Collector Wind Development Planning Decision, Waubra Foundation Submission
To All Responsible Individuals, including the Planning Minister and the Director General of the NSW Planning Department
September 24, 2012
I have been asked by concerned residents of the region surrounding the proposed Collector wind Development in New South Wales to send a submission to you, to enable you to fully consider the potential yet predictable short and long term impact of the proposed Collector Wind Development on the health of the nearby residents, and any visitors including employees.
I have been advised by concerned residents, that there are approximately 500 people living in and around the township of Collector within a 10km radius from the proposed wind development. I am further advised that there is a school, located in the town, which is approximately 3.5km from the turbines. The Primary school has 26 students currently.
I make the following comments having investigated the area of wind turbine noise and its effects on surrounding rural residents for the last two years. I have worked with sick residents and their treating doctors, with national and international acoustic engineers, physiologists, psychologists, epidemiologists and medical practitioners to better understand the problems. We are all concerned about the growing numbers of people seriously adversely affected by these wind developments, when they are located too close to homes and workplaces.
Despite the many reports of serious ill health from residents around the world living near, working and visiting large industrial wind turbines, relating in part to exposure to infrasound and low frequency noise (ILFN) exposure, it is an area of public health which is only comparatively recently starting to be investigated by a rapidly growing number of concerned independent acousticians and clinicians internationally. Universal denials of the problem by wind developers and public health authorities based on a lack of systematically collected published evidence are reminiscent of the early denials of HIV / AIDS, and tobacco.
Given the numbers of people reporting serious health problems, and the severity of those problems which are resulting in people resorting to abandoning their homes and their farms, the denials of the existence of serious health problems being caused to vulnerable citizens by proximity to operating wind turbines are unacceptable, as is the ongoing refusal of state Health authorities including NSW Health, to investigate those problems.
Identical health problems have been reported to NSW authorities from residents at Uranquinty, near Wagga (gas fired power station ILFN emissions) and from the Upper Hunter region, specifically Wollar and the Cumbo Valley, where numerous residents have also developed the characteristic health problems relating to ILFN exposure from open cut coal mining activities. In both instances, confidentiality agreements have been used by the respective companies to ensure that the sick residents cannot speak publicly about their ordeal. This perpetuates the ignorance of the problems amongst health practitioners, which is unhelpful, dishonest, unethical and may have subsequent legal repercussions for those individuals involved in the ongoing cover up.
I have been advised that some senior officers in the NSW Departments of Planning and in the Office of the Environment and Heritage are well aware of these resident’s situations, health problems, and confidential property buy outs. The same tactics are used by the wind industry. Some of those sick residents have subsequently been gagged from speaking publicly about their problems, with significant financial penalties should they choose to do so (see http://www.abc.net.au/news/video/2010/02/19/2825235.htm ) and indeed lawyers (Slater & Gordon) used by sick residents to negotiate with the wind developers (whose turbines have made the residents sick) have admitted that such gag clauses are “industry required” (see http://www.wind-watch.org/news/2012/05/06/confidentiality-clauses-not-made-at-our-direction/ ).
The denials of a problem by public health authorities are global, as are the confidentiality agreements, and the health problems being reported, with only one public health physician having the courage and professional integrity to speak out. Dr Hazel Lynn, from the Grey Bruce Public Health Unit in northern Ontario, is well aware of the seriousness of the health problems being reported at places like Goderich and Ripley, and has recently publicly stated she believes there are direct adverse health impacts caused by the wind turbines (see http://www.windturbinesyndrome.com/2012/medical-officer-acknowledges-wind-turbines-cause-direct-health-effects-ontario/?var=can ).
Of note also in Ontario is that the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Arline King, has recently been instructed to attend a Court to be questioned in person about her report, which has a similar statement to that of the NHMRC’s Rapid Review from 2010 on the same subject, to the effect that there is no evidence of direct pathological effects from wind turbines. Both these reports (from Ontario and the Australian NHMRC) have been used widely by health authorities, other relevant government departments, as well as wind developers to assert that there are no adverse health problems. This has resulted directly in serious harm to an increasing number of rural residents.
Just last week a group of 50 concerned German Physicians formed a group, (see http://www.windturbinesyndrome.com/2012/doctors-promote-public-awareness-of-wind-turbine-syndrome-germany/?var=cna ) based on their professional concerns because of the wide range of serious pathology they are seeing in their long term wind turbine exposed population in Northern Germany. This pathology includes serious heart valve structural tissue problems, for which the only cure is eventual expensive cardiac valve surgery with all the risks entailed. The alternative is early death from cardiac failure.
