“Worried sick” (Wind Turbine Syndrome)


Unlike the hysteria over chemtrails or cancer-causing WiFi, we know the birthplace and time for Wind Turbine Syndrome. This syndrome refers to a variety of maladies purported to be caused by proximity to the giant twirling devices after which the sickness is named.

Technical advancements frequently cause unfounded angst about health. Microwave ovens, TV sets, and home computers were all accompanied by concern amongst  hypochondriacs and those fearful of new technology. The same was true for telephones – first landlines, then cordless, and finally cellular, all of which were going to be responsible for nonspecific yet serious conditions.

The turbine panic began when pediatrician Nina Pierpont deftly sidestepped peer review and the Scientific Method to self-publish Wind Turbine Syndrome: A Report on a Natural Experiment in 2009. Pierpont placed an advertisement seeking anyone who both lived near a wind turbine and felt sick, then interviewed the 23 persons who responded. Next, she tied it up in a nice bow of post hoc reasoning and gave her newly-discovered phenomenon a name.

There are no studies to back up Pierpont’s conclusions. Instead, 18 research reviews about wind turbines and health have concluded there is no reason to suspect they are detrimental. Also, a meta study from 2014 showed there is no association between the turbine and unpleasant symptoms.

The symptoms most cited are fatigue, headaches, anxiety, insomnia, dizziness, and irritability, all of which are experienced by those not living near wind turbines. If wind turbines did cause medical problems, one would expect to see a connection between their installation and nearby persons experiencing symptoms. This is not the case. And there is no reason to believe that symptoms have increased since the early 2000s, which is construction of turbines became commonplace.

Furthermore, China has the most wind turbines in the world and there are virtually no reported cases of the syndrome there. In fact, the syndrome is limited almost exclusively to English-speaking countries, which are the ones whose media has featured coverage of this non-event. Additionally, surveys have shown that no one who has leased their land for the turbines has reported suffering from the syndrome. The same surveys also reveal that the residences of those reporting the symptoms are no nearer wind turbines than is the general population.

There have been suggestions that the syndrome could be caused by sound pressure, but this is Tooth Fairy Science, which is when an explanation is proffered before establishing that the condition is genuine. Besides, the idea falls flat because the level of sound pressure generated by wind turbines is far too low to cause people harm. An opposite but equally mistaken claim is that exposure to sound waves below the hearing threshold may be the cause.

In truth, this syndrome is an example of the Noncebo Effect, which is when harmful symptoms result from receiving negative information about a product. For example, some medical trial volunteers who are warned of potential side effects experience those effects even though they’re being treated with a sham medication. Wind Turbine Syndrome, then, is a psychosomatic disorder generated by heightened awareness of turbines and their alleged deleterious effects. It is caused not by proximity to wind turbines, but by proximity to information about the syndrome.



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