Can Wind Turbines Cause Developmental Deformities In Horses?

The following is the summary of a case study of a group of Lusitano horses that have been monitored over 4 years which were the subject of a masters thesis at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Technical University, Lisbon completed in 2012.

The study was performed by Teresa Margarida Pereira Costa e Curto, ADVISOR: Dr. Maria da Conceição da Cunha and Vasconcelos Peleteiro CO-ADVISOR: Dr. Maria Luisa Jorge Mendes

The study reports the findings from a stud where 11 foals developed flexural deformities of the front limbs, after they were born. (Acquired flexural deformity of the distal interphalangeal joint).

In this stud farm, the owner has been breeding normal and physically sound horses since 2000. There were no changes in diet, exercise or any other significant alteration in management. Until in 2008, wind turbines were installed adjacent to the property and grazing paddocks.
Since this date, a good number of foals and yearlings have developed deformities.

The subjects of the study were:
-11 Lusitano horses. Age between 0 and 48 months old.
-6 males and 5 females
-9 were born at the stud farm, 2 were acquired from a different breeder.

Healthy foal 6 month foal - close-upThe images show the same foal’s lower legs and hooves at 3 months (left) and later at 6 months (right) of age.

6 month foal - close-upAnother foal was bought from another breeder to exclude a possible genetic link to this problem. The pony came to the farm at 15 days old and, like the others, developed a flexural deformity.


The following tests were used for the study:
• Anamnesis
• Clinical examination
• Goniometry
• Ultrasound and x-ray
• Measurement of cortical bone
• CT
• Desmotomy of the check ligament
• Histopathology
• Sound measurements
• Measurements of Ground vibration

Proximity of horses to wind turbineHorse proximityproximity

Measurements of ground vibration were made at different distances from the wind turbines, with the same equipment that is used to detect seismic vibrations (earthquakes). The results of these measurements, showed ground vibration at different frequencies. Research has shown that vibration effects bone metabolism.

Cellular Mechano-transduction is the mechanism by which cells convert mechanical signals into biochemical responses. Based on the mechanical effects on cells it was proposed in this research project that the ground vibrations were responsible for a increased bone growth which was not accompanied by the muscle-tendon unit growth leading to the development of these flexural deformities.

The above research project was based solely on this case study. Therefore, further research is necessary in order to validate these preliminary findings and hypothesis. Regarding the sound that the wind turbines produce, measurements were taken and studies have demonstrated some cellular damage is caused by low frequency noise.

Acquired flexural deformity of the distal interphalangic joint in foals

Since 2008, a high prevalence of front limb acquired flexural deformities was observed in a Lusitano stud farm. This work aims to evaluate this problem by reporting the results from tissue alterations in the affected animals as well as environmental conditions and management changes, which could have led to this observation. A total of eleven affected animals were studied. In these, a complete physical and orthopaedic examination were performed specifically the determination of the angle between the dorsal hoof wall and the floor. Radiographic examination, CT imaging, determination of the thickness of the cortical bone of the third metacarpian and histopathology of some tissues collected in biopsy and necropsy were done in a subset of affected foals.

All the animals had been supplemented with balanced commercial diet for equine. To investigate a possible genetic cause, two foals from distinct bloodlines were brought to the stud. These also developed the deformities after 6 months. Two of the affected foals were placed in a
pasture away from the initial one and two others were admitted at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Lisbon. In those animals, except for one that had to be euthanized for humane reasons, an improvement was observed on their condition, with partial recovery of the deformity.

Histopathology was performed from (i) the tendon obtained by surgical desmotomy in one foal, (ii) tendon biopsies were performed in three foals and (iii) from the tissue of one foal during necropsy. Histologically the most significant alterations were the dissociation of myofibrils of the smooth muscle. This was predominantly seen in the small intestine but also in the walls of small capillary vessels, including those of the tendon vasculature. The flexural deformities have a complex and multifactorial etiopathogeny. They occur due to uncoupling of the longitudinal development of the bone and its adjacent soft tissues, but also from shortening of the tendon-muscle unit in response to pain.

In the case series presented here, there was no obvious cause for the development of this problem, therefore we hypothesised that unusual environmental conditions might have played an important role in the development of this condition, especially those introduced in recent years.

