nissenbaum et al used validated questionnaires in a controlled study of 2 Maine wind energy projects. They concluded that “the noise emissions of IWTs disturbed the sleep and caused daytime sleepiness and impaired mental health in residents living within 1.4 km of the two IWT installations studied.” Reports of adverse health effects and reduced quality of life are also documented in IWT projects in Australia and New Zealand. A 2012 board of health resolution in Brown County in Wisconsin formally requested financial relocation assistance for “families that are suffering adverse health effects and undue hardships caused by the irresponsible placement of industrial wind turbines around their homes and property.” An Ontario community-based self-reporting health survey, WindVOiCe, identified the most commonly reported IWT-induced symptoms as altered quality of life, sleep disturbance, excessive tiredness, headache, stress, and distress. Other reported effects include migraines, hearing problems, tinnitus, heart palpitations, anxiety, and depression. In addition, degraded living conditions and adverse socioeconomic effects have been reported. In some cases the effects were severe enough that individuals in Ontario abandoned their homes or reached financial agreements with wind energy developers. After considering the evidence and testimony presented by 26 witnesses, a 2011 Ontario environmental review tribunal decision acknowledged IWTs can harm human health:
This case has successfully shown that the debate should not be simplified to one about whether wind turbines can cause harm to humans. The evidence presented to the Tribunal demonstrates that they can, if facilities are placed too close to residents. The debate has now evolved to one of degree.
Indirect effects and annoyance
When assessing the adverse effects of IWTs it is important to consider what constitutes human health. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Despite being widely accepted, the WHO definition of health is frequently overlooked when assessing the health effects of IWTs. Literature reviews commenting on the health effects of IWTs have been produced with varying degrees of completeness, accuracy, and objectivity. Some of these commentators accept the plausibility of the reported IWT health effects and acknowledge that IWT noise and visual effects might cause annoyance, stress, or sleep disturbance, which can have other consequences. However, these IWT health effects are often discounted because “direct pathological effects” or a “direct causal link” have not been established. In 2010, the Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health released The Potential Health Impact of Wind Turbines, which acknowledged that some people living near wind turbines report symptoms such as dizziness, headaches, and sleep disturbance but concluded “the scientific evidence available to date does not demonstrate a direct causal link between wind turbine noise and adverse health effects.” The lead author of the report, Dr Gloria Rachamin, acknowledged under oath that the literature review looked only at direct links to human health. Focusing on “direct” causal links limits the discussion to a small slice of the potential health effects of IWTs. The 2011 environmental review tribunal decision found that serious harm to human health includes “indirect impacts (e.g., a person being exposed to noise and then exhibiting stress and developing other related symptoms).” According to the night noise guidelines for Europe:
Physiological experiments on humans have shown that noise of a moderate level acts via an indirect pathway and has health outcomes similar to those caused by high noise exposures on the direct pathway. The indirect pathway starts with noise-induced disturbances of activities such as communication or sleep.
Pierpont documented symptoms reported by individuals exposed to wind turbines, which include sleep disturbance, headache, tinnitus, ear pressure, dizziness, vertigo, nausea, visual blurring, tachycardia, irritability, problems with concentration and memory, and panic episodes associated with sensations of internal pulsation or quivering when awake or asleep. The American Wind Energy Association and the Canadian Wind Energy Association convened a panel literature review that determined these symptoms are the “well-known stress effects of exposure to noise,” or in other words, are “a subset of annoyance reactions.” Noise-induced annoyance is acknowledged to be an adverse health effect. Chronic severe noise annoyance should be classified as a serious health risk. According to the WHO guidelines for community noise, “[t]he capacity of a noise to induce annoyance depends upon many of its physical characteristics, including its sound pressure level and spectral characteristics, as well as the variations of these properties over time.” Industrial wind turbine noise is perceived to be more annoying than transportation noise or industrial noise at comparable sound pressure levels. Industrial wind turbine amplitude modulation, audible low frequency noise, tonal noise, infrasound, and lack of nighttime abatement have been identified as plausible noise characteristics that could cause annoyance and other health effects.
