A group of residents living near wind farms in Canada have joined together to form an anti-wind power movement. According to CNN, the group is worried about complaints that turbines can cause health problems. The complaints have led to Canada's first hearings examining the health effects of wind turbines.
Wind power is growing faster in Ontario than in any other part of the country, and government officials are relying on green technology to not only provide clean energy, but also offer new jobs. Ontario's Environment Minister John Wilkinson states that the movement "will not stop us from doing what we were elected to do, which is to break our addiction to dirty coal for our generation."
In the U.S., studies have found that 80% of residents in the Northwest support wind farms near their homes, while a minority of homeowners in the U.S. have complained about wind turbine noise. One neighbor told The New York Times, "Now we are prisoners of sonic effluence."
Perhaps the most outspoken believer of health risks associated with wind farms is Nina Pierpont, a doctor who coined the term "Wind Turbine Syndrome" (WTS). According to Pierpont, turbine noise and vibrations disrupt the inner ear system, which may lead to nervousness, nausea, tachycardia (increased heart rate) and sleep disturbance. Pierpont recommends that turbines be set at least 2km from people's homes. Pierpont's study sample reportedly consisted of 38 people.
The British Wind Energy Association fought her allegations, citing that 94 percent of people living near wind turbines are in favor of them. They argue that "Noise from wind farms is a non-problem, and we need to move away from this unproductive and unscientific debate, and focus on our targets on reducing carbon emissions."
While a small group of people living near wind turbines complain of anxiety and sound-related health concerns, citizens living near coal, oil and natural gas sites are complaining of cancer, poisoned water, lung disease, earthquakes, and death.
A recent report by Harvard professor Dr. Paul Epstein found that coal costs the U.S. $500 billion per year, due in large part to health care costs from heavy metal toxins and carcinogens emitted during the processing of coal.
The hazards of drilling for oil have been highlighted in the news recently. The effects of the massive BP oil spill will be seen for years to come. And then there's the recent verdict that Chevron should pay $8 billion to Ecuador's Amazon neighbors for the environmental and health damage it caused through harmful drilling practices.
Residents living near hydraulic fracturing (fracking) sites have found their drinking water is poisoned with carcinogenic, poisonous chemicals. Most recently, claims have surfaced that frequent earthquakes are occurring due to fracking activity.
Looking beyond the direct health hazards facing residents near dirty energy sites, the health effects of global warming are enormous and largely impending. Reports have found that global warming is a health hazard. Scientists cite recent extreme heat events resulting in heat-related deaths, heavier downpours resulting in contaminated water, ice storms and winds resulting in treacherous travel, and warmer winters resulting in increased allergies and pests. Not to mention that 180 U.S. cities could be underwater in less than 90 years. Looking at the grand scheme of things, is wind power, a clean energy source, worth the noise and health complaints?