H Sterling Burnett

H. Sterling Burnett

Wind farms are a “human health hazard,” or so concludes Wisconsin’s Brown County Health Board with regard to the Shirley Wind Project, owned by Duke Energy.

The board’s action has put Duke Energy on the defensive; the power company now needs to prove its turbines are not making people sick or face a shutdown order. This should also serve as a shot across the bow of other wind-power operators – a warning to take health complaints seriously – because other towns and counties across the nation could follow the Health Board’s example.

The board acted with cause. Its decision was based on a year-long study documenting infrasound in homes within a 6-mile radius of the Shirley Wind turbines. In addition, the board examined peer-reviewed medical research and the complaints of people living around Duke Energy’s Shirley Wind Project, which included dozens of sworn affidavits attesting to chronic health problems they have suffered since the turbines began operation in 2010.

In repeated doctor visits, residents near the wind turbines reported experiencing unexplained chronic pain, inability to sleep, ear and head pressure, anxiety and depression while at their homes – symptoms that disappear after a time away from the turbines. It’s become so bad some families living close to the wind farm have actually left their homes and are renting elsewhere while still paying their mortgages.

After examining all the evidence, the board declared “the Industrial Wind Turbines in the Town of Glenmore, Brown County, Wisconsin, (are) a Human Health Hazard for all who are exposed to Infrasound/Low Frequency Noise and other emissions potentially harmful to human health.”

I have written extensively debunking various phantom health scares hyped by environmental lobbyists. From fears that chemicals in everyday use are causing unusual rates of cancer to unfounded assertions that biotech foods will cause unspecified catastrophic harms to human health or the environment, I’ve refuted them all.

However, there are big differences between the faux scares noted above and the claims wind farms might be making people sick. First, biotech foods and medicines, as well as most chemicals in everyday use, have gone through extensive testing, and the evidence shows they are safe. With “wind turbine syndrome,” research is just beginning, and, as the board pointed out, studies have found evidence linking wind farms and health problems.

Second, genetically modified foods and medicines and modern synthetic chemicals provide myriad benefits other products can’t match, whereas wind power requires huge subsidies, is still inordinately expensive and is unreliable, and the public has numerous better options for electric power.

Third, the government does not require consumers to purchase or use any genetically modified products or synthetic chemicals about which any particular customer might have concerns. Thus, with a little research and studious shopping, one can avoid any product containing those foods or chemicals. That is not true for wind power. Many states, including Wisconsin, mandate the use of wind farms and subsidize them; ratepayers are captive purchasers. Worse, many states, such as Wisconsin, preempt localities’ authority to set conditions for turbine siting. Residents who don’t want turbines near their homes, who might indeed be made sick by their operations, must live with the problems or move. If the health complaints prove true, the state government has put those people at risk.

At this point, we don’t know whether wind farms pose substantial health risks to those residing near them, but evidence is mounting they might, and now a public health authority has said they do.

Why are major media outlets silent on the possible link between wind power and chronic health problems? I can’t imagine this kind of silence would exist if coal-fired power plants or oil terminals were linked to chronic health concerns.

Certainly, based on the current research and the numerous public complaints from California to New York, and internationally from Australia, Japan and the United Kingdom, one might think a good investigative journalist would consider wind-turbine syndrome worth investigating, if only to try to disprove it.

Consider the challenge laid down.

H. Sterling Burnett – hburnett@heartland.org – is a research fellow with The Heartland Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research institute in Chicago.