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Wind turbines and adverse health effects: Applying Bradford Hill’s criteria for causation by Anne Dumbrille, Robert McMurtry, and Carmen Krogh – ‘Big Noises: Tobacco and Wind’
Author: Evans, Alun
In the absence of a direct means of assessing causality by experiment, Dumbrille, McMurtry, and Krogh  have resorted to the nine criteria devised  by the English Statistician, Austin Bradford Hill, to assign causality. They have applied them to the putative adverse health effects associated with wind farm noise and have found all nine to be upheld.
Bradford Hill’s outstanding contribution to Public Health, with Richard Doll, was assembling a cohort of 40,000 British Doctors to study the epidemic of lung cancer that emerged in the first half of the 20th century. They showed  extremely strong associations between the number of cigarettes smoked and the development of lung cancer and other diseases. These associations were well known to the Tobacco Industry, which had suppressed the scientific evidence for years , but eventually, the companies were made to apologize to the public . For how long have the adverse health effects of wind turbine noise been known?
In 1967, a UNESCO publication discussed , “the dangers of sounds we cannot hear,” defining Infrasound as <30 Hz. By 1973, the Russians had defined safe upper limits for Infrasound (<20 Hz) in various settings . In the 1980s, Kelley et al. investigated a single turbine in America where around 12% of families within 3 km were impacted by noise emissions . The passage of the rotors past the turbine's supports caused low-frequency pressure pulsations to be directed into the complainants' dwellings. The situation was aggravated by a complex sound propagation process controlled by terrain and atmospheric focusing. The impulsiveness of the emitted low-frequency acoustic radiation was identified as a major problem. Various recommendations were made concerning noise reduction and as to how the low-frequency noise should be measured . In the UK in 1990, The Batho (Noise Review Working Party) Report devoted  a single, important, page to low-frequency noise, observing that it could have a serious effect on the lives of those affected by it: “The noise may be inaudible to the Environmental Health Officer (EHO) and its measurement often requires sophisticated monitoring techniques.” It was stated that the normal A-weighted scale was not appropriate for its measurement, and the problem was a real one, recommending in bold, “that full support should be given to the current program of research.” In the UK in 2001, a Report on Low-Frequency Noise by Stanger was prepared for the UK's Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs . It drew on the Batho Report but went much further. Two years later, when the British Prime Minister launched  his country's “Our Energy Future,” largely based on wind energy, there was no mention whatsoever of low-frequency noise. What had happened? Although all potential sources of renewable energy were being considered in the early 1980s, by the mid-1990s, wind energy was deemed paramount by the UK's Government . In 1996, the Department of Trade and Industry, whose remit was to create the optimal environment for business success, with no brief for environmental protection, established The Working Group (WG) on Noise from Wind Turbines . The WG brief was to identify noise levels thought to offer a reasonable degree of protection, without unreasonably restricting development. Of its 14 members, six were directly, and two indirectly, connected with the wind industry, three were civil servants and three EHOs, with no medical or planning input whatsoever. The impact of Low-Frequency Noise was discounted, so A-weighted noise measurements were recommended, and only turbines to a hub height of 32 m were considered . The WG's chief concern was to promote wind energy, irrespective of its impacts on rural communities. This resulted in the highest night-time noise limits permitted anywhere. A proposed review 2 years after 1996 never took place. In 2011, a letter written by the CEO of the Danish wind turbine manufacturer, Vestas, to the Danish Environment Minister, which was leaked and translated, asked why it was ... 
that Vestas does not just make changes to the wind turbines so that they make less noise? The simple answer is that at the moment it is simply not possible to do so, and it requires time and resources because presently we are at the forefront of what is technically possible for our large wind turbines, and they are the most efficient of all.
It seems that, in common with the tobacco industry, the wind industry was well aware that its products were inimical to health. The introduction of larger turbines is also problematic because the larger the turbines, the more noise they produce .
Over half a century ago, Hill wrote  that Public Health should be “ever striving for improved environmental quality with the accompanying reduction in disease morbidity and mortality.” We still have a long way to go to adequately protect people’s health from the impact of wind farm noise, as the authors’ findings have so amply demonstrated.
1. Dumbrille A, McMurtry RY, Krogh CM. Wind turbines and adverse health effects: Applying Bradford Hill’s criteria for causation. Environ Dis 2021;6:65-87.
2. Hill AB. The environment and disease: Association or causation? J R Soc Med 1965;589:295-300.
3. Stampfer M. New insights from the British Doctors Study: Risks for persistent smoking are substantially larger than previously suspected. Br Med J 2004;328:1507.
4. Brandt AM. Inventing conflicts of interest: A history of tobacco industry tactics. Am J Public Health 2012;102:63-71.
5. NBC News. Big tobacco finally tells the truth in court-ordered campaign; November 27, 2017. Available from: https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/big-tobacco-finally-tells-truth-court-ordered-ad-campaign-n823136. [Last accessed on 2021 Nov 25].
