‘Wind turbine syndrome’ due to anxiety, not wind turbines

Dr Sarah Edelman is a clinical psychologist, author and trainer. She worked for many years as a research psychologist and lecturer at the University of Technology Sydney. These days, in addition to her private practice Sarah conducts training programs for psychologists, medical practitioners, industry groups and the general public. She is a frequent guest on 702 ABC radio, and has contributed many articles in professional journals and in the mainstream media. Her book, “Change Your Thinking” (ABC Books) is a best seller in the self-help genre.

She wrote the original of this piece as a comment on the recent Four Corners program ‘Against the Wind’.  This is a slightly edited version of that original.  Dr Edelman did the editing.

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For any psychologist who specialises in anxiety disorders it is totally unsurprising to see individuals who are stressed and fearful of the wind turbines also experiencing a range of physical symptoms. Our brain is designed to focus on threat. Once we perceive that something bad, dangerous or threatening is in our lives (or in our immediate environment) we become hypervigilant and aroused. People who are in an anxious state typically experience high startle reflex, insomnia, headaches, nausea, twitches, electrical sensations and various other symptoms. I see them every day. The symptoms described by the affected individuals in the program are very typical somatic symptoms associated with hypervigilance. Some, like the man who described “a sensation of his heart wanting to leap out of his chest, and just feeling as if he was going to – about to die”, are experiencing panic attacks.

While some people suggest that these individuals are just noticing random symptoms that we all experience, and attributing them to the wind turbines, in my view the individuals interviewed on the 4 Corners were clearly anxious and distressed, and were experiencing genuine physical symptoms. Anxiety related symptoms are not imagined – they are real. When these individuals leave the area they feel better because they feel safe – hypervigilance drops and nervous arousal subsides. However this is not the same thing as the biological pathways that are being proposed by those who claim a direct causal link between turbines and ill-health.

While somatic (anxiety-related) symptoms are associated with nervous arousal and lots of unpleasant symptoms they are rarely associated with serious medical illness, which is why Prof. Wittert’s study found no increase in the prescription of medications for people living in the area. However in vulnerable individuals ongoing anxiety may lead to depression, which is a medical illness, and may be seen in future studies of this population. Further, even if not dangerous, the symptoms are unpleasant and distressing, particularly when individuals believe they reflect serious dangers to their health. Unsurprisingly, insomnia is one of the commonly reported symptoms.

I don’t have a strong view about the politics of wind farms, however I do think the scare mongering that is occurring (and especially involving children in the scare campaign) is unhelpful. It perpetuates the problem by feeding the fear that gives rise to anxiety and somatisation in susceptible individuals. I can guarantee that if you can remove threat perceptions, the symptoms will disappear. However banishing fear is a tall order, especially when beliefs are so strong and emotions are hot.

79 thoughts on “‘Wind turbine syndrome’ due to anxiety, not wind turbines

  1. thank god someone can make sense of it thanks doc you just proved a point. she should put it in the paper or over the radio get it out there to stop these other people from scaremongering.we have a great wind resource in the coolah valley which is about 7-7.5 maybe 8m/s which is why wind companies are here, as a community we don’t want scaremongering or landscape guardians here to bugger up our little community

  2. Come Wezsley you’ve got be to joking another desk top study without talking face to face with affected people, sounds like crappola I’d say.
    This tactical response by some dubious candiadates alerts the average “joe” to the clear indication that there’s something to hide

  3. the name is wesley not wezsley sounds like you know a lot, everyone believes a supossed doctor who is not registered over univeristy experts i know who i believe

  4. In fact Sarah Laurie has said herself that she is not registered, which of course is different from de-registered. This conversation is becoming more aggressive and less respectful (and less informative) with each of the last 3 posts. Please move on, now, or I will excercise the moderator’s powers.

    And best of luck for Coolah, Matt. I travel through that region occasionally, I thought it looked to be good for wind farming!

