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Debate on negative effects of wind turbines in Australia to health rages

The Australian newspaper expressed support for Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott who recently cancelled the operation of the largest investor of wind farms and solar power projects in the country, and remains as a vocal critic against it. But the said publication faces controversy after releasing the alleged “groundbreaking” article discussing the negative effects of wind turbines to health without reasonable sources, according to a public health professor at the University of Sydney.

In an article originally posted in the Conversation, Simon Chapman, the author, and professor of Public Health at University of Sydney, stated the article published by The Australian newpaper is establishing the negative effects of wind turbines to health that came “on a succession of trivial to terrible ‘studies’ ” and was for anti-wind farm activists supporting to ban the wind farm operations in the country.

The Australian newspaper remains active on its campaign against wind farms in line with the country being openly against wind farms and the conservative premier Abbott as a vocal critic, describing it as “ugly” and “noisy.” The newspaper recently released an article from the paper’s environment editor Graham Lloyd which Chapman described as an article based on studies in poor quality and not appropriate to be a basis yet.

Lloyd writes about a German research he called as “ground-breaking” and “infers” to be a credible basis for claims against wind turbines regarding health effects after the prime minister recently suggested wind farms were a health hazard and announced that it will ban the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, or CEFC, from investing in existing wind technology and small-scale solar power projects.

Chapman stated that The Australian’s environment editor, in his article, mentioned that the research “showed that humans could hear sounds of eight hertz, a whole octave lower than had been previously assumed, and that excitation of the primary auditory cortex could be detected down to this frequency.” But Chapman then explained that the said research have never mentioned wind turbines aside from a low-frequency noise that is produced by sources found in nature and “a wide variety of mechanical sources.

The public health professor explained that the result of the study that Lloyd, with the sub-editors of The Australian, referred in the paper’s headline “Brains excited by wind turbines study,” is meaningless on the effect of wind turbine-generated infrasound. The said article from the editor also described two recent studies about the noise produced by wind turbines. The article covers a study from Japan that local wind turbine workers were not able to achieve a relaxed state. and another that states 45 people from Tehran University said that “despite all the good benefits of wind turbines, it can be stated that this technology has health risks for all those exposed to its sound,” according to an Iranian study mentioned by Lloyd.

However, Ketan Joshi, a prominent wind industry science and research commentator, compared the noise that would be experienced inside a wind turbine nacelle to see its effect. He then explained that wind farm workers “would never work inside nacelles when the turbines were turning” that provides the possibility that the workers might not experience health issues caused by turbine noise as claimed in one of Lloyd’s sources.

Joshi also mentioned that “the study he [Lloyd] referred to was of poor quality.” Herein, Chapman stands against the content from the Australian’s environment editor, finding that existing problems with the studies derived on its content were not mentioned. He then described The Australian’s article as its “news agenda on wind energy is a travesty of good journalism.”

According to a recent review by National Health and Medicine Research Council (NHMRC) on the effects of wind turbines, there is no direct evidence that wind turbines affect physical or mental health, including the prospected problems of pathological anxiety, depression, changes in blood pressure, heart disease and ringing in the ears. The review discovered that wind farms produce noise and indirect health effects such as annoyance and sleep disturbance, but NHMRC found no direct evidence of possible health effects and low-frequency noise or infrasound coming from the turbines.

Amid the unprecedented correspondence on wind energy, CEFC Chief Executive Officer Oliver Yates told Reuters that he was still in the process of having legal advice about the anti-wind farm directive of Abbott before giving a formal response to the prime minister’s decision. Yates declines to comment on whether he would challenge Abbott’s authoritative instruction.