Do wind turbines cause health problems?


Some people living near wind turbines complain of chronic sleep loss, headaches and other symptoms. See more renewing the grid pictures.
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­Wind power accounts for about 1 percent of the electricity prod­uced in the United States [source: Gillam]. Nearly 2­5,000 wind turbines crank out power throughout the country. These massive windmills -- up to 80 feet (24 meters) tall -- capture the energy in wind and convert it into free-flowing electrons that people can use to run dishwashers, air conditioning and lights.

That 1 percent may not sound like much until you realize that wind power is just catching on in the United States. Huge new wind far­ms accounting for thousands more megawatts of capacity are in development as we speak, and estimates put 20 percent of the nation's electricity coming from wind power by 2030 [source: The Oregonian]. The European Union hopes to reach that percentage even sooner -- by 2020.

­Until recently, there were three main issues regarding the possible downsides of wind power: bird and­ bat deaths, cost, and disrupting the appearance of natural landscapes. But a new objection to wind power has popped up in the past few years, resting on the research of a few scientists. The latest argument states that wind power endangers the health of people who live near windmills. Some people call this theory "wind-turbine syndrome." Although the extent of the phenomenon is unknown, there does seem to be something to it.

­Those concerned about wind-power syndrome are interested in finding out if and how wind power could be making people sick. Is everyone living near windmills facing health probl­ems? Let's take a look at the possible health risks associated with wind farms and find out whether we should be worried about the steady increase in wind-generated power throughout the world.