Max Rheese: the time for Health Research on fan impacts is NOW

MaxAEF

Max Reese: the time for research is now.

Australia: National Health & Medical Research Council says more studies on wind turbine noise is needed
Max Rheese
2 April 2014

The National Health & Medical Research Council has finally published its long awaited Draft Information Paper: Evidence on Wind Farms and Human Health on which the CEO, Professor Warwick Anderson is seeking public comment.

This paper follows years of campaigning for medical and acoustical studies by individuals and groups concerned about health impacts from wind turbine operation. Large multi-national and Australian energy companies, along with global turbine manufacturer Vestas have consistently rubbished claims of adverse health impacts.

Following the release of the Information Paper media reporting almost exclusively concentrated on a statement contained within the paper “There is no reliable or consistent evidence that wind farms directly cause adverse health effects in humans”, failing to report comments such as “The body of evidence relating to wind farms and health is small and poor quality”.

Or that, “Further high quality research is needed – particularly exploring relationships between noise at varying distances from wind farms and annoyance, sleep and quality of life – to address concerns that some people have about the possible effects of wind farms on human health.”

This last statement reflects the concerns the Australian Environment Foundation has had for some time that current research into health impacts is “insufficient and sub-standard.”

This second review has been eagerly awaited by both the wind industry and communities impacted by wind farms since the 2010 Rapid Review of existing literature by the NHMRC made a similar statement seized upon by the wind industry claiming there was no evidence of a direct link between wind turbine noise and adverse health impacts. Like the current review, this finding is entirely unremarkable as there have still been no independent, properly designed medical studies into health impacts, a fact clearly articulated in the current review.

Following the 2010 Rapid Review the NHMRC CEO appeared before a senate committee where he stated under questioning that the NHMRC was not prepared to say there are no health problems caused by wind turbine operations.

Now there is nothing surprising in the wind industry highlighting the fact there has been no direct, conclusive or reliable evidence linking wind turbines with health impacts, but it is disingenuous to claim absolutely there are no health effects when there have been no studies acceptable to the NHMRC to prove or disprove the claim!

The previous NHMRC 2010 Rapid Review, this new paper and the 2011 Senate Inquiry into the Impact of Wind Farms recommendations have been unequivocal in calling for more research into wind farm noise, which no doubt influenced the decision of the Abbott government to recently announce such a study.

Rather incredibly the Information Paper just released found that:

No studies were identified that explicitly considered possible effects on human health of infrasound and low-frequency noise or electromagnetic radiation produced by wind turbines.

A direct connection between wind turbine noise and adverse health impacts is unlikely to be found if it is not explicitly considered.

Adding further to the sub-standard nature of many of the studies reviewed by the NHMRC it was found that “Wind turbine noise was not directly measured at participant’s homes in any of the studies.” Could this possibly mean that the primary location where most of those affected by wind turbine noise and where they suffer the worst effects was not subjected to any on-site noise measurement? You bet.

Nobody disputes wind turbines emit noise. What is in dispute is the nature, the level and the effect of the noise, particularly inside the homes of neighbouring residences. These effects are poorly understood by the wind industry, most of the medical fraternity and legislators because of the above acknowledgements that existing studies did not explicitly consider health effects and did not measure the noise inside the homes of those affected. However, this has never constrained wind supporters from denying any adverse health impacts from turbine noise.

A team from the University of Adelaide was commissioned by the NHMRC to undertake a ‘Systematic review of the human health effects of wind farms’ on which the Information Paper was based and this was completed in 2013.

The review found no evidence to support the fanciful claims of a nocebo effect promulgated enthusiastically by some on the fringes of the medical fraternity. Those pushing the nocebo effect claim there are no actual adverse effects (although they have not undertaken medical research to verify this), but that the impacts are imagined. The so-called nocebo effect in relation to adverse health impacts from wind turbine noise is the manifestation of a self-fulfilling prophecy that is supposed to appear in some residents who have been subject to the negative warnings about the ill-effects of wind turbine noise.

The review paper however found “In the limited literature linking adverse health outcomes to wind farms, there was no evidence identified that considered health effects or related non-health effects (e.g. annoyance) could be due to expectation effects, or nocebo effects.”

The paper goes on to say that further and better research on the relationship between noise from wind turbines and health, sleep and quality of life is warranted, confirming earlier independent inquiries into wind turbine noise and public health.

