Health Concerns presented by Dr. Nissenbaum

Research From Mars Hill Wind Project

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Mars Hill Nissenbaum.pdf (2.07 MB)

Wind turbines, health, ridgelines, and valleys
If industrial wind turbines installed in close proximity to human habitation result in sleep disturbance and stress, then it follows as surely as day follows night that wind turbines will, over the long term, result in these serious health effects and reduced quality of life. The question is, then, do they?
January 26, 2010 by Michael A. Nissenbaum, MD

Mr. Peacock’s letter of January 22, 2010 taking issue with Dr. Stan Shapiro’s piece in the Rutland Medical Center’s Heart Health News is off the mark and contains inaccuracies and misinformation.

It is a medical fact that sleep disturbance and perceived stress result in ill effects, including and especially cardiovascular disease, but also chronic feelings of depression, anger, helplessness, and, in the aggregate, the banishment of happiness and reduced quality of life. Cardiovascular disease, as we all know, leads to reduced life expectancy. Try and get reasonably priced life insurance if you are hypertensive or have suffered a heart attack.

If industrial wind turbines installed in close proximity to human habitation result in sleep disturbance and stress, then it follows as surely as day follows night that wind turbines will, over the long term, result in these serious health effects and reduced quality of life.

The question is, then, do they?

In my own work at Mars Hill, Maine, 22 out of about 33 adults who live within 3500 feet of a ridgeline arrangement of 28 1.5 megawatt wind turbines were evaluated to date, and compared with 28 people of otherwise similar age and occupation living about 3 miles away.

Here is what was found (preliminary work cited here):

82% of study subjects reported new or worsened chronic sleep disturbances, versus 3% in the control group. 36% reported new chronic headaches vs 3% in the control group. 55% reported ‘stress’ versus none in the control group, and 82% persistent anger versus none in the people living 3 miles away. Fully a third of the study subjects had new or worsened depression, with none in the control group. 95% of the study subjects perceived reduced quality of life, versus 0% in the control group. Underlining these findings, there were 25 new prescription medications offered to the study subjects, of which 15 were accepted, compared to 4 new or increased prescriptions in the control group. The prescriptions ranged from antihypertensives and antidepressants to anti migraine medications.

The Mars Hill study will soon be completed and is being prepared for publication. These preliminary findings have been presented to the Chief Medical Officer for Ontario, and will soon be formally presented to Health Canada. They have been presented to the Maine Medical Association, which followed up with a Resolution calling for caution, further study, and appropriate modification of siting regulations, where required.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind, and that of other physicians who have reviewed the work, that people living within 3500 feet of a ridgeline arrangement of turbines in a rural environment will suffer negative effects at similar rates.

What is it about northeast USA ridgelines that contribute to these ill effects, and how can they be avoided?

Consider, the Northeast is prone to icing conditions. Icing will increase the sound coming off of turbines by up to 6 dbA. As the icing occurs symmetrically on all blades, imbalance detectors do not kick on, and the blades keep turning, contrary to wind industry claims.

Sound is amplified coming off of ridgelines into valleys. This is because the background noise in rural valleys is low to begin with, increasing the sensitivity to changes, particularly the beating, pulsatile nature of wind turbine noise, and sound sources at elevation do not undergo the same attenuation that occurs from groundcover when noise sources are at ground level. The noise travels farther and hits homes and people at greater amplitude that it would from a lower elevation. Even though this is not rocket science, it was conclusively proven in a NASA funded study in 1990.

Snow pack and ice contribute to increased noise transmission. Vermont valleys have both, I believe.

When pre construction modeling fails to take the pulsatile nature, propensity for icing, and ridgeline elevation into account, as well as a linear as opposed to point source of noise, problems can be expected. What distance is safe? It depends on the terrain, the climate, the size of the project and the turbines themselves. Accurate preconstruction modeling with safe targets in mind is critical. The WHO says that 30dbA is ideal, and noise levels of above 40dbA have definite health consequences. At Mars Hill, where affected homes are present at 3500 feet, sound levels have been measured at over 52.5dbA. The fiasco there has been acknowledged by the local wind energy company, and by a former Maine governor.

Vermont would do well to learn from the affected people in Mars Hill, and heed Dr. Shapiro’s well-informed warnings. Be very careful about accepting at face value the A/CANWEA white paper referred to by Mr. Peacock, which seems an industry-funded exercise in dissembling and selective review. The parallels with the tobacco industry of the 1960’s are striking.

