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Wind turbine sickness may be all in your head: study

Wind turbines are pictured in front of the coal power plant 'Scholven of German utility giant E.ON in Gelsenkirchen March 11. (Ina Fassbender/Reuters)

They emit no pollution and require no fuel.

As gas prices and pollution levels spiral upwards, it’s understandable why supporters of wind power are trying to persuade lawmakers to invest in wind turbines.

Last fall, two studies by U.S. research groups suggested wind power has the potential to power the world's energy demands. The studies, led by professors from the Carnegie Institution for Science and Stanford University, suggest existing wind turbine technology could produce hundreds of trillions of watts of power. That's more than 10 times what the world now consumes.

Yet even as some lawmakers champion the renewable energy source New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has talked of putting wind turbines atop office towers and bridges — people who live near the turbines offer cautionary tales.

Besides changing local sceneries, some local residents complain that wind turbine farms actually have given them rapid heartbeats, nausea and blurred vision. They say the side effects have been caused by the ultra-low-frequency sound and vibrations from the turbines.

A new study out of Australia suggests that sickness and side effects may be all in the mind.

Simon Chapman, a professor of public health at Sydney University, reports 63 per cent of Australia's 49 wind farms have not been the subject of any health complaints by local residents. Some 68 per cent of 120 complaints came from those living near wind farms in an area where the anti-wind farm lobby is most vocal.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, which reported on Chapman’s study, ''wind turbine sickness'' is a ''communicated disease',” spread by the claim that something is likely to make a person sick.

Closer to home, Star columnist Tyler Hamilton reported in January that Health Canada is studying the relationship between wind turbine noise and health effects.

The investigation comes after Ontario's Ministry of the Environment is logging hundreds of health complaints over the province's 900 wind turbines. In 2011, the CBC reported the ministry had has downplayed the problem.

Rick Westhead is a foreign affairs writer at the Star. He was based in India as the Star’s South Asia bureau chief from 2008 until 2011 and reports on international aid and development. Follow him on Twitter @rwesthead




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Maybe those wind turbine haters spend so much time being angry that they become sick.

The sickness relates to watching your home value drop into the toilet.

This is just like Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity disorder. If you believe something is hurting you, you may develop symptoms. The pain these people feel is real. It's just that the cause is internal.

Stress is the cause of most, if not all illnesses.
Does that mean the sickness does not exist?
The problem may be the govt has lied to taxpayers so much we automatically believe they are lying.

You posters must be young, as we age noise and vibrations that are low in pitch affect us much worse. When you are young it's the high-pitches that make music so exciting. Furthermore if you are young half your life is spent listening to music or your friends yelling, as you age quiet becomes your surroundings and that is how you want to keep it. Then again when you are young you are also going to live forever :)

Wind turbines should be the energy of the future. US and Australia are good exemples of using thie type of power, but of Canada will hash and rehash the issue till kingdom come and still be unable to be decisive. However, I should add that location of a wind turbine farm should be located in an isolated area so as not to interfere with the lives of people by the swishing sound of the turbines blades.

well i guess people should be getting sick of being near traffic, with all the ultra low frequency generated by wind vortices of speeding cars and all...maybe we need to spend millions of taxpayer dollars on stupid studies of this nature too?

With regard to Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity Disorder I know it is real, at least for some. My wife has it. She has been developing symptoms for quite some time but they came to a head late last year when she was exposed to more sources with greater frequency. She was almost in a wheel chair due to muscle weakness. We had no idea that this could be a cause and were shocked to hear that it existed. After making changes to minimize her exposure the severity of the symptoms has decreased significantly and she continues to improve. I can't comment on anyone else or other disorders but for her it was real. She was ill from a source neither of us expected. Cut out the source and she improves. It included removing Wi-Fi from our house, building a part Faraday cage to protect her from outside fields while she sleeps and redoing a lot of the wiring in our house for starters. We both agree its a real pain in the butt but the alternative of her in a wheelchair with MS like symptoms is worse.

I figured as much since if low frequency sounds can actually make you ill why aren't people in cities where we're regularly exposed to a huge range of sound, especially those living near factories whose machinery produces a vast range of frequencies also becoming ill? I'm constantly exposed to wide range of sounds, the worst effect is that sometimes it disrupts my sleep. Perhaps staring at the turning blades all the time could cause some sort of veritgo effect.

Perhaps though there is something to stress related illness from being upset at living near windmills but that isn't the fault of the windmills.

There is solid undeniable evidence that many people get very sick and some die from airborne pollution much of which originates from fossil fuel electricity generators. Its not worth continuing to kill people and overload our ERs on smog days with fossil fuel power generators because some claim to be getting ill from wind power.

We've seen too often how extremely deadly nuclear power can be besides being stuck with extremely dangerous spent nuclear fuel for thousands of years ensuring that at some point in the distant future people will get sick and die from that as well.

I don't see wind farms reducing land value either, though admittedly I've only spent a weekend near one I thought it was quite beautiful and elegant, I didn't hear any noise from them at all. Unlike coal or gas plants which do reduce property values due to their very real pollution and for gas pants their risk of explosion. Besides which farm land is valued by its size and usefulness as a farm and not by its neighbours.

We need far more windmills everywhere, they provide electricity and save lives by reducing pollution. I've seen a mall in south Etobicoke that has windmills on the light stands in its parking lot, we need more of that sort of use of them as well.

LOL!!Turbine haters make me laugh. I just moved to a Peoria, IL and it's surrounded by Turbines. I've asked numerous people if anyone has ever heard of people getting sick.. I guess Nimbyism is an Ontario illness. Natural Gas Electrical Generators, Land Fill, Turbines.

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