Moreover, new research will be able to target wind farms that are utilising the massive 3MW turbines which became operational after the NHMRC cut-off date of late 2012 for studies reviewed for the current Information Paper. A fact overlooked by many armchair supporters of the wind industry is that larger modern turbines have the capacity to produce even lower frequency noise and broadcast it over a much larger area potentially affecting many more residents. Use of these larger turbines corresponds quite remarkably with increasing community complaints about wind turbine operations.

The paper also notes the insufficient research to date and the action now undertaken in some other jurisdictions:

The limited availability of robust, peer-reviewed scientific studies on the health effects of wind turbines/farms has stimulated some government health authorities, such as Health Canada, to begin conducting independent research. Health Canada argues that lack of prevalence data on community complaints and self-reported health impacts from studies with strong methodological designs are significant barriers to providing advice on noise impacts from wind turbines.

This contrasts mightily with what the wind industry and its supporters have been saying for years – that there is no adverse health impact from wind turbine operation. They do not know. They have not done the medical research. Of this we can be sure, because if the global wind industry had commissioned medical research anywhere that demonstrated no ill effects from wind farms they would be proclaiming that endlessly.

Littered all the way through the material released by the NHMRC is the acknowledgement that the research is “limited, small and of poor quality, insufficient, not reliable”; however the wind industry and its supporters, such as Friends of the Earth, attest with certitude that the study had shown once again wind farms are “clean and safe”.

In a media release following the NHMRC Information Paper Clean Energy Council Policy Director Russell Marsh said it was yet another tick of approval for the wind industry from the country’s best health experts. Huh?

These and similar fallacious statements repeated by the small army of spin doctors employed by the wind industry are completely at odds with the uncertainty expressed by the NHMRC, the senate inquiry and Health Canada who have all recommended detailed medical research, which is all that residents of rural communities involuntarily affected by wind farm noise have ever asked for.
Max Rheese is the Executive Director of the Australian Environment Foundation.

STT agrees – unless and until the work is done – thoroughly and properly funded – the wind industry and the clowns that pass for academics in this country will continue to lie and dissemble around the wishy-washy statements made by peak bodies like the NHMRC.

The Coalition have promised to do precisely that with their planned health inquiry into wind farms (see our post here). STT hears that the inquiry will have nothing to do with the NHMRC but, instead, will involve leading academic institutions around Australia and internationally.

The study will be multidisciplinary focusing on turbine noise and the impacts on sleep and health. And, no doubt, to the horror of the wind industry and its parasites, will start by gathering a welter of data in the field from affected neighbours. The very places where the industry’s so-called “health experts” fear to tread.

The complete enquiry – given its scope – is expected to take time – in the order of 3-4 years – but, once the data is gathered, initial observations and preliminary results are expected to be published within months.

As Max points out affected communities have been crying out for this work to be done for years – there is no reason to delay.

While – as repeatedly pointed out by STT – it’s the perverse economics of wind power that will kill the industry – its demise is of little consolation to the unnecessary victims at places like Cullerin, NSW; Waubra, Cape Bridgewater, Toora and Macarthur, VIC and Waterloo, SA. With the RET review headed up by Dick “RET Slayer” Warburton the industry is on life support now.

Built entirely around the mandatory RET and the REC Tax on all Australian power consumers that will add more than $60 billion to power bills over the life of RET – and driving the recent escalation in power prices – the true and hidden costs of wind power are finally being scrutinised in the mainstream press – particularly by economic writers and editors in The Australian.

That scrutiny will continue and – eventually – these journalists will gain a deep and thorough understanding of the scale of the fraud – both economic and environmental – as they come to understand that wind power can only ever be delivered at crazy, random intervals – it disappears entirely from the grid hundreds of times each year – accordingly requiring 100% of its capacity to be backed up 100% of the time from conventional generation sources – the insane costs of running fast start-up peaking power plants, mostly Open Cycle Gas Turbines which belt out of 3-4 times the CO2 per unit generated compared to coal/gas thermal and cost around $300 per MW/h to run (compared to $25 per MW/h for coal/thermal) to cover missing wind-watts and – in the end result – failing in it’s only purported justification because it cannot and will never reduce CO2 emissions in the electricity sector (see our posts here and here).

Public perceptions of wind power have shifted monumentally and adversely in the last 12 months – and with it the political tide. The Head Boy has made it plain that he understands the costs of the RET and the impact it’s having on power prices and therefore employment and living standards (see our post here). The majority within the Coalition are hostile to corporate welfare of any kind and – as Angus “the Enforcer” Taylor puts it – the RET/REC scheme is simply “corporate welfare on steroids”.

However, there is every reason to press for and ensure that the Coalition’s health inquiry starts now, is properly funded and is both exhaustive and thorough.