References:

Technical Requirements for Rotor Blades Operating in Cold Climate
H. Seifert,
Deutsches Windenergie-Institut, 2003

Wind Turbine Acoustics
H. H. Hubbard, K.P. Shepard,
NASA Technical Paper 3057, DOE/NASA 20320-77, 1990

Editor’s note: Dr. Nissenbaum piece responds to letters published in Vermont’s Rutland Herald paper.

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Detailed Accident Reports from Scotland Safety Issues

Summary of Wind Turbine Accident data to 31st December 2009

These accident statistics are copyright Caithness Windfarm Information Forum 2009. The data may be used or referred to by groups or individuals, provided that the source (Caithness Windfarm Information Forum) is acknowledged and our URL http://www.caithnesswindfarms.co.uk quoted at the same time. Caithness Windfarm Information Forum is not responsible for the accuracy of Third Party material or references.

You may link to this page from your website but please do not link to the individual files or reproduce the tables on your website as they will cease to be current.

The summary may be downloaded in printable form here

The detailed accident list with sources may be downloaded here

The attached detailed table includes all documented cases of wind turbine related accidents which could be found and confirmed through press reports or official information releases up to 31 December 2009. CWIF believe that this compendium of accident information may be the most comprehensive available anywhere.

Data in the detailed table attached is by no means fully comprehensive – CWIF believe that what is attached may only be the “tip of the iceberg” in terms of numbers of accidents and their frequency. However, the data gives an excellent cross-section of the types of accidents which can and do occur, and their consequences.

The trend is as expected – as more turbines are built, the more accidents occur. Numbers of recorded accidents reflect this, with an average of 72.1 accidents found per year from 2002 to 2009 inclusive, and only an average of 16.0 accidents found per year in the previous seven years (1995-2001 inclusive). With few exceptions, before about 1997 only data on fatal accidents has been found.

There is a general trend upward in accident numbers over the past 10 years. This is predicted to escalate unless HSE make some significant changes – in particular to protect the public by declaring a minimum safe distance between new turbine developments and occupied housing and buildings (currently 2km in Europe), and declaring “no-go” areas to the public, following the 500m exclusion zone around operational turbines imposed in France.

Data attached is presented chronologically. It can be broken down as follows:

Number of accidents

Total number of accidents: 715

By year:

Year
70s
80s
9094
95
96
97
98
99
00
01
02
03
04
05
06
07
08
09
No.
1
8
17
5
9
16
8
33
29
12
63
51
52
55
55
83
112
106

Fatal accidentsNumber of fatal accidents: 60By year:
Year
70s
80s
90-94
95
96
97
98
99
00
01
02
03
04
05
06
07
08
09
No.
1
8
8
 
2
4
 
1
3
 
1
3
4
3
5
4
9
4
  
Please note: There are more fatalities than accidents as some accidents have caused multiple fatalities.
Of the 66 fatalities:

  • 47 were wind industry and direct support workers (maintenance/engineers, etc), or small turbine owner/operators.
  • 19 were public fatalities, including workers not directly dependent on the wind industry (e.g. transport workers).

Human injury

A further 38 accidents regarding human injury are documented.

By year:

Year
70s
80s
90-94
95
96
97
98
99
00
01
02
03
04
05
06
07
08
09
No.
   
2
 
1
 
1
1
4
1
2
2
1
2
4
3
8
6

Twenty-nine accidents involved wind industry or construction/maintenance workers, and a further nine involved members of the public. Four of these injuries to members of the public were in the UK.
Blade failureBy far the biggest number of incidents found were due to blade failure. “Blade failure” can arise from a number of possible sources, and results in either whole blades or pieces of blade being thrown from the turbine. A total of 167 separate incidences were found:By year:
Year
70s
80s
90-94
95
96
97
98
99
00
01
02
03
04
05
06
07
08
09
No.
   
3
3
3
6
2
18
4
5
15
12
14
10
13
17
18
24
 
Pieces of blade are documented as travelling over 1300 metres. In Germany, blade pieces have gone through the roofs and walls of nearby buildings. This is why CWIF believe that there should be a minimum distance of at least 2km between turbines and occupied housing – in line with other European countries – in order to adequately address public safety and other issues including noise and shadow flicker.
FireFire is the second most common accident cause in incidents found. Fire can arise from a number of sources – and some turbine types seem more prone to fire than others. A total of 138 fire incidents were found: By year:
Year
70s
80s
90- 94
95
96
97
98
99
00
01
02
03
04
05
06
07
08
09
No.
 
