A huge complaint by homeowners living near wind turbines concerns light flicker created by the rotating blades during daylight hours. When the first fluorescent lights came out they created perceptible flicker, and there were all kinds of complaints about it, such as it caused headaches, eyestrain and concentration difficulties. Newer fluorescent lights flicker at a much higher rate which most of us can’t consciously detect, though some people can.
While the jury still is out on whether prolonged exposure to flicker causes serious health problems, there is no uncertainty about the fact it can significantly disturb brain function. It can “dumb down” the brain. Not a little but a lot.
Richard Caton (1842-1926) played a huge role in the discovery of the electrical nature of the brain. Using an electroencephalogram he discovered what is known as “the flicker response” in the brain, a strong burst of cerebral electrical activity when a person is exposed to flickering light. This neurological disturbance depresses mental function. It can cause a seizure in people with epilepsy, and they need to avoid flicker.
A simple experiment can show if flicker causes brain malfunction. Stand near a light switch in a room. This can be done in daylight or at night. See how high you can silently count during a single slow inhalation. This is a basic measure of brain speed. Repeat a few times. Then turn the switch on and off a few times. Then repeat the speed-counting test. You will probably notice a huge slowdown due to a rise in the difficulty of the task.
The negative effect on brain function that occurs during flicker continues for a while after it stops; it takes the body’s neurological system a few minutes to return to normal. Flicker can disturb brain function even when eyes are closed and when the source of the flicker is behind rather than in front of a person.
For most people reading, thinking, speech, singing and every other form of mental work are made difficult in the presence of even faint flicker. It lowers IQ. Extremely bad for school-age children. There needs to be tests of the effect of flicker on skilled muscle movement because even a small degree of neurological disturbance makes this more difficult.
Wind turbines are springing up everywhere. They create flicker during daylight that can be measured long distances from the turbines. A moratorium on the spread of wind turbines would be prudent until the flicker problem can be fully studied and eliminated. At the very least it may mean employing black, light-blocking shades on most of the windows of a house.
Many people claim it is the low-frequency noise of the transformers and the moving blades that create health problems. Far away from any wind turbines stand near a refrigerator when the motor is running and creating a low hum. Repeat the speed-counting exercise used above. Then step away from the refrigerator and its hum and repeat the testing. If you find, as most people do, that brain speed is much faster away from the hum than in the “hum field” or “noise field” of a wind turbine even if you can’t hear it, it’s because a sound field of this type creates vibrations below the level of conscious perception in the brain’s auditory system that can disrupt normal brain function.
Testing for the health effects of sound pollution and flicker pollution caused by wind turbines is extremely difficult and will continue to be so for a long, long time, but testing for cognitive effects is extremely fast and easy.
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