It will, of course, take time and – in a political environment – time is always a factor.

Fortunately for long-suffering communities the planets aligned last September with the election of a Coalition government that is – at the very least – prepared to listen. Witness the efforts (celebrated on these pages) of people like Chris Back, Dan Tehan, Craig Kelly and Angus Taylor – to name a few.

But don’t expect the same type of sympathies to continue should Australia ever be unfortunate enough to end up with another Green/Labor Alliance in the future. With the Coalition making all the right noises the time to get on the front foot and have this work done is absolutely now. Affected communities will never get a better opportunity.

With a solid data set and reproducible scientific conclusions the opportunity presents itself to confirm – without further debate – the relationship between turbine generated low-frequency noise and infrasound and the sleep disturbance/deprivation and other known and obvious health impacts being suffered by neighbours. With firm scientific conclusions to back the growing body of evidence of those impacts on communities in Australia and internationally those communities will be in a position to fight back.

Scientific proof opens the way to a flood of private litigation – affected neighbours suing developers and turbine hosts in nuisance and negligence for unreasonable interference with the use and enjoyment of their properties and the personal injury, pain and suffering these people have had to endure for far too long.

Properly gathered field data will demonstrate – without a shadow of a doubt – that the noise guidelines drawn up by the wind industry and in use in Australia and internationally are utterly irrelevant when it comes to avoiding noise impacts, such as sleep deprivation (see our post here).

Solid data providing confirmation of the noise impacts also provides a basis for proper regulation and control of operating wind farms. Real-time noise monitoring with an ability to enforce properly set noise limits – targeting low-frequency noise and infrasound, rather than the irrelevant dB(A) measure used as the basis for all noise guidelines – by shutting down turbines at night time – presents as the obvious way to avoid or minimise the harm caused to neighbours. At the Federal level the obvious penalty for non-compliance with properly set noise standards is to remove the operator’s entitlement to receive Renewable Energy Certificates – something put on the table by SA’s favourite Greek, Senator Nick Xenophon and backed by Victorian Senator John “Marshall” Madigan (see our post here).

Faced with a mountain of data and irrefutable scientific conclusions, politicians of all hues would find it difficult to resist a call for better noise guidelines and proper regulation of operating wind farms.

The parallels with the tobacco and asbestos industries are obvious. Once the scientific proof was eventually marshalled, litigation, government regulation and control came as night follows day. Both industries fought like fury to avoid proper scientific scrutiny simply because their economic survival depended on ensuring they were able to continuing lying to the public and governments about the known and obvious impacts of their products. The wind industry is no different.

For those members of the Coalition pushing hard on the health inquiry and the proper regulation of wind farms in operation – scientific confirmation of the impacts can only help serve them in their ultimate efforts to protect hard-working rural people unluckily situated too close to turbines.

For the wind industry – which has been fighting like fury to prevent any of this from ever happening – all of these factors add up to an enormous set of RISKS.

Being forced to shut down turbines at night will have an obvious and immediate impact on their revenue stream and economic viability – being deprived of RECs for non-compliance, likewise. The potential for endless private litigation and/or further regulation and control also necessarily generates ongoing risk to the profitability of existing operations.

So, far from being a simple issue about the health impacts on neighbours, the Coalition’s health inquiry has the potential to do real and lasting economic damage to existing operations and to further spook potential investors in future.

Banks stopped putting money into wind farm projects years ago as retailers stopped signing Power Purchase Agreements. The threat posed by the RET review has seen investors run a mile from new projects. Only a handful of fans are being erected in Australia at the minute – and all involve developers which had signed PPAs years ago.

For potential investors the risk associated with the Coalition’s health inquiry – and consequences of the kind outlined above – can only add to present fears about losing their shirts as a result of the RET review.

So – no time like the present – put pen to paper and let members of the Coalition know just how critical it is that the promised health inquiry is comprehensive, exhaustive and must start NOW.

NOW

No time like the present.

 

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.

Comments

  1. All the money in the form of the REC should be stopped, and put into research to find out about the low-frequency and infrasound noise and it effects on human and animal health – which will shut the fan clubs down for good.

    When all the above is done, take the hosts and the fan goons to court and suck the last of the blood out of them all, then give the money to the citizens that have sufferd all these years, so they can get on with their lives once again.

    Remember it is the hosts that are the ones that have allowed these windy goon scamers on to their land in the first place. Without their greed, this would not have happened.

