Autism and Wind Turbines
Autism is a neuro-developmental disorder that affects the development of the brain in the area of social interaction. It has been well documented that individuals on the Autistic Spectrum experience a degree of sensory impairment which renders them extremely sensitive to specific sounds, light and reflection and in many cases touch. To this end, it is reasonable to assume that individuals on the Autistic Spectrum will be even more susceptible to infrasound, mechanical noise and shadow flicker from wind turbines than the general population.
A 2003 study by Stansfeld and Matheson found that children in general represent a group who are particularly vulnerable to the non-auditory (infrasound) effects of noise. The report stated “In view of the fact that children are still developing both physically and cognitively, there is a possible risk that exposure to an environmental stressor such as noise may have an irreversible negative consequence for this group”. In 2010 a study by Steigler and Davis found that noise sensitivity is a particular problem with those with Autism Spectrum Disorders.
In fact, in the UK, Planning Inspectors and Planning Authorities have been sufficiently convinced of the effects of infrasound on those with Autistic Spectrum Disorders that they have refused planning permission for several wind energy facilities on the grounds that there were individuals living nearby with the condition. For example, a wind farm planned for North Lincolnshire was rejected in 2010 because of the serious effect it would have on twin autistic boys living nearby. A report from a Clinical Psychologist in this case pointed out the “extreme distress” that turbines could cause to people with autism. In this particular case, the twin boys had a fixation with spinning objects and the report asserted that “the time they spend engaged in spinning and observing objects had to be limited in order to allow them to engage in other more meaningful activities.” In another case in Aberdeenshire, Scotland in 2011, the parents of a severely autistic boy forced a wind energy company to backtrack on plans to site wind turbines near their home on the basis of evidence from Consultant Clinical Psychologist Dr. Susan Stebbings. Closer to home, Dan Danaher reported in the Clare Champion newspaper on the 26th Jan 2012 how a Co. Clare mother claimed that her life “had been turned upside down” following the erection of a 19.6m agricultural turbine in a neighbouring property.
The turbines planned for Ireland are 185m high, almost ten times the height of the 19.6 m high turbine in Co. Clare.
The prevalence of autism in the general population in Ireland is now 1 in 100 according to a recent study by Prof. Staines of D.C.U.. Many Irish families with autistic members are very worried whether they will be able to stay in their homes if the planned wind farms proceed. There seems to be wilful negligence on the part of the Irish State in its failure to consider the increasing body of peer-reviewed evidence on the link between wind farms and adverse health effects and in particular its failure to consider the impacts these developments would have on the most vulnerable in our community, including those with Autistic Spectrum Disorders.
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Data collated, presented and prepared by WindAwareIreland
Cristina Becchio, Morena Mori, Umberto Castiello (2010) Perception of shadows in children with ASD. View
Catherine Purple Cherry & Lauren Underwood. The ideal home for the Autistic child. Autism Science Digest; The Journal of Autismone, Issue 03. View
Flavia Cortesi et al (2010). Sleep in children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders, Sleep Medicine 11 (2010) 659-664. View
Stansfeld & Matheson (2003) Health Impact Assessment Ch 7. B.A.C. View
Lillian N Steigler & Rebecca Davis (2010) Understanding Sound Sensitivity in Individuals with Autistic Spectrum Disorders, Online First. View
BBC website 27 April 2010. View
The Press and Journal, David Mc Kay 23 April 2011. View