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    Not Just Fracking - Wind Power Causes Made-Up Health Problems Too
    By Hank Campbell | November 10th 2012 10:19 AM | 17 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Hank

    I'm the founder of Science 2.0® and co-author of "Science Left Behind".

    A wise man once said Darwin had the greatest idea anyone...

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    Sometimes when things catch the attention of the kookier segments of the public, they really take off. Fracking is a good example.  Though it's been around since the 1940s, once it got really popular people started inventing fake illnesses to get into the mainstream media Scare Journalism of the Week pieces.

    But natural gas isn't the only cleaner energy activists have found a reason to hate: Solar power is blocked by lawsuits, hydropower damages the ecosystem and wind power kills birds, as Alex Berezow and I detail in Science Left Behind.

    But fracking gets its own special attention - it supposedly causes cancer, headaches, earthquakes, it might even cause the earth to deflate.  If there is a crackpot claim someone might believe, someone in the environmental fringe has used it about fracking.

    But a month before the presidential election, when both candidates were competing for votes in Iowa but couldn't endorse ethanol any more because, well, it sucks, both candidates who had said wind power was a dumb idea suddenly decided it was good.   It is no secret that wind power, beneficiary of a $72 billion corporate welfare plan for green pet projects, is in trouble because those subsidies are set to expire. Governor Romney figured he could make the state's voters wobble for his opponent by embracing it. 2012 was the year the American public voted solely on who promised the most for their special interest so it was a reasonable strategy but it failed when President Obama agreed that wind power was suddenly good again.

    However, once they both said wind power might be good, environmentalists got alarmed - if people like an energy source it must be bad - and so the dangers of wind power started getting attention in the US, just like they have in Canada.

    It's a long-standing joke that if you want to clear out goofy people in (pseudo)science, invent some silly, cosmic or outrageous theory/study and get it into a newspaper.  A few months later, when articles in journals begin to affirm or replicate whatever you made up, you can just throw those people out of that field. Conveniently, the journal Noise&Health is willing to take papers with anecdotes as evidence and so we now have claims that wind power causes depression.

    The study compared two groups of people living in Maine, and found those living near wind turbines had trouble sleeping and more mental health 'concerns' than people living further away. The  co-author of the report is Jeff Aramini,who just happens to be a director for the Society for Wind Vigilance, which is basically to wind tubines what Union of Concerned Scientists is to everything else - alarmists making money by scaring people using 'it has not been proven safe' fallacies.

    "Roughly half of the individuals were categorized as being at risk for clinical depression — so, half of those close — compared to only seven per cent of people living further than three kilometres," Aramini told CBC news.


    Now, I think wind power is useless.  There is a reason smart people in the 14th century stopped using it but I also get why a government with $72,000,000,000 to spend in a short amount of time would need to throw money at as many crazy notions as possible.  I certainly don't want a giant wind turbine in my backyard.  NIMBYism - Not In My Back Yard ism - is a common enough disease. 

    Wind Turbine Syndrome (WTS) is brand new, though.  It's a whole blanket of stuff.  Are you irritable, can't sleep, get headaches, can't concentrate?  You probably have WTS.  Especially if you previously had NIMBYism about giant wind farms down the road.

    Everyone has heard of the placebo effect, where a sugar pill or something harmless has a positive medical effect, but less well known is the nocebo effect - people who believe they get a disease or ailment from something harmless.  If you are a devoted fan of alternative medicine charlatan Joe Mercola, for example, the nocebo effect causes you to recoil and pretend you are poisoned if you are told the product you are eating has high fructose corn syrup made with genetically modified corn - even if the food itself is organic. 

    It most surely accounts for depression from wind farms. I mean, the waveforms from a wind farm are actually shaped a lot like the dreadful noise you get from waves crashing on the beach.  And we all know how stressful waves crashing on the beach sound.

    Can noise be bad for you?  Obviously.  The people at Treehugger who hate cats have embraced CFL bulbs without ever considering that the high-frequency ballasts can only be heard by your pets and it could be making them crazy.  But rural neighborhoods are simply against big government using their homes for green energy pet projects too - you can bet the Kennedy's don't have wind vanes off the coast where they float their yachts, despite it being a perfect location that doesn't impact poor people in the country at all.

