'Wind Turbine Syndrome' Blamed for Mysterious Symptoms in Cape Cod Town


Mannal, who took on the Hobarts' suit before running for public office, said he "had a feeling about this case since it first came to me that this is one of the most important things I will do in my professional life. These are people who have been put upon and are suffering under this thing with no avenue for escape.

"This is an industry that has pushed to make wind happen, and I am not against that, but you do it responsibly," Mannal said. "It goes all day and night. My initial take was that [she] was being a hypochondriac, but I went to their house two years ago with a little skepticism and within 10 minutes of being in the house, I could feel it and hear it. ... It acts like a drum and pounds on the house."

In its answer to the court on May 20, Webb's attorney, Michael J. O'Neill, denied all of Hobart's allegations, saying that Notus' application for an operating permit was "subject to rigorous review" by Falmouth's Zoning Board of Appeals. O'Neill also said that Notus had submitted a "thorough noise assessment by a qualified consultant in support of its application," and that the wind turbine project had complied with all applicable standards and regulations. "Scientific research and studies have shown that wind turbines such as Notus' do not cause a nuisance or adverse health effects," said O'Neill in the court filing.

Webb did not comment on the Hobarts' lawsuit but defended wind energy in an email to ABCNews.com, saying that its wind turbine generates approximately 5 million kWh of electricity annually.

"In three years of operation, it has prevented emissions of more than 7,000 tons of carbon dioxide from conventional generation plants," he wrote. "The nearest home to the Notus turbine is approximately 1,700 feet from the turbine. The minimum setback distance recommended by a state model bylaw is three times tip height, or a distance of 1,197 feet. So our setback distance to homes is substantially greater than specified in the state model bylaw."

Neil Andersen and his wife, Betsy, were big fans of alternative energy, but when two town-owned turbines arrived within 1,320 and 2,320 feet of their house, they, too, said they developed symptoms.

Andersen, 60, said that within a week and half, he developed a "very uncomfortable feeling."

"First, it was pressure in my ears -- they were just popping as I was standing out in the front yard doing landscaping," he told ABCNews.com. "Within two months, my ears started ringing with tinnitus, and now I have clenching of my teeth -- bruxism."

He said he had headaches, shortness of breath, sensitivity to sounds and heart palpitations.

"At times, I even have confusion over what is the pulse of the turbine and which is my heartbeat," he said.

He said his wife had suffered migraines so severe that she wrote in a journal she keeps on her symptoms and the wind turbine operations "Never stops, never stops. Headache. HELP."

More than 45 Falmouth residents have complained to the town's Board of Selectmen, which curtailed the hours of its two turbines at night. The board said it's the pressure of infrasound -- sounds with frequencies below 20 Hz -- which are on the low end of audible for humans.

But others say many who live near the wind turbines suffer no ill effects, and there's research that suggests these unexplainable symptoms could be psychogenic, or "contagious." In a phenomenon known as the nocebo effect -- the opposite of the placebo effect -- people can convince themselves that something is producing harm.

One 2013 study on the wind turbine effect published in the journal Health Psychology examined the power of suggestion and concluded it may have caused the reported health problems.

In the study, researchers exposed 60 participants to 10 minutes of infrasound and then silence. Beforehand, half the group was shown television footage of people who lived near wind farms and were recounting the harmful effects. Within this group, the people who scored high for anxiety developed symptoms, even if they were exposed to sham infrasound.

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