Definitive Document — Wind Turbine Noise & Adverse Health Effects, June 2014

What Was Known in the 1980’s About Wind Turbine IFLN and Turbulence

Constructively addressing the current conundrum about precisely what is causing the reported symptoms, sensations, sleep disruption and deteriorating mental and physical health of residents living near industrial wind turbines around the world, and trying to prevent such damage to health in future, has not been helped by ignoring important research findings of the past, particularly those of Dr Neil Kelley and his co researchers, and other NASA researchers during the 1980’s. 1,2,3

For those who are not aware, Dr Kelley and his co researchers at the Solar Energy Research Institute (“SERI”) identified in 1985 that the cause of the symptoms euphemistically called “annoyance” for the residents living near a single downwind-bladed turbine was impulsive infrasound and low frequency noise (ILFN) from that wind turbine, which then resonated within some building structures. 4 The effects were consistently reported to be worst in small rooms facing the noise source. 5 Sensitisation or “conditioning” was also acknowledged 6 – in simple terms people did not habituate to the sound energy but became sensitised to it. What was also clearly established was that perception of the sound energy was well below the audibility thresholds for hearing in the infrasound range. 7

Subsequent laboratory experiments using volunteers working for SERI (rather than wind turbine noise sensitised residents) reproduced the sound energy and the variable effects on those exposed. 8 In other words, direct causation of the reported “annoyance” effects from the impulsive reproduced sound energy identical to “wind turbine noise” was clearly established. This research was presented to the international wind industry at the American Wind Energy Association Windpower conference in 1987, sponsored by the US Department of Energy. 9

Subsequent NASA research in Hawaii by Shepherd and Hubbard in 1989 showed that modern upwind-bladed wind turbines could also generate higher than expected infrasound and low frequency noise, especially when the inflow air was turbulent. 10 This occurs when wind developers site wind turbines too close together. More recent work by Laratro et al 11 has confirmed that tip vortices have only just broken down at 7 rotor diameters (using free stream speed of 10m/s), providing empirical support for a minimum of 7 rotor diameter separation distance.

Despite the scientific acoustic knowledge from the 1980’s that infrasound and low frequency noise could be generated by both downwind-bladed and upwind-bladed wind turbines, and that these frequencies could directly cause symptoms including sleep disturbance, the global wind industry, and noise pollution regulatory authorities have not measured the full acoustic spectrum, and in particular have ensured that accurate measurement of both infrasound and low frequency noise inside homes is not included in wind turbine noise pollution regulations. It is clear that these regulations, developed with wind industry assistance, have favoured the expansion of the wind industry, at the expense of public health. 12

The following photo shows the wake turbulence generated by wind turbines, from a maritime wind development in the Atlantic called Horns Rev. 13 The turbulence extends to a significant distance many kilometres away, and increases significantly when subsequent turbines are downwind and receive the turbulent inflow of air. These are the precise conditions which Shepherd and Hubbard 14 demonstrated in 1989 markedly increase the generation of ILFN from upwind-bladed wind turbines.


Acousticians as a profession are far more knowledgeable about the range of symptoms and sensations directly caused by exposure to infrasound, low frequency noise, audible noise, and vibration than most health professionals, with the exception of some occupational physicians 15,16 and some ear nose and throat specialists. 17,18,19,20 These symptoms are commonly called “annoyance”.

Rural Health Practitioners

Rural health practitioners 21,22,23,24,25,26,27.28,29 have been at the forefront of trying to raise the alarm with health authorities and their colleagues about the severity of the impacts and clinical consequences they are seeing, particularly over the last ten years. So far, those concerns have not resulted in any multidisciplinary concurrent acoustic and health research, despite the Australian Federal Senate Inquiry’s recommendation for research “as a priority” in June 2011. 30

Flawed Literature Reviews, Studies, Research Proposals and Reports

Some of these and their critiques are available on our website, 31 and include:

AWEA CANWEA 2009 Literature Review by Colby et al 32

• Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council’s 2010 “Rapid Review” 33

• Health Canada Study, proposed 2012, and currently underway 34

• the Victorian Department of Health, April 2013.35

• the South Australian Environmental Protection Agency’s Waterloo Wind Development acoustic survey 36,

• the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council’s commissioned Systematic Literature Review released in 2014 37

• the Australian Medical Association position paper, March 2014 38

The only explanation for these flawed studies/reports/position statements is that the issuers/authors wished to promote and protect the wind industry, at the expense of the health of the rural neighbours to these wind projects. These rural residents are sometimes openly referred to as “collateral damage” or “policy roadkill” by wind developers and some of the public servants who promote the business interests of the wind industry.