The same pathology now being identified by these physicians in German citizens exposed to operating wind turbines, known as Vibro Acoustic Disease (see http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/vibroacoustic-disease-biological-effects-of-infrasound-and-low-frequency-noise-explained-by-mechanotransduction-cellular-signalling/ ) was reported in 2007 in a 10 year old child exposed in utero and in his early years to an infrasound low frequency noise rich environment in Portugal (http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/public-health-and-noise-exposure/ ), and most recently by another research group in Taiwanese aviation workers exposed to occupational ILFN http://docs.wind-watch.org/chao.html.
There are legitimate clinical concerns that large industrial wind turbines, such as those proposed by RATCH Australia for the Collector Wind Development, will directly cause this serious cardiac pathology with long term exposure to the infrasound and low frequency noise these turbines are emitting. These illnesses are preventable, providing the turbines are sited well away from human habitation, and are of particular concern in the case of children being exposed in utero and subsequently throughout their lives, as the effects appear to be progressive with ongoing exposure.
Denial of their knowledge of the range of serious reported health problems from acute and chronic exposure to ILFN, which some acousticians have known about for many years, is unethical behaviour by that group of professionals. Nor is it acceptable to advocate the siting of larger wind turbines such as those greater than 2MW turbines, known to emit even greater proportions of infrasound and low frequency noise, in areas where some of the local population will inevitably be seriously harmed out to greater distances with long term exposure.
Moller and Pedersen’s paper confirming that turbine size and power generating capacity increases the proportion of LFN, and therefore what they described as “annoyance” for the neighbours, was published in a peer reviewed journal over a year ago, (see http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/low-frequency-noise-from-large-wind-turbines-2/ ) yet it has been universally ignored, it would seem. This is yet another example of unethical and unacceptable behaviour by those acousticians who have a professional obligation to protect the health and safety of the public, even while they are working for and well remunerated by wind developers.
Wind developers and turbine manufacturers such as VESTAS are well aware of the problems, and in the case of VESTAS have admitted they are not unable to engineer a solution to the problem to reduce the low frequency noise emissions in a letter to the Danish Minister for the Environment (http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/letter-from-vestas-worried-about-regulation-of-low-frequency-noise/ ).
Undoubtedly this is why the local VESTAS representative in Australia was so keen to encourage the NSW Planning department not to measure low frequency noise, in his submission to the NSW Planning department concerning the new draft guidelines (see http://www.windturbinesyndrome.com/2012/vestas-objects-to-wind-turbine-infrasound-low-frequency-noise-requirements-australia/?var=can for more detail). As my colleague Dr Mauri Johansson from Denmark pointed out to the VESTAS Board at their AGM, such behaviour is dishonest and not in accordance with their stated corporate values (see http://www.windturbinesyndrome.com/2012/gutsy-doc-gives-vestas-hell-denmark/?var=cna ).
Short term exposure to ILFN can result in serious ill health for those population subgroups who are susceptible, including the elderly, the young, and people with a history of motion sickness, migraines and inner ear pathology, as identified by Dr Nina Pierpont, the US Paediatrician who studied reports of what happened to the members of 10 families exposed to operating wind turbines, and compared that with information prior to exposure and after they had abandoned their homes (as 9 out of the 10 families have done). This resulted in these individuals being their own controls, a design known as a case series cross over, particularly well suited to studying this particular problem and identifying changes in each individual over time with differing exposures. I am told (by Canadian Lawyer Eric Gillespie) Professor Geoffrey Leventhall has at last acknowledged “Dr Nina Pierpont’s important contribution to the field of environmental noise” which she undoubtedly has made by identifying these susceptible population subgroups in her study.
Individuals with preexisting clinical conditions such as angina, hypertension, diabetes, anxiety, depression, post traumatic stress disorder, autism, and any other clinical conditions exacerbated by sleep deprivation or severe physiological stress (stimulation of the fight flight response) are also experiencing worsening of their clinical conditions, which then improve when the turbines are off for a length of time, or they are away from the source of the ILFN. This is unsurprising, given the knowledge highlighted by Professor Leventhall in 2003 that exposure to low frequency noise causes a physiological stress response (see section 10 of the report for DEFRA, downloadable at the following http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/review-of-published-research-on-low-frequency-noise-and-its-effects/ ). Both chronic stress and severe sleep deprivation or noise sensitivity will worsen the conditions listed above, and both severe stress symptoms and severe chronic sleep deprivation are being regularly reported by residents living near wind developments around the world, and by their treating doctors.
