Jan. 17, 2012
BOSTON — A panel of experts appointed by the Massachusetts departments of public health and environmental protection has issued a report saying that wind turbines do not pose serious health risks for nearby residents. But opponents claim the report is biased.
Some residents living near wind farms have complained of symptoms such as headaches, vertigo, insomnia and nausea. There's also been a lot written on what's called "wind turbine syndrome." However, the scientific community has not come down firmly on either side.
Now, a seven-member panel of experts appointed by the administration of Governor Deval Patrick has reviewed the existing scientific literature and concluded there is no link between wind turbines and adverse health impacts. It found no scientific evidence that low-frequency sound from wind turbines affects the inner ear system and balance. The panel also said there is no direct causal link between the turbines and health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure or migraine headaches.
The Patrick administration has a stated goal of dramatically expanding wind energy generation in the state, leading to some skepticism about the report. Falmouth resident Neil Andersen said in a WGBH special report that a nearby turbine had catastrophic effects on his health. He believed the new report was biased:
"This is kind of what we anticipated. It's just so — it's just so unfortunate, that again it's just politically motivated," he said.
But Ken Kimmel, the state commissioner of environmental protection, said the review was conducted by respected scientists and doctors with no political agenda, from places like Harvard, Boston University and UMass Amherst.
"This was a truly independent panel. We selected people, and before we selected them we ensured that they didn't have any preconceived view about wind turbines in general and we also made sure they were not connected either to the wind industry or opponents of wind energy," he said.
Oregon's public health division released a similar draft report last week. That report found some evidence that noise from wind turbine blades may cause health problems in nearby residents. The Massachusetts panel did say it's possible, though not proven, that wind turbines could cause sleep disruption. It called for further study on this point.
THE FALMOUTH EXPERIENCE: A WGBH SPECIAL REPORT