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Summary of recent observations of adverse health effects from wind developments 

Author:  | Australia, Health, Human rights

Recent field observations

  • Ongoing data collection from multiple Wind Developments across SE Australia
  • Includes information from following sources:
    • interviews with affected residents
    • medical records
    • treating physicians
    • personal health journals
    • acoustic monitoring inside homes

Summary of key findings

  • Over 60 people interviewed so far
  • Includes local residents, workers and visitors
  • Symptoms characteristic of exposure to wind turbines (never previously experienced) noted up to 10km away
    • Night time waking in panicked state
    • Body vibrations
  • Symptoms ALWAYS worsen with increasing exposure over time
  • Consistent with previous findings of Medical practitioners such as
    • Dr Amanda Harry (UK Rural Family Physician)
    • Dr David Iser (Australian Rural Family Physician)
    • Dr Nina Pierpont (US Paediatrician)
    • Dr Robert McMurtry in the Society for Wind Vigilance community health survey
  • Many symptoms were known to, and reported by Acousticians such as Dr Leventhall, prior to 2004, in situations of known infrasound & low frequency noise (ILFN) exposure (Report for DEFRA by Dr G Leventhall, Dr P Pelmear & Dr S Benton May 2003, “A review of Published Research on Low Frequency noise and its Effects”)
  • Symptoms start to resolve when
    • Turbines are off (especially if more than 24 hours)
    • People move away from turbines


  • People “sensitized” with prolonged exposure then notice symptoms with other sources of ILFN
    • Pumps
    • Heating & Cooling compressors/ventilation systems

Health problems identified

  • Preexisting medical conditions which worsen with wind turbine exposure
    • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
    • Angina
    • Diabetes
    • Tinnitus
    • Migraines
  • Severe Chronic Sleep Deprivation (multiple causes which include)
    • Audible turbine noise
    • Waking in a panicked state, wide awake, sometimes on multiple occasions every night
    • Increased nocturnal urination
    • Children’s sleep problems
    • Bed vibrating
  • Severe Frequent Headaches
    • Head “in a vice”
    • Children with no previous history of headaches
    • Migraines triggered, especially from shadow flicker
    • Visual Blurring
      • Only occurring with turbine operation
      • Visual checks by health practitioners normal
    • Tinnitus (ringing or buzzing, one or both ears)
    • Ear pressure sensations (painful at times, especially if previous eardrum surgery)
    • Hyperacusis (extreme sensitivity to ‘normal’ sounds)
    • Balance disturbance (especially in elderly)
    • Motion sickness/vertigo like symptoms
    • Nausea (severe)
    • Irritability, extreme anger and other mood disturbances (also being reported in workers)
    • Memory & Cognitive deficits (worsening over time)
    • Depression, at times life threatening
    • Anxiety
    • Body vibrations
    • Tachycardias & arrhythmias (fast & irregular heartbeats)

    Additional clinical observations

    • Reports emerging of two specific clinical illnesses known to be caused by surges of adrenaline occurring with exposure to wind turbines (and other sources of ILFN)
      • Tako Tsubo heart attacks
      • Acute Hypertensive Crises
    • Limited animal studies confirm infrasound exposure can result in adrenaline surges (NIEHS Toxicology of Infrasound report 2001)
    • ILFN induced Sympathetic nervous system stimulation, via Vestibular stimulation or direct stimulation of the brain, is experienced ACUTELY by the person affected as:
      • Tachycardia (fast heart beat)
      • Elevated blood pressure including acute hypertensive episodes
      • Tako Tsubo heart attack episodes
      • Nighttime waking in a panicked state
      • Acutely anxious feelings
      • Unmasking of previous PTSD symptoms (but either well controlled or in abeyance at time of initial exposure to wind turbines)
    • Observations of new onset hypertension (high blood pressure) with turbine operation
    • Multiple causative mechanisms likely, probably concurrent (Qibai and Shi (2007) The Effects of Low Frequency Noise and Vibration on People [ed Prof C. Hansen] An Investigation on the Physiological and Psychological Effects of Infrasound on Persons 303-310)
      • Infrasound (experimental studies have shown this effect, via direct or indirect (vestibular) stimulation of sympathetic nervous system ‘fight–flight’)
      • Stress
      • Sleep Deprivation

