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Potential social and health costs of industrial wind energy projects  

Credit:  By Larry Thomas, The Highlands Voice, July-August 2012, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy ~~

The sense of belonging to a place leads to a sense of belonging to a community. There is a mutual support in our West Virginia mountain communities, from fundraisers to help those in need to family hog butchering. Mountain cultural activities from clogging, to music, to hunting are passed on to future generations. A sense of pride of place is apparent in West Virginia and its remote rural communities, passed down from one generation to the next. The land provides a culture of self-sufficiency as well. Many of the families continue to grow their own vegetables and domestic livestock, home processing all that they produce in their gardens and butchering the domestic livestock in the fall and winter, providing meat for year around consumption. The land takes care of them, so they must take care of the land.

There is a spiritual mystique to the mountains. Changes to the mountains should not be taken lightly, especially when those changes desecrate a way of life that is disappearing rapidly in West Virginia as well as the United States. Siting industrial wind energy projects in such an area changes the mountain, causing an irreversible and devastating effect on the people and their culture.

The targets for industrial wind energy projects in West Virginia are remote rural mountains. These areas have caught the attention of historians, anthropologists, biologists, writers, photographers, environmental activists and are finally being appreciated for their cultural diversity and environmental history.

What makes places in West Virginia and its remote rural communities unique? The answer is the dedication to the land, a sense of place, a feeling that where they live makes them who they are. Many families here in West Virginia and its remote rural communities have lived on the same parcels of mountain land as their great-great-great-great grandfathers, as far back as the 1600s. People here know their land—they have walked every inch, they have heard stories about their homesteads and family activities from generations back, they have created those families and a living on their land. Their roots run deep into the mountains. How many times have you heard “My Mother was raised right here.” or “There have been Blands here for as long as I can remember?” People choose to stay on that same land even when that choice makes their lives more difficult, whether in employment or convenience terms.

There can be no reasonable doubt that industrial wind turbines, whether singly or in groups (“industrial wind energy projects”), generate sufficient noise and shadow flicker to disturb the sleep and impair the health of those living nearby. Reports from many different locations and different countries have a common set of symptoms that have been well documented. The symptoms include sleep disturbance, fatigue, headaches, dizziness, nausea, changes in mood and inability to concentrate and have been named “wind turbine syndrome” by Dr Nina Pierpont. [http://www.windturbinesyndrome.com/] Inadequate sleep has been associated not just with fatigue, sleepiness and cognitive impairment but also with an increased risk of obesity, impaired glucose tolerance (risk of diabetes), high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, depression and impaired immunity as shown by susceptibility to the common cold virus. Sleepy people have an increased risk of road traffic accidents. Sleepiness, as a symptom, has as much impact on health as epilepsy and arthritis. This is certainly not insignificant.

The July/August issue of “Audiology Today” contains an article “Wind Turbine Noise: What Audiologists Should Know”. The article states that evidence has been mounting over the past decade that utility-scale wind turbines produce significant levels of low-frequency noise and vibration that can be highly disturbing to nearby residents. None of these unwanted emissions, whether audible or inaudible, are believed to cause hearing loss, but they are widely known to cause sleep disturbances. Inaudible components can induce resonant vibration in solids, liquids, and gases—including the ground, houses, and other building structures, spaces within those structures, and bodily tissues and cavities—that is potentially harmful to humans.

The most extreme of these low-frequency (infrasonic) emissions, at frequencies under about 16 Hz, can easily penetrate homes. Some residents perceive the energy as sound, others experience it as vibration, and others are not aware of it at all. Research is beginning to show that, in addition to sleep disturbances, these emissions may have other deleterious consequences on health. It is for these reasons that wind turbines are becoming an important community health issue, especially when hosted in quiet rural communities that have no prior experience with industrial noise or urban hum.

Further the authors of the article state that “for this article, we reviewed the English-language, peer-reviewed literature from around the world on the topic of wind-turbine noise and vibration and their effects on humans. In addition, we used popular search engines to locate relevant online trade journals, books, reference sources, government regulations, and acoustic and vibration standards. We also consulted professional engineers and psycho acousticians regarding their unpublished ideas and research”. I believe that the article and other documents reviewed provide credible evidence that there are health issues that are being ignored by the industrial wind energy industry.

Source:  By Larry Thomas, The Highlands Voice, July-August 2012, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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