It's understood that some people who live in close proximity to wind turbines experience sleep disturbances, headaches and concentration problems. These symptoms and others could be explained as the effects of infrasound as well as constant humming and vibrations.
But here's the catch: Many of the symptoms of wind-turbine syndrome can also be caused by chronic sleep loss -- simply and unfortunately an effect of living near a noise-producing entity [source: Ohio Department of Health]. People who live near a highway or busy street may have trouble sleeping, which can lead to other health problems like irritability, anxiety, concentration and dizziness.
To solve this sound issue, new wind-power technology employs sound-dampening systems. Engineers are hoping that these newer systems -- which can block or cancel out multiple sound frequencies -- will reduce any sound-related problems associated with wind farm communities [source: Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft].
Researchers studying wind-turbine syndrome also recommend a larger buffer zone around wind farms to protect people from any ill effects. Some people say that the distance should be least 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) [source: CleanTechnica]. Others suggest at least 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) [source: PlanetGore]. Some wind farms are currently located as close as a half mile (0.8 kilometers) from residential areas.
Whether we should be concerned with the expansion in wind power ultimately comes down to weighing the pros and cons. Is cleaner, cheaper, domestically produced energy worth the potential side effects of some people experiencing headaches? The hope is that new buffer-zone regulations and sound-canceling technologies can do away with the question entirely. If the issue persists, we'll have to decide whether wind power is important enough to pursue anyway -- much like deciding whether building a new, noisy highway that would reduce congestion and increase commerce is worth some unfortunate people losing sleep.
For more information on wind-turbine syndrome, wind power and related topics, explore the links below.
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More Great Links
- ABC Science. Brown note: bad vibration mega-hurts. May 13, 2008.http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2008/05/13/2242923.htm?site=science/greatmomentsinscience
- BWEA.Low Frequency Noise and Wind Turbines.http://www.bwea.com/ref/lowfrequencynoise.html
- CleanTechnica. Wind Turbines and… Health? August 18, 2008.http://cleantechnica.com/2008/08/18/wind-turbines-and-health/
- "Anti-noise" silences wind turbines.http://www.fraunhofer.de/EN/press/pi/2008/08/ResearchNews082008Topic3.jsp
- Gillam, Carey. Wind power gains adherents in United States. International Herald Tribune. Reuters.http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/05/19/business/wind.php
- Infrasound Lab. University of Hawaii.http://www.isla.hawaii.edu
- NewScientist Environment. Wind turbines make bat lungs explode. August 25, 2008.http://environment.newscientist.com/article/dn14593
- Ohio Department of Health. Bureau of Environment Health. Health Assessment Section. Literature search on the potential health impacts associated with wind-to-energy turbine operations.www.odh.ohio.gov/ASSETS/C43A4CD6C24B4F8493CB32D525FB7C27/Wind%20Turbine%20SUMMARY%20REPORT.pdf
- Planet Gore. Wind Turbine Syndrome. August 15, 2008.http://planetgore.nationalreview.com/post/?q=YTgxZjc4NzMyM2YxYTNjZDI5YTNlY2E0YjVhOWNmMGU=
- The Oregonian. Wind whips up health fears. August 10, 2008.http://www.oregonlive.com/news/oregonian/index.ssf?/base/news/1218250522129010.xml&coll=7&thispage=1
- WindAction.org. Wind Turbine Syndrome. March 12, 2006.http://www.windaction.org/pictures/2010