Vermont is in the midst of a large government supported push for industrial wind turbines. While Governor Shumlin, the Public Service Board (PSB), and the Department of Health (VDH) claim that ridgeline wind projects in Vermont are being done ‘the right way’, reality and science prove otherwise. It may be surprising to some, but there is unquestionable proof from experiences at numerous operating wind facilities and the scientific literature that noise from industrial wind turbines creates health problems and degrades the quality of life for many people living near them. This is a proven documented fact. VDH acknowledges these negative health effects but is inexplicably failing to protect Vermonters on this issue.
A significant number of Vermonters living and/or working within close range to these turbines can be expected to suffer from sleep disorders, insomnia, depression, anxiety, headaches, ringing in the ears, vertigo, and other health issues secondary to the noise from these turbines. Additionally they can be expected to suffer annoyance and overall diminished quality of life from the noise. Annoyance and quality of life are specific, scientific terms in noise and health research that are important markers for impacts noise or other interventions have on people. They gauge overall suffering and impacts on those affected.
Many Vermonters who will be affected were never asked their opinions on the turbines, as in Albany and Craftsbury, or were downright opposed to them. Sadly, I suspect many of those who will suffer symptoms will have welcomed the projects but were never informed of the health risks. There are now many documented examples of people having to abandon, sell or have their homes be bought out by wind corporations (with accompanying gag orders), because of noise and health related impacts. Not everyone will suffer to this degree, as some people (just as with any illness) will have less severe symptoms and will suffer through them, and some will not suffer any problems at all. The fact that not everyone is affected equally however does not make the suffering and degraded quality of life of those sacrificed any less real or more acceptable.
Research shows that annoyance, stress, and sleep disturbance from any source may put people at higher risk over the long term for problems such as heart disease, hypertension, asthma, cancer, and other health issues. Remember these Vermonters are being intruded upon on their property, in their own homes, by corporations with the consent of our state government, despite clear and predictable evidence that a significant proportion of them can be expected to suffer harm from these facilities. These Vermonters are being put at risk without any remedy other than moving. Sadly, the PSB has set a noise standard (which the VDH has approved) which will clearly not be protective to Vermonters. They have done so without explaining why they are ignoring the science that shows these standards are inadequate.
Some people might say that sacrificing the few for the ‘public good’ is just a harsh reality or that these harms are offset by the benefits. However, Vermonters must be truthfully informed of the potential harms and benefits so that they can participate in a factual debate on the issues. This is not happening in Vermont. The wind industry continues to deny, mislead, or lie about the health and other negative impacts that these facilities create while exaggerating any potential benefits. There is no scientific evidence at all to suggest that wind turbines have any health benefits. They are not replacing traditional forms of electrical generation (they are just added to the mix) and have not been shown to have any meaningful impact on global warming. So our government ignores real and proven harms while touting unsubstantiated benefits. Governor Shumlin, the PSB and VDH are shamefully pushing a solution for global warming and energy policy that is every bit as unscientific as arguments made against global warming or evolution. This sacrifice of our neighbors is shameful and entirely avoidable.
While it can be argued for many reasons that industrial wind turbines are bad for our mountains and Vermont and should not be built, if they are going to be built, adverse health effects can be prevented. Given the predictability of the health and quality of life issues, it would not take much to avoid the negative health impacts from wind turbines – setbacks should be larger, noise regulations more protective, and developers should be required to secure leases or permission from abutting landowners consenting to potential health impacts.
I encourage you to let Gov. Shumlin, the PSB and our Health Department know that whether you are for or against wind turbines, sacrificing the health and quality of life of Vermonters for the profits of corporations is not ‘the right way.’
Teddi Lovko MD
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