Health effects in Ontario expected
Evidence-based health studies were not conducted to determine adequate setbacks and noise levels for the siting of IWTs before the implementation of the Ontario renewable energy policy. In addition, provision for vigilance monitoring was not made. It is now clear that the regulations are not adequate to protect the health of all exposed individuals. A 2010 report commissioned by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment concludes:
The audible sound from wind turbines, at the levels experienced at typical receptor distances in Ontario, is nonetheless expected to result in a non-trivial percentage of persons being highly annoyed …. [R]esearch has shown that annoyance associated with sound from wind turbines can be expected to contribute to stress related health impacts in some persons.
Consequently, physicians will likely be presented with patients reporting health effects. Family physicians should be aware that patients reporting adverse effects from IWTs might experience symptoms that are intense and pervasive and that they might feel further victimized by a lack of care-giver understanding. Those adversely affected by IWTs might have already pursued other avenues to mitigate the health effects with little or no success. It will be important to identify the possibility of exposure to IWTs in patients presenting with appropriate clinical symptoms.
Industrial wind turbines can harm human health if sited too close to residents. Harm can be avoided if IWTs are situated at an appropriate distance from humans. Owing to the lack of adequately protective siting guidelines, people exposed to IWTs can be expected to present to their family physicians in increasing numbers. The documented symptoms are usually stress disorder–type diseases acting via indirect pathways and can represent serious harm to human health. Family physicians are in a position to effectively recognize the ailments and provide an empathetic response. In addition, their contributions to clinical studies are urgently needed to clarify the relationship between IWT exposure and human health and to inform regulations that will protect physical, mental, and social well-being.
This article has been peer reviewed.
La traduction en français de cet article se trouve à www.cfp.ca/content/59/5/e218.
- Roy D. Jeffery, MD FCFP, Family physician, Northeastern Manitoulin Family Health Team, Little Current, Ont.
- Carmen Krogh, Retired pharmacist, former Editor-in-Chief of the Compendium of Pharmaceutical Specialties.
- Brett Horner, CMA, Certified Management Accountant.
Dr Jeffery, Ms Krogh, and Mr Horner are on the Board of Directors for the Society for Wind Vigilance, an international federation of physicians, acousticians, engineers, and other professionals who share scientific research on the topic of health and wind turbines.
Author: Alves-Pereira, Mariana; Castelo Branco, Nuno; et al.
On the Impact of Infrasound and Low Frequency Noise on Public Health — Two Cases of Residential Exposure
Abstract: Noise exposure is known to cause hearing loss and a variety of disturbances, such as annoyance, hypertension and loss of sleep. It is generally accepted that these situations are caused by the acoustical events processed by the auditory system. However, there are acoustical events that are not necessarily processed by the auditory system, but that nevertheless cause harm. Infrasound and low frequency noise (ILFN, <500Hz) are acoustical phenomena that can impact the human body causing irreversible organic damage to the organism, but that do not cause classical hearing impairment. Acoustical environments are normally composed of all types of acoustical events: those that are processed by the auditory system, and those that are not. It is generally assumed that acoustical phenomena not captured by the human auditory system are not harmful. This is reflected by current noise assessment procedures that merely require the quantification of the acoustical phenomena that are audible to human hearing (hence the dBA unit). Thus, studies investigating the effects ofnoise exposure on public health that do not take into account the entire spectrum of acoustical energy are misleading and may, in fact, be scientifically unsound. Two cases of in-home ILFN are described. …
Case Report 2: Family R. lives on a horse- and bull-breeding farm, located in a zoned, rural agricultural area, 1 hour north of Lisbon. Family R. consists of mother, father, 12-year-old son, and 8-year-old daughter. In November 2006, 4 wind turbines (2MW each) were installed around Family R.’s farm, at approximately 322m, 540m, 580m and 643m from the residential home. The distance to the stables is less than to the residential house. …
The wind turbines installed around Family R.’s home began operation in November 2006. In March 2007, the parents received a letter from the school inquiring about the reason for the sharp decrease in the memory and attention skills of the 12-year-old child, and the overwhelming tiredness he exhibited during physical education classes. The school questioned the parents if the boy was getting enough hours of sleep during the night.