    So the malady they are suffering is likely a nocebo caused by NIMBYism - and they're not wrong. If energy is a problem we all have to face, it shouldn't be rural people forced to sacrifice.

    Citation: Michael A Nissenbaum, Jeffery J Aramini, Christopher D Hanning, 'Effects of industrial wind turbine noise on sleep and health', Noise&Health 2012;14:237-43 (free to read)

    Comments

    This articles premise is totally bonkers, and is typical of some one sitting at their desk a safe 1000 miles from any frack site. Anyone in the area can tell you what the problems are, if they are willing to talk about it.

    Hank
     if they are willing to talk about it.
    Why wouldn't they be willing to talk about it, if fracking is setting their tap water on fire or their houses collapsed or whatever?
    For someone outside the area, that is a good question. I think to answer that you have to realize the condition of the majority of these people. Also I think it is important to realize that only a small subset have the problem of ignitable water. To reply to this I will only address the problems that "they might not be willing to talk about".

    Most of these people are "money" poor, it has nothing to do with intelligence or willingness to work, it is the simple facts that while cities are economic engines, open air country is not. Many go there not to work, but rather to retire to clean air and water, and it is truly a beautiful area. There are people who do live in the area to raise families, but most are remnants from the Dairy industry. The DePues are a good example of that, people, like most in the Dairy industry not able to make ends meet and use to using all resources available to live by (and I am not saying there is anything NOT noble about that).

    .But while that might be cash poor, they would be considered either land rich or middle class. The land functions as their bank, it is their main asset that will allow them to move in the future.

    Many want the industry there, after all, not all get affected, it's a crapes shoot, and they feel lucky.

    Ok, so imagine this, a compressor station is placed near your home, maybe a mile or less away. It is kind of like living next to a factory, when the wind blows the right way, it smells. So all your assets are tied up in the land, and a retirement or vacation area is the highest attainable asset value for your land, there is no alternate purpose for the land, you might not know, but Dairy here is dead, it is few and far between that a son wants to take the business from his father (and that in it's self says alot). So who wants to be the Holy Martyr and virtually destroy their own (and for most their only true savings) bank account by saying (in tears) they can't stand living here anymore because of the fumes? I think others just take the old adage attitude of "why not just get rid of the messenger?".

    After all, if YOU don't know, obviously it's working.

    Hank
    I might be inclined to agree about people not wanting their property values to go down except the money in lawsuits they get from energy companies would be far more.
    hmmm -- Can you provide a single case in the US where a family harmed by turbines being sited nearby (including property value diminution) raked in the big bucks you suggest? Where families were made whole and able to leave their property and begin life anew? I've been involved with the policy issues driving wind energy development and siting since 2004 and I can't think of one case. But I can list many people who have been damaged and who have no economic means to move elsewhere shy of abandoning their homes. It's odd that you would be so quick to dismiss this issue.

    Hank
    He was talking about fracking, not wind.  Or at least I thought that is what it seemed to me.
    You are talking about people who want to retire, get in the mind set, you are 70 or 80, you want to get calls from your grand children, you want to drink tea out on the porch, money means very little too you. And you have the "craps shooters" yelling at you and the EID ( paid ), you have to be there.

    Do you think these people have money for one hour of a lawyer? What use is money for them?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E0IVHa2IASE
    I think you have a childs view of the world, that the system works. Integrate this into your thought patterns ... if you are 70 or 80 you just want the system to work with out you getting ..... forget it, I don't think you understand the work and time involved in a lawsuit. GO ahead, Poopoo me, but it does not make a Scientific point, at this point your back to your 1000 miles away, not involved, ivory tower dictates of the truth.

    I encourage you to read Dr. Nissenbaum's paper. Your piece reads like the latest Colbert Report. Is that where you get your news? To be clear, Nissenbaum's work does NOT make a statement about wind turbine syndrome. His position is quite simple: "This is about sleep and mental health, and it's real." (South Coast Today).