Wind Turbine Underwater Noise and Marine Mammals: an update


PT Madsen, M Wahlbert, J Tougaard, K Lucke, P Tyack:

Abstact on: Wind Turbine Underwater Noise and Marine Mammals

April 15, 2013 – Although this abstract is from 2006, it still provides an overview of man made noise generated from construction and operation of offshore wind turbines.  We must also consider when reading

this  abstract, that under water noise is cumulative and competing with animals’ rights to use sound and sonar to mate and locate food.  Pile driving seems to be the noisiest of activities.


Wind farms blamed for stranding of whales


Credit: By Simon Johnson, The Telgraph,

March 15, 2011

Offshore wind farms are one of the main reasons why whales strand themselves on beaches, according to scientists studying the problem.

Environmentalists have blamed submarines’ sonar and a ground-breaking study has confirmed that sonar does disturb the navigation of whales but it has suggested that offshore wind farms, as well as oil rigs, and even passing ships, posed an even greater threat.

Scientists at the University of St Andrews studying beaked whales, a species that frequently becomes beached in Britain, concluded that they were extraordinarily timid creatures that were scared “by virtually anything unusual”, despite being the size of a rhinoceros and weighing the same as a London bus.

The findings suggest that more strandings can be expected as ministers are planning a major expansion in the number of offshore wind farms, especially off the coast of Scotland, which is an area where whales congregate to feed.

Continue reading →

Community members urged to fight local wind energy projects

February 13, 2013

By Sarah Frank


(NORWOOD) Prior to 2009, Barb Ashbee and her husband didn’t have any objections to wind turbines.

After 133 wind towers went up near their home, northwest of Toronto, Ms. Ashbee says she and her husband started experienced stomach aches, ringing in their ears, heart palpitations and cognitive and memory problems. Both started to suffer headaches of varying degrees, presumably caused by the constant noise made by the turbines and the resulting vibrations they could feel throughout their home.

Ms Ashbee was one of several people who spoke about various health complications which could arise as a result of industrial wind turbines at a community information session in at the Norwood Townhall on Feb. 13.

More than 60 people came out to the meeting to learn more about the possible health implications of living near wind turbines, which could pop up in the area in 2014. Zero Emission People, who currently have eight wind farm projects operating or in the works, are planning to build “Wind Farm Collie Hill,” which will consist of three wind turbines on County Road 2 between Hastings and Keene. The towers will be at least 100 metres (more than 30 stories) high.

Ms Ashbee says she and her husband could hear and feel vibrations from the turbines in their home.

“Some days were worse than others,” she says, adding her pets were also distraught by the low-frequency noise. “Our dog would sit in the middle of the living room and whine.”


Animals, too, suffer from Wind Turbine Syndrome

August 22, 2011

Miriam Raftery, East County Magazine


Like those proverbial canaries in the coal mine, chickens near wind farms may provide early clues to potential harm to health of humans and animals. That’s the contention of Hamish Cumming, a farmer battling proposed wind turbines near his home in New Zealand.

He has written a letter to East County Magazine seeking help from people living near wind farms locally (and in other locations) to document cases of shell-less eggs, dead chickens, or other animals that suffer internal hemorrhaging.

The “humble chicken” is common in rural areas near wind farms and can be easily monitored, Cumming says. Chickens under stress may produce a soft-shelled or shell-less egg that can’t be laid, killing the chicken. Such incidents have been documented near wind farms, says Cumming, who has also collected examples of livestock and a dog that died from internal hemorrhaging near wind farms.


Read more


A Dog’s Sixth Sense

February 18, 2013

…the 100 MW Talbot project was not functioning all day yesterday… it was fabulous here… so quiet and peaceful with snow falling all day (so you couldn’t even see most of the turbines). I noted that my 8 month old dog seemed very different. He was quiet all day, never once barked inside or outside… a distinct contrast to the previous windy days when he was barking in the house (seemingly at nothing), and barking outside while looking in the direction of turbines. Then at 6:15 last night he suddenly was barking inside, I let him out… the turbines had just started up.. he continued to look at them barking.

Germany: How a dream became a nightmare

heartlMarch 8, 2012
A true story about the wind mania in northern Germany, of two people who moved to the countryside in order to realize their dream of a peaceful life and work in the midst of nature and now, 17 years later, find themselves in a permanent nightmare.