 
1
1
 
1
1
2
3
1
24
17
15
14
12
20
16
10
 
The biggest problem with turbine fires is that, because of the turbine height, the fire brigade can do little but watch it burn itself out. While this may be acceptable in reasonably still conditions, in a storm it means burning debris being scattered over a wide area, with obvious consequences. In dry weather there is obviously a wider-area fire risk, especially for those constructed in or close to forest areas and/or close to housing. Two fire accidents have badly burned wind industry workers.
Structural failureFrom the data obtained, this is the third most common accident cause, with 84 instances found. “Structural failure” is assumed to be major component failure under conditions which components should be designed to withstand. This mainly concerns storm damage to turbines and tower collapse. However, poor quality control, lack of maintenance and component failure can also be responsible.By year:
Year
70s
80s
90-94
95
96
97
98
99
00
01
02
03
04
05
06
07
08
09
No.
 
 
1
 
 
 
3
6
9
2
8
4
3
7
6
11
9
15
 
While structural failure is far more damaging (and more expensive) than blade failure, the accident consequences and risks to human health are most likely lower, as risks are confined to within a relatively short distance from the turbine. However, as smaller turbines are now being placed on and around buildings including schools, the accident frequency is expected to rise. There has been a sharp rise in structural failures in the latter part of 2007 continuing through 2008 to present. Ice throw27 incidences of ice throw were found. These are listed here unless they have caused human injury, in which case they are included under “human injury” above.By year:
Year
70s
80s
90- 94
95
96
97
98
99
00
01
02
03
04
05
06
07
08
09
No.
 
 
   
3
3
 
3
   
2
1
4
3
2
 
3
3

Ice throw has been reported to 140m. Some Canadian turbine sites have warning signs posted asking people to stay at least 305m from turbines during icy conditions.
These are indeed only a very small fraction of actual incidences – a report* published in 2003 reported 880 icing events between 1990 and 2003 in Germany alone. 33% of these were in the lowlands and on the coastline.
*(“A Statistical Evaluation of Icing Failures in Germany’s ‘250 MW Wind’ Programme – Update 2003”, M Durstwitz, BOREAS VI 9-11 April 2003 Pyhätunturi, Finland.)Transport There have been 45 reported accidents – including a 45m turbine section ramming through a house while being transported, a transporter knocking a utility pole through a restaurant, and a turbine section falling off in a tunnel. One man lost his leg in 2006 following a transport accident off the Scottish coast. Most involve turbine sections falling from transporters, though turbine sections have also been lost at sea, along with a £50M barge. Two turbine sections fell from main roads in Scotland.

By year:

Year
70s
80s
90-94
95
96
97
98
99
00
01
02
03
04
05
06
07
08
09
No.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
4
 
2
4
3
14
8
10
 
Environmental damage (including bird deaths)Only 60 cases of environmental damage have been reported – the majority since 2007. This is perhaps due to a change in legislation or new reporting requirement. All involved damage to the site itself, or reported damage to or death of wildlife. Twenty-seven instances include deaths of protected species of bird. By year:
Year
70s
80s
90-94
95
96
97
98
99
00
01
02
03
04
05
06
07
08
09
No.
 
 
1
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
1
7
1
5
3
8
20
13
 
Other (Miscellaneous) 95 miscellaneous accidents are also present in the data. Component failure has been reported here if there has been no consequential structural damage. Also included are lack of maintenance, electrical failure (not led to fire or electrocution) and planning “accidents” where towers have been installed closer than permitted to housing, etc. Construction accidents are also included, also lightning strikes when a strike has not resulted in blade damage or fire. A separate 1996 report** quotes 393 reports of lightning strikes from 1992 to 1995 in Germany alone, 124 of those direct to the turbine, the rest are to electrical distribution network.
**(Data from WMEP database: taken from report “External Conditions for Wind Turbine Operation – Results from the German ‘250 MW Wind’ Programme”, M Durstewitz, et al, European Union Wind Energy Conference, Goeteborg, May 20-24, 1996)By year:
Year
70s
80s
90-94
95
96
97
98
99
00
01
02
03
04
05
06
07
08
09
No.
 
 
1
1
 
2
1
2
6
2
6
5
8
7
7
6
21
21
 
Caithness Windfarm Information Forum
31 December 2009

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