Wind Turbines and Health Problems in Maine

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tughillturbine_and_farmEarlier this month, Dr. Michael A. Nissenbaum, a radiologist at the Northern Maine Medical Center, conducted interviews with fifteen people living near the industrial wind energy facility in Mars Hill, Maine. The purpose of the interviews was to investigate and record the health effects on those living within 3500-feet of industrial-scale turbines.

On March 25, 2009, Dr. Nissenbaum presented his preliminary findings before the Maine Medical Association. The data, which he characterized as alarming, suggest the residents are experiencing serious health problems related to shadow flicker and noise emissions from the turbines near their homes. The onset of symptoms including sleep disturbance, headaches, dizziness, weight changes, possible increases in blood pressure, as well as increased prescription medication use, all appear to coincide with the time when the turbines were first turned on (December 2006).

Every individual interviewed by Dr. Nissenbaum reported that his or her quality of life had been negatively affected by the turbines. The residents all expressed new or increased feelings of stress, anger, irritability, depression, anxiety, and hopelessness. Quotes cited in the presentation included “Nobody will help us”, “No one cares”, and “It’s very hard watching my child suffer”.

While some deficiencies exist in the study as Dr. Nissenbaum details in his presentation, aspects of his findings stand out as being immediately significant. In an interview with, Dr. Nissenbaum asserted “The results for sleep disturbance, headaches, anger, feelings of hopelessness, and incidence of depression symptomatology in this group are so high that despite the small number, and the lack of a control and tests of statistical significance, they jump out at physicians as obviously being significant. The statistical significance tests would just be confirmatory in this case – gilding the lily, if you will”.

He added “I did not even get into the issue of the sixteen children who live there. The WHO (World Health Organization) has identified children, along with the elderly, as being particularly susceptible. This would require a fair amount of time, and special expertise, as children manifest in many ways besides, or instead of, simple sleep disturbance including disturbed learning, acting out, etc.”

The Medical Staff of Northern Maine Medical Center released a statement in March 2009 calling for the careful siting of wind turbines. Dr. Nissenbaum included an excerpt from that statement in his presentation as follows: “The State of Maine has a vast, unpopulated hinterland. There is little need to site industrial wind developments in proximity to residential communities if there is a risk of negative health effects. Quality of life, quality of place, and a healthful environment should be the right of all residents of Maine, including those of the rural north”.

On December 18, 2008, Andrew Fisk of Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection informed the residents the State had sent a letter to First Wind stating the wind facility was “currently in compliance with the Control of Noise rules”. The State of Maine has washed its hands of the problems of Mars Hill, leaving the families to suffer.

Thanks to Industrial Wind Action