Paradise in the countryside to live and work
When we moved to the countryside in 1994 we were no wind power opponents. Generating energy through wind power could be useful, but we weren’t informed enough about pros and cons, so we wanted us to afford no opinion.

When searching for a suitable Farmstead on the countryside, we were interested in only one thing: a scenic and peaceful environment in a natural setting with a rich biodiversity and a vast horizon. This was what we found in the Wilstermarsch in the southwest of Schleswig-Holstein, the northernmost state of Germany in a small community that was named Neuendorf.

We had been townsfolk before but active friends of nature. Intact, natural surroundings with a wide variety of biodiversity of grassland birds, water birds and songbirds, birds of prey, owls and bats was an important criterion for us in buying an old farm which was in need of extensive renovation work. The associated garden was with no charm, unkempt, the adjoining land corresponded to the usual over-fertilized and nature-free agriculture standard.

In the southeast, a few hundred yards away, were standing three wind turbines, nearly 50 meters high, which attracted no attention, neither by noise nor by shadow flickers. We asked the farmer, who wanted to sell the house, if more wind turbines or other industrial buildings in the surrounding area probably are planned. He assured us that this was not the case.

The asking price for such an old house which was highly in need of renovation and the unkempt garden was too high. But the location was magical. A paradise like we dreamt of, in which we wanted to grow old and we were willing to invest much time and effort and to pay such an exorbitant price.

The nightmare began
10 months after our move, in the middle of our time-consuming renovation work and garden planning aimed at making our grounds as nature-friendly as possible to realize our dream, wind turbines were erected between 320 and 420 metres from our house.

First, the quality of life dies

The nightmare starlet and the consequences for us were the following:

  • Since 1995 we have to sleep with closed windows, because of the noise the wind turbines are producing – even when it is extremely hot. Relaxation and peace in our garden, on our land and with our animals is impossible when the wind blows – whether from south-east, east, northeast or northwest we can scarcely sleep even with closed windows. Conversation inside the house in certain rooms has been disturbed
  • Shadow flicker, something very special we’ve never experienced before, came into our lives between November and February. The turbines throw a shadow in the mornings which gives us headaches, induces irritability and disturbs our concentration (we have our offices at home)
  • The avifauna (wild birds, bats and insects) disappears. In February 1995, after the wind turbines started operating, the impact on the avifauna (wild birds, bats and insects) was immediately evident in a frightening way. The majority of birds and bats disappeared! Birds which are sensitive breeders, like peewits for example did not return after migration and the bats did not return from their winter quarters in the neighbourhood. Instead they disappeared permanently.

In order to work against this loss of wildlife we bought several hectares of land further away from the turbines on the other side of our farmhouse in the summer of 1995 and re-naturalized them. It took 5 years until the bird and bat population revived at a low level….

Reaction of the former conservation organizations: today’s enviro business
As members of various conservation organizations, we reported other members of our observations on the behavior of the avifauna, after the wind turbines started operating. Already at that time we were called crackpots. We were accused, we would be nuclear power lobbyists. The loss of species was partly denied, partly accepted without protest, because wind energy is such a good thing. We were horrified and took no longer part at meetings and activities.

Today we have left all the non-governmental organizations which are sponsored by industrial wind-profiteers and which became environmental companies with wind energy and biomass production at the expense of nature. We will support no longer this scandal and fraud on the expense of nature and the true conservationists.

Some did not answer the reasons for the termination, some answered with standard letters and others with incomprehension..

First symptoms of disease
Approximately 1996 we realized that we barely fall to sleep and weren’t able to sleep through the night. We thought even to ask a dowser, to determine if our bed is standing above a water vein. We moved furniture between several rooms, but it was the same everywhere.

Symptoms such as ear pressure and noise in the ears were suddenly our companions. Visits to the doctor and medications became the rule for us. – I began to wonder why I felt better on my long and exhausting tournees, than at home. During the work I recovered from my lack of sleep. Previously it was vice versa…

Wind power profiteers and their dirty methods
That same year, amid this new and terrifying experience, the then-mayor appeared with the representative of a wind power operator to to convince us of an extension of the wind energy area – in the midst of the most species-rich wet meadows around our land. With the words: ” It won’t be to your disadvantage…”, he tried to corrupt us. The men were shown the door.