There may well be other population subgroups not yet identified as susceptible, given the limited existing systematic research. Once “sensitized” to the low frequency noise effects, the acousticians have long recognized that the only cure is to remove oneself from exposure or remove the source of the ILFN (see concluding remarks in the following document by Professor Leventhall, downloadable at http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/review-of-published-research-on-low-frequency-noise-and-its-effects/ ).
I have found, both in Australia and in some locations internationally, that over time, people are being so adversely impacted by these wind developments out to distances of at least 10km, that in some instances they are forced to abandon their homes temporarily or permanently, or leave their homes to sleep in cars or elsewhere when their homes are downwind of the turbines. Others are resorting to sleeping in tents outside their homes, as the impact is not as bad as inside their homes. This is generally an intermediate step before they resort to abandoning their homes permanently.
In Australia, near smaller VESTAS turbines (V90’s at Waterloo wind Development) there are residents out to 4.5km from the wind turbines who have had to permanently leave their homes, some on medical advice from their treating doctors, who include a cardiologist and family doctors. Acoustic emissions in the very low frequency / infrasound range have been measured at these homes and are occurring at the time these people are developing certain characteristic symptoms. When the acoustic emissions are not measured (eg when the wind is not turning the turbines) these people do not have the characteristic symptoms, nor do they have them when they are away from their homes and away from other sources of infrasound and low frequency noise.
This is an area in which little systematic empirical research data has been collected, however that does not mean there is not a serious and rapidly growing problem. Nor does it mean that relevant existing evidence and research should be ignored. Harvard trained US epidemiologist Professor Carl Phillips, who has given evidence in multiple court and planning hearings on this issue, has this to say: (downloadable from http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/properly-interpreting-the-epidemiologic-evidence-about-the-health-effects-of-industrial-wind-turbines-on-nearby-residents/ )
“There is overwhelming evidence that wind turbines cause serious health problems in nearby residents, usually stress-disorder type diseases, at a nontrivial rate. The bulk of the evidence takes the form of thousands of adverse event reports. There is also a small amount of systematically gathered data. The adverse event reports provide compelling evidence of the seriousness of the problems and of causation in this case because of their volume, the ease of observing exposure and outcome incidence, and case-crossover data. Proponents of turbines have sought to deny these problems by making a collection of contradictory claims including that the evidence does not “count”, the outcomes are not “real” diseases, the outcomes are the victims’ own fault, and that acoustical models cannot explain why there are health problems so the problems must not exist. These claims appeared to have swayed many non-expert observers, though they are easily debunked. Moreover, though the failure of models to explain the observed problems does not deny the problems, it does mean that we do not know what, other than kilometers of distance, could sufficiently mitigate the effects. There has been no policy analysis that justifies imposing these effects on local residents. The attempts to deny the evidence cannot be seen as honest scientific disagreement, and represent either gross incompetence or intentional bias “
There are a multitude of “reviews” internationally relied on by wind developers and public health advocates of wind energy, which assert that because there is so little peer reviewed published evidence specifically investigating these problems that “there is no problem” or, “there is no evidence” of a problem. However, continued reliance by the planning decision makers on documents such as the outdated and inadequate NHMRC’s (Australian National Health and Medical Research Council) Rapid Review of 2010 would be most unwise, given the extensive criticism it has received from local and international researchers and institutions working in this area (see for example http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/audit-national-health-and-medical-research-council-public-statement-2010-and-rapid-review-2010/ ).
It is also worth taking careful note of the subsequent comments of the CEO of the NHMRC (Professor Warwick Anderson), who made the following comments nine months after the Rapid Review was released, in his oral testimony to the Australian Federal Senate Inquiry into Rural Wind Farms on 31st March, 2011 (page 86 Hansard):
“we are very aware that the high-quality scientific literature in this area is very thin. That is why we were at pains to point out that we believe that a precautionary approach should be taken to this, because, as you would understand, the absence of evidence does not mean that there might not be evidence in the future”
Professor Anderson went on to make the following comment with respect to the value of anecdotes (on page 87):
“Anecdotes are very valuable ways of honing the questions to be asked”
and further on (p 88)
“we do not say that there are no ill effects. We definitely do not say it that way”
The Australian Federal Senate inquiry recommendations issued in June 2011 were very clear – that urgent research into a number of different areas was required.
The recent formation of a new Australian NHMRC Panel to examine the relevant material omitted from the first Rapid Review, and subsequent research which has been peer reviewed and published, is further supportive evidence that our National Federal Health Research body considers this is an issue requiring immediate further attention, which it is currently receiving. The documents to be found at the following weblink demonstrate that there is now much more information about the effect of wind turbines on surrounding communities than was available by July 2010 when the Rapid Review was released (see http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/peer-reviewed-articles-regarding-adverse-health-effects-of-industrial-wind-turbines/ ).