Others Who Deny the Existence and Severity of the Adverse Health Effects

There are others who continue to deny or ignore the existing peer reviewed published evidence of consistent distress and harm to health from wind turbine noise, recently catalogued by Drs Lynn and Dr Arra from the Grey Bruce Health Unit in Ontario, whose literature review has now been peer reviewed and published. 39

In Australia, the most outspoken “denier” of harm to health from exposure to wind turbine noise is a sociologist and public health Professor 40 at Sydney University, whose PhD examined aspects of cigarette advertising. Professor Simon Chapman recently assisted VESTAS with the launch of their “Act on Facts” campaign. 41

Professor Chapman has been invoking the “nocebo” hypothesis for some time prior to conducting his own research, 42, 43 but more recently he has cited new research from New Zealand by PhD candidate, Fiona Crichton 44 to support his frequent assertions that scaremongering is itself causing the symptoms.

Crichton et al’s research used unrepresentative frequencies, exposure levels and durations unrelated to the varying impulsive characteristics of wind turbine noise. Exposure duration was only 10 minutes during the day, with subjects who were fit young adults. Crichton’s research has been strongly criticised by experts in audiology 45 and acoustics. 46

In contrast, rural residents are exposed to wind turbine noise day and night when the wind is blowing, for up to 25 years, and are reporting their sleep is regularly and repeatedly disturbed in addition to a range of other effects which directly correlate with exposure to operating wind turbines. Rural residents are often not young, and may have chronic pre-existing physical and mental illnesses, which make them more vulnerable to the adverse consequences of chronic sleep disturbance and stress.

No Research Evidence for Nocebo Effect in Wind Turbine Neighbours

Inconveniently for Crichton and Chapman, whilst there is no doubt that a nocebo effect exists in the general research literature, there is no such evidence of a “nocebo effect” collected directly from wind turbine affected residents in the peer reviewed research, nor is it consistent with the clinical, acoustic and psychoacoustic findings of health practitioners and researchers from the UK, 47 Australia,48 Scandinavia,49 the United States,50 Canada,51 & New Zealand. 52 Interestingly, the “nocebo effect” is never used by Chapman with respect to identical symptoms occurring in residents exposed to and affected by ILFN from coal mining or gas fired power stations.

The final word on the nocebo nonsense currently being peddled by some is from Dr Michael Nissenbaum, who had this to say about non physicians invoking the use of a diagnosis of “the nocebo effect” in his final response to the Australian Federal Senate Inquiry in November, 2012. 53

… suggesting a diagnosis of ‘nocebo’ without investigating, ‘boots on the ground’, for more plausible, better understood, or more logical causes of a medical condition would normally constitute medical malpractice in most Western-based medical systems, including Australia. Individuals who are not physicians are not limited by this professional mandate or even necessarily this conceptual framework.

Sleep Deprivation and Physiological and Psychological Stress

There is extensive clinical experience and a body of peer reviewed research evidence, which supports clinical concerns about the adverse health consequences of both chronic sleep deprivation, and chronic stress, regardless of the specific cause of that sleep deprivation or stress. 54,55,56,57 Dr William Hallstein, a psychiatrist from Falmouth, USA stated the following in a recent letter to the Falmouth Board of Health 58:

In the world of medicine illnesses of all varieties are destabilized by fatigue secondary to inadequate sleep. Diabetic blood sugars become labile, cardiac rhythms become irregular, migraines erupt and increase in intensity, tissue healing is retarded, and so forth, across the entire field of physical medicine. Psychiatric problems intensify and people decompensate. Mood disorders become more extreme and psychotic disorders more severe.”

Those who are young and fit report taking longer to be adversely impacted by exposure to wind turbine noise, unless they have underlying physical and mental health conditions or acknowledged risk factors such as a history of migraines, inner ear pathology or motion sickness, which make them more vulnerable or susceptible.

