Admin Note: The following clinical review article which appeared in the Swedish medical journal; Läkartidningen has been reproduced below.

The lead author Dr. Enbom, is a neuro-otologist, which means that there main research and clinical expertise focus on disorders of the inner ear, along with nose and throat, which allows Dr Enbom the scientific credibility to pass judgement on health impacts from infrasound produced by Wind Turbines.

We have archived the original article in PDF format which can be accessed at: vindkraft-och-polisen

Infrasound from wind turbines: An overlooked health hazard

Håkan Enbom, MD, PhD, Ear/Nose/Throat specialist, otoneurology and specialist in dizziness disorders, and Inga Malcus Enbom, Ear/Nose/Throat specialist and specialist in allergy and hypersensitivity reactions. Both authors are employed at the City Health ENT, Angelholm. Contact: inga.malcus@telia.com

Abstract

Infrasound from wind turbines affects the inner ear and is a potential health risk for people with migraine or other type of central sensitization. The authors maintain that the legal framework for the creation of new wind turbines should be revised, taking into account this fact.

Previous scientific studies on wind turbines and infrasound have been contradictory. They have therefore not been sufficiently credible when planning a framework for the establishment of wind turbines. In recent years, however, a new insight has emerged on the central sensitization, providing a better understanding of migraine, fibromyalgia and other chronic pain syndromes 1 2 and some cases of tinnitus and dizziness. This understanding is also important for understanding how infrasound from wind turbines can affect health. Several studies have found that living near wind turbines often create severe sleep disturbance and depression. They have also found an increased incidence of dizziness, tinnitus, hyperacusis, headache, increased activation of the autonomic nervous system, etc. 3 4.

In addition to the audible sound, which can provide noise damage and be generally disruptive, mentally, spinning wind turbines also produce a vibrant infrasound that affects the inner ear and the central nervous system without damaging the hearing.

Infrasound is sound with frequencies below 20 Hz, corresponding to wavelengths of 17 meters and above, that is not perceived with normal hearing. This sound, if it is not mitigated substantially, propagates over very long distances. It arises from several sources, such as pulsating flows from chimneys, large eddies (such as wind turbines and large jet engines) and large vibrating surfaces. In scientific studies, infrasound from wind turbines has been measured at levels so low that the sound is not perceived by humans. It has also been determined that infrasound from wind turbines does not give rise to noise damage in the traditional sense 5.

In general, what has not been taken into account in many of these studies, is that infrasound from wind turbines has a rhythmic pulsing sound, and the pulsating sound pressure affects the inner ear, although no sound is perceived by the individual. The pressure waves propagate into the inner ear fluid-filled cavities, and this “massage effect” affects the sensory cells in the inner ear hearing and organs of balance 6. Many studies fail to take into account the fact that some people are more sensitive than others to the sensory impact. Some are significantly affected by the pulsating sound pressure while others are not affected by it in a significant way.

The rhythmic, pumping infrasound from wind turbines stimulates inner ear sensory functions 7 8. Such sensory stimulation can occur in people with sensory hypersensitivity, causing symptoms such as unsteadiness, dizziness, headache, concentration difficulties, visual disturbances, and more 9. The problems arise even if the noise level is relatively low, since infrasound constantly affects and rhythmically changes the pressure in the inner ear via the sound paths. The pulsing sound pressure from wind turbines also indirectly activates the autonomic nervous system, causing increased secretion of adrenaline with consequent stress effects, risk of panic anxiety, high blood pressure and heart attacks for people with increased sensory sensitivity.

Migraine is caused by a genetic central sensory hypersensitivity causing risk for central nervous sensitization. Migraine prevalence is about 30 percent in the general population 10 11. In addition there are other causes of central sensitization, which means that more than 30 percent of residents in the vicinity of wind turbines could be, to greater or lesser extent, affected by wind-related “annoyance.” Risk groups include people with migraine disorder or a family history of migraines, people over 50 years of age, people with fibromyalgia and those with a tendency to anxiety and depression 12. Children and adults with ADHD and autism are at risk and could have their symptoms worsened.

The issue is not noise damage in the traditional sense, but the effect of a constant pulsating sound pressure that constantly changes the pressure in the inner ear and excites sensory organs there. One can liken it to pulsating or flickering lights—many people are not bothered noticeably, while people with sensory hypersensitivity may experience discomfort. Flickering light can even trigger epilepsy. Likewise,constantly pulsating, non-audible infrasound from wind turbines triggers considerable problems in people with central sensory hypersensitivity. These problems can become chronic, debilitating and lead to anxiety and depression and increase the risk of heart attack.

