This editorial is in response to those who have questioned the veracity of viboracoustic disease and ‘wind turbine syndrome’, most recently S.R. Zwenger who asked “can anyone provide published articles on this mysterious and elusive disease?”.
First of all, ‘wind turbine syndrome’ is not yet recognized as a disease, but is a term coined by Dr. Pierpont to encompass an emerging complex of symptoms associated with prolonged exposre to wind turbines that derive from both visual and auditory disturbances. Description of a syndrome is the first stage in the recognition of a disease, whether it arises from biological or physical causes. Thus, the human form of mad cow disease was labelled Creutzfeld-Jacob Syndrome before its cause was identified. However, one component of wind turbine syndrome, vibroacoustic disease (VAD), is already a recognized disease and is known to be caused by low frequency noise (LFN).
Links between wind turbines and VAD have been established in a number of publications by accredited scientists, notably the doctoral dissertation of P. van den Berg at the University of Groningen, Germany and articles in the Journal of Sound and Vibration and the Journal of Low Fequency Noise, Vibration, and Acitve Control. It is an established fact that wind turbines produce LFN – it is only the varying perception of that noise and its propagation under various atmospheric conditions that is still debated.
A search of the database PubMed for ‘vibroacoustic disease’ will produce 37 peer-reviewed articles, the majority published within the past 8 years. It bears remembering that people had been smoking for almost a century before research began establishing a link to lung cancer in the late 1950’s.
Russian doctors in the 1980’s were the first to begin research into what they refered to as ’vibration disease’ in industrial machinists “to develop a system of medical, technical and organizational preventive measures… in order to control noise- and vibration-caused diseases…”. These studies were followed by others that established links between LFN and pathologies observed in textile workers (Cardoso et al. 2006, Rev. Port. Pneumol. 12: 326), the aeronautical industry (Prog. Biophys. Mol. Biol. 2007, 93: 256-279, helicopter pilots (Rev. Port. Pneumol. 2006, 12: 539-544) and other occupations with prolonged LFN exposure.
Recently, a review article summarized 25 years of research on the subject (Rev. Port. Pneumol. 13: 129-135). Furthermore, the respiratory symptoms of VAD in humans have been reliably reproduced in rodents by exposing them to LFN (Lung. 2001, 179:225-232). Based on a comprehensive study of 140 patients (Aviat. Space Environ. Med. 1999, 70: A32-A39) 3 stages of VAD were recognized. Stage I, mild signs (behavioral and mood associated with repeated infections of the respiratory tract, e.g., bronchitis); Stage II, moderate signs (depression and aggressiveness, pericardial thickening and other extracellular matrix changes, light to moderate hearing impairment, and discrete neurovascular disorders); Stage III, severe signs (myocardial infarction, stroke, malignancy, epilepsy, and suicide). And before anyone scoffs at these symptoms, they should consider that the Pentagon spent decades researching LFN for its ‘weaponization’ potential.
Chronic exposure to LFN, similar to that produced by wind turbines, appears to specifically target the respiratory system causing various structural abnormalities to develop, but other pathologies also are significantly increased. These include abnormal function of the auditory lobe of the brain (Rev. Port. Pneumol. 2006, 12: 369-274), immune system impairment (Aviat. Space Environ. Med. 1999 3: A141-A144), cancers of the lung, especially squamous cell carcinoma (Rev. Port. Pneumol. 2006, 12: 539-544) and induction of epileptic seizures (Aviat. Space Environ. Med. 1999, 3: A122-A127).
In case someone contends that these peer-reviewed studies are somehow unreliable because they originate in a European country, let me point out that the US is no longer the international leader in scientific research that it was 50 years ago, and that an increasingly large proportion of scientific research in the US is now conducted by foreign-born scientists (myself included).
Belief can boil down to opinion, as Zwenger notes in his attempt to dismiss Dr. Ottley’s earlier letter, but the opinions of doctors and researchers should be given more weight than the idle musings of lay people, for these are the opinions that actively guide the advancement of science.
Posted by J.P. Michaud
(letter submitted to the Hays Daily News, July 2, 2007)
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