Dr Hallstein goes on to state the following 59:

People with no previously identified psychiatric illness are destabilized by sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation experiments have repeatedly been terminated because test subjects become psychotic; they begin to hallucinate auditory and visual phenomena. They develop paranoid delusions. This all happens in the “normal” brain. Sleep deprivation has been used as an effective means of torture and a technique for extracting confessions.”

There are many clinical clues and some animal and human research which strongly suggest that disturbance of the vestibular sensory system, and the consequent sleep disturbance and physiological stress are integrally related and that the direct causal link is sound and vibration energy, whether it is frequencies above 200 Hz, or frequencies in the infrasound or low frequency noise spectra below 200 Hz. This research, 60,61,62,63 together with the clinical and research evidence of Vibro Acoustic Disease 64.65 resulting from chronic exposure to infrasound and low frequency noise, can no longer be ignored.

Behaviour of Acousticians

It is long overdue for all acousticians to act according to their professional codes of ethics 66, 67 and to put the interests of the health and safety of the community first, and to work collegiately with health professionals who are trained in accurate diagnosis of specific clinical conditions. To date, acousticians working as paid consultants with the noise polluting industries have unfortunately all too often chosen to ignore the reported adverse impacts and “shoot the messengers” namely the concerned health practitioners, fellow acousticians or other researchers. That approach will not solve the current problems with respect to wind turbine siting and noise pollution regulation, or the serious damage to health being caused by other sources of infrasound and low frequency noise.

The Kelley research from nearly 30 years ago established a baseline of operating parameters to help prevent annoyance and consequent deterioration in health from chronic exposure to infrasound and low frequency noise,68 yet these parameters have never been implemented.

The ethical responsibilities of these members of the various acoustical societies who have assisted with writing the noise guidelines for government are clear – it is a primary responsibility of acousticians to protect the health of the public. 69 The ethical responsibilities of the medical profession similarly would appear to have been neglected in the case of wind turbine noise.

The health of rural residents has clearly not been protected, and nor has this been the priority of public officials, both elected and public servants who are responsible for public health, noise pollution regulation, planning or siting of wind turbines.

Concerns are being raised internationally about breaches of human rights, resulting from both breaches of professional ethics and statutory duties of care. 70

Abuses of Human Rights

Australia is a signatory to the UN Convention against Torture. 71

Sleep deprivation is acknowledged as a method of torture. 72 Sensory bombardment from noise and light have also been used as methods of torture, documented in the report by Physicians for Human Rights called “Leave No Marks”. 73

Australia ratified the treaty of the Convention of the Rights of the Child in December 1990, which the UN adopted in 1989, and therefore Australian governments have a responsibility to ensure that all children in Australia have the rights set out in the Convention. 74 In Australia some children and their families have been unable to continue to live in their homes because of serious adverse health impacts, which have affected children’s health, and affected their schooling. Others report their children’s sleep and health is regularly adversely affected.

It would therefore appear that serious breaches of human rights and breaches of a number of UN Conventions are occurring as a result of this systemic regulatory failure on the part of State and Federal responsible authorities, whose wind turbine noise guidelines and planning regulations and guidelines are clearly not protecting the health of the public, including WHO acknowledged vulnerable groups such as children and the elderly. 75

The Victorian Government was first warned of serious adverse health effects resulting from exposure to wind turbine noise in 2004 by Dr David Iser. 76

Justice Muse in Falmouth USA issued an injunction in December 2013 to prevent two wind turbines from operating overnight, in order to prevent “irreparable harm to physical and psychological health” of residents in Falmouth USA. 77

The lack of effective action at all levels of government in Australia to prevent the ongoing irreparable harm to physical and psychological health to Australian rural residents is unacceptable, and must be urgently addressed.

There is no reason that similar injunctions to prevent wind turbines from operating overnight could not be immediately imposed and enforced at those wind developments where noise nuisance and adverse health effects are occurring. Daytime exposure limits to infrasound and low frequency noise according to the Kelley 1985 criteria could be immediately implemented. 78 Turbine separation distances could and should be immediately mandated at a minimum of 7 rotor diameters, in order to prevent future avoidable planning disasters.

The harm to human health is serious, and preventable.