Much later we found out that it was wagered in the village, whether we let ourselves buy by the wind energy profiteers, or whether our love for nature would triumph…

Also we were told about the 1.000 DM, the community representatives were paid in the early 90s for their approval to the first plans for the wind turbines next to our farm..

Thus we realized, why the seller of the property we’ve bought suddenly wanted to sell the farm. He was member of the local council and agreed to the wind power plans, pocketed the sum, and then hurried to look for naive clients, to buy his dilapidated farm for a lot of money before the wind turbines are built.

Slowly we came to know from personal experience and by reading the approval documents of the wind turbines next to us this dirty secrets of the supposedly clean wind energy …

And there should be a lot more.

Effects of Noise on Wildlife

October 31, 2011
Nature Sounds Society

As human beings continue their encroachment upon the last remaining vestiges of untouched wilderness, wildlife populations around the globe continue to diminish in size. The impacts of human encroachment and environmental pollution are evident wherever research biologists perform their studies: loss of habitat and territory; loss of food supply; behavioral changes in mating predation and migration; and changes in inter-species relationships, altered predator-prey balance, increased competition for food and shelter.

Human-induced noise pollution is one of many factors contributing to the depletion of wildlife populations. Laboratory studies and limited field research have uncovered four major ways in which animals are adversely affected by noise pollution:

  • Hearing loss, resulting from noise levels of 85 db or greater
  • Masking, which is the inability to hear important environmental cues and animal signals
  • Non-auditory physiological effects, such as increased heart rate and respiration and general stress reaction, and
  • Behavioral effects, which vary greatly between species and noise characteristics, resulting in, for example, abandonment of territory and lost reproduction

Studies on Rhesus Monkeys in the lab have shown that a 30% increase in blood pressure following exposure to as an average 85 db (lower at night, higher during the day) for eight months resulted in a permanently higher blood pressure and heart rate even after one month of quiet time!

Sound, stressed mice have been shown to be much more susceptible to disease, less able to learn mazes, and to experience 40-100% resorption of embryos and 66% reduction in fetal weight when exposed to 82-85 db (equivalent to a power lawn mower ) for eight hours per day.

Exposure of Desert Kangaroo Rats to dune buggy sounds (95 db at 4 meters, on and off for 500 seconds) caused a major reduction on detection distance for its principal predator the Sidewinder (Rattlesnake). In fact, the distance for the normal sand kicking response to the snake’s presence was reduced from 40 cm. to 2 cm., and it took three weeks for the rat to recover. Surely in the field, this nocturnal rodent could not have survive at such a disadvantage!

Plenty of evidence exists to indicate that serious damage is occurring to animals in the wild. Long-term effects from medium to low level noise intrusion need much more study, with emphasis on threatened and endangered species. The synergistic effects of noise with other stressors on animals also need investigation.

Noise Effects on Wildlife Factsheet

October 31, 2011
Citizens’ Task Force on Wind Power – Maine
Noise Pollution Clearinghouse

Sources of noise that have the potential to effect wildlife include aircraft overflights, recreational activities such as snowmobiling and motorboating, automobile traffic, and heavy machinery and equipment. The effects of aircraft noise have been studied more intensively because of their threat to wildlife populations in national and state refuges and parks. Impacts to wildlife habitat in remote areas have increased from military aircraft overflights and helicopter activity related to the tourism and resource extraction industries (National Park Service, 1994).

The study of animal response to noise is a function of many variables including characteristics of the noise and duration, life history characteristics of the species, habitat type, season and current activity of the animal, sex and age, previous exposure and whether other physical stressors (e.g. drought) are present (Manci, et al., 1988).

Physiological responses: Disturbances from aircraft noise range from mild, such as an increase in heart rate to more damaging effects on metabolism and hormone balance. Long term exposure to noise can cause excessive stimulation to the nervous system and chronic stress that is harmful to the health of wildlife species and their reproductive fitness (Fletcher, 1980; 1990).

Behavioral responses: Responses vary among species of animals and birds and among individuals of a particular species. Variations in response may be due to temperament, sex, age, and prior experience with noise. Minor responses include head-raising and body-shifting. More disturbed mammals will trot short distances; birds may walk around flapping wings. Panic and escape behavior results from more severe disturbances (National Park Service, 1994).

