To the editor:
A recent letter ("Has concerns about wind turbines," Aug. 28) unfortunately repeated a variety of myths about wind energy development. As a non-polluting energy source, wind power is essential to reducing public health impacts from the energy sector.
That's because adding wind power to the utility grid displaces the most expensive, least efficient power source - usually older fossil fuel plants that are also the worst polluters. Less reliance on fossil fuels means fewer harmful air emissions such as greenhouse gases, mercury, lead, and pollutants that lead to smog and acid rain.
Claims that wind farms cause negative health impacts have been refuted by credible, peer-reviewed scientific data and various government reports from the U.S., Canada, Australia, and the U.K. Also, it has not been scientifically demonstrated that the levels of infrasound from wind turbines directly impacts the inner ear.
In fact, just last year the Massachusetts Departments of Environmental Protection and Public Health issued a detailed study refuting several myths perpetuated by wind energy opponents. According to their study, "Available evidence shows that the infrasound levels near wind turbines cannot impact the (inner ear's) vestibular system."
The suggestion is not that residents make up symptoms, but rather that they may be assigning common symptoms to turbines when the cause is more likely to be elsewhere. These claims can be explained by two new international studies that have identified a "nocebo" effect.
Nocebo describes a situation in which individuals who are led to expect physical symptoms actually experience those symptoms, whether or not the supposed cause of the symptoms is actually present. According to Simon Chapman, a Professor of Public Health at the University of Sydney who extensively studies wind farms, wind development has been blamed for more than 200 symptoms including herpes, weight loss, weight gain, cancer, nose bleeds, nocturia (the need to get up in the night to urinate), dental infections, nightmares, and vibrating lips.
That's a remarkable range of allegations, given that hundreds of thousands of people around the world work and live within or near wind farms without reporting ill effects.
While studies and real-world experience demonstrate that added wind power helps human health and the environment, many in Iowa also know that wind power provides jobs and valuable new revenue for rural land owners and the surrounding communities. Clean, affordable, and homegrown, we should be applauding companies like MidAmerican Energy for investing in American wind power.
Director of siting policy
American Wind Energy Association