4 June 2013
Thank you for your email regarding wind turbines that contained links to theconversation.com
I am aware of the work reported by Prof Chapman of Sydney University. I am concerned that this work has some serious omissions. I believe this is shared by the executive of the NHMRC as evidenced by the 2010 NHMRC Rapid Review and their public statement which he peer-reviewed.
Both studies you have cited are indirect. They don’t measure infrasound and low-frequency noise (ie the full spectrum acoustic exposure) inside or outside of neighbouring residents’ homes. Nor do they measure the actual effects on people.
The researchers quoted in these studies have ignored a body of evidence from acousticians, occupational physicians and researchers with relevant experience in exposure to sound energy in arriving at their inferred “nocebo” claims.
These inferred claims arise from indirect data and are not supported by speaking to affected residents. If you speak to the people who have health complaints, you will discover that many of these people experienced severe symptoms before the Waubra Foundation was founded and before they heard of Dr Laurie or the Landscape Guardians.
You may care to test these assertions with people who report these symptoms; I understand several will be attending the Wind Power Rally at Parliament House on June 18th.
Professor Chapman’s study appears to acknowledge that some have made complaints but then has used this to assert that no one else had problems. I am not sure how he would have reached this conclusion.
This ignores the fact that country people tend not to complain publicly and that many industrial wind turbine ‘hosts’ have signed contracts containing confidentiality clauses preventing them from commenting without the approval of the operators.
It also overlooks the fact that many of the windfarms have changed ownership since contracts were signed and it is alleged that complaints are simply ignored.
Professor Chapman has also overlooked confidential submissions to the Senate inquiries including those who are gagged by confidential compensation cases resulting in property purchases.
The study to which you have referred does not substitute for direct population surveys (e.g. as done by Adelaide University) which has shown that many people are adversely affected by the noise impact of the wind turbines.
The Crichton study from New Zealand showed that the nocebo effect exists. It did not show what others are claiming – that “scaremongering” or knowledge of the symptoms actually causes the symptoms which the residents living beside wind turbines are describing.
The noise exposures were not acoustically similar to the wind turbine noise which is currently being measured at neighbouring properties (i.e. the dose of sound energy is completely different). Secondly, the exposures were in young healthy subjects for ten minutes during the day. Neighbouring residents live with the wind turbines, and more often complain of them at night, and that over time (weeks to months to years) their symptoms worsen.There is no comparison to this exposure.
There are some formal critiques which you may wish to peruse by peers in audiology, acoustics and clinical medicine of the studies you have cited:
I refer you to the Senate Community Affairs References Committee Inquiry: The Social and Economic Impact of Rural Wind Farms 2011.
The recommendations from this Inquiry can be found at:
These recommendations contain details of the important research which was recommended 2 years ago. Despite continued pressure from the Senate on the NHMRC, this research is yet to be instigated.
I also refer you to the Senate Environment and Communications Committee Inquiry: Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment (Excessive Noise from Wind Farms) Bill 2012. The hearing transcript gives an informed account of the current situation regarding wind farm noise:
Dr CJ Back
Senator for Western Australia
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