We know enough now, to act immediately, to prevent further irreparable and serious harm to physical and psychological health at existing wind developments.

Waubra Foundation 1st June, 2014


1. Kelley, N et al, 1985 “Acoustic Noise associated with Mod 1 Turbine; its source, impact and control”

2. Kelley, N 1987 “A Proposed Metric for Assessing the Potential of Community Annoyance from Wind Turbine Low-Frequency Noise Emissions”

3. Hubbard, H 1982 “Noise Induced House Vibrations and Human Perception” (1982) 19:2 Noise Control Engineering Journal 49

4. Kelley, N et al, 1985 op cit

5. Kelley, N et al, 1985 op cit

6. Kelley, N et al, 1985 op cit p 190

7. Kelley, N et al, 1985 op cit

8. Kelley, N1987 op cit

9. Kelley, N 1987 op cit

10. Shepherd, K & Hubbard H “Noise Radiation Characteristics – Westinghouse WWG 0600 Wind Turbine Generator” NASA Langley Research Centre, 1989

11. Laratro, A et al “A discussion of wind turbine interaction and stall contributions to wind turbine noise” Journal of Wind Engineering and Industrial Aerodynamics 127 (2014) 1–10.

12. Cox, R, Unwin, D & Sherwin, T “Wind Turbine Noise Impact Assessment – Where ETSU is Silent” July, 2012 and Turnbull, C & Turner J “Recent Developments in Wind Farm Noise in Australia” presented at the Denver Conference in 2013 discusses how ETSU 97 from the UK was the basis for the SA EPA Wind farm Noise Guidelines in Australia

13. Horns Rev – further details about the meteorological conditions when that photo was taken are here, by S Emeis, from the Institute for Meteorology and Climate Research, Institute of Karlsruhe, August 2010:

14. Shepherd, K & Hubbard, H op cit

15. Johansson, Dr Mauri 2013 Open Letter “Big Wind Turbines, Health and Disease, a Danish Perspective”

16. Hopkins, Dr Gary, Letter to the Australian Medical Association March 2014

17. Black, Dr Owen 2009 Statement to Planning Hearing, Illinois,

18. Farboud, R. Crunkhorn and A. Trinidade, “Wind Turbine Syndrome: Fact or Fiction” (2013) Journal of Laryngology & Otology, 1 of 5

19. Enbom & Enbom, Review article in a Swedish Medical Journal, and letter to the Australian Medical Association, March 2014

20. Bernier, Dr Linda

21. Harry, Dr A

22. Iser, Dr D

23. Pierpont, Dr N

24. McMurtry, Dr R

25. Reider, Dr S and letter to the Australian Medical Association

26. Tibbetts, Dr J letter to AMA, March 2014

27. Mitric-Andjic, Dr A submission to the Australian Federal Senate inquiry into wind turbine noise:

28. Spring, Dr Wayne submission to the Australian Federal Senate Inquiry into wind turbine noise:

29. Trask, P Psychologist in rural Victoria,

30. Australian Federal Senate Inquiry into the Social and Economic Impact of Rural Wind Farms Recommendations, June 2011

31. Reports, and the corresponding critiques are available here:

32. AWEA CANWEA (American Wind Energy Association, Canadian Wind Energy Association) 2009 Review by David Colby, Robert Dobie, Geoffrey Leventhall, David Lipscomb, Robert McCunney, Michael Seila, and Bo Sondergaard

33. NHMRC 2010 Rapid Review

34. Health Canada announcement and our comments in September 2012 about that study design

35. Victorian Health Department document, issued in April 2013 which ignored the evidence relating to infrasound in particular, which prompted three leading international researchers (Neurophysiologists Professor Alec Salt and Jeffrey Lichtenhan, USA and Emeritus Professor Colin Hansen, Australia) to write to the Victorian Minister for Health and urged him to intervene to remove or amend the statement so it was no longer misleading.

