noise-pollution-headphonesIt seems that every improvement is accompanied by grief. Whether you are with the majority of scientists who accept global warming as a scientific fact, or are unconvinced of the evidence, none of us would have ever thought that wind power from giant turbines would actually increase pollution. In this case, I’m talking about noise pollution.

There is a new and growing energy source in America, and unfortunately it can cause actual physiological, emotional and monetary damages.  I can see the commercials already, “if you or a loved one lives within one kilometer of a large wind farm, contact (insert law firm name here) to find out if you have suffered any irreparable or serious physical or monetary harm. Know your rights.”


I used to write commercial copy, so I’m just taking a stroll down memory lane. But I digress.

In a recent article entitled Prevalence of complaints related to wind turbines in northern New England, by Kenneth Kaliski and Gurpreet Neeraj, which appeared in the Canadian Journal Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics, Volume 19, 2013 http://acousticalsociety.org/, ICA 2013 Montreal, Montreal, Canada, 2 – 7 June 2013, acoustics experts determined that the level of noise pollution within one kilometer of a wind farm was so annoying that it caused compensable damages.

Canadians appear to be ahead of us with respect to recognizing this new cause of action. (And they say we’re litigious!)  Less than a year ago, an article was written, entitled Annoyance can represent a serious degradation of health: wind turbine noise a case study by Carmen ME Krogha, Independent, Ontario, Canada, K0J 2A0 , Roy D Jefferyb, Independent, Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada, P0P 1K0 Jeff Araminic, Intelligent Health Solutions, Fergus, Ontario, Canada, N1M 3S9 and Brett Hornerd, Independent, Killaloe, Ontario, Canada, K0J 2A0 in Wind-Watch.org (http://docs.wind-watch.org/Krogh%20et%20al%20-%20Wind%20Turbines%20-%20Annoyance%20and%20Health.pdf)

In this very long-named article, the distinction between “sound” and “noise” is described thusly:  noise is an unwanted sound. Simple enough. I suppose the importance of that distinction is that the bass player in the band can’t sue the drummer because his kick drum was too loud.

But what of the potential damage noise may cause? The article quotes The US Environmental Protection Agency which states “that annoyance” [Ed. Note: noise is considered an ‘annoyance’] can have major consequences, primarily to one’s overall health.” The World Health Organization (WHO) conducted an epidemiology study to assess potential damage caused by noise annoyance and concluded that there was an increased relative risk in the cardiovascular system, the respiratory system, and the musculoskeletal system as well as depression. “The study concluded that for chronically strong annoyance a causal chain exists between the three steps health – strong annoyance – increased morbidity.”

Additionally, noise increased stress, sleep disturbance, headaches, difficulty concentrating, irritability, fatigue, dizziness or vertigo, tinnitus, anxiety, heart ailments and palpitation. Furthermore, they classified severe annoyance noise as a serious human health risk.

For more detail about these findings, take a look at the US Environmental Protection Agency, Noise Pollution Web Site, [cited June 30, 2010] Retrieved from http://www.epa.gov/air/noise.html and Niemann Dr Hildegard, Maschke Dr Christian, LARES Final Report Noise Effects and Morbidity, World Health Organization, (2004).

What this means for both plaintiffs and defendants is simple: as clean, renewable energy sources are created, and please understand that I completely support these efforts, there are often concomitant, unanticipated consequences that some people, particularly those in closest proximity, may suffer. And this relatively new science and cause of action will likely increase as more and more attorneys become aware of the associated problems, as well as an increase in the number of those persons who unfortunately are the victims of what is otherwise a very progressive approach to clean energy.

And don’t forget, just coming up with the noise pollution is only the beginning. Given all of the potential side effects that WHO and the US Environmental Agency has discovered, a noise or acoustics expert will not be sufficient. You will also require additional experts to make certain that the damages set forth are thorough and accurate.

By: Ian Heller, Attorney at Law