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Mounting evidence

We would like to respond to the article by Brent Runyon in last Friday’s paper regarding the Wind Turbine Options Process group’s discussion of buying neighbors’ houses and reselling them.

We now know, thanks to many scientists in a variety of fields, that the inner ear responds to infrasound and low-frequency levels that are not heard and that the health of people living in close proximity to wind turbines is being put at risk by this low frequency sound. There is an abundance of recent peer reviewed research in many scientific journals, which anyone can refer to just by using google for “Infrasound,” “Infrasound Wind Turbine Syndrome,” et cetera.

The list of references is becoming quite long and available to anyone who would take the initiative to look. The National Academy of Science, the World Health Organization, the National Institutes of Health, as well as several government-funding agencies, have all contributed to the funding of this research. Much has been said about the inner ear issues, and several universities and medical school researchers are presently working on this issue, not to mention physicists and engineers who have been studying the extreme sound pressure from the wakes of the turbine blades.

The health issues arise from low-frequency and infrasound levels well below those that cannot be heard. In the past, measurements have been made with microphones and sound meters for sounds that people can hear or which can damage the ear. These measurements are weighted according to the hearing sensitivity of humans (i.e., the A-weighting curve). A variety of instruments that test for infrasound are available from a fairly long list of companies.

The good news is that the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center is planning a study of the acoustics of lower-frequency sound pressures (although apparently not yet down to all infrasound levels) and it is hoped that the CEC will be testing inside homes, as well. The bad news is that Falmouth is not presently included in this study (at least, that is our understanding).

The unique aspect of infra-sound is its ability to cover very long distances and get through and around obstacles with little dissipation. This is why insulating houses, unless the insulation were to be completely air tight, would not correct the problem, and reselling of homes with improved insulation doesn’t change this. Confining people to the inside of their homes doesn’t make any sense, either.

The health issue is a world-wide issue. The new 2012 draft of the “New South Wales (Australia) Guidelines for Wind Turbines” proposal requires that low-frequency noise by wind turbines be measured. A minimum setback of 2 km is the standard in some countries such as Denmark, and in Victoria, Australia. In contrast, Falmouth has houses as close as 0.4 km!

On March 14, 2012, Vestas Australian Wind Technology Ltd., a subsidiary of Danish Multinational Vestas, asked to drop the requirement of measuring emissions of low-frequency noise, despite scientific studies indicating that they have adverse effects on the health of neighbors. Vestas’s request flies in the face of a new Danish policy, announced March 26, aiming at improving the ethics of exporting companies, e.g., on human rights. Denmark’s wind turbine regulations recognize that ultrasound levels can be a health problem.

Lin and Jack Whitehead
Gregory Lane