Sleep Disturbance and Wind Turbines

 

“Sleep is an essential part of healthy life and is recognized as a fundamental right under the European Convention on Human Rights (European Court of Human Rights, 2003).”[1]

 

 

“Some people with wind turbines located close to their homes have reported a variety of clinical symptoms that in rare cases are severe enough to force them to move away. These symptoms include sleep disturbance…” [2]

 

The American Wind Energy Association and Canadian Wind Energy Association sponsored literature review entitled “Wind Turbine Sound and Health Effects” acknowledges wind turbine noise, including low frequency noise, may cause annoyance, stress and sleep disturbance and as a result people may experience adverse physiological and psychological symptoms. [3]

 

Wind turbine induced sleep disturbance is consistently reported by those experiencing adverse health effects from exposure to wind turbines. [4], [5], [6], [7]  

  

“The recent analyses of the WINDFARMPerception and earlier Swedish studies by Pedersen and her colleagues gives, for the first time, robust evidence that wind turbines cause sleep disturbance and impair health and that this occurs at set-back distances previously regarded as adequate…Unfortunately all government and industry sponsored research in this area has used reported awakenings from sleep as an index of the effects of turbine noise and dismisses the subjective symptoms. Because most of the sleep disturbance is not recalled, this approach seriously underestimates the effects of wind turbine noise on sleep.” [8]

 

“Harry (2007) … subsequently investigated 42 people in various locations in the U.K. living between 300 meters and 2 kilometers (1000 feet to 1.2 miles) from the nearest wind turbine. The most frequent complaint (39 of 42 people) was that their quality of life was affected. Headaches were reported by 27 people and sleep disturbance by 28 people. Some people complained of palpitations, migraines, tinnitus, anxiety and depression….Pierpont does report that her study subjects maintain that their problems are caused by noise and vibration, and the most common symptoms reported are sleep disturbances and headache.” [9]

 

“In Ontario “WindVOiCe recently published the updated results of a self-reporting survey of communities affected by wind turbine noise. As of March 2010, 141 responses had been received of which 115 reported one or more health effects. 83 of the 115 (72%) reported sleep disturbance.” [10]

 

Describing the preliminary results of his controlled study Dr Michael Nissenbaum states:

 

“In my investigation of Mars Hill, Maine, 22 out of about 30 adults

(‘exposed’) who live within 3500 feet of a ridgeline arrangement of 28 1.5 MW wind turbines were evaluated to date, and compared with 27 people of otherwise similar age and occupation living about 3 miles away (Not Exposed).

 

Here is what was found:

82% (18/22) of exposed subjects reported new or worsened chronic sleep deprivation, versus 4% (1 person) in the non-exposed group. 41% of exposed people reported new chronic headaches vs 4% in the control group.

 

59% (13/22) of the exposed reported ‘stress’ versus none in the control group, and 77% (17/22) persistent anger versus none in the people living 3 miles away. More than a third of the study subjects had new or worsened depression, with none in the control group. 95% (21/22) of the exposed subjects perceived reduced quality of life, versus 0% in the control group.

 

Underlining these findings, there were 26 new prescription medications offered to the exposed subjects, of which 15 were accepted, compared to 4 new or increased prescriptions in the control group. The prescriptions ranged from anti-hypertensives and antidepressants to anti migraine medications among the exposed. The new medications for the non exposed group were anti-hypertensives and anti-arthritics.

 

The Mars Hill study will soon be completed and is being prepared for publication.” [11]

 

“The sound level associated with wind turbines at common residential setbacks …may lead to annoyance and sleep disturbance.” [12] and evidence demonstrates “Annoyance and sleep disruption are common when sound levels are 30 to 45 dBA.” [13]

 

Sleep disturbance is acknowledged to be an adverse health effect. [14], [15]

 

The consequences of sleep disturbance can be serious.

 

In 2009 World Health Organization released a 184 page peer reviewed summary of research regarding the risks to human health from noise induced sleep disturbance. Some of the adverse health effect documented in the report include poor performance at work, fatigue, memory difficulties, concentration problems, motor vehicle accidents, mood disorders (depression, anxiety), alcohol and other substance abuse, cardiovascular, respiratory, renal, gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal disorders, obesity, impaired immune system function and a reported increased risk of mortality. [16]

 

A 2009 court decision mandated that a wind turbine facility in France shut down operations at night in order to prevent the sleep disturbance that the local population had been enduring.[17]

 

Conclusions

 

Based on the best available science the following conclusions can be made

 

·   Wind turbine noise, including low frequency noise, may cause annoyance, stress and sleep disturbance.

 

·    Wind turbine induced sleep disturbance occurs at common residential setbacks and when sound levels are higher than 30 dBA.

 

·    The consequences of sleep disturbance can be serious. Acknowledged symptoms include poor performance at work, fatigue, memory difficulties, concentration problems, motor vehicle accidents, mood disorders (depression, anxiety), alcohol and other substance abuse, cardiovascular, respiratory, renal, gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal disorders, obesity, impaired immune system function and a reported increased risk of mortality.

 



[1] World Health Organization, Night Noise Guidelines for Europe, 2009, http://www.euro.who.int/InformationSources/Publications/Catalogue/20090904_12

[2] Salt, A.N., Hullar, T.E., Responses of the ear to low frequency sounds, infrasound and wind turbines, Hearing Research (2010), doi:10.1016/j.heares.2010.06.007

[3] W. David Colby, M.D et al., Wind Turbine Sound and Health Effects, An Expert Panel Review 2009, Prepared for American Wind Energy Association and Canadian Wind Energy Association

[4] Pierpont, N., 2009. Wind turbine syndrome. K-selected books.

[5] Harry, A., 2007. Wind turbines, noise and health. www.windturbinenoisehealthhumanrights.com/wtnoise_health_2007_a_barry.pdf

[6] Dr Michael Nissenbaum, Wind Turbines, Health, Ridgelines, and Valleys, Montpelier, VT, May 7 2010 http://www.windvigilance.com/news/preliminary-findings---controlled-study-mars-hill

[7] Wind Vigilance for Ontario Communities (WindVOiCe©) http://www.windvigilance.com/windvoice_home

[9] Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) 2009 Public Health Impacts of Wind Turbines

[11] Dr Michael Nissenbaum, Wind Turbines, Health, Ridgelines, and Valleys, Montpelier, VT, May 7 2010 http://www.windvigilance.com/news/preliminary-findings---controlled-study-mars-hill

[12] Rideout K, Copes R, Bos C. Wind turbines and health. Vancouver: National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health; 2010 Jan [cited 2010 June 3]. Available from: http://www.ncceh.ca/files/Wind_Turbines_January_2010.pdf

[13] Rideout K, Copes R, Bos C. Wind turbines and health. Vancouver: National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health; 2010 Jan [cited 2010 June 3]. Available from: http://www.ncceh.ca/files/Wind_Turbines_January_2010.pdf

[14] World Health Organization, Guidelines for Community Noise,1999

[15] World Health Organization, Night Noise Guidelines for Europe, 2009

[16] World Health Organization, Night Noise Guidelines for Europe, 2009