17 September 2013

"Wind turbine syndrome" - organic or psychogenic?

The question is raised in a column at Salon:
Wind-turbine syndrome is the disease you’ve never heard of, and many will tell you it doesn’t exist. The diagnosis was only first named in 2006, but it’s become more common as its suspected cause proliferates: Wind power is America’s fastest-growing energy source, and some people insist it’s making them sick...

Kristen French investigated the phenomenon for New York magazine. Plenty of people, she found, were eager to testify to an array of symptoms:
In the past decade, hundreds of people who live near wind turbines in places like Massachusetts, New York, Wisconsin, and Japan have reported that the windmills are giving them a litany of ailments. The first complaints were recorded in 2003, when a British physician wrote an unpublished report about 36 people in the U.K. who said the turbines made them sick. Then, in 2004, a physician in Victoria, Australia, distributed questionnaires to 25 people living near local turbines, and three of them wrote back about severe stress, insomnia, and dizziness. Even some Scottish Buddhist monks have complained of symptoms, including dry retching and crying. Last summer, Tharpaland International Retreat Centre sold its land to Scottish Power after its monks found they were approximately 70 percent less able to meditate. 
The term “wind-turbine syndrome” was coined by a pediatrician who also happens to be married to an anti-wind activist, but French talked to pro-wind sufferers who claim to be suffering as well. Those affected, she writes, say they have sound reason to believe that turbines are the source of their troubles. “It’s caused by sound waves released when the giant turbine blades collide with the wind—not just the audible whooshing noise, but the rumbling vibrations created by a low-­frequency sound, or infrasound,” she explains.
But most sciences and doctors, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, either won’t acknowledge it or flat-out don’t believe it exists.
To be precise in the terminology, the syndrome does exist.  A syndrome is just a collection of symptoms, without an implication as to whether the symptoms reflect an organic disease.  The question is whether the syndnrome is caused by sound/infrasound, or by anxiety.

More at the Salon link.


  1. Terrible article. Not only does it make it sound as if medical scientists arbitrarily acknowledge the existence of diseases or not, depending on personal bias, but it also insinuates that being vulnerable to psychogenic effects is tantamount to being "crazy". It isn't, and people need to know that it isn't.

  2. Infrasound below about 20 Hz is not heard, it is felt in the body. All of the electrical brain waves lie within this frequency range. The theta wave (at 6-8 Hz) is associated with a range of 'emotional' content from creativity to anxiety. During the silent movie era, some pipe organs were built with sub-audible low frequency pipes.These were specifically used to set the emotions on edge (a gut feeling?) during dramatic moments. Wind turbines may be a new generator of these frequencies but the effect is not new or unknown.
    A web search for 'binaural theta waves' will retrieve YouTube videos that generate binaural beat theta waves


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