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Expert Opinion Concerning the Adverse Impacts of Wind Turbine Noise  

Author:  | Australia, Health

“Will noise or other direct or indirect consequences (and which consequences) of the operation of the Stony Gap wind farm erected as contemplated in the Application, and involving turbines of the type and dimensions referred to in the Application, in your opinion be likely to cause adverse health effects or significantly exacerbate existing adverse health effects to a significant percentage of the population living within up to 10 kilometers of the turbines from the Stony Gap Wind Farm?”

In my opinion, it is inevitable that this proposed wind development, if built in this location with turbines of the specified size, will cause serious harm to the physical and mental health of a significant percentage of the surrounding population, including particularly to vulnerable groups such as young children, the elderly, and those with pre existing medical and psychiatric conditions, who live and work in the sound energy impact zone of this proposed Stony Gap Wind Farm (SGWF), out to a distance of at least 10 kilometers from the turbines, over the lifetime of the project. This harm will be caused directly by the audible and inaudible sound energy generated by the wind turbines, which will cause significant repetitive sleep disturbance, and physiological stress. The physiological mechanisms have been demonstrated in animals to be due to abnormal activation of the vestibular system and sympathetic nervous system by the effect of infrasound and low frequency noise (ILFN) on the inner ear.

These are serious adverse health effects, which lead to a range of other symptoms and illnesses by interfering with the hypothalamic-pituitary axis (“master” control mechanism of the endocrine system), disturbance of the autonomic nervous system and compromise of immunological competence.

This report is confined to the adverse health effects on human health from sound energy, reported by residents living near wind turbines as this is my specific area of knowledge and expertise. Other adverse health effects such as symptoms and illnesses resulting from exposure to shadow flicker have certainly been reported by residents at wind developments, but are not addressed in this report.

My opinion is informed by my direct knowledge of the reported health problems of residents living near existing Wind Turbine Developments, particularly in Australia and Ontario. My opinion is also informed by the known adverse health consequences resulting from exposure to environmental noise, and the known serious adverse health consequences of chronic sleep deprivation and chronic stress.

Sleep deprivation and stress related symptoms are the commonest health complaints reported by residents living near wind turbines, and in my opinion, they are individually and collectively responsible for the observed and reported deterioration in some residents’ health with cumulative exposure to operating wind turbines.

There is extensive and longstanding peer reviewed published clinical research detailing the known interconnections and associations between chronic sleep deprivation, stress and numerous clinical disorders 5 including ischemic heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, immune suppression resulting in increased infections and malignancies (cancers), depression, and anxiety.

The observation of these particular preexisting symptoms and health problems worsening with exposure to wind turbine noise is not surprising to clinicians and mental health professionals, when they learn what is now known about the way infrasound and low frequency noise, regardless of the source of the noise, are known to affect health via repetitive sleep disturbance, and the physiological and psychological stress pathways. …

General Background – Known Adverse Health Impacts From Sound Energy
World Health Organisation (WHO) reports detailing the effects of noise
Australian government report on environmental noise
Literature reviews relating to infrasound and low frequency noise, which focus primarily on empirical data from independent research
What is meant by “annoyance”?
What is known about the nature of wind turbine sound?
Dr Kelley’s 1985 acoustic survey, and 1987 laboratory research
Sensitisation or “conditioning” vs habituation
Pathological findings in the cochlea of noise sensitive rats – irreparable damage?

Known Adverse Health Consequences
Sleep disturbance/deprivation (environmental sleep disorder)
Environmental sleep disorder and its consequences – from WHO 2009
Stress
Vestibular disorders

Causation Evidence & Range of Professional Opinions

Systematic data collection – noise impact surveys and case series
Early European research confirms increased annoyance from wind turbine noise
Case series – Dr Amanda Harry, UK, 2003
Population noise health impact survey – Dr David Iser, Australia, 2004
Case series cross-over study – Dr Nina Pierpont, USA, 2009
Background to Waterloo wind development, adjacent to the proposed Stony Gap Wind Farm
Mr Zhenhua “Frank” Wang’s population survey out to 5km, Waterloo, Australia, 2011
Mrs Mary Morris’ population noise impact survey out to 10km, Waterloo, Australia, 2012
Macarthur wind development
Mrs Anne Schafer’s preliminary noise impact survey, August 2013, Macarthur, Victoria, Australia
Witness statements from the Cherry Tree VCAT case, Victoria, from residents at Macarthur
Mrs Patina Schneider’s population noise impact surveys, August 2012 & 13 Cullerin Range, NSW, Australia
Dr Bob Thorne, case series (& comparison with some external controls), November 2012

Range of relevant professionals’ opinions
Acousticians
Health practitioners (especially medical practitioners and psychologists)

Information obtained directly from affected people

Pathophysiology vs the Nocebo Effect
Dr Paul Schomer’s contribution from the field of acoustics
Professor Alec Salt’s contribution from the field of neurophysiology of the cochlea
Support for Professor Salt’s concerns about 85dBG infrasound from Dr Swinbanks
Vestibular stimulation, fight flight response, physiological stress and sleep disturbance
Dr Nina Pierpont – the role of the vestibular system, and identification of risk factors
Increasing recognition of problems by international ear nose and throat specialists
The “nocebo effect”

Setback Distances – What Is “Safe”?

Will Compliance with SA EPA Guidelines Protect Against Adverse Health Effects?

Evaluation of Government Reports
NHMRC 2010 Rapid Review
Victorian Health Department Report, April 2013
Background to the involvement of Victorian Health Authorities
Critical comments by Emeritus Professor Colin Hansen, Mechanical Engineer
Critical comments by Professor Alec Salt & Assistant Professor Jeffrey Lichtenhan
SA EPA Acoustic Survey – “Waterloo Wind Farm Environmental Noise Study, 2013”
NHMRC commissioned February 2014 “Systematic Literature Review”

Qualifications and Relevant Experience
Clinical training and experience
Work with the Waubra Foundation (July 2010 to present)
Declarations

REFERENCES

14th April, 2014
TruEnergy Renewable Developments v Goyder Regional Council, A W Coffey & H Dunn

Download original document: “Provision of Expert Opinion Concerning the Adverse Impacts of Wind Turbine Noise

This material is the work of the author(s) indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this material resides with the author(s). As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send queries to query/wind-watch.org.

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