The entire family has already received the typical vibroacoustic disease diagnostic tests, including echocardiograms which did not disclose any significant thickening of cardiovascular structures. Tissue fragments have been removed from the farm animals that have been scheduled for slaughter, and will be submitted to the light and electron microscopy analyses that this team usually conducts on ILFN-exposed tissue fragments. These procedures will be repeated every 6 months, and follow-up reports will ensue.
Revista Lusófona de Ciencias e Tecnologias da Saúde, 2007; (4) 2: 186-200
Direcção de Radiologia da Escola Superior de Saúde Ribeiro Sanches, Lisboa, Portugal.
Departamento de Ciencias da Saúde, Universidade Lusófona, Lisboa, Portugal.
Nuno A. A. Castelo Branco
Centro de Performance Humana, Alverca, Portugal.
Download original document: “On the Impact of Infrasound and Low Frequency Noise on Public Health — Two Cases of Residential Exposure”
Baixar documento original: “Sobre o Impacto de Infrasons e Ruído de Baixa Frequência na Saúde Pública – Dois Casos de Exposição Residencial”
Family with Wind Turbines in Close Proximity to Home: Follow-Up of the Case Presented in 2007
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 WTs 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. WTs 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.
14th International Meeting on Low Frequency Noise and Vibration and Its Control, Aalborg, Denmark, 9-11 June 2010
Nuno A. A. Castelo Branco
Luis Amaral Dias
Centro da Performance Humana, Alverca, Portugal
Teresa Costa e Curto
João Pedro da Costa Pereira
Sociedade Hípica Portuguesa, Campo Grande, Lisboa, Portugal
Luisa Mendes Jorge
Júlio Cavaco Faísca
Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Universidade Técnica de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal
José Martins dos Santos
Instituto Superior de Ciências da Saúde Egas Moniz, CiiEM, Almada, Portugal
Universidade Lusófona–ERISA, Lisboa, Portugal
Author: Pereira Costa e Curto, Teresa Margarida
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 that could have led to this observation.
A total of eleven affected animals were studied. In these, complete physical and orthopaedic examinations 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 Faculdade de Medicina Veterinária de Lisboa. In those animals, except for one that had to be euthanized for humane reasons, an improvement was observed on their condition, with partial recovery from the deformity.
Histopathology was performed from (i) the tendon obtained by surgical desmotomy in one foal, (ii) tendon biopsies from three foals and (iii) 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.
From the stud farm’s establishment in 2000 to 2008, these symptoms had not been observed in any horse, and there was no alteration of diet (quality and quantity), conditions of housing, and physical exercise that the horses experienced.
The appearance of the deformities coincided with the installation of 2-MW wind turbines on land contiguous to the farm, this being the only environmental alteration that has occurred.
[This is the 18-MW Alto da Folgorosa facility of nine Repower MM92 turbines (rotor diameter 303 ft, total height 414 ft). Four turbines began operation in November 2006, the closest one of which (322m from the home) was shut down and removed after the family began legal proceedings, and six additional turbines began operation in September 2008.]
The entire area in which the horses are housed and exercised is ~350-800m [1150-2625 ft] from the nearest wind turbine.
A main objective of the study is characterization of mechanical vibrations induced in different locations of the farm by operation of wind turbines in close proximity, in order to analyse possible effects of such vibrations on horses.
Dissertação de Mestrado em Medicina Veterinária, 2012
Teresa Margarida Pereira Costa e Curto
Faculdade de Medicina Veterinária
Universidade Técnica de Lisboa