Big Wind Needs To Address Wind Turbine Syndrome and Stop Blaming the Victims

Alex Halperin, a freelance writer in the USA has suggested in a recent article in New Republic about Wind Turbine Syndrome that the wind industry should follow the advice of Professors Salt and Lichtenhan in their recent article in Acoustics Today, and “acknowledge the problem and work to eliminate it“.

To its credit, senior management at Australian wind developer Pacific Hydro are indeed starting to “acknowledge the problem” at their wind development at Cape Bridgewater in Victoria, Australia, where local residents have reported symptoms of Wind Turbine Syndrome including particularly regular sleep disturbance since the Cape Bridgewater Wind Devlopment started operating in 2009.

Pacific Hydro recently commissioned independent acoustician Steven Cooper to investigate the problems three households were reporting. One household left their home in 2010 because of the adverse health effects they experienced.

Mr Cooper has confirmed in his preliminary report to the community and Pacific Hydro that infrasound IS a problem, just as Dr Neil Kelley and his US co researchers had established in the 1980’s. As Dr Nina Pierpont recently pointed out, the word “annoyance” was used in the 1980’s to describe symptoms identical to “wind turbine syndrome”.

Whilst Dr Leventhall is now attributing the symptoms reported by wind turbine neighbours to a “nocebo effect” we note that Dr Leventhall has also previously acknowledged that these symptoms of “wind turbine syndrome” are well known to him as symptoms of “annoyance” from environmental noise, not just from wind turbines, in both his comments to the NHMRC workshop in Australia in June 2011, and in his literature review of the adverse health effects of low frequency noise (DEFRA 2003). Dr Leventhall’s own research into low frequency noise in occupational settings in the 1990’s demonstrated that sound energy could directly cause the same symptoms residents living near wind turbines are reporting.

There is no explanation from Dr Leventhall as to why only wind turbine noise results from a “nocebo effect” and not other sources of infrasound and low frequency noise, which are causing identical symptoms, and have been known to acousticians to do so for more than forty years, and were reported by Dr Leventhall in his 2003 Literature Review.

We also note that as the journalist has pointed out, Dr Leventhall works closely with the global wind industry. Dr Leventhall’s “beliefs” about the relevance of a nocebo effect in these wind turbine noise affected residents are not shared by the latest Australian National Health and Medical Research Council’s Systematic Literature Review (p 164). Nor are they shared by an increasing number of medical practitioners, researchers and acousticians, especially those who are financially independent of the wind industry.

The article by Alex Halperin included the following:

“Dr. Steven Rauch, an otologist at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and a professor at Harvard Medical School, believes WTS is real. Patients who have come to him to discuss WTS suffer from a “very consistent” collection of symptoms, he says. Rauch compares WTS to migraines, adding that people who suffer from migraines are among the most susceptible to turbines. There’s no existing test for either condition but “Nobody questions whether or not migraine is real.””

““The patients deserve the benefit of the doubt,” Rauch says. “It’s clear from the documents that come out of the industry that they’re trying very hard to suppress the notion of WTS and they’ve done it in a way that [involves] a lot of blaming the victim.””

We note that medical practitioners such as Dr Colette Bonner, the Irish Deputy Chief Health Officer has also acknowledged the existence of Wind Turbine Syndrome, as have the medical researchers from the University of Waterloo in Ontario led by Professor Philip Bigelow, who found evidence of sleep deprivation and inner ear disturbance in wind turbine noise exposed neighbours.

The “nocebo” research by Crichton et al from New Zealand upon which the wind industry and its paid experts rely so heavily was not conducted with wind turbine residents – rather it was laboratory research using fit young university students, with exposures of ten minutes during the day using doses of infrasound energy much lower than exposure doses being currently measured at wind developments in Australia. It did not contain other sound energy frequencies such as low frequency noise and audible noise also emitted by wind turbines.

The article by Alex Halperin can be accessed at the following weblink