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Health and Medicine

Wind Turbine Syndrome? Couple Wins Damages In Court, But The Science Is Shaky

author

Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

clockNov 8 2021, 17:58 UTC
Wind turbine.

A number of scientific reviews have found no evidence that wind turbines cause disease in humans. Image credit: klauscook/Shutterstock.com

A couple who lived near a wind farm in France has won their legal battle and received a generous payout after a court recognized they experienced health problems from apparent cases of “wind turbine syndrome.” 

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Despite having the sciencey-sounding “syndrome” in its name, wind turbine syndrome is not a formerly recognized disease and you’ll be hard pushed to find a credible scientist who takes the term without a side-order of skepticism. You might, however, be able to find a fossil fuel company that would be happy to tell you about the perils of the supposed disease.

The couple, Belgium nationals Christel and Luc Fockaert, won €128,000 (approximately $148,350) in damages after the Toulouse Court of Appeal found that wind turbines installed near their house in Southern France was linked to them suffering from headaches, dizziness, fatigue, tinnitus, a racing heart, and blackouts, France Bleu reports. 

After buying the property in 2004, six wind turbines were installed between 700 and 1,300 meters (2296 to 4265 feet) from their house in 2008. Five years later, after a nearby wooded area was cut down, the pair claim to have started feeling the impact of the turbines. Along with the noise of the turbine, they also complained that the flashing lights gave "the impression of being in a permanent thunderstorm," according to Le Figaro newspaper. 

“It was a really terrifying visual and auditory assault, which was even more unbearable at night,” they said. 

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Their case was initially chucked out of court in early 2020, but they appealed the decision. The difference in the decision between the two courts was, in part, put down to a broader definition of health used by the World Health Organization, which states: "health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." 

However, the science of wind turbine syndrome is shaky, to say the least.  A number of scientific reviews have looked at the reports, papers, and evidence on the issue and found no evidence that wind turbines cause disease in humans. One study’s conclusion reads: “The epidemiological and experimental literature provides no convincing or consistent evidence that wind turbine noise is associated with any well-defined disease outcome.” 

Some studies have acknowledged that some people living near wind farms report feeling annoyed at the sight and sound of the turbines. However, in the words of one Canadian report: “annoyance is not a pathological entity,” but a “subjective response that varies among people to many types of sounds," such as a nearby train line or flight path. 

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Simon Chapman, an Emeritus Professor of Public Health at the University of Sydney, compiled a list of all the diseases, symptoms, and generally bad things that were being blamed on wind turbines. Among the 247 things people have linked to wind turbine syndrome were ADHA, autism, anger issues, indigestion, cancer, shoulder pain, loose stools, painful urination, yawning, bee extinction, and confused echidnas. 


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