Some of that information was presented to a court in Ontario in July 2011, in which Professor Carl Phillips was one of many knowledgeable experts who gave evidence, where the judges found that on the basis of extensive expert evidence led by the wind industry and the appellants that wind turbines can cause harm to health, but that further research is required. The wording of that part of the judgment is below:
“While the Appellants were not successful in their appeals, the Tribunal notes that their involvement and that of the Respondents, has served to advance the state of the debate about wind turbines and human health. This case has successfully shown that the debate should not be simplified to one about whether wind turbines can cause harm to humans. The evidence presented to the Tribunal demonstrates that they can, if facilities are placed too close to residents. The debate has now evolved to one of degree.” (p. 207) (Emphasis added)
Environmental Review Tribunal, Case Nos.: 10-121/10-122 Erickson v. Director, Ministry of the Environment, Dated this 18th day of July, 2011 by Jerry V. DeMarco, Panel Chair and Paul Muldoon, Vice-Chair, http://www.ert.gov.on.ca/english/decisions/index.htm
The Waubra Foundation have focused most of our attention on the issue of infrasound and low frequency noise, however there may well be other toxic agents involved, which some researchers have identified are present in these environments, including EMF, ground borne vibrations, and rapid fluctuations in barometric pressure, sufficient to explode bats lungs and at times with sufficient energy to perceptibly rock stationary cars even further than a kilometre away from the nearest wind turbine.
Whilst most medical practitioners remain ignorant of the already known links between infrasound and low frequency noise (ILFN) and a range of serious physical and mental health problems, there is information in the public domain which clearly indicates that acousticians have been well aware for some time of the serious health problems which can result from acute and chronic exposure to infrasound and low frequency noise (see http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/review-of-published-research-on-low-frequency-noise-and-its-effects / ).
Furthermore, Acousticians have a professional obligation to act ethically at all times with respect to the safety of the public, even when that might conflict with the aspirations of those engaging them (see http://www.acoustics.asn.au/joomla/codeethics.html ). It is becoming increasingly evident that this is not occurring with acousticians who work for wind developers.
There are two literature reviews from 2001 and 2003 which are highly relevant now, because the full spectrum of the acoustic energy is now being measured inside and outside the homes of sick people in Australia and internationally, and both infrasound (0-20Hz) and low frequency noise (20 – 200Hz) is being measured. This is being done by a number of acousticians, (eg Rick James, Rob Rand, Stephen Ambrose, Steven Cooper, Dr Bob Thorne), and it is important to note that actual measurement of the full acoustic spectrum is specifically NOT included in the regulations governing wind turbine noise anywhere in the world which only measure dBA. (which only accurately measures the sound energy above 200Hz).
These acousticians are finding there is infrasound and low frequency noise present, with a distinctive sound signature, which is clearly coming from the wind turbines, and that sick resident’s symptoms at times are correlating with its measurement in those homes. In one instance both the acousticians conducting the measurements unexpectedly became sick themselves, with the exact pattern and range of symptoms so well described around the world (see http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/bruce-mcpherson-infrasound-and-low-frequency-noise-study/ ).
Wind Developers and their advocates in the ranks of public health academia and departments are using an unnamed NSW public health academic’s critique of this landmark Falmouth acoustic survey to dismiss it. It seems the unnamed but reportedly senior public health academic who authored it is unable to comprehend that it is a detailed acoustic survey, (with the unexpected finding that the acousticians themselves got sick), rather than an epidemiological study. Rand and Ambrose are acousticians, not epidemiologists, so such criticism from this unnamed public health academic would appear to be deliberately avoiding the important issues they raise. Multidisciplinary acoustic surveys and clinical epidemiological studies Rand and Ambrose suggest have not yet been done, and are urgently needed, just as the Australian Federal Senate Inquiry recommended over a year ago.
The first relevant “old” literature review is one by Professor Leventhall for the UK Government’s DEFRA in 2003, (downloadable from http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/review-of-published-research-on-low-frequency-noise-and-its-effects/ ) where Professor Leventhall has highlighted a case control study (p49, attached as appendix 1 to this document) identifying symptoms identical to “wind turbine syndrome” which occurred with exposure to low frequency noise (generally sound energy 20 Hz – 200Hz) from another source. Professor Leventhall has publicly confirmed on a number of occasions (including under cross examination in the Ontario court case mentioned above) that the symptoms of “wind turbine syndrome” are well known to him (see http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/audit-national-health-and-medical-research-council-public-statement-2010-and-rapid-review-2010/ ).
