Air traffic controller a neighbour to wind turbines and is sick
Here from New York magazine a very worrying tale about a sleep-deprived man who works as an air traffic controller. How hard can it be, we ask, to understand that if you can’t sleep you are going to become ill?
Here is an excerpt; go to the website for the full story.
“Never Stops, Never Stops. Headache. Help.”
Some people living in the shadows of wind turbines say they’re making them sick. Almost as upsetting: Their neighbors don’t feel a thing. By Kristen French
- By Kristen French
- Published Sep 15, 2013
(Photo: Christopher Griffith/Trunk Archive)
On May 4, 2012, at around 8:30 a.m., air-traffic controller Mark J. Cool put two planes on a collision course over Cape Cod. “Runway 14” is what Cool heard the Coast Guard controller say when he okayed a Falcon jet for takeoff from the airport. “Runway 23” is what the controller actually said. That set the jet directly in the flight path of a twin-prop Cool had just released from another airport. On his radar display, two green splats lurched ever closer as he made a series of frantic radio contacts to set them on a corrected course. Cool’s supervisor and colleagues crowded behind him in a crescent of worry. The planes came within two thirds of a mile and 500 feet of altitude of one another. A few seconds later, they would have crashed.
Cool was immediately taken off duty, and before he could return to the boards, his supervisors flew in a guy from California to counsel him in sleep and stress management.
The cause of his near-fatal mistake, Cool insists, was the 40-story wind turbine a third of a mile behind his home in Falmouth, Massachusetts. For two years, he had been suffering from insomnia and headaches, which left him fatigued, distracted, and stressed out. It wasn’t the turbine’s noise that woke him or made his head hurt; he believes some intangible mechanism was at work, an invisible and inaudible wind turbulence. And it was all he could talk about.
“Everybody at work was like, ‘Ah, jeez’—ya know, every time I walk in, ‘Cool is talking about wind turbines,’ ” he says. “So it had pretty much captured my life.”
A 55-year-old former Navy man, Cool says his annual flight physicals, which include an EKG and a vision test, have always shown him to be “healthy as a horse.” But he started getting mysterious headaches in April 2010, almost two weeks after the turbine was turned on behind the sprawling Colonial he shares with his wife, Annie, who began battling sleep loss around the same time. He was out tending his garden when his ears started popping as though he were gaining altitude in an airplane. That turned into head congestion, which became a relentlessly painful pressure behind his ears, at the base of his head. “Not like put-your-finger-in-a-socket pain, just a dull constant,” he says. The headache didn’t go away until he left home four hours later on an errand.
For the next few weeks, the headaches hit when he was in the yard working. Cool went to see his doctor, who prescribed allergy medicine, but that didn’t help. And then he heard from a couple of neighbors who were suffering from ear popping and headaches, too, and had trouble sleeping. “It was kind of a relief,” he says, to realize he was not the only one. “I came back and started talking to my wife about it: ‘What’s new in the neighborhood? The wind turbine.’ ” It was a quick-and-dirty calculus.
Then his symptoms got worse…