Industrial Noise – is always and everywhere a public health problem


Desperate to prevent the Coalition’s promised investigation into the known and obvious adverse health effects from giant industrial wind turbines – obvious health effects, such as sleep deprivation – STT hears that wind weasels and their parasites have rounded up a few tame turbine hosts at Waubra to try and pooh-pooh the tragic experiences of others.  These goons really are a special kind of person.

This latest exercise by wind weasels to RIDICULE their victims is more evidence of what a combination of a fat pile of cash combined with punitive confidentiality clauses in host contracts can do – rather than any indictment on the experiences recorded among hundreds of Australians and thousands, Internationally.

It also ignores turbine hosts, like David and Elida Mortimer.

Wind weasels and their parasites assert that money salves all wounds – well, the Mortimers clearly don’t fit that model.  All sorts of arguments have been put forward to discount, diminish, explain or otherwise spin away the Mortimer’s story.

One line spun is that the Mortimers are proof that there are no gag clauses in host contracts.  The Mortimer’s contract was drawn up in 2002 and has no “gag clause” in it at all.  More recent host contracts include monstrous little clauses like this:

The Landlord may not conduct interviews with media organisations or other members of the public or issue press releases or other announcements unless the Tenant [Wind Developer] has first approved the content of the disclosure and has otherwise consented to the use of the Tenant’s name in association with that disclosure.

That clause gives the developer a right to vet and veto any statement that the landholder may wish to make to the media or anybody else.  That clause places no limit on the subject matter that the developer is entitled to prevent the landholder from discussing and that obviously empowers developers to prevent hosts from discussing adverse health effects with the media or members of the public, which means ANYONE.

STT is aware of a number of major turbine host families who are talking to Federal Coalition members right now about their dreadful experiences of living with incessant low-frequency turbine noise – constant sleep deprivation running for over 5 years in one case; and that same health problem running for over 3 years, in another.

These long-suffering people are – behind the scenes – quietly tipping a bucket on the so-called “nocebo” nonsense cooked up by pseudo-scientists and tobacco advertising gurus.

Members of the Coalition are doing what they can to help them – and are using their tragic experiences to support not only the promised turbine noise, sleep and health research, but to enact the Draft Excessive Noise Bill with the inclusion of a maximum limit of 10dB(A) above background for turbine noise.

That was the limit included in the original draft put forward by Nick Xenophon and John Madigan and the heavy hitters in the Coalition are very keen to see it gets through.

The upshot of the legislation is that – with real-time noise monitoring in place at operating wind farms – wind farm operators will be deprived of RECs if they exceed a level of 10dB(A) above the background noise level.  Current State noise policies effectively set the noise limit at 25dB(A) above background – due to the extremely low background noise levels in rural environments.

Noise is always and everywhere a public health issue.

Here’s a piece from The Economist in which Poppy Elliot from the Noise Abatement Society says that:

[A] quiet environment is necessary to enable people to fulfil their intellectual and creative potential.  She points to a report on the health effects of noise published by the World Health Organisation in 2011, which found that in western Europe, excessive noise was second only to air pollution as a cause of environmental ill-health.

STT agrees.  But common sense rarely needs an advocate.

The sound of silence
The Economist
7 September 2013

Technology and society: Designers are paying more attention to devising products that make less noise, which can save energy and boost sales

EFFORTS to regulate the nuisance of distracting noise date back at least as far as the 6th century BC, when the Greek colony of Sybaris decreed that, along with roosters, tinsmiths and potters had to live outside the city because of the noise they made.  Some 25 centuries later Charles Babbage, an English mathematician who is remembered as one of the forefathers of computing, waged a series of campaigns against organ grinders and other forms of street music.  Both would surely approve of the way in which designers have lately started paying more attention to devising products that make less noise.

Steve Jobs of Apple was a pioneer in this regard.  He insisted that the original Macintosh computer, launched in 1984, should not have an internal cooling fan, but rely instead on convection cooling to keep it quiet.  (This made it silent but prone to overheating, and fans were added to later models.)  Yet with computers, as with anything else, quietness tends not to be a quality that buyers regard as terribly important. Surveys show that only about 25% of people consider how noisy a product will be when buying it, according to Mike Goldsmith, a former head of acoustics at Britain’s National Physical Laboratory. But many of them come to regret this, and half of such disgruntled shoppers say they would pay as much as 50% extra for a product that makes half as much noise.

