Researches say that sound from wind turbines poses no physical harm to people and most reported symptoms are from a nocebo effect, which is a predisposed belief that there is something affecting you when it is not. 

REGIONAL—Noise created by wind turbines do not cause health effects according to a recently released scientific report “Wind Turbines and Health,” written by members of the Iowa Environmental Council and the University of Iowa.

Iowa Environmental Council energy program director Kerri Johannsen said with the speed at which wind energy is growing in Iowa people were expressing concern about possible negative health impacts.

Since she has a concern for public health, she wanted to look at the science behind those concerns.

“Clean energy is an important resource for Iowa,” Johannsen said. “We have some of the best wind resources in the country.”

The report noted if people do not have control of technology and little understanding of it, estimations of hazards are elevated. However, if someone has a voice in the sighting process of wind turbines or receives economic benefits from them, that person’s attitude toward wind energy improves.

Peter Thorne, director of the University of Iowa Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, said there has to be an understanding of the cause behind the symptoms people report.

“The cause is not due to pressure,” Thorne said. “It is due to something else, and we need to address those root causes, such as loss of control and not sharing economic benefits.”

David Osterberg, lead researcher at the Iowa Policy Project, said people are experiencing a nocebo effect, which is a predisposed belief that there is an effect when nothing is affecting you.

When people were given videos to watch with negative messages about turbines symptoms got worse. Sometimes requests were made to move a neighboring wind turbine farther away.

“That’s no good, because that is not causing the effect,” Osterberg said.

Some of the reported symptoms included annoyance, sleep disturbance, stress and hearing loss.

One non-audible effect not addressed in “Wind Turbines and Health” was flickering lights and epilepsy. Thorne said the concern is over the blades of the wind turbine passing over the sunlight and creating the flickering effect. He said there is no evidence that turbines induce seizure disorders because of the slow frequency.

Johannsen hopes county boards of supervisors in Iowa will use the report to establish public policy when wind turbine opportunities come forward.

“Rules for wind turbine sighting could be a solution to mitigating symptoms,” she said. “I think counties should have a wind turbine sighting ordinance.”