SOUTHWEST IOWA – When debating the pros and cons of the use of wind turbines, one concern is whether wind turbines cause health effects on people living near them.
During a recent meeting with the Adair County Supervisors one member of the public said the turbines were causing health issues for her.
“I’m one of the many people who suffer from motion sickness,” said Mary Long, who co-owns a business in Greenfield. “The flashing lights and strobe lights give me migraines. I can no longer comfortably drive in the Massena, Corning and Canby areas with all the whirling blades and flashing lights.”
“My daughter lives in Stuart. My church is in the country. And we frequently go to or through Creston for business or pleasure. I’m concerned for the health and well being of the people (at the meeting) who are long time friends, former neighbors, fellow church goers and my customers.”
Information from the U.S. Department of Energy, provided by officials from Mid-American Energy says a neurologist- Dr. Steven Novella, MD- who has studied research on health effect and wind turbines, says the results are mixed.
“The evidence does not support any objective measure of negative health effects (like blood pressure), but does show an effect on subjective symptoms,” Novella said.
Subjective symptoms are defined as apparent only to the patient.
Novella also said attitudes for or against wind turbines may influence whether or not they have symptoms as well.
Officials with the American Wind Energy Association agreed with that last point saying, “increased exposure to misinformation about wind actually seems to increase the likelihood that certain individuals will report negative health effects such as headaches or nausea, although no scientific evidence shows wind turbines cause any such health effects.”
There are other studies that discuss infrasound- or sounds at such a low frequency that they can’t be picked up by the human ear, but can carry through the atmosphere- cause wind turbine syndrome. Symptoms of this syndrome can include headaches, sleep problems, ringing in the ears, mood problems like irritability or anxiety, concentration and memory problems and issues with equilibrium, dizziness and nausea.
However, the study notes that there is mixed opinion from scientists on whether turbines emit infrasound, and that those symptoms could also be caused by other ailments- one specific example is chronic sleep loss.
U.S. Department of Energy officials said global data and independent studies “concluded that sound from wind plants has no direct impact on physical human health. The sound level from wind turbines at common residential setbacks is not sufficient to cause hearing impairment or other direct adverse health effects. Low frequency sound and infrasound from upwind wind turbines are also well below the pressure sound levels and which known health effects occur.”
Energy officials also noted that while “some wind turbines may cause a shadow flicker when the blades of the turbine pass between the sun and the observer, this effect can only be seen from a distance of less than 1,400 meters from the turbine at certain seasons and times of day.”