The current regulatory framework for wind turbines has not taken into account the potential risk to people with central sensory hypersensitivity. Wind turbines are being erected too close to buildings [homes]. The current regulatory framework should be revised with an increased safety distance from buildings [homes] to prevent or reduce the risk of wind-related excess morbidity.

(Potential ties or conflicts of interest: None declared.)

References

  1. Woolf CJ. Central sensitization: Implications for the diagnosis and treatment of pain. Pain. 2011: 152 (3 Suppl): S2-15.
  2. Aguggia M, Saracco MG, Cavallini M, et al. Sensitization and pain. Neurol Sci. 2013, 34 Suppl 1: S37-40.
  3. Farboud A, Crunk Horn R, Trinidade A. ‘Wind Turbine Syndrome’: fact or fiction? J Laryngol Otol. In 2013, 127 (3) :222-6.
  4. Shepherd D, McBride D, D Welch, et al. Evaluating the impact of wind turbine noise on health-related quality of life. Noise Health. 2011: 13 (54) :333-9.
  5. Work Environment Authority. Noise and noise management. Stockholm: Swedish Work Environment Authority; 2002.
  6. Salt AN, Hullar TE. Responses of the ear to low frequency sounds, infrasound and wind turbines. Hear Res. 2010: 268 (1-2) :12-21.
  7. Todd NP, Rosengren SM, Colebatch JG. Tuning and sensitivity of the human vestibular system to low-frequency vibration. Neurosci Lett. 2008: 444 (1) :36-41.
  8. Enbom, H. Vestibular and somatosensory contribution to postural control (dissertation) Lund: Lund University; 1990.
  9. Lovati C, Mariotti C Giani L, et al. Central sensitization in photophobic and non-photophobic migraineurs: possible role of retinoblastoma nuclear way in the central sensitization process. Neurol Sci. 2013, 34 (Suppl) :133-fifth
  10. Ashina S, Bendtsen L, Ashina M. Pathophysiology of migraine and tension-type headache. Tech Reg Anesth Pain Manag. 2012 (16) :14-8.
  11. Aurora SK, Wilkinson F. The brain is hyperexcitable in migraine. Cephalalgia. 2007: 27:1442-53.
  12. Desmeules YES, Cedraschi C, Rapiti E, et al. Neurophysiologic evidence for a central sensitization in patient with fibromyalgia. Arthritis Rheum. 2003, 48:1420-9.
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3 Comments

  1. Beverley

    April 23, 2015 at 10:21 am

    It is really good to see this problem being given some attention at last. I have been suffering from the effects of wind turbines several miles away for some time now. I actually hear the LFN, I can feel it and it makes me ill. Exactly as described in the paper above. I have a friend who suffers badly from migraines, she is far closer to the turbines than I am. Her condition is awful. She has bad long lasting migraines nearly all the time now, as well as recently having been diagnosed with fibromyalgia.
    I hope this becomes more generally known, and wind farms be wiped from our land so we can live in peace again.
    I do not believe there is any ‘safe’ distance from homes for these things. I hear the LFN 25 miles from the turbines, and am made ill by turbines about 10 miles away. They are a nightmare.

    Reply

    • rita

      October 4, 2016 at 5:07 pm

      Hi I live in Fairlie North Ayrshire and we have 2 offshore test windturbines onshore about a mile from Fairlie village. There is a Mitsubishi turbine that has been up for a while but hardly ever turned. Lately however it is working off and on. I can tell without looking if it is turning. I am obviously one of the 30% of people who are negatively impacted by it. There is also a SSE test turbine but it does not have this effect on me although that could be to do with its position in relation to my house. . I have supported wind power and do not object to the visual impact in my area. However, I am suffering nausea, balance problems and tinnitus while the Mitsubishi turns. Sometimes it is audible like a distant ongoing soft rumble .Whether audible or not it is debilitating. Another problem we have experienced here is from ships at anchor at Hunterston Jetty with their engines running 24/7 for 16 days and nights. The low frequency noise from these have caused problems for a number of villagers and a nightmare which we have to endure again in late November. A nightmare indeed.

      Reply

      • Anonymous

        October 7, 2016 at 2:52 pm

        Hi, I also live next to a wind-farm, and am suffering the same symptoms as you. I’ve had to move out of my bedroom, and move into the back rooms of the house. Can still hear the background noise of the turbines, which also leads to disturbed sleep. The tinnitus developed and eventually damage to the inner ear has become permanent, causing LFN hearing loss.

        It is sad that this is happening to people up and down the country, and despite evidence that this is happening, the powers that be are turning a blind eye to our suffering. We are being subjected to various noise sources that are damaging to our health. I can only hope that as more evidence emerges, action will eventually be taken to prevent this, and citizens will be protected.

        In the meantime, I will never regain my hearing as it was, the damage is permanent. I am desperate to move as far away from the turbines as I can!

        Reply

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