In a World first, Australia’s Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) has declared that the “noise annoyance” caused by wind turbine generated low-frequency noise and infrasound “is a plausible pathway to disease” based on the “established association between noise annoyance and some diseases, including hypertension and cardiovascular disease, possibly mediated in part by disturbed sleep and/or psychological stress/distress.”
The AAT also held that “The dB(A) weighting system is not designed to measure [wind turbine noise], and is not an appropriate way of measuring it.”
The dB(A) weighting system is the basis of every wind turbine noise guideline in operation around the world.
The AAT’s finding means that every one of those noise guidelines is premised on an acoustic nonsense and, therefore, entirely irrelevant.
The decision, which we deal with below, came at a time when Australia’s self-appointed wind turbine noise health ‘expert’, Simon Chapman (a former tobacco advertising guru) was feverishly promoting his latest piece of wind industry backed propaganda, an ‘e-book’ being ‘sold’ for the princely sum of $0.00 (as they say, ‘you get what you pay for!’), described quite fairly by Senator David Leyonhjelm as “a book that repeats his unqualified fantasies”.
Here’s what Senator Leyonhjelm had to say about Chapman’s ‘qualifications’ and his latest collection of wind industry backed propaganda.
Select Committee on Red Tape
Tuesday, 5 December 2017
BY AUTHORITY OF THE SENATE
Senator LEYONHJELM (New South Wales) (20:36): I rise to speak about a 24 November article in The Australian by Adam Creighton, which reports that a trio of anti-smoking health nannies, led by Simon Chapman, provided a ‘series of factual errors’ at a parliamentary inquiry into vaping and the use of e-cigarettes. Simon Chapman’s claims were so inaccurate they prompted a response from Public Health England. That’s correct; part of the UK’s Department of Health were so taken aback by Simon Chapman’s false statements that they felt the need to go on the record to clear things up. The story even made it into the French media.
During the parliamentary inquiry, Chapman and his group of health nannies made no fewer than seven false and misleading claims about vaping restrictions overseas and the results of legalisation in other countries. These inaccuracies had the potential to negatively affect the outcome of this important inquiry. It would appear as though Professors Chapman, Freeman and Swanson may have taken it upon themselves to purposely provide the public with false information to stop any changes to the government’s policies on e-cigarettes. This would be an enormous tragedy, because the evidence is that e-cigarettes save lives. The fewer people smoke tobacco, the less their chances of dying.
Rates of smoking are in significant decline in countries that allow e-cigarettes, but not in Australia. Australia’s current policy means people who are trying to save their lives through quitting smoking can face jail terms of up to two years and fines of up to $45,000 just for possessing nicotine that’s not in a cigarette. In other words, you can possess nicotine in a cigarette but not in a form that’s safer to use.
In case some claim that the information presented by the professors was misconstrued or that these professors made some mistakes when presenting their information, let me tell you some more. Chapman goes to great lengths to let everyone under the sun know about his expertise in the field of tobacco research, and he is, possibly, the most vocal anti-smoking nanny-statist in Australia. The idea that he would by accident misrepresent information where the misrepresentation just happens to suit his agenda seems too far-fetched. Stretching the truth in order to pursue what a nanny-statist perceives to be the greater good is not beyond the pale, especially for a man like Simon Chapman.
This is a man who, despite having no discernible knowledge about wind farm technologies, decided to present poorly conceived and patently false information at the wind farm inquiry in which I was heavily involved. He cited many of his own publications in order to make his case that the ill-effects some local residents associated with wind turbines are due to a nocebo effect. This means, in his words:
… the phenomenon of people claiming to be adversely affected by exposure to wind turbines is best understood as a communicated disease that exhibits many signs of the classic psychosocial and nocebo phenomenon where negative expectations can translate into symptoms of tension and anxiety.
He made these claims despite not being a medical practitioner, a psychiatrist, a psychologist, an acoustician, an audiologist, a physicist or even an engineer.
In the final report by the Select Committee on Wind Turbines the committee made a point on taking on Chapman’s dodgy workings and spurious claims, noting:
Professor Chapman has made several claims which are contrary to the evidence gathered by this committee.