6. Lehmann G. Noise and health. Paris, France: UNESCO Courier; 1967. p. 26-31.
7. Stepanov V. Biological effects of low frequency acoustic oscillations and their hygienic regulation. Moscow: State Research Center of Russia; 1967. p. 15. Available from: //docs.wind-watch.org/Stepanov-et-al-2003-infrasound.pdf. [Last accessed on 2021 Nov 26].
8. Kelley ND, McKenna HE, Hemphill RR, Etter CI, Garrelts RI, Linn NC. Acoustic noise associated with the MOD-1 wind turbine: Its source, impact, and control. Golden, Colorado, USA: Solar Energy Research Institute, a Division of Midwest Research Institute; 1985.
9. Kelley ND. A Proposed metric for assessing the potential of community annoyance from wind turbine low-frequency noise emissions. Colorado, USA: Presented at the Windpower’87 Conference and Exposition, San Francisco. Solar Energy Research Institute, a Division of Midwest Research Institute; 1987. Available from: https://www.nrel.gov/docs/legosti/old/3261.pdf.
10. Department of the Environment. Report of the Noise Review Working Party (Batho). London: HMSO; 1990. p. 27..
11. Stanger. Report: Low frequency noise: Technical research support for DEFRA Noise Programme; 2001.
12. Department of Trade and Industry. Our energy future – Creating a low carbon economy. London: HMSO; 2003.
13. Wilson JC. A history of the UK Renewable Energy Programme, 1974-88: Some social, political, and economic aspects. PhD Thesis. Glasgow, Scotland (Published privately): University of Glasgow; 2010.
14. Working Group on Noise from Wind Farms. The assessment and rating of noise from windfarms. ETSU-R-97 final report, Department of Trade and Industry.
15. Letter written by the CEO of the Danish wind turbine manufacturer, Vestas, to the Danish Environment Minister; 2011. Available from: https://www.wind-watch.org/documents/letter-from-vestas-worried-about-regulation-of-low-frequency-noise/.
16. Møller H, Pedersen CS. Low-frequency noise from large wind turbines. J Acoust Soc Am 2011;129:3727-44.
17. Hill AB. Information on levels of environmental noise requisite to protect public health and welfare with an adequate margin of safety. Washington DC: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; 1974.
Alun Evans, Centre for Public Health, The Queen’s University of Belfast, Institute of Clinical Science B, Belfast, United Kingdom
Environmental Disease 2021, Vol. 6, Iss. 4, Pages 109-110. DOI: 10.4103/ed.ed_24_21
Download original document: “Wind turbines and adverse health effects”
Author: Kruszynski, Cecilia; Bailey, Liam; Bach, Lothar; Bach, Petra; Fritze, Marcus; Lindecke, Oliver; Teige, Tobias; and Voigt, Christian
[abstract] Large numbers of bats are killed by wind turbines globally, yet the specific demographic consequences of wind turbine mortality are still unclear. In this study, we compared characteristics of Nathusius’ pipistrelles (Pipistrellus nathusii) killed at wind turbines (N = 119) to those observed within the live population (N = 524) during the summer migration period in Germany. We used generalised linear mixed effects modelling to identify demographic groups most vulnerable to wind turbine mortality, including sex, age (adult or juvenile), and geographic origin (regional or long-distance migrant; depicted by fur stable hydrogen isotope ratios). Juveniles contributed with a higher proportion of carcasses at wind turbines than expected given their frequency in the live population suggesting that juvenile bats may be particularly vulnerable to wind turbine mortality. This effect varied with wind turbine density. Specifically, at low wind turbine densities, representing mostly inland areas with water bodies and forests where Nathusius’ pipistrelles breed, juveniles were found more often dead beneath turbines than expected based on their abundance in the live population. At high wind turbine densities, representing mostly coastal areas where Nathusius’ pipistrelles migrate, adults and juveniles were equally vulnerable. We found no evidence of increased vulnerability to wind turbines in either sex, yet we observed a higher proportion of females than males among carcasses as well as the live population, which may reflect a female bias in the live population most likely caused by females migrating from their north-eastern breeding areas migrating into Germany. A high mortality of females is conservation concern for this migratory bat species because it affects the annual reproduction rate of populations. A distant origin did not influence the likelihood of getting killed at wind turbines. A disproportionately high vulnerability of juveniles to wind turbine mortality may reduce juvenile recruitment, which may limit the resilience of Nathusius’ pipistrelles to environmental stressors such as climate change or habitat loss. Schemes to mitigate wind turbine mortality, such as elevated cut-in speeds, should be implemented throughout Europe to prevent population declines of Nathusius’ pipistrelles and other migratory bats.
Cecilia Kruszynski, Liam D. Bailey, Lothar Bach, Petra Bach, Marcus Fritze, Oliver Lindecke, Tobias Teige, Christian C. Voigt
Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Berlin; Institute of Biology, Freie Universität Berlin; Bach Freilandforschung, zoologische Gutachten, Bremen; Büro für faunistische Fachgutachten, Berlin, Germany
Ecological Applications. Published online December 7, 2021. doi: 10.1002/eap.2513
Author: Smil, Vaclav
Wind turbines are the most visible symbols of the quest for renewable electricity generation. And yet, although they exploit the wind, which is as free and as green as energy can be, the machines themselves are pure embodiments of fossil fuels.
