As a member of a profession whose evolution has been driven for a century with the purpose to improve the lives of those it serves, I am puzzled by what I see as the new” Paradigm of diminished empathy “in Public Health policy when it relates to individuals exposed to wind turbine noise.
Through the exponential growth of technology and chemistry, the medical profession has reached a level of human life improvement that would have been considered unthinkable just few decades ago: we relieve pain, we combat infections, we transplant organs, we give new joints, we abate insomnia, depression, anxiety, we lower blood pressure and blood sugar, the list is exhaustive and growing.
Once any single aspect of human torment, whether mild or severe, related to the very condition of living is observed, it is then recorded, analyzed in laboratory; a search for relief is started and the successes are endless.
To perform their job well, physicians need to possess a solid mix of empathy, which help them to be attentive to the patient’s predicament, and of knowledge of the tools available to help him or her to assess the best course of diagnosis and treatment.
Sadly I am coming to the realization that this old concept of empathy toward the patient and of immediate attempt of removal of human discomfort has been eliminated in the specific realm of the deleterious effects of wind turbines on human well being, and it disturbs me profoundly.
The new ‘paradigm ‘ encompasses a combination of dismiss, reject and/or minimization of the patients complaints as well as an imposition of a new concept of “tolerable“ or also “ reasonable” annoyance as well as the ignorance of well established data concluding to turbine noise and sleep disturbance.
In the Spruce Mountain wind project, expected nighttime noise levels from the Gamesa turbines spread over a range of 35 to 40 dbA.
As I listen to Andrew Fiske expressing his concept of “ reasonable annoyance “ in terms of noise levels imposed to Spruce Mountain residents and I read the comments made by Dora Mills, MD on what she calls “occasional annoyance” with wind turbine noise, I a m puzzled by several facts :
. What is reasonable annoyance ?
. What is unreasonable annoyance?
. What is annoyance?
. Who makes the determination that some level of annoyance ought to be accepted, some other is intolerable?
If one recognizes, as Doctor Robert McCunney did while debating Doctor Nissenbaum at the Rutland Regional Medical Center on May 6th, that turbines can cause sleep disturbance because annoyance leads to sleep disturbance in some individuals, shouldn’t the concept of “annoyance” be entered in the realm of medical symptomatology and be left to physicians to assess, quantify and determined rather than acousticians, policymakers or DEP employees?
.What is the anticipated number of individuals expected to be annoyed in this project and who decide which number is acceptable and based on what criteria ?
The DEP clearly refers to Doctor Dora Mills as the medical authority to establish that residents exposed to wind turbines noise in “Spruce Mountain’ will not have” adverse health effects “.
Of notice is the fact that Doctor Mills became preoccupied with wind turbine only in February 2009, at the request of the Rumford Medical staff for a moratorium on wind turbine projects, well after Mars hill residents had expressed their complaints.
In a series of emails here attached it is clear that doctor Mills sought guidance from the DEP immediately after receiving the moratorium request.
One day after receiving such request and after recognizing to David Littell that ‘This was a “new topic “ for me “ and after spending few hours researching the Internet ,she tells the DEP that “ Also if DEP has accessible data ...and if there are other data it , would be helpful to refute the claims made by the medical staff “
Mars Hill residents have been complaining since 2007, why was Doctor Mills not listening to them?
In her email correspondence Doctor Mills mentions a series of articles including a study published in 2007 by Eja Pedersen ( Pedersen ,E & Perrson Waye, K 2007) published in the British Medical Journal which concluded that : …Annoyance was associated with lowered sleep and negative emotions.
Interestingly she is attaching this article in the paper called ” Wind Turbine Neuro –Acoustical Issues“ in February 26, 2009, which she wrote only ten days after receiving a phone call from doctor Aniel, from the Rumford medical staff.
So is sleep disturbance an adverse health effect?
Without any doubt, it is.
Lack of sleep has many short term both physical and mental consequences and long term sleep deficit has been associated with increased risk of cancer and decrease immune responses. Sleeping aids are one of the most profitable segments of the pharmaceutical industry and the status of a patient’s sleep patterns are part of the questioning used by a physician when assessing a patient’s status.
In a graph she included in email correspondence with the DEP in February 2009 and accompanying the following article published in 2004 called: “Perception and annoyance due to wind turbine noise- a dose - response relationship” by Pedersen and Waye ““(http://amherstislandwindinfo.com/pederson.pdf
) it is clear that Dora Mills was made aware that sound exposures over 32 dbA start to be “Highly Annoying“ to some residents, the curve then rises sharply and at sound exposure levels at or over 40 dbA, 25 percent of the population exposed experienced “high annoyance”( Pederson 2004, ref 20).
So the concept to limit sound at pressure 40dbA at night assures that 25 % of the population will be HIGHLY annoyed at that level (15% at 38dbA). In the same article it is reported that 16% of the residents living at sound exposure above 35dbA were disturbed by wind turbine noise.