I will mention two of them. He said that the majority of Australia’s wind turbines have never received a single complaint. The evidence didn’t indicate that, but it’s not relevant. Wind farms are only a problem if people live too close to them. He claimed that complaints of adverse health effects from wind farms tend to be limited to anglophone nations—quite false, which the evidence confirmed. There were others. Now he has even published a book that repeats his unqualified fantasies. Chapman’s qualifications are an undergraduate degree in sociology and a PhD in social medicine, specifically related to the semiotics of cigarette advertising. If you need to know the meaning behind an ad for Marlboro, Dr Chapman might just be the man for you—or at least he can claim to know a bit about the subject—but, if you need professional advice on health matters or, indeed, anything of a scientific or technical nature, you’d be best to steer well clear of him.
When Chapman is not off trying to impose his will on Australia through punitive restrictions, he can be found soaking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayers’ funds to conduct research that always seems tailored to suit his ideological agenda. Chapman is at the end of his career and his ability to do further damage to Australia’s policy environment is limited, but I would like to highlight to my colleagues in the Senate that health nannies like Chapman are more than willing to attend inquiries and provide any information they can in order to suit their agenda. It does not matter to them if the information they provide is false or the research they point to is flawed, because the ends justify the means. In this instance the end goal is to continue the ban on safer nicotine alternatives and allow hundreds of thousands of people to suffer.
Policymakers in this place should learn from Chapman’s antics and remember that, when you are looking to inform your policies with evidence, you should always look at the actual experience and credentials of those you call on to give evidence, otherwise you end up with ill-informed, wilfully ignorant and downright malicious people like Chapman rocking up on the taxpayers’ dollar to give you research that suits their particular agenda.
Snake-oil salesmen come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes they take the guise of an emeritus professor of sociology.
5 December 2017
Ouch!! Nothing like having your self-proclaimed ‘expertise’ smashed in a very public forum.
Now, back to the AAT’s groundbreaking decision on wind turbine noise and health.
The case involved an appeal by the Waubra Foundation against a decision of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC), which withdrew its deductible gift recipient status (a tax benefit to donors), based squarely on the nonsense put forward by the likes of Simon Chapman; viz, that there is no way on earth that exposure to wind turbine noise can cause any adverse health effects in humans, ever.
As pointed out by Senator Leyonhjelm above, the guru has been peddling his ‘nocebo’ myth at the behest of his wind industry clients (such as Infigen) for years now, asserting, without a shred of credible evidence that: … “the phenomenon of people claiming to be adversely affected by exposure to wind turbines is best understood as a communicated disease that exhibits many signs of the classic psychosocial and nocebo phenomenon where negative expectations can translate into symptoms of tension and anxiety.”
Despite his exemplary qualifications and the depth of his experience on the effects of wind turbine noise on health, the guru was never called by the ACNC to give evidence to support his myth. Probably because the only real qualification he possesses (apart from being an Emeritus Professor at the School of Self-Promotion) is, as Senator Leyonhjelm points out, a PhD “specifically related to the semiotics of cigarette advertising”, and a degree in sociology.
Notwithstanding his much-touted credentials, the guru has never given evidence in a Court or Tribunal in defence of his various fictions and fantasies: Simon Chapman, Will Grant & Jacqui Hoepner: the Wind Industry’s Health “Expert” Great Pretenders
The AAT declined to restore the Waubra Foundation’s DGR status, principally because that plucky little outfit is really a one-woman power house, embodied in Dr Sarah Laurie and, due to the immeasurable time she devotes to assisting noise battered residents, her bookkeeping wasn’t up to scratch.
When the decision broke, the usual suspects jumped for joy, believing it to be the end of one of the biggest threats the wind industry faces. However, as we detail below, reports of the death of Sarah Laurie and the Waubra Foundation have been greatly exaggerated before, as now.
The leader of the Sydney Morning Herald’s wind cult, Peter Hannam ran a story based on a hysterical rant by none other than Simon Holmes a Court, declaring the decision to be a brilliant victory for big wind.
Like most things penned by Hannam, the truth is often an elusive little critter. Maybe he was misled by Holmes a Court (highly likely), or he simply failed to read the decision?
