Wind turbines: Claims of adverse health effects unfounded

As she presents her opinions in the May 2 issue of the Sun Journal, I am sure Dr. Monique Aniel is concerned, and sincere. Sadly, however, she is also far off on the wrong track and, as a physician, I must admit I would expect much more from her.

Her opening sentence raises the hope that she will be addressing the real, overriding issue of climate change and its effects. Most unfortunately, however, she immediately verges off into inaccurate and unfounded criticism of Dora Ann Mills M.D., director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, alleging that Dr. Mills' statements “are not based on peer-reviewed studies, but are merely opinions without concrete substantiation.”

Au contraire. Again, as a physician, and one with interest in wind, I would have expected Dr. Aniel to be familiar with “Wind Turbine Sound and Health Effects — An Expert Panel Review,” which is a major peer review by experts from the U.S. and Britain. That it was prepared for the American and Canadian Wind Energy Associations does not alter the value of the myriad papers it covers.

Renewable Energy of Vermont, in a February 2010 webinar, supported wind power and did not note any health effects from turbines.

In June 2008 in “The Health Impact of Wind Turbines — A Review of the Current White, Grey, and Published Literature,” the Chatham-Kent Public Health Unit in Ontario, Canada, found no credible support for adverse health effects of wind turbines.

The Wisconsin Public Service Commission, Oct. 20, 2009, received a review by Exponent, the “Evaluation of the Scientific Literature on the Health Effects Associated with Wind Turbines and Low Frequency Sound.” The conclusion was negative in regard to any credible support of adverse health effects from wind turbines.

It was suggested that Dr. Mills talk to the “real people” of Mars Hill and Vinalhaven and, in fact, I have done that. Although there are a few — some 20 or so at Mars Hill and fewer than that on Vinalhaven — who find the noise troubling, the general sense is of approval and acceptance.

Dr. Aniel might also benefit from reading “Climate Change: The Public Health Response,” in the March 2008 American Journal of Public Health, where all physicians are called upon to educate the public regarding the effects of climate change, and ways in which we can, to some degree, prepare for them. Becoming familiar with the work of Dr. Paul Mayeski at the University of Maine regarding climate change would be helpful as well.

Although climate change has been part of the world's history “forever,” there is no longer any doubt that human activity has produced a major acceleration in the rate, as Dr Mayeski's ice core research demonstrates. As well, this was clearly documented in October 2009 in a report by the Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, “Climate Change in the Casco Bay Watershed” — required reading for all of us.

In 2004, two professors at Princeton University, Drs. Stephen Pacala and Robert Socolow, wrote of “stabilization wedges,” such as conservation, solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, biomass, nuclear and whatever else might come along as an alternate energy source. None of these alone would be sufficient, and even all together will not stop the progress of climate change, but with conservation as a very solid base, there is reasonable hope that climate change can be slowed in order to give us more time to adapt.

As I consider the opposition to wind, I wonder how much selfishness is involved. Change is often difficult — we like familiarity, the “way things were.” We want the mountains, the sea, the birds, bats and trees to stay the same. Which is natural and would be OK, except for the inexorable and inevitable changes nature is bringing.

So are we selfishly holding on for now, ignoring the fact that if we do not react strongly and immediately, they will not be there for our children and grandchildren? Will we blindly accept what nature forces upon us, or will we do what we can to modify and mitigate the changes that are coming?

Richard K Jennings, M.D., lives in Fayette.

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 's picture

Interest in Wind?

Dr Jennings,

Just what IS your interest in wind that you express? Is it monetary? It sure sounds like it.

William Downes's picture

Garbage In Garbage Out

After review of all the papers recommended, I couldn't find a single clinical study of people with medical complaints or conditions. All the papers, many which referernce each other, address the "theoretical" reasons why wind turbines should not cause the physical ailments claimed by local residents. But nobody studied the ill-patients. It appears that people adversely affected by wind turbine noise will have to start dropping dead before the medical community begins to take an active interest. Legionaires disease didn't exist until the hotel residents in Atlanta died. My sympathies are with the wind farm neighbors. RIP.

 's picture

The Proof is in the People

Dr. Jennings, I don't know what your motivation is in writing this article, but I wonder... do you listen to your patients when they explain their symptoms to you?  If you can not immediately find a cause for their pain or discomfort, do you dismiss their claims that something is wrong?

Dr. Jennings, have you interviewed people living in the shadow of Big Wind?

I have spoken with our fellow Mainers in Mars Hill, Vinal Haven and Freedom.  I believe them when they tell me how these massive machines affect them.  The low and ultra low frequency pulsing and the jet whine of the nacelles are more than just an irritating sound, to them.  It is an invasive and unceasing presence in their body... one that causes sleeplessness, dischord, anxiety... and many other symptoms.

I cannot casually dismiss such testimony.  And I am thankful that there are people like Monique Aniel who do care enough to put themselves and their reputations on the line in order to affect change.  Please take the time to listen... really LISTEN.. to our neighbors who are suffering.  Remember your oath.  You are sworn to it for a reason.

 's picture

Dr. Jennings is the one who is wrong

Dr. Jennings, if you are a physician, resign and turn in your license to practice now.  By saying that the folks on Mountain Rd and East Ridge Road in Mars Hill are expendable, you violate the pledge of first, do no harm!  These are real people, with real ailments attributable to First Wind's turbines, documented by Dr. Nissenbaum.  You swipe them away like they are bothersome blackflies because they are, here in Maine, real human beings affected by wind turbine dbC scale low frequency infrasound.  This is real.  If this were inside a factory, OSHA would shut them down immediately.  These folks and the people in Freedom and Vinalhaven are Maine's representatives of every wind development built too close to where people live.  All around the world, docter.

I'm just afraid that you deny this health problem, doctor, because you have this greater quest for saving the planet.  Further in your diatribe you also infer that those of us who are spiritually connected to our beautiful state are selfish.  Damn right I am one very selfish NIMBY.  Because I understand the public policy, the science, and the economics involved in propping up an industry that wouldn't exist without heavy subsidies, I find it a despicable waste of TAX money that does nothing to address your global climatr concerns.  I do know it will destroy a beautiful spot where I spent the day in Lincoln Lakes in the heart of the northeastern Maine uplands.  I know the majestic mountains of western Maine will be blasted away, ruining any chance of having increased tourism in inland Maine.  I know that these projects clearcut thousands of acres of carbon sequestering forest.  I know a scam when I see it and industrial wind in Maine is it!

 's picture

Climate change is a hoax

Typical pro wind piece touting wind power as but one way to save the world from a hoax and dismissing the legitimate claims of people having to live near these loud inefficient machines. Condoning the slaughter of birds, bats and destruction of wildlife and human habitat as necessary to save the world from the imagined effects of climate change. It makes no sense to destroy our environment in order to save it from a dubious fate.

Citing bogus studies from AWEA and CWEA that brush off noise complaints simply ignores the facts that there are complaints from people all over the world that live near turbines. There would be more complaints if wind developers weren't getting people to sign non-disclosure, non-disparagment agreements (gag orders) that stifle complaints.

Sorry Mr. Jennings but there is lot's of doubt about climate change. The data used for the ice core samples you cite and the infamous hockey stick curve have been shown to be doctored and have been discredited.

Are you really a doctor?




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