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Wind farm neighbors stressed, but it's not the turbines

Wind farm neighbors stressed, but it's not the turbines
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We've posted here in recent days about how new research results suggest more and more strongly that physical ailments attributed to wind turbine sound are actually caused by the "nocebo" (similar to placebo) effect, in which people feel symptoms they have been led to expect. If true, this would mean that anti-wind groups fanning concerns about turbine sound are themselves causing the maladies they profess to fear.

Unexpected confirmation of this line of reasoning comes from a recent article in the publication NiagaraThisWeek. It focuses on a researcher in Ontario who hopes to use a community where a wind farm is being planned to measure the facility's before-and-after effects on nearby residents. However, when the researcher, Prof. Bill Bigelow of the University of Waterloo, met with residents of the town of West Lincoln, they told him it was "too late"–they were already severely stressed by thoughts of what the wind farm would do.

Quoting from the article:

"'You’re not starting in the right place,' resident Debbie Hughes told Bigelow, during the public comment portion of Monday’s meeting. 'We are already affected by the turbines. Our stress is already high.'

"A dozen residents, all opposing wind turbines, shared similar messages.

"'It’s too late, two years too late,' said Helen Kzan … 'I’ve been to the doctor. They told me to move. My stress level has skyrocketed. My physician told me my stress will kill me before the wind turbines.”

According to the article, Dr. Valerie Jaeger, Niagara's Chief Medical Officer of Health, said she hopes community members will agree to participate in Prof. Bigelow's study. It seems, however, that the "sample" to be used has already been "contaminated." In fact, the whole concept of before-and-after, which is widely used in studying environmental impacts, may well be useless when it comes to nocebo–once people hear that a wind farm is planned and become exposed to the overheated rhetoric typically employed by anti-wind groups, there is no longer a "before."

West Lincoln itself actually provides a before-and-after of a different type–clearly, anti-wind advocacy that centers on health impacts is damaging to people's health, even when wind turbines are nowhere to be seen.

Useful articles on the nocebo effect:

New Yorker blog, "The Nocebo Effect: How We Worry Ourselves Sick"
Media Matters for America blog, "NPR Gives Wind Power Hypochondriacs a Platform"
Slate, "Can Wind Turbines Make You Sick?"
The Conversation, "How the power of suggestion generates wind farm symptoms"

Related articles:

New Yorker explains nocebo effect, NPR airs junk science, April 8, 2013
Science: Anti-wind groups appear to spread illnesses they complain of, March 21, 2013
Ontario resident's personal testimony: 'Anti-wind groups make me sick', March 13, 2013
GMP reports on Kingdom Community Wind sound levels, March 5, 2013
South Australia study finds infrasound from wind farms not a concern, February 4, 2013
Science proves that wind energy is safe for Wisconsin, January 9, 2013
Ontario tribunal turns down anti-wind appeal, December 26, 2012
Reason trumps fear in Australian debate on wind energy and sound, December 5, 2012
Nissenbaum paper on turbine sound recycles claims on wind energy and health already found inadequate by courts and expert panel, November 16, 2012
Negative oriented personality traits and wind turbine sound, November 2, 2012
Quality of research on wind farms published in the Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society, September 25, 2012
Wind energy associations: Wind 'one of safest forms of electricity', July 30, 2012
'Say No to Wind Turbines'–and Yes to ?, July 25, 2012
Fact check: On turbine sound, it's Bryce vs. science, July 24, 2012
Fourteen wind energy myths debunked, June 20, 2012
Wind turbines not a threat to human health, another study finds, May 31, 2012
Fact check: Lomborg lacking on wind's economics, emissions reductions, March 23, 2012
Public opinion watch: Ontarians: Wind power one of safest forms of electricity generation, March 6, 2012
Opinion: Wind turbines are good for our health, March 2, 2012
Review of wind turbine sound studies gives debate needed balance, February 28, 2012
Anti-wind-farm ‘astroturfers’ in Australia, February 27, 2012
NBC4's 'iReporter' lacks context on wind turbine sound, February 14, 2012
Fact check: Bryce misleads again on land, sound, resource use, January 31, 2012
Despite science, wind turbine sound sparks discussion in Wisconsin, January 30, 2012
Massachusetts clears wind of health effects after independent experts review evidence, January 20, 2012
Opinion: Dr. W. David Colby: Turbines and health, December 2, 2011
Canadian researchers: No direct link between wind turbines and health, November 29, 2011
Wind power: A quiet solution to climate change, June 27, 2011
Sierra Club Canada 1.1: Time to confront anti-wind fear campaign, June 15, 2011
Environmental Defence (Canada): 'No basis' for health impact claims, June 6, 2011
Sierra Club Canada: Time to confront anti-wind disinformation campaign, June 3, 2011
WINDPOWER report: New study finds minimal low-frequency and infrasound impact from wind turbines, May 25, 2011
Does the sound of money soothe Wind Turbine Syndrome?, April 25, 2011
WHO guidelines on sound are … guidelines, March 28, 2011
Scientists, doctor weigh in on wind and health, November 30, 2010
Wind turbine sound: The neighbors speak, March 18, 2010
Expert panel concludes wind turbine sounds not harmful to human health, December 15, 2009

 

 

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John M. Anderson is Senior Director of Siting Policy for the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). In this capacity Anderson is an industry leader in the area of siting policy and advocacy, and guides the industry in addressing siting issues as they relate to wildlife, sound/health impacts, property values, visual and cultural resources, aviation, and radar. He has long been involved in some of the key siting challenges facing the industry, including issues related to threatened and endangered avian and bat species. Prior to joining AWEA, Anderson was Eastern Regional Manager of Environmental Affairs for BP Wind Energy where he was the senior environmental permitting and policy advisor responsible for the development of new wind energy projects in the eastern half of the U.S. as well as management of post-construction environmental issues at BP Wind’s operating facilities across the U.S. Anderson has a B.S. in Environmental Science and Management and a minor in Environmental Law from the University of Rhode Island and has over 20 years of professional experience in the areas of environmental analysis, planning, permitting, and regulation.

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