Hannam has form for shooting from the lip: he was forced into a humiliating back down over a false and malicious attack he made on Sarah Laurie’s status as a medical practitioner – along with Ketan Joshi (Infigen), Ken McAlpine (Vestas) and, fittingly, Simon Chapman: Dr Sarah Laurie Hits Wind Industry’s Usual Suspects – Ketan Joshi, Ken McAlpine, Simon Chapman & Peter Hannam for Malicious Lies
Here’s what the AAT actually had to say about the effect of low-frequency wind turbine noise on human health.
The full decision – Waubra Foundation v Commissioner of Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission  AAT – is available here: Waubra and ACNC Decision
Starting at para 467 of the judgment, here are the key factual findings and conclusions on noise and health:
SUMMARY OF THE EFFECT OF THE MEDICAL AND SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE
On our analysis, a number of propositions emerge from the medical and scientific evidence. Some of those propositions had unanimous support by the relevant experts, and others had the support of most.
The propositions which we understand have unanimous support from the relevant experts or are not contested include the following:
- Wind turbines emit sound, some of which is audible, and some of which is inaudible (infrasound);
- There are numerous recorded instances of WTN exceeding 40 dB(A) (which is a recognised threshold for annoyance/sleep disturbance);
- There are also recorded instances of substantial increases in sound at particular frequencies when particular wind farms are operating compared with those at times when they are shut down. [Measurements undertaken at the Waterloo wind farm showed that “noise in the 50 Hz third-octave band was found to increase by as much as 30 dB when the wind farm was operational compared to when it was shut down” – Exhibit A51, p 2.]
- If it is present at high enough levels, low frequency sound and even infrasound may be audible;
- WTN is complex, highly variable and has unique characteristics;
- The amount and type of sound emitted by a wind farm at a given time and in a given location is influenced by many variables including topography, temperature, wind speed, the type of wind turbines, the extent to which they are maintained, the number of turbines, and their mode of operation;
- Wind farms potentially operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week;
- There are numerous examples of WTN giving rise to complaints of annoyance from nearby residents, both in Australia and overseas.
The propositions which are supported by the preponderance of relevant expert opinion, and which we accept on that basis, include the following:
- A significant proportion of the sound emitted by wind turbines is in the lower frequency range, i.e. below 20 Hz;
- The dB(A) weighting system is not designed to measure that sound, and is not an appropriate way of measuring it. It is even acknowledged in the International Standard, ISO 1996-1 that the A-weighting system alone is “not sufficient to assess sounds characterized by tonality, impulsiveness or strong low-frequency content” – Exhibit A29, T43/8; Section 6.1; “Acoustics – Description, measurement and assessment of environmental noise – Part 1: Basic quantities and assessment procedures”, International Standard ISO (1996-1).
- The most accurate way of determining the level and type of sound present at a particular location is to measure the sound at that location;
- The best way of accurately measuring WTN at a particular location is through ‘raw’ unweighted measurements which are not averaged across time and are then subjected to detailed “narrow-band” analysis;
- When it is present, due to its particular characteristics, low frequency noise and infrasound can be greater indoors than outdoors at the same location, and can cause a building to vibrate, resulting in resonance;
- Humans are more sensitive to low frequency sound, and it can therefore cause greater annoyance than higher frequency sound;
- Even if it is not audible, low frequency noise and infrasound may have other effects on the human body, which are not mediated by hearing but also not fully understood. Those effects may include motion-sickness-like symptoms, vertigo, and tinnitus-like symptoms. However, the material before us does not include any study which has explored a possible connection between such symptoms and wind turbine emissions in a particular population.