Later in the DEFRA document, at section 10, Professor Leventhall lists some of the then known scientific peer reviewed published evidence relating to the physiological effects of exposure to low frequency noise. One important example he gives is that of truck noise inducing a physiological stress response in sleeping children.
Professor Leventhall now states that the stress is “psychological” and appears to have forgotten the physiological evidence in sleeping children he was well aware of in 2003. The existence of knowledge about physiological stress from low frequency noise is well known, and is discussed in documents such as WHO guidelines for community and night time noise, (see http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/guidelines-for-community-noise/ ).
This issue is critically important, because long term exposure to operating wind turbines is resulting in a myriad of new illnesses and exacerbation of preexisting illnesses, almost all of which are explained in each individual person’s case by the well known consequences of chronic cumulative severe physiological and psychological stress which express themselves uniquely in each person. Further detail can be found in http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/response-to-nsw-planning-department-draft-guidelines-for-wind-developments/ .
There is further evidence of a primary physiological stress response in experimental research data (see the Chen, Qibai and Shi study at http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/an-investigation-on-the-physiological-and-psychological-effects-of-infrasound-on-persons/ ) recently the focus of Dr Malcolm Swinbank’s attention at the recent New York Internoise conference (see http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/numerical-simulation-of-infrasound-perception/ ). There is also evidence in the clinical stories of these residents, especially in their consistent stories of suddenly waking up in a panicked anxious frightened state, night after night, and often a number of times a night.
The history these residents give is characteristic of a physiological “fight flight response” and the pattern of sleep disturbance is commonly reported around the world. Dr Daniel Shepherd’s paper in the peer reviewed journal Noise and Health September 2011 has confirmed the presence of sleep disturbance in this population exposed to turbines using standardized questionnaires such as the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (see http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/evaluating-the-impact-of-wind-turbine-noise-on-health-related-quality-of-life / )
The residents mostly report being unable to hear the turbines at the time they wake. This never happens to them when the turbines are not operating, nor does it happen when they are away from their homes, is worse with certain wind directions and weather conditions, and is being described out to at least 10km in some locations.
Other rare supporting evidence of a primary physiological stress response is the histories of Tako Tsubo heart attacks (Capital Wind development in NSW, Waubra wind development in Victoria, and a cluster in the Cumbo Valley in the Upper Hunter region of NSW) and acute hypertensive crises (Victoria and Ontario) which have occurred in the presence of known ILFN, but without the usual known clinical precipitants of a sudden emotional shock (death of a close relative) or an underlying phaeochromocytoma respectively.
The second “old” literature review is from the 2001 US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (download from http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/infrasound-brief-review-of-toxicological-literature/ ) and details the physiological and pathological consequences of exposure to infrasound (sound energy 0 – 20Hz). It makes for concerning reading, despite the limited animal and human data. Chronic exposure to infrasound has resulted in focal organ damage from oxidative stress, ischemic myocardial (heart muscle) damage has been observed, as has secretion of adrenaline and cortisol – two of the body’s main stress hormones. This is confirmatory (animal experimental) evidence of a physiological stress effect. The effects worsen with cumulative exposure, and there is evidence of improvement when exposure to infrasound ceases.
The wind industry and its acousticians and even government regulatory authorities have for a long time stated that there is no infrasound or “there is no infrasound at a well maintained wind farm” (current SA EPA guidelines), however as Dr Malcolm Swinbanks has recently pointed out, there is evidence of infrasound emissions from modern upwind wind turbines since NASA reported on some Hawaiian wind turbines in 1989 (see http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/infrasound-from-wind-turbines-letter-from-malcolm-swinbanks/ where the original documents showing the infrasound measurements can be downloaded). Steven Cooper in Australia has measured and documented infrasound and low frequency emissions from wind turbines with a characteristic sound signature, (see for example his peer review for Goyder Council of the proposed Stony Gap wind development at http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/reviews-of-noise-impact-assessments-stony-gap/ ).
More recently, having been confronted with the evidence that infrasound IS emitted by turbines with upwind rotors, the wind industry has been stating that 85dBG is a “safe” limit for infrasound. It has been assumed that what you can’t hear can’t hurt you – the findings in the NIEHS literature review animal experiments would suggest otherwise, as would Professor Alec Salt’s work (see http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/responses-of-the-ear-to-low-frequency-sounds-infrasound-and-wind-turbines/ .
