A Falmouth, Massachusetts couple has filed suit against their town to stop the use of wind turbines, one of which is 1,600 feet from their house, claiming it has caused one of them to be sick with “Wind Turbine Syndrome.” Sue Hobart and her husband Edward filed a nuisance suit for damages for the loss in value to their home and for medical bills. This is just the latest in many suits filed against cities, towns, states and wind turbine companies by individuals claiming their health has been damaged by the turbines. This doesn’t even take into consideration the lawsuits against wind turbines for reasons other than health.
What is Wind Turbine Syndrome?
The term Wind Turbine Syndrome was coined after many people who live near wind turbines suffered from various symptoms such as dizziness, headaches, ringing in the ears and insomnia. In the case of Sue Hobart she says when she leaves her house, the symptoms go away, causing her to believe the turbines are the cause of the problem. The CDC does not recognize this as an official disease at this time.
The name was first coined by John Hopkins University’s Nina Pierpont, a pediatrician who self-published a report entitled “Wind Turbine Syndrome” in 2009. This report included case studies of people living within 1.25 miles from wind turbines and who believe they had gotten sick from them. The problem with the study was there was no independent peer review of it; it was only reviewed by people Dr. Pierpont hand picked. Another potential problem with the study is Dr. Pierpont’s husband is an anti-wind activist, causing some people to question if the study was truly unbiased.
Another report published in 2009 jointly sponsored by the Canadian Wind Energy Association and American Wind Energy Association came to the opposite conclusion claiming there is no evidence that wind turbines cause any health problems. This study does say one reason people may have problems due to wind turbines is because of something called the Nocebo Effect which is getting sick because you believe something is causing adverse effects, in this case the wind turbines. They list another possible reason for the sickness as Somatoform Disorders which is “the unconscious expression of stress and anxiety as one or more physical symptoms.” Either one is basically claiming the problems are all in the person’s head. The American Psychological Association also conducted a study and came to the conclusion if people think physical problems are caused by the turbines they will have them.
Who should we believe?
This brings up what is becoming a common question with anything connected with the global warming debate, who do you believe? Wind turbines have long been touted as one solution for cutting down the amount of carbon emissions which are blamed for global warming and therefore have been fought by those who don’t believe global warming is even real. Sometimes it seems as though for every scientific study put out defending claims about the existence of global warming, there is a counter study refuting it. Is “Wind Turbine Syndrome” simply a case of this as well?
Certainly people like Sue and Ed Hobart believe it is real. As she told ABC News: “I didn’t know anything about wind turbine syndrome,” she said. “It made me abandon my house. I had everything I ever wanted and I can’t live there.”
One thing which is clear, there is no end in sight of these lawsuits. There will be no end of studies and counter studies on the health problems purportedly caused by the turbines as well as studies on the harmful effects on birds, bats and other wildlife. Whatever side of the debate one is one, one thing is sure: someone will be sure to point out why you are on the wrong one.
By: Paul Roy