Wind turbines don’t give people syndromes

Dr. Pierpont’s vanity-press book, Wind Turbine Syndrome, is a deeply flawed and vastly over-inflated work that is causing much more harm than any good it might be attempting to achieve. It has a tiny, self-selected sample group, phone interviews only, acceptance of hearsay on additional people as direct evidence, no control group, the approach taken to gathering information is almost designed to lead to the sample identifying symptoms as caused by wind turbines and the conclusions are unsupported by the data.

This purported syndrome consists of a long list of minor symptoms experienced broadly by people everywhere including tinnitus, dizziness, heart-palpitations, nausea, tingling, loss of sleep and a list of five or six more complaints.

What are the flaws in Pierpont’s study and book?

  1. Selection bias error – Dr. Pierpont advertised for people that attributed their health problems to wind farms.  This skews results and leads the discussion.
  2. Sample size error – Dr. Pierpont spoke over the phone to only 23 people.  She accepted anecdotal evidence for an additional 15.  Despite this, she published roughly 60 pages of statistics, charts and graphs.  There is no statistical conclusion of any sort that can be drawn from a sample this small except the size of the sample.
  3. No control group. Effective health studies are carefully designed to include control groups to ensure that the study is valid.  Dr. Pierpont did not establish a control group and assess their health and did not compare her results to incidence of symptoms in the general population. Among other things, this means her study is at best a case series, very nearly the weakest level of evidence-based medicine and not appropriate for statistical analysis. Despite this, Pierpont produced 60 pages of charts and graphs.
  4. Accepting self-reporting of symptoms, severity and causation without independent assessment.  This is antithetical to medical practice.  Doctors are trained to listen to patients’ complaints, then use independent means to validate a diagnosis.  Self-reporting by patients is considered to be of very low quality and only guides assessment.
  5. No validation of prior health histories. Dr. Pierpont does not assess the prior medical histories of the respondents. Accepting statements of health impacts with no histories is deeply flawed methodology.
  6. Accepting hearsay evidence – As pointed out, Dr. Pierpont accepted evidence about other family member symptoms as valid without corroboration and included this information in her analysis.
  7. No geographical mapping. – Pierpont did not establish the specific locations of complainants to location of wind turbines as well as other sources of noise or potential sources of medical health problems.  This is an important step in establishing causation, one ignored by Pierpont.
  8. No peer review – Pierpont’s original peer reviewers were relatives and friends with no expertise in acoustics, epidemiology or medicine. One of these was her husband, Calvin Luther Martin, a retired associate professor of history and long-time anti-wind advocate. Her work is not peer reviewed, and has never been submitted or accepted for peer review by any medical or scientific journal. Any work that does not gain solid peer review by accredited, broadly accepted and cited medical journals, especially years after initial publication, is not credible. Post-publication, she has gained additional supporters whom she terms peer reviewers in contradiction of the accepted meaning of that term, all of whom have a significant history of attacking wind generation.
  9. Weak infrasound hypothesis. Pierpont reaches from this weak foundation to a strongly worded hypothesis that infrasound from wind farms impacts the inner ear. As wind farms create less infrasound at homes than waves on a beach, cars driving or that experienced by people in cities, and as Pierpont is not an acoustician or competent to judge inner ear impacts, this is not worth considering from three different perspectives.

What’s the evidence against wind turbine syndrome?

There have been over 20 reviews of the dozens of studies on wind turbine noise, vibration, infrasound and shadow flicker as well as grey literature on purported health impacts. The reviewers have been panels of public health doctors and scientists, acousticians, epidemiologists and related specialists. They considered Dr. Pierpont’s book along with all of the rest of the published literature. In every case, they found that her work was completely lacking in credibility compared to other research.

Studies of infrasound related to wind turbines find levels of infrasound at the wind turbines too low to be an organic cause of harm.  Even at homes nearer to wind turbines than Ontario’s Regulation 359/09 recommends — ISO method established noise attenuation to WHO recommended 40 dBA or about 550 meters for one large wind turbine — wind turbine infrasound is below the level from air conditioners, fans and refrigerators.  It is below the level of 55+ dBG experienced by all urban dwellers and many rural dwellers all the time.

The level of infrasound inside buildings with the windows closed at the minimum Ontario setback of 550 meters from wind turbines is below what humans can hear, far below what humans can feel and 10-20 dBG below what people living beside beaches are exposed to.  At 360 meters distance, the above is all still true.  At 200 meters distance, the above is all still true.

Where does this leave us?

The evidence is clear.  Pierpont’s study was flawed methodologically.  No review conducted by the standards of evidence-based medicine has accepted it as useful evidence. Over 20 major independent review of all scientific, medical and grey literature have found no health impacts or mechanisms for health impacts such as asserted by Pierpont.