Last week we learned of the resignation of Dr. Mary Fleury from the Somerset County Planning and Zoning Commission. Her letter to the Somerset County Commissioners admonishes them that the actions of the Planning Board place the county at risk.
I agree with her completely and would like to explain why.
Industrial wind turbines create a unique health risk, and the reason is noise. The air disturbance caused by 200-foot blades creates a sound profile that is different from that produced by other fans and engines.
The learning curve about industrial wind turbine noise has evolved over the past decade. The need to understand it emerged from the discovery of a new human illness. In 2006 doctors in Europe, the United States and Australia began reporting a group of symptoms occurring in a cluster of patients in their communities. In each case, people complained of sleeplessness, unsteadiness, headache and nausea. All had one factor in common: proximity to industrial wind turbines.
Since these early reports, the medical literature has exploded with studies explaining the causes of this unusual ailment. International symposia have gathered specialists in otology, audiology, sound and neurology. The consensus is the low-frequency sound produced by turbines causes a disturbance in the inner ear.
The scientists found not all people are sickened by turbine noise. Those made sick often have a prior history of inner ear damage, motion sickness and migraine. The common culprit is the very low-frequency vibration at and below our auditory range. Sound recordings of turbines prior to about 2010 missed the intense low-frequency noise because the instruments used were not designed to detect it.
Newer recorders that use a specific "flat-weighted measure" do detect the lower frequencies and show the intensity of air disturbance in this range is as much as twice as great as that in the frequencies previously measured. Neurologists have proved the low-frequency vibrations delivered to the auditory and vestibular portions of the inner ear are transmitted through the brain stem to numerous areas in the brain and body, causing disruption in normal function.
Treatment of this illness is difficult, since this type of sound penetrates walls and since low-frequency disturbances of the inner ear cannot be masked by ear plugs or sound insulation. The highest incidence of symptoms occurs nearest to turbines, but some individuals are sickened as far as 2 miles away from 400 foot tall, 3 megawatt turbines.
Last month in Brown County, Wisconsin, the Board of Health declared the county’s industrial wind turbines as a public health hazard.
With our growing awareness of health risks, other communities are now able to guard against this danger by placing turbines farther from people than they are prompted to do by wind industry salesmen.
Unfortunately, our community planners have been enticed to place turbines as close as 1,000 feet from people. Medical science argues decisively against this, but our elected officials have thus far chosen to dismiss the risks and place in harm's way the people they represent.
Dr. Randolph George lives in Marion Station.