An Oregon man has filed a $5 million lawsuit against the operator of a 50-turbine wind farm, claiming that low frequency noise from spinning turbine blades has caused a variety of health problems.
The Associated Press reported that Dan Williams filed his complaint on Aug. 9, about a year after he left his home near Ione, Oregon, where Invenergy had built its Willow Creek wind farm, and moved to Walterville, Oregon.
“It’s hard to explain it to people unless you experience it,” Williams told the AP. “There’s the actual noise that wakes you, but there’s also the infrasound you can’t hear but your body feels. The best I can describe it is like a train or an airplane coming and going.”
Invenergy began work on the project five years ago and has been fighting noise complaints ever since. The company took steps to reduce noise levels at Williams’ property, but Williams says he has suffered from a long list of health woes, including “emotional distress, deteriorating physical and emotional health, dizziness, inability to sleep, drowsiness, fatigue, headaches, difficulty thinking, irritation and lethargy.”
Science community has been skeptical
Complaints that wind turbines can cause a variety of health problems are by no means new, but mostly unrecognized by medical and health authorities.
As reported by National Public Radio, a pediatrician and biologist in upstate New York who has collected anecdotal evidence about the problem believes that low frequency noise is the culprit. Dr. Nina Pierpont says “wind turbine syndrome” can produce a variety of problems.
The World Health Organization doesn’t recognize wind turbine syndrome, NPR reported, “nor does any other medical institution.”
Yet a recent study in the United Kingdom, published in the Journal of Laryngology & Otology showed that infrasound could affect the human ear. One of the authors of the review article said his views had changed. “The more you look into it the more you realize there’s some science behind this,” Dr. Amir Farboud told NPR.
Farboud, however, adds that there’s no conclusive evidence that infrasound causes any specific health problems.
The power of suggestion
Yet another theory emerged in a Slate report on the topic, which was published in March.
In it, writer Keith Kloor cites a study in which researchers show the power of suggestion can trigger symptoms attributed to wind turbine syndrome. In a test, researchers found that people who were shown television footage discussing the ill effects of wind turbines were more anxious when exposed to either real infrasound or sham infrasound (silence).
In other words, once the idea that turbines did cause health problems had been planted, the test subjects were primed to experience them. Researchers call this the “nocebo effect.”