    Predictors of onset & severity
    Predictors of Rapid Onset of Severe Symptoms of Wind turbine Syndrome (WTS) appear to be

    • Living downwind of a line of turbines (cumulative impact)
    • Presence of ground borne (seismic) vibrations
      • Beds vibrating
      • Glass of water vibrating

    Other reports of residential overnight exposure to ILFN

    • Overnight exposure to ILFN seems particularly damaging to health
    • Others who have developed similar health problems including Tako Tsubo Heart attacks, sleep deprivation and high blood pressure which start to partially resolve when exposure ceases
      • Residents in suburban Melbourne next to industrial chillers at Melbourne University
      • Residents 5km away from open cut coal mining activities active at night (diesel machinery)

    Links to vibro acoustic disease

    • Substantial body of work by Professor Mariana Alves Pereira & Dr Nuno Castelo Branco over 30 years in Portugal
    • Serious health concerns (VAD) with chronic exposure to ILFN (variety of sources)
    • Based on their recent work, levels of measured ILFN inside homes near wind developments will result in VAD in residents

    Tissue vibro acoustic diseaserved in VAD

    • Thickened collagen, resulting in
      • Decreased lumen of blood vessels (arteries)
      • Thickening of exterior lining of the heart (pericardium)
    • Malignant tumours in the sole autopsy case
      • (patients with WTS have been noted to have elevated cortisol which will certainly decrease the body’s own immunity and ability of the immune system to eradicate abnormal cells over time)
    • Professor Alves Pereira also described collagen pathology found in horses on the farm in Portugal, using a case control design
      • Ie, collagen changes are “cross species”, adding further weight to the evidence of a biological causal effect of ILFN on tissue with chronic exposure

    The relationship between WTS & VAD

    • I think Dr Pierpont is right, in stating as she did in Ontario that maybe we should call WTS “ILFN syndrome”
    • Acousticians for years have been calling these symptoms “annoyance” without Medical Clinicians realising that there are serious health problems emerging with acute and chronic exposure (with a few notable exceptions such as Dr Harry, Dr Iser, Dr Pierpont & Dr Castelo Branco)
    • My conclusions
      • There are multiple pathophysiological mechanisms causing the pathology we are seeing
      • There is a difference between the effects and therefore the symptoms of acute exposure (WTS) and chronic exposure (VAD)
      • There may be a synergistic effect eg angina
        • Acute effect – adrenaline surge leading to vasoconstriction
        • Chronic effect – collagen thickening producing structurally narrowed diameter of blood vessel
        • Both pathologies acting together will result in decreased blood flow to the heart muscle

    Acoustics field data from inside Noel Dean’s bedroom, Waubra

    Mechanisms for harm to health

    • KNOWN – audible noise
    • HIGHLY LIKELY – Infrasound & low frequency noise
      • Airborne pulsations
      • Resonance within dwellings
      • Seismic (ground borne) vibrations
    • POSSIBLE – Electromagnetic radiation effects
    • OTHER?

    What we know already

    • Chronic severe sleep deprivation and high blood pressure are very damaging to health (extensive peer reviewed research)
    • Both are being identified as new health problems in residents adjacent to wind developments after commencement of turbine operation
    • Both are measurable

    These need to be investigated and quantified

    Research questions

    1. What is a ‘safe’ setback distance?
    2. What are the mechanisms of causation?

    [plus slides about the Waubra Foundation and its Research and Updates on NH&MRC workshop, 7th June, 2011 Canberra, and Australian Senate Inquiry report tabled 14th June, 2011]

    Dr Sarah Laurie BMBS
    Medical Director, Waubra Foundation
    Presentation 14th June, 2011
    Cape Cod

    Download original document: “Summary of Recent Field Observations of Adverse Health Effects from Wind Developments in Australia

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 educational 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. Queries e-mail.

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