Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ill winds

We're already well aware of the significant negative health effects caused by random electromagnetic frequencies (seemingly, only from high tension power lines and mobile phones — all other sources such as television signals, microwaves, computers, wall cabling and so on do not cause problems) but what about the terrible and hidden health costs of renewable energy sources?

Dr Sarah Laurie has raised the terrible spectre of "wind farm sickness".

Dr Sarah Laurie, medical director of the newly formed Waubra Foundation, has forwarded to executives of Hepburn Wind a letter she wrote to Premier John Brumby, in which she says she's shocked at the extent and severity of symptoms in patients she has encountered with "wind farm sickness".


Symptoms included a sudden acute severe headache, nausea, a sensation of "their heart leaping out of their chest", and they feel extremely unwell.

"This pattern of symptoms is associated with a dangerously high blood pressure, and warrants immediate medical attention," Dr Laurie said.

A Wind Farm Director interviewed for the report notes that Dr Laurie is discussing "very small numbers of patients" but the exact number is not given. The claims Dr Laurie makes also come from interviews, not any sort of study, and there appears to be no effort to match and compare with any sort of control group. Her letter to the Victorian Premier mentions five people (and another two who, it is not clear, may or may not be included in the five) who have suffered health problems, though she doesn't specify the total population this sample comes from. Nonetheless, Dr Laurie wants a 10 km buffer zone around wind farms.

The symptoms she describes sound eerily similar to those of EMF poisoning:

Commonly reported symptoms of EMF poisoning include sleep disorders, headaches, vision problems, sensitive skin, dizziness, chest pain and nausea.

It has been noted that people experiencing such symptoms have them only when they know that EMF radiation is present. However, if they are unaware of whether the radiation is present or not, there is no correlation between symptoms and EMF. It would be very interesting to know whether the same situation exists with wind farms.

EoR would also be interested in learning whether a Q Link pendant is equally effective for the new malaise as for EMF poisoning?

The Yorkshire Post is equally concerned, noting

a possible link between low-frequency noise of the type transmitted by wind farms and a rare condition called vibroacoustic disease – a complex illness that can lead to epilepsy and cancer.

Vibroacoustic disease appears to have mainly been studied by N Castelo Branco, who describes it thus:

Vibroacoustic disease (VAD) is a whole-body, systemic pathology, characterized by the abnormal proliferation of extra-cellular matrices, and caused by excessive exposure to low frequency noise (LFN). VAD has been observed in LFN-exposed professionals, such as, aircraft technicians, commercial and military pilots and cabin crewmembers, ship machinists, restaurant workers, and disk-jockeys.

Different frequencies are given, but the dangerous levels appear to be 500Hz or less, with lower frequencies being more dangerous. The authors state that decibel levels are not important:

Hence, two situations arise: a) it is not scientifically sound to compare the results of noise-related studies that describe their acoustical environments merely in terms of a dBlevel measurement (i.e., without a frequency spectrum analysis), and b) the results of noiserelated studies that do not report the frequency distribution of their acoustical environments cannot be compared to those that do.

The Clean Energy Council states:

[H]ealth problems stemming from wind farms might be related to the anxiety and stress a person might feel about living near turbines which is then “exacerbated by rhetoric, fears and negative publicity” in the media.


Australian guidelines for wind farm acoustics were among the most stringent in the world and noise levels were improving with advancement in turbine and blade technology and anti-wind farm campaigners could be responsible for creating their own health problems.

Of course, this sort of possible issue is manna from heaven for the climate change deniers. The Australian Environment Foundation has joined in the protest, calling for windfarm development to cease until all its concerns are addressed. Finding independent information about these matters has been some trouble for EoR, with interest groups on both sides putting their points of view, but any organisation with "environment" and "foundation" in its title these days is automatically suspect for being a duplicitous front for climate denial interest groups. Which the AEF, of course, is.

The Australian Environment Foundation is a front group founded by the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), a conservative Melbourne-based think tank.

The director of the environment unit of the IPA, Jennifer Marohasy was the founding Chairwoman and is listed as a Director in the organisation's documents with the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC). Mahorasy is also the listed registrant of the group's website, although the address and phone number for the website registration are identical to the address and phone number for the Victorian office of the logging industry front group, Timber Communities Australia.

Presumably, "Australian environment" means exploiting the Australian environment, and not sustainability. If the AEF truly believed in the precautionary principle, it would also be advocating action on climate change.

Dr Anthony L Rogers at the University of Massachusetts provides a powerpoint presentation offering some relevant information on noise and infrasound in relation to wind turbines. He notes (p.28)

No reliable evidence that infrasound below the hearing threshold produces physiological or psychological effects.

He also provides some intersting graphs (pp. 46-47) showing that annoyance levels increase faster for wind turbines than for comparable industrial noise, and also when people held negative attitudes towards turbines. These concerns were also related directly to audible noise, rather than infrasound.

Dr Laurie's letter of concern is now being quoted by politicians as a "study" in order to stop windfarm development.

[Bass MLA Ken] Smith said a study by a South Australian GP Dr Sarah Laurie, had shown that noise disturbance, sleep deprivation, headaches, increased blood pressure, body vibrations and tachycardia (fast or irregular heart beat) could all be symptoms of wind turbine syndrome.

Perhaps these people would also support shutting down Manhattan?

Noise in 98 percent of Manhattan's public space exceeds healthy levels, says a study co-authored by Columbia University researchers to be released today.

To summarise: there may be a possible link to windfarm turbines and vibroacoustic disease. VAD has, however, never been studied in this situation, nor is it clear that VAD itself exists. Evidence that much of the health issues experienced around windfarms may actually be psychosomatic is clearer.

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