Last year Quiet Mark, a British not-for-profit company, was launched to encourage manufacturers to make quieter products.  It was founded by Poppy Elliott, the granddaughter of John Connell, who founded the Noise Abatement Society in 1959. Ms Elliott believes that a quiet environment is necessary to enable people to fulfil their intellectual and creative potential.  She points to a report on the health effects of noise published by the World Health Organisation in 2011, which found that in western Europe, excessive noise was second only to air pollution as a cause of environmental ill-health.  Quiet Mark campaigns for quieter products and awards a stamp of approval to products or schemes that minimise noise, including kettles, blenders, hairdryers and washing machines – and even hotels and silent musical instruments.

Quietness makes economic sense because excessive noise is usually a sign of waste and inefficiency.  Quieter products may cost more, but they generally consume less energy, which makes them cheaper to run.  Boeing claims that its fuel-efficient 787 airliner, for example, is also the quietest aircraft in its class.  Less noisy aircraft are welcomed by people living near airports and flight paths, but they also make flying less stressful for passengers travelling in them.

That is why NASA, America’s space agency, pays close attention to the noise levels experienced by astronauts.  It carefully measures and models the sound output of the equipment it sends into space, on the basis that a quieter working environment increases concentration and reduces fatigue.  It applies the same attention to detail on Earth, with stringent noise standards in its ground facilities, and introduced a “buy quiet” procurement scheme in 2009.  A report on the programme from 2012 points out that reducing noise in the workplace makes financial sense because as well as boosting productivity, it avoids compensation claims and medical costs.  NASA says this is best done by buying low-noise products, even though they typically cost 5-10% more, because retrofitting noise-reduction systems after purchase can cost 10-15 times as much.

Things can sometimes be too quiet, however. Electric cars can be difficult to hear at low speeds, which makes them dangerous to pedestrians and blind people. In Chinese cities the danger comes not from electric or hybrid cars, but from popular (and almost silent) electric bicycles, says Jan Chipchase of Frog Design, an innovation consultancy. Earlier this year America’s Department of Transportation proposed new minimum sound requirements for electric and hybrid cars, which may require sound generators to be added to some vehicles.  (The proposed rules prohibit users from using personalised, downloadable “vroomtones”, alas.)  Already the Renault Zoe, an electric car, has a sound generator for use at low speeds, and the Lexus IS 300h hybrid has an “active sound control” system designed to give its four-cylinder engine the sound of a V6, even when cruising on electric power.  A well-engineered “noise signature” improves the driving experience, says Tomas Keppens, a noise and vibration specialist at the Japanese carmaker.

The addition of sound generators to cars is a good example of how sound can provide vital cues in some products (the artificial camera-shutter sound made by digital cameras) or may be carefully designed to convey quality (the sound made when closing the door of an expensive car). The aim, then, should not be “no sound” but “the right sort of sound”. By and large, though, that will usually mean making less rather than more noise.
The Economist

sleeping baby
My future growth and development depends on undisturbed sleep.
And I won’t get that with giant fans making a racket all night long.


Human beings place enormous value on silence – from the piece above it is evident that it simply makes good business sense to keep the noise down.

As The Economist notes, humane societies have separated noisy activities since the time of the ancient Greeks – booting roosters, tinsmiths and potters out of Greek cities – and, in later times, organ grinders out of London.

In Australia today, roosters are banned in cities, suburbs and in most country towns.  They have a body clock set earlier than most people and have a routine habit of waking up the whole neighbourhood.  Faced with an errant rooster, authorities are quick to act against Foghorn Leghorn & Co on PUBLIC HEALTH GROUNDS.

Boy, I say Boy – who are they callin’ a “loud mouth”?!?


Planning laws in most States prevent panel beaters from operating in built up areas before 8am and after 6pm.