Large trucks bring steel and other raw materials to the site, earth-moving equipment beats a path to otherwise inaccessible high ground, large cranes erect the structures, and all these machines burn diesel fuel. So do the freight trains and cargo ships that convey the materials needed for the production of cement, steel, and plastics. For a 5-megawatt turbine, the steel alone averages [pdf] 150 metric tons for the reinforced concrete foundations, 250 metric tons for the rotor hubs and nacelles (which house the gearbox and generator), and 500 metric tons for the towers.
If wind-generated electricity were to supply 25 percent of global demand by 2030 (forecast [pdf] to reach about 30 petawatt-hours), then even with a high average capacity factor of 35 percent, the aggregate installed wind power of about 2.5 terawatts would require roughly 450 million metric tons of steel. And that’s without counting the metal for towers, wires, and transformers for the new high-voltage transmission links that would be needed to connect it all to the grid.
A lot of energy goes into making steel. Sintered or pelletized iron ore is smelted in blast furnaces, charged with coke made from coal, and receives infusions of powdered coal and natural gas. Pig iron is decarbonized in basic oxygen furnaces. Then steel goes through continuous casting processes (which turn molten steel directly into the rough shape of the final product). Steel used in turbine construction embodies typically about 35 gigajoules per metric ton.
To make the steel required for wind turbines that might operate by 2030, you’d need fossil fuels equivalent to more than 600 million metric tons of coal.
A 5-MW turbine has three roughly 60-meter-long airfoils, each weighing about 15 metric tons. They have light balsa or foam cores and outer laminations made mostly from glass-fiber-reinforced epoxy or polyester resins. The glass is made by melting silicon dioxide and other mineral oxides in furnaces fired by natural gas. The resins begin with ethylene derived from light hydrocarbons, most commonly the products of naphtha cracking, liquefied petroleum gas, or the ethane in natural gas.
The final fiber-reinforced composite embodies on the order of 170 GJ/t. Therefore, to get 2.5 TW of installed wind power by 2030, we would need an aggregate rotor mass of about 23 million metric tons, incorporating the equivalent of about 90 million metric tons of crude oil. And when all is in place, the entire structure must be waterproofed with resins whose synthesis starts with ethylene. Another required oil product is lubricant, for the turbine gearboxes, which has to be changed periodically during the machine’s two-decade lifetime.
Undoubtedly, a well-sited and well-built wind turbine would generate as much energy as it embodies in less than a year. However, all of it will be in the form of intermittent electricity—while its production, installation, and maintenance remain critically dependent on specific fossil energies. Moreover, for most of these energies—coke for iron-ore smelting, coal and petroleum coke to fuel cement kilns, naphtha and natural gas as feedstock and fuel for the synthesis of plastics and the making of fiberglass, diesel fuel for ships, trucks, and construction machinery, lubricants for gearboxes—we have no nonfossil substitutes that would be readily available on the requisite large commercial scales.
For a long time to come—until all energies used to produce wind turbines and photovoltaic cells come from renewable energy sources—modern civilization will remain fundamentally dependent on fossil fuels.
Exposure to Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) from Submarine Power Cables Can Trigger Strength-Dependent Behavioural and Physiological Responses in Edible Crab, Cancer pagurus (L.)
Author: Scott, Kevin; et al.
The current study investigated the effects of different strength Electromagnetic Field (EMF) exposure (250 µT, 500 µT, 1000 µT) on the commercially important decapod, edible crab (Cancer pagurus, Linnaeus, 1758). Stress related parameters were measured (l-Lactate, d-Glucose, Total Haemocyte Count (THC)) in addition to behavioural and response parameters (shelter preference and time spent resting/roaming) over 24 h periods. EMF strengths of 250 µT were found to have limited physiological and behavioural impacts. Exposure to 500 µT and 1000 µT were found to disrupt the l-Lactate and d-Glucose circadian rhythm and alter THC. Crabs showed a clear attraction to EMF-exposed (500 µT and 1000 µT) shelters with a significant reduction in time spent roaming. Consequently, EMF emitted from MREDs [Marine Renewable Energy Devices] will likely affect crabs in a strength-dependent manner thus highlighting the need for reliable in-situ measurements. This information is essential for policy making, environmental assessments, and in understanding the impacts of increased anthropogenic EMF on marine organisms.
Kevin Scott, Petra Harsanyi, Blair A.A. Easton, Althea J.R. Piper, Corentine M.V. Rochas, and Alastair R. Lyndon
St Abbs Marine Station, UK.
School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, UK.
Institute of Biology, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary.
Journal of Marine Science and Engineering 2021, 9(7), 776; doi: 10.3390/jmse9070776
Download original document: “Exposure to Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) from Submarine Power Cables Can Trigger Strength-Dependent Behavioural and Physiological Responses in Edible Crab, Cancer pagurus (L.)”