So through both Swedish studies, Pedersen 2004 and Pedersen 2007, Dora Mills was made aware that at certain sound pressure a certain percentage of the population was highly annoyed and another percentage of the population suffered sleep deprivation. In her 2004 article E. Pedersen writes: “The high prevalence of noise annoyance could be due to the intrusive characteristics of the aerodynamics. The verbal descriptors of sound characteristics related to the aerodynamic sound of swishing, whistling, pulsating /throbbing, and resounding were in agreement with this hypothesis – also reported to be the most annoying. According to the study, this clearly distinguishes a specific characteristic to wind turbine noise separate from other industrial noise (aircraft, road traffic and railways).
The DEP rules on noise have been established in 1979, when the specifics of wind turbines were unknown. Those specifics (aerodynamics characteristics and LFN) are now recognized, no project should be permitted without an amendment of those noise regulations to conform to the new observations and parameters of the physics of wind turbines.
The nighttime noise levels in the Spruce Mountain project are well within deleterious range of significant annoyance and sleep disturbance for sizable segment of the population. Only 10 % of the population are true insomniac, yet an enormous amount of research has and is still being done to improve the quality of the pharmaceutical agents necessary to relieve their condition.
The DEP under the guidance of the Head of the MCDC needs to recognize that in their permit application, the night time noise levels proposed by Patriot Renewable for the Spruce Mountain under the Cadna modeling are going to create high annoyance to a significant portion of the exposed population; this annoyance create sleep disturbance in a significant portion of the population and those annoyance and sleep disturbance are turbine noise specificity recognized.
Annoyance! What does that word means?
Imagine that you go visit your physician for a particular symptom that has been disturbing you for awhile (depression, fatigue, irritability, headache, pressure in the chest). Imagine in the new “Turbine Noise Paradigm“ that your physician, rather than listening to you and requiring the proper follow-up procedure is throwing at you the idea that you should accept a certain amount of annoyance. He even has a term for it, he calls it “reasonable annoyance”. To be annoyed is now revolutionary. This is a kind of revolution I would not like to be part of.
When annoyance persists for hours on end and is beyond your control, it becomes torment. To some the word torture is not too loud.
Sleep deprivation for more than 48 hours is considered torture in the manual of terrorist interrogation of the US Army and has been removed as a way of to extract information by an Executive Order of the President of The USA.
Try driving with your rear windows cracked open, or try tending to a whining child that does not quiet down, or living near a barking dog next door.
In the first instance the intolerable noise is under your control and you immediately put the window up.
The child must be tolerated with equanimity because of your responsibility as a care giver.
The dog is not under your control and the degree of annoyance is much increased for this reason.
Let us remember the Chinese water torture: a drop on the forehead does not hurt per se, but when it continues for hours it is torture.
The multiplicity of symptoms related to the effects of wind turbine noise is impressive and worldwide and needs to be further evaluated rather than rejected, dismissed and ignored. It is the duty of Doctor Mills to incorporate her knowledge of the multiplicity of studies and reports mentioning annoyance and its diverse consequences, including sleep disturbance, in her influence on the DEP over the permitting of wind farms in Maine. .
I am requesting that individuals complaining of the noise related effects of wind turbines (Mars Hill, Freedom, and Vinalhaven) are given the same empathy and attention than any other individual relating a torment of any other source to their health care provider. I am requesting the DEP to insist that Dr. Mills investigates these complaints, forms a conclusion and diagnosis, and then and only then provides DEP with appropriate guidance for proper siting of wind turbines.
I am asking the DEP and its health adviser Doctor Dora Mills why a new paradigm of imposing an ill- defined form of annoyance together with other well known symptoms of depression, anxiety, sleeplessness is taking form in our society which has spent more than a century and is still actively trying to eliminate those symptoms
Based on the literature used by Doctor Dora Mills and the proposed nighttime noise levels written in their permit application by Patriot Renewables, I strongly believe that the erection of the Gamesa turbines on Spruce Mountain project will expose the residents within the 36 to 40 nighttime dbA range to widely recognized sleep disturbance and its accompanying health consequences.
It is unacceptable that a state regulatory agency, which recognized that their noise regulation preceded the scientific understanding of wind turbine noise and whose consultant, Warren Brown, recognizes the failure of the similar model of noise prediction in another wind farm in Vinalhaven, would permit the Spruce Mountain project.
It is unacceptable that the state of Maine chief health officer, who recognized in an email to the DEP while trying to prepare a rebuttal to the Rumford doctor who had requested a moratorium in February 2009 that ”she did not state this in her Q & A but unless DEP rules have been recently updated and are not online yet , there may be room for improving noise regulations for developments to take into account wind farms.”
It is my firm belief that the state will impose real harm, willfully and knowingly to some of its Woodstock residents by permitting the Spruce Mountain wind project .
This permit should not be granted in the current application form and with the proposed noise levels .
Monique Aniel, MD
September 22nd 2010