And – either by operation of EPA regulations or planning laws – there is a total ban on the operation of chainsaws and lawn mowers in cities, suburbs and most towns.  That strictly enforced prohibition operates, in Victoria, for example, Monday to Friday: before 7 am and after 8 pm; and on weekends and public holidays: before 9 am and after 8 pm.

So why then is it that hard-working rural people – who live in very quiet night-time environments – are bound to put up with this, night after merciless night?


18 thoughts on “Industrial Noise – is always and everywhere a public health problem

  1. That is too bad that people’s health is starting to be affected by industrial noise. I have never lived in a big city so I’ve never been bothered by that noise before. But if I were living in it and losing sleep I would be very concerned!

  2. I think your internet site has really spectacular material. Industrial Noise – is always and everywhere a public health problem STOP THESE THINGS write-up is an outstanding example.

  3. “So why then is it that hard-working rural people – who live in very quiet night-time environments – are bound to put up with this, night after merciless night?”

    That is a question we sufferers ask our selves every morning when we wake up like a wrung out dish cloth with only one desire and that is to get some sleep.

    That is a question we ask our selves of an evening whilst trying to build an electronic circuit or write some software or to read a book or pursue a hobby or just enjoy the quiet. We just can’t sit still in one place long enough to concentrate. It is cruel.

    And now we hear that mega ego Flannery is being funded by public donations to carry on his research?? – 5,000 members of the public he says. I can’t help (cynical me) wondering if the 5,000 public donations are courtesy of the wind weasels?

  4. The health effects of all harmful noise are ignored by the planning and regulatory systems in Australia today. We don’t have noise mapping that exists in EU. Our regulators and Councils turn their backs on noise complainants, or tell them to move house and dump the problem on an unsuspecting party.

    Noise regulation only relates to noise 20Hz and above. The acoustic consultants who wrote the present EPA guidelines had no interest in the health effects of low frequency noise, (nor might I add, the health effects of noise full stop).

    The EPA system in every state is costing us about a $million a week. It is meant to be regulating pollution emissions for the benefit of our environment and well being, but is in fact routinely not making any independent local assessment of pollution in all its formats. Licensed companies provide their own license conditions and emission measures. On occasions when this has been challenged, and the EPA have installed noise detectors, licensed companies have been made aware, and are subsequently quieter for the required period.
    Environmental regulation in Australia is doing nothing to reduce health risks. Discussion recently had the SA CEO and board Chair stating uncategorically they had no interest in the health effects of pollution. No legal responsibility in the Act, so no connection anywhere in what they regulate. You might well ask why we have environmental regulators at all? I think they are a waste of time and money.

    I would also add that no Public Health professionals have put their hand up, or mind to identifying the harm of uncontrolled, excessive noise in the places we live and work. They would be undermined by administrative executives in our Health system if they did. Similarly OH&S guidelines are also way out of touch with the harm that chronic noise exposure elicits.

    Noise is a critical risk factor that Governments should consider in developing a healthier world, as it grows bigger and busier. Corporate solutions don’t have the costs we bear, accounted.
    I add my comment to tell this story to let you know that the Office of Health Protection last year, (Dec 2012) dropped the proposed 2006 national review of noise policies after doing nothing for 6 years. The proposal to gain a better understanding of how noise policies related to health risk and incidence in both community and occupational settings in this country was dropped to save administrative cost to the then Government. All elements of the public health risk avoid any departmental accountability. We pay lots of salaries to experts to lay blame at the community’s feet when the community is desperate in finding ways of reducing stress generated by many sources.

    To go back to a starting point, the National Dept of Health produced a report on the Health effects of noise in 2004;

    This extensive document made four major recommendations:
    (1) Recognise environmental noise as a potential health concern (with two suggested actions).
    (2) Promote measures to reduce environmental noise and its health impacts (with seven suggested actions).
    (3) Address environmental noise in planning and development activities (with four suggested actions).
    (4) Foster research on the non-auditory health impacts of noise (with the following suggested research agenda:
    • A national noise survey.
    • Effects on learning performance in children, sleep disturbance, annoyance and cardiovascular health and mental wellbeing.
    • Identification of populations most sensitive to noise and vulnerable to non-auditory health effects (the findings should inform environmental, planning and health policies).
    • Given the prevalence of cardiovascular disease and its associated cost to society, further research appears prudent to examine noise as a risk factor (the link between environmental noise and high blood pressure(hypertension) and ischaemic heart disease, as suggested by cross-sectional literature, is by no means conclusive at the moment).
    • Evaluation of noise reduction schemes on community health (intervention studies).
    • Longitudinal studies, dose-response studies.
    • Appropriate attention to study design, sampling and sample sizes, control of confounders, investigation of factors modifying the effects, precise exposure estimation and precise measurement of outcomes.

