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Wind turbines an annoyance, not a hazard

THE SPINNING blades of wind turbines can sometimes produce noisy whooshes and flickering shadows. But while those effects may be annoyances, they aren’t health hazards. That’s the important distinction a state panel made this week when it debunked the so-called “wind turbine syndrome,’’ an affliction some Falmouth residents say they have experienced ever since their Cape Cod town installed two turbines in 2010.

Opponents of wind power, both here in Massachusetts and around the country, are increasingly pointing to the supposed negative health effects of turbines to argue against the spread of the renewable energy source. According to their reports, people living near the towers experience symptoms including vertigo, nausea, ear pressure, and problems with concentration and memory. Concerned about those claims, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Public Health convened a panel of independent experts to determine if they hold up to scrutiny.


In fact, they don’t. After reviewing all of the evidence, the panel found that while the noise some older turbines make could disturb close neighbors’ sleep patterns - and the more obvious point that ice propelled from swinging blades could be dangerous in the winter - there is no evidence of turbine-caused illnesses.

The panel’s report should help clear the way for more wind energy projects across the country. Wind power developers and supporters owe it to the communities where new turbines are being constructed to take concerns about noise and visual impact seriously. Those are legitimate concerns - unlike “wind turbine syndrome’’ - that can be avoided with proper planning.