    Hank
    Is wind power safe in any way?
    I guess its easy to sit at your notebook and type these words, "it supposedly causes cancer, headaches, earthquakes, it might even cause the earth to deflate. If there is a crackpot claim someone might believe, someone in the environmental fringe has used it about fracking."

    And another thing altogether to live it. My sister has an apartment in a town in PA that has a gas compressor station, and lots of gas wells in the area. She can't get the windows open because they are all gunked up with greasy oily goo. I can only imagine what that does to one's lungs. So darn clean, you can smell it. She can look out the window and think it might be a nice day to take a walk. She goes outside, and the smell is so overwhelming, she changes her mind. Yeah, she's a crackpot, and smoking won't kill you, either. This is an industry that is only able to operate due to the Haliburton Loophole. It is easy to "say" its fine and dandy, but maybe Mr. Campbell would like to go live in a frack zone for a year and get back to us. I know people who used to be able to use their water...before fracking came to town. The massive amounts of waste from this industry is very toxic, and radioactive. But who cares, it burns clean!

    I live near wind turbines and oil wells. I oppose wind turbines, but do not include noise or decreased property values as reasons to not install them. There is NO scientific way to study the effects of noise from turbines. As soon as one hears the sound and is annoyed by it, the psychological reaction sets in. You cannot ever have a control group. You only have people angry that wind turbines are too close to their house. It's like railroad tracks--some people like them, some don't. Vibration might be a problem and can be tested. But not noise. As for fracking, hysterics abound. I have crappy water due to an earthquake cracking my well casing. Sand and dust blow everywhere, but fracking has nothing to do with it. The mindset of many people is to explain phenomena with the thing they despise the most--fracking, industrial plants, whatever. They refuse to accept that wells can contain arsenic naturally. That living near oil can contaminate wells with no drilling anywhere nearby. Nature is not lovable and harmless. Lastly, if I believed that where I lived was so toxic as to be killing me, I would leave. If I lose all my money and house, I'm still breathing. That's my top priority and everything else is expendable.

    I didn't have the "nocebo" in mind, but I thought along those same lines; the NIMBYs on the coast might be depressed even if there was no biological reason to be so beyond not liking the wind farms. A broader study that including people's thoughts about the wind farms might point out the nocebo effect.

    This site constantly amazes & angers me. There seems to be an inordinate confirmation bias that only looks at data or opinion that confirms the site's position. Fracking,GMOs, wind power,et.al., the evidence is abundant yet discounted herein. I 'm going to stick with more scientific data & sites.
    Adios,I'm unsubbing.

    Hank
    the evidence is abundant yet discounted herein
    The evidence is not discounted unless it is not evidence.  Surveying people annoyed about having a wind farm nearby is not science, nor is anecdotal evidence from a person who claims they can taste GMOs.  Is there any science issue decried by a certain demographic commonality that you disagree with?  Or are you predictably anti-nuclear, anti-food, anti-energy, anti-everything-in-science, as you seem to be?
    "The evidence is not discounted unless it is not evidence. Surveying people annoyed about having a wind farm nearby is not science, nor is anecdotal evidence from a person who claims they can taste GMOs. Is there any science issue decried by a certain demographic commonality that you disagree with? Or are you predictably anti-nuclear, anti-food, anti-energy, anti-everything-in-science, as you seem to be?"

    You just confirmed my points. And even more so below!

    "Or are you predictably anti-nuclear, anti-food, anti-energy, anti-everything-in-science, as you seem to be?"

    Best,

    M

    Power to the people!
    We don't need no science to tell us what we already intuitively know. I'm sure Monanto funds this site.

    Time for a drum circle.

    Hank
    hee hee - If even one company among all of the companies the anti-science 'black helicopters are overhead' contingent claim funds this site actually did fund this site, we would be rolling in money.  

    Oddly, the only non-multi-billion-dollar-conglomerate science media site is accused of being shills while the actual corporate conglomerate media sites that do take money from giant corporations are respected; they are told which topics to avoid, like calling out anti-science environmentalists that buy advertising.