Dozens of families in a Cape Cod town sue over ‘wind turbine syndrome,’ blaming three new turbines for making them feel sick and dizzy
Dozens of residents of a small community in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, have filed lawsuits claiming that a trio of large wind turbines located near their homes have been harming their health.
In the summer of 2010, the town of Falmouth and a private company called Notus Clean Energy erected three 400-feet-tall, 1.63 megawatt wind turbines.
Just months later, Sue Hobart, a 57-year-old wedding florist, began experiencing spells of dizziness, bouts of insomnia, ringing in her ears and severe headaches.
At first, Mrs Hobart attributed her symptoms to the onset of old age, but then she noticed that whenever she was away from home, the symptoms vanished.
‘Sometimes at night, especially in the winter, I wake up with a fluttering in the chest and think, “What the hell is that,”’ and the only place it happens is at my house,’ she told ABC News.
Hobart began suspecting that the culprits behind her ailments may be the trio of wind turbines whirring away day and night just 1,600 feet from her home.
In 2011, a doctor at Harvard Medical School diagnosed the woman with ‘wind turbine syndrome’ – a controversial health condition that is not recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The name of the alleged disorder was coined by Dr Nina Pierpont, a pediatrician whose husband has been lobbying against the proliferation of wind energy.
Pierpont self-published the book ‘Wind Turbine syndrome’ in 2009, providing case studies of people who reportedly got sick as a result of their proximity to wind turbines.
‘Many people living within 2 km (1.25 miles) of these spinning giants get sick. So sick that they often abandon (as in, lock the door and leave) their homes,’ according to the book’s description. ‘Nobody wants to buy their acoustically toxic homes.’
Pierpont’s research has come under criticism from wind energy advocates, who claim that her data was unreliable because she used only a small sample size, had no control group, interviewed her subjects by phone and then hand-picked experts for the peer review process.
Hobart and her husband filed a nuisance claim against Notus Clean Energy and its owner in February, seeking between $150,000 and $300,000 in damages for the loss of their home value and medical bills.
The lawyer representing the owner of the energy company, Dan Webb, responded to the complaint by stating that Notus’ operating permit was ‘subject to rigorous review’ and the company was in compliance with all the regulations.
‘Scientific research and studies have shown that wind turbines such as Notus do not cause a nuisance or adverse health effects,’ said attorney Michael O’Neill in the court filing.
According to Notus, in three years of operation the turbines have prevented emissions of more than 7,000 tons of carbon dioxide from conventional power plants.
The lawyer also said that the nearest home to its turbines is located some 1,700 feet away, which is about 500 feet further away than the distance required under state law.
Wind turbines are used to generate electricity from the kinetic power of the wind. There are two main kinds of wind generators: those with a vertical axis, and those with a horizontal axis.
Most wind energy comes from turbines that can be as tall as a 20-story building and have three 200-foot-long blades, according to National Geographic.
The biggest wind turbines generate enough electricity to supply about 600 U.S. homes. a single megawatt produced by a wind turbine is enough to power about 250 homes.
Generation of energy by wind turbines more than quadrupled between 2000 and 2006 worldwide.
Germany currently leads the world in the number of wind turbines, followed by Spain, the United States, India, and Denmark. Industry experts predict that, by 2050 a third of the world’s electricity will be generated by turbines.
Neil and Betsy Anderson, also of Falmouth, were major supporters of green energy until their town installed two turbines 1,320 and 2,320 feet away from their home.
Mr Anderson said that within a week, he began experiencing pressure in his ears, which later turned into tinnitus, as well as shortness of breath, headaches and heart palpitations.
The homeowner’s wife had suffered from debilitating migraines, which she had attributed to the turbines working around the clock.
Some experts have suggested that symptoms reported by residents of towns located near turbines could be purely psychological in nature and caused by the nocebo effect – the negative reaction experienced by a patient who is exposed to a harmless substance.
Mr Anderson, however, insisted that his symptoms were purely physical and not the products of an overactive imagination.
‘Just come in to my house and feel the walls shaking,’ he said
A recent study commissioned by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and Public Health has concluded that wind turbines present little more than an ‘annoyance’ to residents.
A 2010 study conducted by the National Health and Median Research Council of Australia found no negative effects from wind technology.
Meanwhile, Sue Hobart said that she was forced to move away from Falmouth and put her home, which she and her husband had built themselves, up for sale, but it’s value has dropped by half after she went public with her complaints about the nearby turbines.
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