Other recent work by Professor Alec Salt, presented at the Internoise 2012 conference in New York in August has also shown that the inner ear behaves very differently in areas of quiet background noise, and that infrasound stimuli under these circumstances results in a much greater stimulus on the brain (see http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/perception-based-protection-from-low-frequency-sounds-may-not-be-enough/ ) particularly with respect to “alerting mechanisms”. This has been observed out in the field, especially in homes which are very well insulated, resulting in less audible noise transmission from outside to inside the home. This markedly changes the proportions of sound energy present in the room, and perceived by the inner ear. If there is additional resonance within the rooms, as is known to occur, this further changes the proportions of sound energy.
Salt’s clear conclusion from his work is that the inner ear and the brain can perceive sound energy which is not audible, the implication being that the statement that 85dBG is “safe” is not supported by his findings. We do not have enough information to know yet what those “safe” exposure levels are, especially with chronic exposure, and especially with vulnerable populations such as the very old and the very young, or in those people who have been identified to be particularly susceptible to the “wind turbine syndrome” vestibular dysfunction pattern of symptoms (those with a history of migraines, motion sickness and inner ear pathology). Salt has found that a vestibular response can be seen after infrasound exposure at 60 dBG. Such a level (and up to 30dBG) higher is being measured at wind developments in Australia and internationally by acousticians who are independent of the wind industry. It is “lost” in the averaging techniques used, however as Professor John Harrison, physicist from Queens University in Canada has pointed out, as have others “the ear does not hear averages, it hears the peaks”.
With Dr Swinbanks reminding us of the Chen Qibai and Shi 2004 study previously mentioned, which found that young fit subjects developed the characteristic symptoms (nausea, headaches “fretful”) and increased blood pressure within only an hour of exposure to infrasound experimentally at levels which are comparable to those being measured around wind developments, it is clear that this assumption that 85dBG is “safe” and does not directly cause these symptoms is not supported by this longstanding research evidence from Chen et al’s 2004 peer reviewed and published paper either. There is also clear evidence from both animal and human research data that cumulative exposure to ILFN increases these effects over time, until exposure ceases.
Despite the reports of sick residents and concerned medical practitioners from wind developments in the UK and Australia since 2003, it is only within the last 6 – 12 months that there has been any independent acoustics information about what the exposures are of these sick residents to both infrasound and low frequency noise emissions from the turbines, INSIDE their homes. As previously stated, the presence of ILFN has been historically denied by the wind industry, and no government noise regulatory authority is measuring the full sound spectrum inside and outside homes, as is now suggested as best practice to overcome the knowledge gap (http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/wind-turbine-acoustic-pollution-assessment-requirements/ ).
The presence of wind turbine infrasound and low frequency noise emitted by wind turbines has been categorically and undeniably confirmed at multiple wind developments in Australia and internationally, by multiple acousticians, as mentioned above. This is in contrast to statements from the wind industry and noise regulatory authorities like the South Australian EPA, who say in their guidelines that there is no infrasound at a “well maintained” wind development. This is then used to justify not measuring the full sound spectrum. There are various excuses used to justify not doing internal home measurements, despite this being recommended for environmental low frequency noise in 2004 by the Queensland EPA, for example (see http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/ecoaccess-guideline-for-the-assessment-of-low-frequency-noise/
What follows are the crucial questions requiring immediate answers, to enable safe planning of the siting of wind turbines “What is a safe level for both acute and chronic cumulative exposure to infrasound and low frequency noise from wind turbines” and “What is a safe setback distance, for a given turbine, in a specific terrain?”
Nothing other than a sufficient setback distance is currently available to prevent these adverse health effects occurring both inside and outside homes. Many rural properties are also workplaces, which means there are important Occupational Health and Safety issues for those rural residents who employ people, and there are increasing concerns based on the experiences of their own employees that they cannot guarantee a safe workplace.
We don’t yet know the answer to those critical questions, because that research has not yet been done in order to construct adequate dose response curves. In other words, this technology is being imposed on rural communities without ANY adequate safety data beforehand.
If this were a therapeutic drug, would it be allowed in the market place before adequate safety testing? And if Adverse Events (like Adverse Drug Reactions) were being reported, would the “drug” be pulled from the market, and further investigated? That is certainly the current practice with pharmaceuticals, and it is a scandal that international and Australian public health authorities have been so slow to investigate, given that wind turbine refugee families now number more than 40. All of these people have been ignored – not one public health unit in Australia is investigating why these people have become so sick, and left their homes.
The first medical practitioner in the world to conduct any research was UK Rural General Dr Amanda Harry, who conducted her case series survey in 2003 shortly before Dr Iser identified the problems in his patients in 2003/4 in Australia, at Toora in South West Gippsland. Dr Harry’s work was in Cornwall in the UK (see http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/wind-turbines-noise-and-health/ ). Dr Iser found similar health problems and range of individual experiences, and informed the local Victorian state health authorities by letter in 2004. Unfortunately his prophetic warnings to the Premier, the Health, Planning and Regional development Ministers of the then Bracks Labor Government fell on deaf ears.
