Click here to preview the new Fast Company

Want to try out the new

If you’d like to return to the previous design, click the yellow button on the lower left corner.


Do Wind Turbines Cause A Secret Disease That Drives You Crazy?

Some sufferers insist that Wind Turbine Syndrome—caused by the low-frequency sound of the spinning blades—is a real phenomenon. Doctors are less sure. Is there a medical case, or is it just NIMBYism taking on physical form?

People living near wind turbines say they can’t sleep, can’t think straight; that sub-audible, low-frequency sound is causing them sickness, earache, depression, and tinnitus.

But are their conditions real or imaginary?

Several recent studies have looked at "wind turbine syndrome" (WTS), giving hope to both believers and deniers—though more to the latter. Most researchers put the condition down to a "nocebo effect," where patients are warned they’ll become sick and do. They don’t doubt that people are ill, but they say turbines are unlikely to be the cause.

"The claims of the existence of wind turbine syndrome have been met with heavy skepticism from a host of experts in energy and public health," says Audrey Carlsen, writing at "The World Health Organization, which classifies diseases, does not recognize wind turbine syndrome nor does any other medical institution."

Simon Chapman, a professor of public health at Sydney University, found that more than two-thirds of complaints in Australia centered on wind farms that had been targeted by wind opponents. People living near farms where there had been little opposition tended not to complain.

He told the Guardian: about 2009, things started ramping up and these people discovered if you started saying it was a health problem, a lot more people would sit up and pay attention. It’s essentially a sociological phenomenon.

At Slate, Keith Kloor writes of another study showing that it’s possible to induce WTS:

Researchers exposed 60 participants to 10 minutes of infrasound (vibrations too low in frequency to hear) and sham infrasound (that is, silence). Before the listening sessions, half the group was shown television footage of people who lived near wind farms recounting the harmful effects they said were caused by noise from the spinning blades. Within this group, the people who scored high on a test of anxiety became symptomatic whether they were exposed to low-frequency noise or sham infrasound.

Another recent paper found that people were more likely to suffer from WTS if they already had a "negative orientated personality."

And yet, one peer-reviewed U.K. study did find a link between turbines and WTS. "There is evidence that infrasound has a physiological effect on the ear," it concluded—with caveats. More research is needed, says one of the authors, before "we can’t stand up and put our hands on our hearts and say, 'Wind turbines cause wind turbine syndrome.' "

Add New Comment


  • ytreggah

    The Falmouth residents that do not live near the turbines only care about money and themselves not the torture the residents endure next to the turbines

    At the end of World War II citizens who lived near prison camps were asked why they did nothing about the torture. They replied :"we didn't know what was going on". The next question for which they had no reply was " didn't you notice millions of your neighbors missing ?

  • marykaybarton

    Wondering if Mr. Schiller or Mr. Chapman would actually buy and mover their families into a home within the massive, sprawling footprint of an industrial wind factory - with 400 - 500 foot-tall giant bird Cuisinarts towering overhead, only hundreds of feet from your home?  We all already know the answer.

  • ytreggah

    Did you ever wonder where they got the people to run the prison camps in Germany during World War II. The people still exist among us.Wind turbine torture has been turned into morally neutral entertainment for the proponents of commercial wind in Falmouth ? At the end of World War II citizens who lived near prison camps were asked why they did nothing about the torture. They replied :"we didn't know what was going on". The next question for which they had no reply was " didn't you notice millions of your neighbors missing ?The Town Of Falmouth, Massachusetts made a mistake building commercial megawatt turbines too close to residential homes. The town will now vote to either take down the turbines or take up to 99 homes by eminent domain.An eminent domain case can range from being straight forward to extremely complicated. Typically, cases can be tried or resolved within two (2) to three (3) years from the date that the lawsuit is filed. The Falmouth eminent domain case would quickly go to class action certification under Massachusetts Civil Procedure Rule 23: Class Actions. The homes are being taken after the town wind turbines were found too loud by state laws and regulations. Massachusetts has a renewable energy goal of 2000 megawatts of renewable energy by the year 2020. If the vote in Falmouth is to take the residential homes the legal action by abutters and/or homeowners could stretch out to the year 2020 and the town could lose. The legal action could halt commercial wind in Massachusetts until the case is decided in 6 to 8 years.

  • Guest

    Please tell us more about how wind farms are like German prison camps from WWII.

  • Mary Kay Barton

    Mr. Schiller,

    Would you buy and move your family into a home
    within the massive, sprawling footprint an
    industrial wind factory that was spread throughout your entire Township - with spinning machines 400 - 500 feet-tall overhead, 
    only hundreds of feet from your home on all sides?  I have yet to meet a person who
    can honestly
    say that they would. 

    live in a targeted area of the wind industry - Wyoming County of rural,
    western New York State.  I personally know people who
    have left their homes because they can NOT tolerate the throbbing
    headaches, ringing in their ears, sleeplessness, etc, that arrived
    with the wind factories.

    I was in attendance at a meeting
    specific to wind power put on by NYSERDA officials in Albany, NY, at
    which the former sound engineer for the NY PSC, and the NYS Dept. of
    Health official, both testified to the problems with "infrasound" from
    industrial wind turbines.  The link to the complete meeting summary is
    contained with the article, 

    Two-Billion Dollar Energy Swindle":

    Also see:

    "Wind Turbines can be Hazardous to Human Health," by Dr. Alec Salt:

    *The Effects of Infrasound from industrial wind turbines on humans*:

    The Documentary, "Windfall":

    Quebec Bans Wind Turbines Within 2 km of Homes and 1 km of Public Roads

    Also See:  http:WindPowerFacts.Info/Read: The Wind Farm Scam, by Dr. John Etherington (available at Amazon). 

  • Annette Smith

    Time for some responsibility by the media, rather than picking up on the bullying global wind lobby's latest attempt to obfuscate the damage they are doing worldwide.  Here is a blog post in response: http://vermontersforacleanenvi... 

  • ytreggah

     Simon Chapman PhD FASSA, is Professor in Public Health at the University of Sydney.
    The University of Sydney provides Wind Engineering Services, Consulting and Testing Services in Wind Engineering and Research in Wind Engineering.
    The Fox in the Hen House

  • Guest

    Ummm.... the wind engineering services provided by the University of Sydney have nothing to do with wind power generation. They are for studying the effect of wind on buildings and other structures.

    Thanks for muddying the waters, though.

  • Belle13A

    Simon Chapman and Ben Schiller clearly do not live near an industrial wind development. Both are paid by promoters of wind energy.