Wind Energy & Health Forum (2019)

The Western New York Health & Wind Energy forum was held at the University of Buffalo on November 21, 2019, sponsored by the Alliance for Clean Energy New York (ACE NY), the New York League of Conservation Voters, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and New Yorkers for Clean Power.  

Five speakers included Dr. Jonathan Buonocore of the Harvard School of Public Health, who addressed the health dangers of small micron-sized particles from fossil fuel combustion, which cause numerous health problems. He also discussed his scientific model showing the benefits of substituting renewable energy sources and removing fossil fuels from the electric grid in different parts of the country. The model demonstrated that the largest health benefits from the reduction of fossil fuel use would be in the Great Lakes and Northeast regions.

Michael Hankard is a recognized acoustics consultant who has worked on wind turbine placement on over 50 projects in 15 states. He discussed the fact that the New York State requirement that the loudest wind turbine sound not exceed 45 decibels (dBa), which is the same average standard set by the World Health Organization (WHO).  Outdoor sounds are automatically reduced by 15 dBa indoors, which brings the loudest indoor noise to a very quiet 30 dBa. Infrasound, when produced by turbines, is several orders of magnitude less than can be detected by the human ear. 

Dr. Robert McCunney of the Pulmonary Division at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, has conducted clinical studies on illnesses associated with noise. Several large studies of randomly selected people have shown that wind turbines do not create stress, sleep disturbance, or effect blood pressure.  Minimal sleep disturbance begins to occur when noise exceeds 46 dBa. Dr. McCunney mentioned population studies as large as 717,000 in Denmark. 

A local farmer, Jason Kehl of Strykersville, has had four turbines on his dairy farm for the past ten years. He has kept 150 cows, which have not adversely effected by the turbines. When questioned, Mr. Kehl stated that wildlife including turkeys and deer have actually increased on his farm since the installation of the turbines, and that he has noticed no bird deaths caused by the turbines. 

Simon Chapman, of the University of Sydney School of Public Health in Australia, wrote a book Wind Turbine Syndrome: A Communicated Disease. Prof. Chapman has toured Europe and presented a map locating the large number of wind turbine farms throughout the continent, with an especially high density in northern Germany and Denmark. People in these areas are not even aware of the term Wind Turbine Syndrome or illnesses attributable to turbines. His book discusses how new technologies often spurs fears of health effects, including the introduction of electricity and telephones.  People are susceptible to negative influence by communicated suggestions. In Australia complaints about wind turbines are prevalent where negative publicity has preceeded construction. Professor Chapman describes the alleged disease Wind Turbine Syndrome as an “English speaking phenomenon”, and that critical health cases have not been reported or substantiated in peer-reviewed journals.