We consider that the evidence justifies the following conclusions:
- The proposition that sound emissions from wind farms directly cause any adverse health effects which could be regarded as a “disease” for the purposes of the ACNC Act is not established;
- Nor, on the current evidence, is there any plausible basis for concluding that wind farm emissions may directly cause any disease;
- However, noise annoyance is a plausible pathway to disease. We note the World Health Organization has stated: “There is sufficient evidence from large-scale epidemiological studies linking the population’s exposure to environmental noise with adverse health effects. Therefore, environmental noise should be considered not only as a cause of nuisance but also a concern for public health and environmental health”– Exhibit A4, T287/5709, citing “WHO. Burden of disease from environmental noise.” World Health Organization; 2011 [viewed April 2013]; Available from: http://www.euro.who.int/en/what-we-publish/abstracts/burden-of-disease-from-environmental-noise.-quantification-of-healthy-life-years-lost-in-europe as referenced by Professor G Wittert in Exhibit 56 NHMRC Draft Information Paper: Evidence on Wind Farms and Human Health, “Expert Review: Comments in full”, National Health and Medical Research Council, February 2015, Appendix 8; and Exhibit 4, T299/6308, Reference No. 40, WHO “Burden of disease from environmental noise”. Bonn: World Health Organization European Centre for Environment and Health, 2011. Available from: http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/136466/394888.pdf
- There is an established association between WTN annoyance and adverse health effects (eg. this was established by the Health Canada study);
- There is an established association between noise annoyance and some diseases, including hypertension and cardiovascular disease, possibly mediated in part by disturbed sleep and/or psychological stress/distress. This is also supported by much of the documentary material before us, including a Victorian Department of Health publication entitled “Wind farms, sound and health”, Technical Information, at 7. How can noise affect our health? – Exhibit A4, T297/6232362.
- There are as yet no comprehensive studies which have combined objective health measurements with actual sound measurements in order to determine for a given population the relationships between the sound emissions of wind turbines, annoyance, and adverse health outcomes. Indeed there is as yet no study which has given rise to a soundly based understanding of the degree to which particular types or levels of wind turbine emissions give rise to annoyance, or what levels or types of emissions are associated with what level of annoyance in the population. Because it relied on calculated rather than actual sound measurements, and was limited to the A and C-weighted systems, the Health Canada study did not do this.
The applicant submitted that the evidence in the hearing provided plausible and credible evidence of the kind required. Counsel referred in particular to the effect of noise on sleep and, in particular, in disturbing sleep. It was not contentious that impaired sleep, if sufficiently serious, may result in a number of ailments and diseases. Professor Wittert said that “depression and sleep disturbance are, respectively, the first and third most common psychological reasons for patient encounters in general practice”. The professor went on to say that insomnia doubles the risk of future development of depression and that insomnia symptoms together with shortened sleep are associated with hypertension. Professor Wittert also said that a person suffering from restricted sleep is exposed to an increased risk of elevated blood sugar levels and endocrine disorders such as diabetes, symptomatic ischaemic heart disease, hypertension, obesity, insomnia and anxiety related illnesses.
The applicant emphasised that Environmental Sleep Disorder has been recognised in the International Classification of Diseases, although there does appear to be some controversy about its existence as a separate and discrete condition.
We also note that the evidence indicated that the annoyance resulting from noise during sleeping times may be greater for those with a noise sensitivity or who have become sensitised to noise.
As our earlier findings have indicated, some wind farms generate sound which is capable of causing, and does cause, annoyance. We are further satisfied that annoyance of the kind which is generated (often associated with psychological distress and sleep disturbance), is a recognised pathway to a range of adverse health outcomes, including hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
There has to date been no large scale study comparing the actual sound generated by wind turbines, on the one hand, with the annoyance and objectively measured health effects apparently produced by that sound, on the other.
The Health Canada study involved both self-reported and objective health measures. That study supported a connection between WTN and annoyance, but did not link annoyance with the amount of WTN recorded. As the experts pointed out however, there are some significant limitations to this study. A major limitation is that the conclusions of the study were based on calculated, rather than actual, noise measurements (although some of the calculated noise levels were based on measurements). However, as we understand the evidence, the sound generated by wind turbines is so variable that actual measurements are to be preferred. We accept that measurements based on estimates or averages may not accurately reflect the sound which was present when the particular level of annoyance was experienced or recorded.
Another significant drawback of the Health Canada study, as we understand it, is that the WTN was measured in dB(A) and dB(C). All of the evidence before us is to the effect that WTN cannot be accurately captured in dB(A), or even dB(C) (although dB(C) is preferable). The preponderance of the acoustic evidence is also to the effect that by far the best way of capturing the sound produced by wind farms is to take unweighted measurements, and then subject them to detailed analysis, including narrow band analysis, to determine the components of the sound which is present.
