The windswept Scottish highlands are increasingly becoming home to thousands of wind turbines due to government policies seeking to boost green energy production and fight global warming.
But such well-intentioned policies may be having an unintended side effect: They could be making people sick.
The Scottish Express reported Sunday that the Scottish government has commissioned a study into the “potential ill effects of turbines at 10 sites across the country.” There are more than 33,500 families living within two miles of these turbines, meaning thousands could be getting sick.
Activists warn that “infrasound” emanating from nearby wind turbines are causing people to feel sick. Infrasound is noise that is at such a low frequency, it can’t be heard but can be felt by those nearby.
Former U.K. army Capt. Andrew Vivers has been looking into the issue and was surprised that local authorities were unwilling to accept that infrasound could make people sick, even though it’s a “known military interrogation aid and weapon.”
“When white noise was disallowed they went on to infrasound,” Vivers told the Express. “If it is directed at you, you can feel your brain or your body vibrating.”
“It is bonkers that infrasound low frequency noise monitoring is not included in any environmental assessments. It should be mandatory before and after turbine erection,” Vivers added.
Vivers also noted that there has been an “acknowledged and unexplained increase of insomnia, dizziness and headaches” in the town of Dundee, which is where two wind turbines been in service since 2006.
The Scottish government study has been welcomed by communities that have complained about infrasound sickness, but anti-wind farm campaigners say it doesn’t go far enough.
“On the face of it, it does look like a step in the right direction, but can we really trust it? My issue is that it is not independent enough,” Susan Croswaithe, U.K. spokeswoman for the European Platform Against Windfarms, told the Express.
“Our website is full of examples of people not being listened to,” Croswaithe said. “We have two very large wind farms near us in Ayrshire, Arecleoch and Mark Hill – 60 turbines and 28 turbines.”
“If people in my area have noticed they are feeling better at the moment but do not understand why, it may be because the turbines have been switched off while they do maintenance on the grid,”she added.
But complaints about nearby wind turbines causing sickness have not been isolated to Scotland. U.S. residents have also complained of “wind turbine syndrome” causing headaches and nausea.
A Falmouth, Massachusetts woman was diagnosed with “wind turbine syndrome” by a Harvard Medical School doctor in 2011, after complaining about “headaches, ringing in her ears, insomnia and dizziness,” ABC News reported last year.
Sue Hobart didn’t immediately blame the three wind turbines that were installed 1,600 feet from her home in 2010, but after finding her symptoms went away when she left for vacation, it all started to fall into place.
But Hobar wasn’t the only Falmouth resident to supposedly become sick from wind turbines. Dozens of residents have filed lawsuits, arguing that three 400-foot tall wind turbines have been causing them to get sick.
Before Hobart was diagnosed with wind turbine syndrome, New Jersey state lawmakers proposed legislation outlawing the construction of wind turbines within 2,000 feet of residential-zoned land. The bill was championed by some coastal communities, but derided by environmentalists who want to see more green energy generation.
State Sen. Sean Kean introduced the bill after hundreds in his district turned out to protest a “proposed 325-foot windmill by Department of Military and Veterans Affairs at the National Guard training center in Sea Girt,” which residents said could “threaten birds, cause noise, pose health risks and decrease property values,” reports NJ.com.
So can wind turbines really make people sick? Wind turbine syndrome is not recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An expert Medical panel in Massachusetts was reported to have found “insufficient evidence that noise from wind turbines is directly… causing health problems or disease.” However, research shows that “human response to wind turbines relates to self-reported ‘annoyance,’ and this response appears to be a function of some combination of the sound itself, the sight of the turbine, and attitude towards the wind turbine project.”
Other state health departments and medical review panels have also concluded that there are no direct health impacts from wind turbines.
But complaints of sickness from wind turbines keep cropping up across the world as government policies cause wind farms to sprout up in places where they previously were not.
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