    I am still amazed that while the cost of ignoring better noise management estimated by Access Economics in its report on the cost of Hearing loss in 2006, put it in the $Billions annually, the Government and department let the investigation slide. The estimate by Access Economics of direct costs of hearing loss was $11.75B/annually, and further health service $11.3Billion. 37% directly attributed to noise. Discussions with the project team agreed their estimate for noise effects was conservative.

    As you will all know, we had the parliamentary call for a health review of noise and wind turbine fallout. 2 years ago. Nothing. Consider asking our new Minister for Health to review this Labor Party decision ( or

    Access Economics Report – Listen Hear! The Economic Impact and Cost of Hearing Loss in Australia;

  5. Our resident goon has also jumped on the bandwagon, you know the one, he lives nowhere near wind turbines, but would love to, however he does get to camp under them quite frequently. He also has no regard for the victims of the turbines.

    A little bit about the Waubra film maker.

    “Neil Barrett is a former energy economist with the State Electricity Commission of Victoria, CEO of Video Education Australasia (VEA) and founding chair of the Mount Alexander Sustainability Group (2005-’08)”

    This is in the credits.

    “Any profits made from the sale of the DVD of this series will go to the Victorian Wind Alliance.”

    I guess that says it all.

    1. Even more revealing is Barrett’s Senate submission

      “I have had a strong interest in wind energy since the 1970s. In recent years I have worked in a voluntary capacity with the Windpower Subcommittee of MASG. The group is hoping to install a 12MW community–owned windfarm along the lines of the Hepburn Community Windfarm near Daylesford.”

      He certainly is no “independent” video maker – he just didn’t get a cut from the wind industry…,d.aGc

  6. Why are they so hard on Roosters? Ask any Rooster and he will tell you, if he doesn’t crow before Sun up, then the Sun doesn’t come up.
    Sort of like the “Wind Weasels”.

  7. There are rules and regulations controlling every aspect of noise, but these are designed for urban and city living, no one has bothered to consider the rural environment.
    There are laws on party noise after a certain time at night, there are regulations about noisy exhausts on cars, the list appears to be endless.
    This urbanisation of regulations has been adapted to judge consequences of noise in rural environments and it doesn’t work.
    Rural environments are different so noise effects are different.
    The problem is too many of those who believe they are qualified to judge, consider there is nothing to worry about and turbines are really very quiet with a gentle swoosh swoosh sound.
    These people live in noisy, smelly cities, where you can’t see the vast night skies and hear the birds, frogs and crickets sing, and where its possible to hear the murmur of neighbours living over 1km away quietly chatting by BBQs on a warm summers evening.
    Some of these self appointed experts may have only ever ‘visited’ somewhere outside their urban environment but scurry back after a yuppie weekend visiting the vineyard and relaxing in the hot tub, to become invisible and comfortable again amongst the hustle and bustle of the congested, polluted city, making judgements on things they know nothing about.
    Hopefully this will soon change and regulations will be drawn up that take into account the rural environment and equity in regulations replaces equality. After all, it happens in cities – the noise regulations are different for industrial sites than for urban living places, why then can’t there be regulations specific to the different Australian rural environments?

  8. It’s just another case of razzmatazz wind industry marketing hype, promoting the spread of problems rather than solving any:

    “my dear err… prime minister [we really preferred Rudd]… noise is a common problem… um… so let’s make it fair on everyone… installing thousands upon thousands of wind turbines might just one day… maybe… we believe it might lead to the closure of one coal plant… particularly at Port Augusta where the local coal supplies are running out… and give a bit of relief to the fortunate residents who will still have to breathe the fumes from the lead smelter…”

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