There are also clear warning signs that there are major problems emerging with the use of the larger wind turbines such as the VESTAS V90’s, which have been used at Waterloo wind development in South Australia, now owned by TRU energy. As previously mentioned, size does matter (see http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/low-frequency-noise-from-large-wind-turbines-2/ ) as the larger more powerful turbines emit proportionately more LFN, the adverse effect on the neighbours from this LFN is being reported in the field by those residents out to much greater distances.
Historically this impact has been called “annoyance” by engineers, but all the medical practitioners who have investigated sick people for themselves or have spoken to their treating doctors have formed the opinion that this “annoyance” includes serious clinical pathology, previously not necessarily recognized by some of the acousticians, who are not trained to diagnose illness. Unfortunately all too few medical practitioners are aware of the already known connections between low frequency sound and vibration energy and health problems, with the exception of some physicians specializing in inner ear and balance disorders, and occupational physicians.
There is no population health data on the effect of these larger turbines on the surrounding community, but there is some highly relevant information from Waterloo in South Australia, where VESTAS V90’s have been installed and operating for over 18 months. There are community surveys, which have recently conducted – the first by an Adelaide University Masters Student in 2011, and the second by a local community member Mary Morris who well knew that residents including turbine hosts were being adversely impacted by the noise and vibration out to 10km. Mary Morris’s survey, and the briefing summary of the Adelaide university study can be accessed from the following weblink: http://www.wind-watch.org/news/2012/07/18/open-letter-to-the-premier-of-south-australia-re-new-survey-at-waterloo-wind-farm / . A summary of the Adelaide University survey can be found at http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/evaluation-of-wind-farm-noise-policies-in-south-australia/ .
Of note was that in the Adelaide university survey, of those surveyed (out to 5km) 50% were moderately to severely impacted by the noise. That number included some wind turbine hosts. Mary Morris’s survey confirmed that some people were impacted by the noise and vibration and consequent sleep disturbance out to 10km, which confirm what those residents have told others, including the Waubra Foundation.
It was telling that at a recent Goyder Council Development Assessment Panel (DAP) meeting in Burra, South Australia on 1st August 2012, where the proposed TRU energy Stony Gap Wind development was discussed, the lawyer for that proponent would not give a guarantee that there were no adverse health impacts. Other developers in Australia have been publicly asked the same question, but not one developer has provided such a written guarantee.
The members of the Goyder Council planning panel had just heard 6 hours of testimony from sick and concerned residents living nearby at Waterloo, making it clear that the reports of people being badly being affected 8 – 10km away were real. I am personally aware of 5 households in the Waterloo area who have had to semi-permanently abandon their homes, some on medical advice. One is 4.5km away from the nearest wind turbine, and has had to leave a 4th generation family farm home.
Acoustician Steven Cooper’s peer review report for the Goyder Council clearly outlined the risks should the neighbouring proposed TRU energy development at Stony Gap be allowed to proceed, and the panel members have acted responsibly in refusing the application. Steven Cooper’s peer review report for that development can be located at the following: http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/reviews-of-noise-impact-assessments-stony-gap/ ).
In summary, we know that people’s health is being harmed who are living within 10km of these large wind turbines, from the well known clinical consequences severe cumulative sleep disturbance, from acute and chronic cumulative physiological and psychological stress, and from a range of characteristic other symptoms, which are thought to relate primarily to vestibular dysfunction of the inner ear at levels of infrasound and low frequency noise previously assumed to be safe (based on Professor Salt and Dr Nina Pierpont’ work).
As previously stated, Dr Pierpont identified in her work that certain groups in the community were at increased risk of developing these vestibular dysfunction symptoms so well known to Professor Leventhall, and they included people with a history of motion sickness, migraines, damage to the inner ear (eg industrial deafness) and those at the extremes of age (the very young, and the elderly). Other researchers such as Dr Bob Thorne have highlighted the plight of those in the community who are particularly noise sensitive (e.g. children & adults with autism). The Waubra Foundation’s field work has confirmed Dr Pierpont’s findings of these susceptibilities, with over 100 residents having provided information to us.
Further research work is required, but in the meantime, the adoption of a very conservative precautionary approach to the siting of wind turbines is necessary in order to protect the health of the surrounding population. The consistent observation of the deterioration in health of these residents with chronic exposure to ILFN makes this even more imperative. Such deterioration is consistent with what we know about chronic stress, and with what limited information we have about “sensitization” to low frequency noise. Once sensitized, the only “cure” is to eliminate exposure to the ILFN ie to move, or turn off the source of the ILFN.