36. SA EPA Acoustic Survey at Waterloo Wind Development, and critical comments about it are here:

37. NHMRC commissioned Systematic Literature Review was released in February 2014. The review, and the detailed critiques of that literature review by ourselves and others are available at the following , with our detailed critique outlining the misclassifications of studies, and the omissions of highly relevant material accessible here:

38. The Australian Medical Association’s position statement in March 2014 provoked international outrage from researchers, health practitioners, acousticians, and residents impacted by wind turbines and other sources of infrasound and low frequency noise. The position statement and the publicly available letters are here:

39. Arra & Lynn, 2013 Powerpoint presentation of findings of literature review, itself submitted for peer review and publication and the peer reviewed published journal article is here:

40. Open letter to Simon Chapman

41. More details are available at the links in this public statement:

42. Multiple references to various opinion pieces in footnotes to the open letter to Simon Chapman Chapman’s research paper is accessible here: and detailed critiques of his research can be found by Hartman Gulden and Laurie

43. The likelihood of confirmation bias in Chapman et al’s work was addressed by Professor Robert McMurtry in his critique of Chapman et al’s paper

44. Crichton, T et al 2013, “Can Expectations Produce Symptoms From Infrasound Associated With Wind Turbines”

45. Punch, J 2013

46. Swinbanks, M 2013

47. Harry, A op cit, and Stigwood, M “Wind Farm Noise — The sacrifice of the Rural Minorities”

48. Iser, D, Trask, P, op cit and Thorne, R 2012 “Wind Farm Generated Noise and Adverse Health Effects” a case series with comparative data and acoustic field survey data, submitted to the 2012 Federal Senate Inquiry

49. Multiple Scandinavian studies, listed in Arra & Lynn, op cit also included in the NHMRC 2014 Systematic Literature Review

50. Nissenbaum, M et al September, October 2012 “Effects of Industrial wind Turbines on Sleep and Health” Noise & Health, and Walker, Hessler, Rand & Schomer “Cooperative Measurement Survey and Analysis of Low Frequency and Infrasound at the Shirley Wind Farm December 2012

51. Krogh, C et al and Paller, C et al “Wind Turbine Noise, Sleep Quality, Symptoms of Inner Ear Problems”

52. Shepherd, D et al 2011 September – October 2011 “Evaluating Impact of Wind Turbine Noise on Health related Quality of Life” Noise & Health and Bakker, Bennett, Rapley and Thorne, 2009 “Seismic Effects on residents from 3 MW Wind Turbines”

53. Nissenbaum, response to question on notice to Australian Federal Senate inquiry November, 2012

54. WHO Night Noise Guidelines for Europe, 2009

55. Capuccio et al 2011 “Sleep Duration Predicts Cardiovascular Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Meta Analysis of Prospective Studies” European Heart Journal

56. Munzel et al 2014 “Cardiovascular Effects of Environmental Noise Exposure” European Heart Journal

57. McEwen, B 1998 “Protective and Damaging Effects of Stress Mediators” New England Journal of Medicine 1998, 338 171–179

58. Hallstein, W 2013 Letter to Falmouth Board of Health

59. Hallstein, ibid

60. Salt, A and Lichtenhan, J 2014 Acoustics Today “How does wind turbine noise affect people?”

61. Pierpont, Dr N op cit

62. Schomer, Dr P et al

63. Enbom & Enbom op cit

64. Alves-Pereira, M et al , and and and and

65. Castelo Branco, Dr Nuno

66. Details of the British, Canadian, American and Australian codes of ethics for acousticians and noise engineers are at the following:

67. Cooper, S 2012 “Wind Farm Noise: an ethical dilemma for acousticians”

68. Kelley, N et al 1985 op cit, p 225

69. Details of the British, Canadian, American and Australian codes of ethics for acousticians and noise engineers are at the following:

70. See for example the detailed letter written by Ontario lawyer Eric Gillespie in 2012 to the Canadian Prime Minister, Premiers, and Attorneys General

71. UN Convention against Torture

72. Comments of the Committee against Torture regarding sleep deprivation

73. Physicians for Human Rights report “Leave No Marks” 2007

74. UN Convention Rights of the Child in Australia

75. See for example the following WHO documents: Community Noise, 1999 and 2009 WHO Night Noise Guidelines for Europe and 2011 WHO Environmental Noise, Burden of Disease from Environmental Noise

76. Dr David Iser’s letters to Victorian Premier and Ministers

77. Falmouth USA decision by Justice Muse 2013

78. The Kelley parameters are at footnote 10 of the Waubra Foundation’s Explicit Warning Notice

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