    • David Mortimer says:

      We are an anomaly in the scheme of things in that we are current hosts of turbines but are actively opposing them since we discovered the ‘facts’ we were fed were simply lies. Does that let us off the hook? Not really, as we too are liable for litigation by non hosts.
      Does the ‘fact’ that we didn’t know excuse us? Ignorance is not a defence in law.
      Was it greed that we took the wind weasel’s offer? Well, we did see the turbines as a supplement to our retirement income. We did, however, ensure that our neighbours benefitted at least as much.
      How can we right a very serious wrong?
      It is like the proverbial rock and a hard place.

  2. David Mortimer says:

    A few things…
    I do wish wind turbine promoters, government bodies, medical practitioners and the like would stop proposing set back distances. Some state/county officials say that they are being very generous by extending the set back distance to 3km, all without ANY research to establish REAL set back distances. Too bad that we can still sense the ILFN as far away as 35km and find it both a physical and emotional annoyance. We don’t find 3km is very generous at all.

    Then there is the use of the phrases “claimed” or “possible” with respect to health effects of the turbine ILFN. They aren’t “possible”, they are ACTUAL and are happening NOW not a maybe in the future. No amount of denial is going to miraculously make them go away.

    Shutting the turbines off over night is useless unless ALL power is removed from the turbines. As long as there is power to the electrics in the Nacelle, the mains frequency vibrations will be transferred to the great big hollow resonant cavities that are the blades with the result that particularly in calm or light wind conditions, this sound is radiated out to the local “receptor locations” in other words, US. The blades are massive loud speakers!

    The $100,000 that is being bandied around to cover the required testing is an insult. The wind companies are NOT going to participate in any noise testing because the law says they don’t have to. That being the case, a purpose built wind complex will need to be built at around $5,000,000 per turbine along with a range of test houses just as NASA did in the early 80s. How much notice did the windies and the authorities take of that? Four fifths of five eighths of FA! How much does it cost to conduct a single, thorough acoustic profile inside and outside a dwelling? $10,000? Just how far is $100,000 going to go? Who is kidding who? Especially when governments can outlay $100,000,000 on a royal commission on corruption. The wind industry is as good as corrupt – how about $100,000,000 to investigate that?

    • Jackie Rovenksy says:

      David I agree, setting a setback distance is useless, it has been shown to be inadequate even by Vesta’s own people. It will never be possible to create a single setback for all turbines, it needs a fully investigated and FIXED positioning of every single turbine in a project, taking into account all of the variables in each site, every variable of wind strength and direction alone and combined from the whole project. The positions of every home or workplace, shop, school or other gathering place which needs to include the working environment of farmers as they go about their daily work on their own properties, whether they are ‘host’ turbines or not. These are not the only considerations that need to be taken into account, but they are a beginning. The environment which includes all creatures in the area, as well as those who pass through either migratory or foraging, needs to be assessed for effects on them of such projects taking into account all the variables as above.

      In other words, it would be a massive job to ensure these things do not cause harm. The very nature of the projects being spread across such large areas and reliant on variable wind supply ensure that the cost of doing what is needed would make it certain sponsors/investors would never be found to cover the costs.

      The projects have been infused into our environments by skulduggery and lies because the proponents know what is needed and know that they could never ‘sell’ it to investors.

      A power generation plant usually takes up a large area but it is confined to that area and as such it is possible for noise pollution to be assessed and for OH&S requirements to be agreed on for workers and for homes and other workplaces to be positioned at suitable distances from the plants. The vast areas required for wind turbine projects make that impossible.
      Common-sense has been locked away over the past years. Let’s hope the lock has now been forced and common-sense escapes and starts to show its face, before anymore damage is done to humans, creatures and the environment.

      Those suffering need us all to keep reminding those who have the power, to open their minds and accept the inevitable demise of this hopelessly damaging and designed industry.

  3. Jackie Rovenksy says:

    NOW is the time to shut them down UNTIL the research has been done, NOW is the time to stop more being erected UNTIL the research has been done. NOW IS THE TIME TO RECOGNISE THE AGONY BEING SUFFERED BY THOSE AFFECTED and NOW is the time for the AMA, NHMRC and all those others with authority to accept their role in the suffering being endured and work to ensure effective unbiased research is conducted. These people are human beings, the animals suffering can feel pain as well, it’s time the RSPCA AND vets around the nation stepped up and demanded research be conducted NOW.
    This industry should be declared a danger to human and animal health as well as to the health of the environment. This industry should not receive ANY MORE money from the Government, what they were to receive should be utilised to ensure the research is conducted to the highest degree of reliability.
    NOW is the time to for us all to demand this from those in authority.

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