Of particular concern is the effect on young children who live in the vicinity of these developments. The effects on children have been little discussed and barely investigated, but the reports from US Paediatrician Dr Pierpont’s study, together with verbal reports from parents and teachers at the Waubra Primary school which they have requested me to keep confidential, and from parents elsewhere in Australia and internationally make me extremely concerned about the consequences for children with respect to both their health and their learning.
Professor Arline Bronzaft is a world authority on the effects of noise on children’s learning, and she has written of her concerns with respect to the effect of inappropriately sited industrial wind turbines on the health and learning of children (see her paper downloadable from the following weblink: http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/wind-turbine-noise-and-health-special-issue-of-bulletin-of-science-technology-society/ )
Some of the problems identified by Dr Pierpont as newly occurring in younger children with exposure to the wind turbines, but which resolved when the exposure ceased (ie when these people moved away from their homes near the wind turbines), include the following:
• Night terrors, 2-5 times per night
• Delayed onset of sleep, and frightened at night
• Waking saying “I can hear this terrible noise”
• Disrupted speech development
• Oppositional cranky behaviour “a completely different kid for a few months”
• Pulling ears and cranky at the same time as adults got headaches and episodes of tinnitus
• Specific problems with mental arithmetic (observed in adults as well)
• Difficulties maintaining concentration
• Deterioration in interest in reading (previously a very good reader)
Daytime problems reported to me by parents and staff from Waubra School, and parents from Pacific Hydro’s Cape Bridgewater development, include irritable cranky behaviour which is noticeably absent when the turbines have been off for a few days, tired sleepy children, and exhausted parents, in addition to some of the problems listed above, found by Dr Pierpont. And as Professor Arline Bronzaft clearly points out, what adversely affects the parents will also affect the family dynamics and therefore the health and wellbeing of the children.
In addition to the issues with respect to the children, and residents, there are occupational health and safety issues for any businesses or insitutions who employ staff in the vicinity of these operating wind developments. Farmers and other employers from a variety of regions in Australia have highlighted numerous instances where their staff or visiting contractors have had problems and have had to leave their work as a result because they felt too ill and were unable to continue. There are a number of businesses in Collector itself, together with the surrounding farms, where this could well become an issue for the local residents.
In conclusion, if this proposed Collector Wind Development is approved, it is inevitable that it will have a serious cumulative and predictable adverse effect on the physical and mental health of the surrounding population out to at least 10km, and may even drive some families, out of their homes over the life of the project, because of the cumulative effects of chronic exposure to ILFN. There may also be adverse health effects for some people in some locations from EMF, seismic vibrations and rapid fluctuations in barometric pressure.
Sleep disturbance alone is well known to increase the risks of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, suppress immunity, and result in poor mental health. It also increases the risks of accidents, including driving, and operating farming machinery. Farming is already acknowledged as having high accident rates compared with other occupations, and sleep deprivation is already taking its toll on the health of farmers because of accidents they are reporting, where fatigue is also reported as a contributing factor. All these are being reported at many existing wind developments, in addition to the other well described “wind turbine syndrome” symptoms, well known to some acousticians such as Professor Leventhall for years. The chronic physiological stress effect, which is being observed with prolonged cumulative exposure, adds an additional burden of morbidity onto a group already adversely impacted by sleep disturbance.
The final insult is the psychological damage done to these already sick rural residents, when the responsible authorities (Health and Planning particularly) deny there is a problem, and refuse to investigate, or who just state that such rural residents are “collateral damage” and the wind development is “compliant” with unsafe and unenforced noise regulations, but refuse to conduct truly independent noise monitoring of the full acoustic spectrum inside and outside homes as recommended, let alone ensure that the residents also have access to the full set of raw data for independent analysis and peer review by acousticians who do not work for the wind developers (see http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/wind-turbine-acoustic-pollution-assessment-requirements / ).
Senator Xenophon’s comments after the Stony Gap decision are worth considering carefully, with respect to the potential individual liabilities for those who approve such developments and who choose to ignore the mounting evidence. His background as a personal injuries litigation lawyer prior to entering Parliament, together with his first hand knowledge of the extent and severity of the problems of the sick residents, make him eminently qualified to comment in this way.
I note that we issued our Explicit Cautionary Notice to Planning authorities on 29th June 2011, now over a year ago. http://media.crikey.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/caution.pdf ).
Our advice is unchanged.
Dr. Sarah Laurie, CEO