Given the absence of detailed studies, we accept the evidence of many of the experts that there is as yet no “dose-response” curve which applies to wind turbine sound which can be used by policy makers to set appropriate limits on wind farm sound emissions. Consequently, limits are set by reference to the levels which have been found to be applicable in the context of different kinds of noise, such as road traffic noise. In many cases, the limits are set by reference to dB(A). We note again the consensus that wind farm sound emissions cannot be accurately captured in dB(A). We also accept the evidence of most of the experts that, given there is a plausible basis for expecting adverse health outcomes associated with annoyance caused by WTN, there is a need for further studies to determine in particular the levels and types of WTN which are associated with annoyance, as well as the extent to which wind turbine annoyance is associated with adverse health outcomes (which has been addressed to some extent already by the Health Canada study).
It follows in our view that the applicant has established that there is a plausible basis for thinking that wind turbine sound (mediated by annoyance) may lead to adverse health outcomes, such as to warrant further investigation. It is unnecessary for us to draw conclusions as to the precise nature of the annoyance which is caused, and whether annoyance may be caused by sound which is not audible (infrasound). That is something which we expect will be the subject of further study and investigation. For our purposes, it is sufficient that annoyance is produced, and it appears that it may be associated with adverse health outcomes. An identification of the causes of that annoyance may allow it to be reduced or mitigated and adverse health outcomes to be reduced or avoided.
As will be apparent from our discussion of the evidence, we have considered all the material put forward, including that relating to non-physical effects. We accept that the evidence points to an association and a plausible pathway between WTN and adverse health effects (of a physical nature), mediated by annoyance, sleep disturbance and/or psychological distress.
The Honourable Justice White, Deputy President
Deputy President K Bean
Date: 4 December 2017
Not quite the victory for big wind pumped up by Peter Hannam and his buddy Simon Holmes a Court.
Behind-the-scenes the wind industry used Greens Senator Richard Di Natale to help them orchestrate the ACNC’s decision to revoke the Waubra Foundation’s DGR status. Given the findings set out above, that little effort has just resulted in a monumental ‘own goal’. Oops!
What wind farm neighbours now have is a precedent which, for the first time addresses, in an unbiased way, the evidence of the harm caused by long-term exposure to wind turbine noise.
It’s to be noted that Professor Wittert was called by the ACNC, as their hired gun on health, and that Wittert has previously bent over backwards to defend his wind industry clients. This time, however, he was forced to make numerous, critical concessions which resulted in the AAT’s findings, extracted above.
And, far from this being the end of the Waubra Foundation, the AAT’s decision entirely vindicates Sarah Laurie’s efforts to hold the wind industry and regulators to account.
Critically, the AAT held that “The dB(A) weighting system is not designed to measure the low-frequency sound emitted by wind turbines, and is not an appropriate way of measuring it.” And that: “The best way of accurately measuring WTN at a particular location is through ‘raw’ unweighted measurements which are not averaged across time and are then subjected to detailed “narrow-band” analysis”.
Those findings mean that every wind turbine noise standard/guideline/criteria in use around the world is utterly irrelevant, because they are all based on the dB(A) weighting system, and none of them include any reference to ‘raw’ unweighted measurements, not averaged across time.
Instead, they are all based on a series of measurement metrics and averaging specifically chosen by the wind industry to get away with acoustic torture. As a result, none of these standards/guidelines/criteria are capable of determining noise impacts on residents, nor were they designed to.
As STT has pointed out, the wind industry and its pet acoustic consultants have worked for the best part of 30 years to ensure that the noise impacts from wind turbines are never measured: Three Decades of Wind Industry Deception: A Chronology of a Global Conspiracy of Silence and Subterfuge
In the light of the AAT’s careful and considered decision on inadequate wind turbine noise measurement and their finding that “noise annoyance” caused by wind turbine generated low-frequency noise and infrasound “is a plausible pathway to disease” based on the “established association between noise annoyance and some diseases, including hypertension and cardiovascular disease, possibly mediated in part by disturbed sleep and/or psychological stress/distress”, STT fully expects Sarah Laurie and the Waubra Foundation to keep doing what it does best: helping the unnecessary victims of a disgraceful industry and holding the feet of noise regulators to the fire.
Peter Hannam, Simon Holmes a Court, the guru, and every other paid up member of the wind cult, can count on it.