I read with interest your Nov. 10 article by Ariel Wittenberg, headlined “Study finds physical, mental health effects from wind turbines.” The article discusses the recently published peer-reviewed work of Nissenbaum, Armani and Hanning. I was particularly interested by the responses from self-interested stakeholders who clearly are, or appear to be, pro-wind – specifically, Sumul Shah, the developer, and Brian Bowcock, the chairman of the Fairhaven Board of Selectmen.
The article quotes these persons as follows:
“Sumul Shah said, ‘This would be the first peer-reviewed one [study] that has a direct link between turbines and health effects.’ ”
“Brian Bowcock, chairman of the Fairhaven Board of Selectmen, also had not heard of the study but said that ‘4,500 feet is quite a long way away…. The common-sense factor would tell you that you shouldn’t believe everything you hear.'”
Both men are flat-out wrong.
First, this is not the first peer-reviewed study that demonstrates that industrial wind turbines have a direct and serious adverse impact upon sleep and health, both physical and mental. Many other studies, published in peer-reviewed journals over the last decade, have come to the same conclusion.
However, many of these earlier studies have been misquoted or mischaracterized by the pro-wind lobby. Perhaps Mr. Shah is only familiar with those mischaracterizations. For example, the “Wind Turbine Health Impact Study: Report of Independent Expert Panel,” January 2012, prepared for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health cites five peer-reviewed studies, upon which it relies. Those studies are the following:
• Pedersen and Waye, “Perception and Annoyance Due to Wind Turbine Noise: A Dose—Response Relationship,” Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, December 2004
• Pedersen and Waye, “Wind turbine noise, annoyance and self-reported health and well-being in different living environments,” Occupational and Environmental Medicine, March 2007
• Pedersen and Larsman, “The impact of visual factors on noise annoyance among people living in the vicinity of wind turbines,” Journal of Environmental Psychology, 2008
• Pedersen, van den Berg, Bakker & Bouma, “Response to noise from modern wind farms in The Netherlands”, Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 2009
• Shepherd, D., McBride, D., Welch, D., Dirks, K. N., & Hill, E. M., “Evaluating the impact of wind turbine noise on health-related quality of life”, Noise Health, 2011.
These studies all found that industrial wind turbine (IWT) noise contributes to sleep disorders and diseases associated with the serious adverse responses to the low frequency impulses (infrasound) generated by the IWTs.
Second, contrary to Mr. Bowcock’s assertion, there are other countries and some U.S. states that have found that the noise from IWTs is sufficiently harmful to health that a setback of more than 4,500 feet to any residence is required. For just a few of many examples:
• Rural Oregon has set the minimum setback to be 2 miles.
• Victoria and New South Wales, NZ have set the minimum setback to be 2 km (1.25 miles).
• In a settlement reached in a wind turbine dispute in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, the setback was set at 6,000-foot (1.1 mile).
• “Location, Location, Location: An investigation into wind farms and noise by the UK Noise Association (UKNA)” finds an appropriate setback to be 1 to 1.5 mile setback (7,900 ft).
• “Recommendations on the Siting of Wind Farms in the Vicinity of Eskdalemuir, Scotland (2005)” finds an appropriate setback to be 10 km (6.2 mile or 32,730 ft).
• Beech Ridge Wind Farm (West Virginia) has a 1 to 4 mile setback.
Many more exist, in excess of 4,500 feet.
If these guys are going to make public statements, they should get their facts straight.
Raymond S. Hartman has a doctorate from MIT in mathematical economics and has served on the faculties of MIT, Boston University and the University of California, Berkeley. He is president and director of Greylock McKinnon Associates, an economic consulting firm specializing in analysis in support of litigation. He critically reviewed “The Wind Turbine Health Impact Study” of Massachusetts and termed it “junk science.”
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