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  • Are Wind Turbines Dangerous to Human Health?

Wind power is one of the oldest sources of energy that humans have made use of, alongside water power. It’s only recently that environmentalists have begun to see wind power as a way to supplement Ontario’s growing renewable power base. Yet lost in the conversation are those concerned of the health effects of wind power, of which little mentions is made but a glut of research has been done in investigation. And nowhere but Ontario is the outcry of wind power more prominent: is wind energy dangerous to human health?

Infrasound, Low-Frequency Noise, and You

The primary concern surrounding wind turbines is that they generate infrasound and low-frequency noise from their operation. Infrasound is classified as sound below 20 Hz in frequency, far too little for the human ear to hear. This is separate and distinct from the audible noises that wind turbines create, which can indeed be measured and heard by humans.

Infrasound has been shown through various clinical trials to have adverse health effects on humans, and have been conducted with sources other than wind turbines. Symptoms of exposure to infrasound can vary wildly depending on the individual, but typically includes: anxiety, insomnia, irritability, headaches, general fatigue. More serious conditions reported in Ontario include tinnitus, tachycardia, memory problems, and concentration problems.

Wind Turbines and Psychogenetic Conditions

Many of these are known as “symptoms of life”, conditions which we experience intermittently in minor ways, but which can be exacerbated by stress or annoyance. In this way, the health effects of wind turbines can be considered to be psychogenic, they are experienced by the mind probing the body into displaying symptoms.

That isn’t to say that infrasound is “all in your head”. These health effects can be tied greatly to a variety of causes and infrasound can have a definite negative effect on your health, regardless of where it comes from. In fact, it’s believed that infrasound may be why we believe certain places to be haunted, as they provoke a similar response to being watched or followed.

windturbines2It’s Not In Your Head, It’s All Around You

But it’s when we combine the infrasound that we don’t hear with the operating noise of a turbine that we do hear that we start to see the psychogenic stressors of wind turbines translate into real symptoms. We’re creates of habit, and having a wind farm built in close proximity to our homes can combine the environmental stress of a new setpiece in our towns with the infrasound generated by the farm to create what anti-wind activists have called ‘Wind Turbine Syndrome’.

And indeed, it goes beyond just what wind turbines are doing to us, but what we’re doing to each other. Independent studies conducted in Europe indicated that being able to see wind turbines is a factor in the prevalence of health issues, as well as whether or not the person responding had reasons to gain financially from having a wind turbine on their land.

What The Rest of the World is Doing Right, and Ontario is Doing Wrong

Perhaps even more interesting is that health reports from turbine syndrome are more prevalent among English-speaking nations, such as Canada, the US, Australia, and the UK. In nations such as Denmark and Germany, reports of health issues are much lower. However, as there is a very real basis for negative health effects, these reports cannot be discounted. They merely lend credence to the proposal that these symptoms are psychogenic in nature.

Whether or not you believe psychogenic conditions to be valid conditions is irrelevant: to the people suffering from them, they are. Just as people reported psychological problems from living in proximity to nuclear power plants, the same concern has reared its head for wind farms.

Other countries have made amends by placing wind farms a minimum of two miles (3.2km) from home, yet Ontario has a policy of limiting distance to 500 meters despite both recommendations from health experts, acoustic engineers, and wind turbine experts (ironically).

Wind Turbines Need Smarter Placement

If you’re sick, you’re sick, and it doesn’t matter what the cause it. If a psychogenic condition can be tied to a source, there’s reason to change the source to accommodate the sufferers. To make wind turbines amenable to Ontario residents, smart planning is in order. You wouldn’t want a nuclear power plant next to your home, even if there was no health risk.

Why? Because the human mind, body, and the environment can act together in some strange and sometimes frightening ways.

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