Study: Wind turbines pose no health issue

State report debunks “wind turbine syndrome”

An independent group of medical, environmental health, and engineering experts have concluded that there are few health effects that can be traced to living or working near wind turbines.

The joint state Department of Environmental Protection-Department of Public Health study released today argues that there is “limited” to no evidence to suggest that wind turbines produce wind turbine syndrome, a term that has been associated with various health issues arising from proximity to wind projects, including sleep disruption, annoyance from noise or shadow flicker, and psychological distress or mental health problems.

The panel included specialists from the Harvard and Boston University Schools of Public Health, University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of New England, and Massachusetts General Hospital.

Some wind turbine opponents blasted the study, calling it a “whitewash” for looking selectively at existing literature and neglecting to include accounts from residents in communities where wind turbines are sited.

“We knew from the beginning that DEP’s report would be politically motivated with a predetermined outcome,” said Eleanor Tillinghast in a statement issued by Windwise, a statewide group that has called for more rigorous study of health effects by a “truly independent team of experts.”

Meet the Author

Gabrielle Gurley

Senior Associate Editor, CommonWealth

About Gabrielle Gurley

Gabrielle covers several beats, including mass transit, municipal government, child welfare, and energy and the environment. Her recent articles have explored municipal hiring practices in Pittsfield, public defender pay, and medical marijuana, and she has won several national journalism awards for her work. Prior to coming to CommonWealth in 2005, Gabrielle wrote for the State House News Service, The Boston Globe, and other publications. She launched her media career in broadcast journalism with C-SPAN in Washington, DC. The Philadelphia native holds degrees from Boston College and Georgetown University.

About Gabrielle Gurley

Gabrielle covers several beats, including mass transit, municipal government, child welfare, and energy and the environment. Her recent articles have explored municipal hiring practices in Pittsfield, public defender pay, and medical marijuana, and she has won several national journalism awards for her work. Prior to coming to CommonWealth in 2005, Gabrielle wrote for the State House News Service, The Boston Globe, and other publications. She launched her media career in broadcast journalism with C-SPAN in Washington, DC. The Philadelphia native holds degrees from Boston College and Georgetown University.

Windwise says that the state did not pursue a study of health consequences of a controversial turbine project in Falmouth, despite a request from the town’s Board of Health. (State officials are doing a noise study.) Nor, the group claims, did the departments dig into the studies and personal accounts the organization collected from other locales around the country and the world that show the “damaging effects of living near wind turbines.”

The Conservation Law Foundation came out in support of the state efforts. “The report show that some of the most common arguments about wind turbine health impacts are not supported by the science,” said Sue Reid, the foundation’s Massachusetts’ director, in a statement. “It should serve as a helpful tool to inform siting decisions by public officials.”