Behavioral and physiological responses have the potential to cause injury, energy loss (from movement away from noise source), decrease in food intake, habitat avoidance and abandonment, and reproductive losses (National Park Service, 1994). Studies have shown that when certain bird species are flushed from nests in response to noise, eggs are broken and young are exposed to injury and predators (Bunnell et al., 1981; Gladwin, 1987). Young mammals have been trampled as adults attempt to flee from aircraft (Miller and Broughton, 1974). Another study compared mortality rates of caribou calfs exposed to overflights to those not exposed (Harrington and Veitch, 1992). Mortality rates were significantly greater in the exposed group. Milk release may have been inhibited in mothers disturbed by the noise leaving calves malnourished.

Animals rely on hearing to avoid predators, obtain food, and communicate. Auditory systems of some animals are particularly at risk to physical damage from chronic noise, for example desert animals that have evolved an acute sense of hearing. Studies have documented hearing loss caused from motorcycle noise in the desert iguana (Bondello, 1976) and the kangaroo rat, an endangered species (Bondello and Brattstrom, 1979)

Ninety-eight species of birds and mammals on national park lands have been identified as threatened or endangered. The impacts on these species from aircraft noise are largely undocumented. Some of the species became threatened or endangered because of loss of habitat. Further relocation necessary because of noise disturbance might not be possible for these species (National Park Service, 1994).

Studies are needed to determine the long term effects of noise disturbance. Long-term studies have been difficult because of the effort required and the complexity of the variables affecting animal survival (National Park Service, 1994).

Many important studies on wildlife can be found on our website. They include:

  • Effects of Aircraft Noise And Sonic Booms on Domestic Animals and Wildlife: A Literature Synthesis (1988). This is a report compiling results of many studies researching noise and its effects on wildlife. The studies focused primarily on mammals and birds, but also includes fish, amphibians reptiles and invertebrates. A brief description of aircraft noise and sonic boom characteristics is also included
  • Effects of Aircraft Noise and Sonic Booms on Fish and Wildlife: Results of a Survey of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Endangered Species and Ecological Services Field Offices, Refuges, Hatcheries, and Research Centers (1988). This document presents the information provided by biologists and field managers at field installations of National Wildlife Refuges and other similar environments. It documents the effects overflights have on wildlife at the sites and gives recommendations to educate about the problems of overflights and how to deal with them.
  • Report to Congress: Report on Effects of Aircraft Overflights on the National Park System (1994). This report details a wide range of costs and benefits of overflights. Included in the report are effects overflights have on natural quiet as a natural resource, cultural and historic resources, wildlife, visitor enjoyment and safety. Values associated with tourist overflights are also taken into account. The report used information from surveys given to park managers and visitors to the park on the ground and in the air. The report gives recommendations to reduce the impact of overflights on National Parks.

Heightened Sensitivities of the Animal Kingdom

snakeJanuary 17, 2010 – It appears that animals are even more susceptible to low frequency noise than humans.

The animal kingdom relies upon a wide range of sound frequencies inaudible to humans. Within these sensitive habitats, almost no background noise is experienced. The low frequency noise and vibration projected (and transmitted through the earth) by industrial wind turbine operation is most certainly threatening or confusing to wildlife. The hearing and vibration sensitivity of most creatures in the wild is far more acute than human sound perception.

Confusion by sound emanations can lead to the failure in hunting success, self-defense and, ultimately, survival. Snakes, for example, which rely extensively upon their perception of vibration, are particularly sensitive to habitat disturbance from industrial developments.

The noise pollution at higher frequencies may explain the catastrophic effect wind turbines are having on bats, a significant keystone species within the balance of nature. Permeating a large area of natural habitat with extraneous noise pollution will have obvious repercussions for the survival of species dependent on the special characteristics of these unique refuges and, as has been observed by biologists, lead to permanent abandonment.

Other articles:

Adverse Health Effects of Turbines – October 20, 2009

Wind Turbines Killing Innocent Goats – May 29, 2009

National Wind Watch: Do wind turbines harm animals?

Eagles killed by wind turbines – June 26, 2006