  5. Ben the tone of conversation by some on this website has been seen as degrading Doctor Lawrie, which isn’t the correct manner to conduct such a forum. Dr Lawrie doesn’t currently practice so therefore one should infer that she isn’t de reregistered or similiar. A desk top study by a uni lecture doesn’t hold much weight especially when they refuse to talk to affected people. In fact anyone can do a study such as the Uni of SA and get the results required to for their own view/agrument

  6. thanks ben i hope all goes well to, we need it for everyone the farmers and the community ,which will benefit enormously. the other thing i wanted to say is how come people who work in and around coal firedpower stations aren’t sick when peolpe near turbines apparently do can some one tell me why and i need to see these turbines for myself where is a good spot to go to see and hear them

  7. Matt, not all farmers need or want turbines, i know many who rejected the offers made to them by the wind farm developers, I know some who now wish they had rejected their offer and a few who love them.
    Not all farmers are broke and in need of handouts, most run well organised businesses even if they are at the mercy of the supermarkets and the like and could do with a more regimented payment schedule.
    If you want to see some turbines go to the ones at waubra and talk to the people who live around them, you will find a few deserted homes as a few have left and that includes those who have them on their land, not just those who we hear complaining about the effects that live nearby.

  8. thanks very much for that i will try and get down that way and have a look then i will make my mind up

  9. Dr Lawrie stated to the Senate that she is unregistered. She also has a Degree in Scaremongering from the University of Peter Mitchell.

  10. According to 4-corners there’s a man at Waubra with ‘too much electricity in him.’
    Might also be worth getting over to Portland for a look where turbines have been operating for years and years without dodgy doctors and human batteries.

  11. Leeroy bitter apples, looks like your in the minority as the majority are completely over the wind turbine scam, as indeed a scam it truly is!!!
    Yet once again no facts complete spin!!!

  12. Martin, keep repeating that to yourself and the other LG nutters by all means. But don’t be disappointed when you get labeled an extremist thug and nutter by anyone who listens to your rant for just a minute. Globally, the wind industry is growing, not declining. Has done for years, and will continue to do so for many years to come.

  13. Alex that’s is a complete generalisation to say the least
    Why is it that the NSW Prenier has had enough of wind turbines, the Victorian gov’t, etc
    I thought the desal plant was going to run on wind, oh yes that was from the ex premier bumby…….
    why is it the finance ccompanies are unwilling to touch wind projects, could it be the lack of return?????
    Nothing better than a put down or a label, must make you fell big hey?

  14. Martin, your naivete is touching – assuming you aren’t playing the innocent – but the answer to your ill considered question is pretty simple, the New South Wales Premier and the Victorian government are simply happy to ignore credible science. They clearly have interest in supporting the fossil fuel industries.

    Certainly one member of the Victorian State government has close (family) contacts with the local guardians and a federal Liberal, all of whom deny climate change and the science supporting it.

    Don’t know where you get the idea that finance companies aren’t supporting wind energy, you couldn’t be more wrong. In Europe and the US, there have been recent, large purchases of established windfarms and companies associated with wind farms.

  15. Funny you say that Blair as the former premier Bracks had very close ties with someone who was trying to get a few turbines, funnny enough the said windfarm fell over very quickly when the media got wind of the situation. Especially given the turbines were going to be put on a area covered by a significant landscape overlay.
    I would have to agree with martin regarding the financing, at the moment it is very hard to get financing for anything that is viable due to government intervention, the political mindset can change very quickly as can the government of the day and banks do not want to take a risk on anything that could fall over with the swipe of a pen.
    Companies with their own money are going to do well due to the falling demand in these economic times, but start ups and those relying on the bank might as well give up

  16. I think if the media gave Dr Sarah Edelman as much of a hearing as it has given to Dr Sarah Laurie and Dr Nina Pierpoint then we may see a decline in Wind Turbine Syndrome. Her opinion rationalises the reasons that while people with negative perceptions of a Windfarm feel sick, the landowners and workers do not.
    It would be nice to see an open debate on the issue without personal attacks on people’s integrity.

  17. Strange how some feel that health doesn’t come into play in such a critical area of an open debate with wind energy. The complex nature of wind speed, mass of turbine blades and rotor diameter must play some part in the elements that make up turbine noise, thereby leading to health complaints from neighbours, some of whom where offered numerous turbines but knocked them back

    1. Don’t hold your breath Martin, people suffering from psychosomatic illnesses don’t usually have grounds for suing companies – but they might consider suing dodgy medical advisers who make unfounded, untested claims that mislead people. Perhaps Dr’s Laurie and Pierpoint might wind up reaping what they’ve sown.

  18. Blair, according to the article, the complaints are about noise, not unidentified “wind turbine syndrome” conditions. Fortunately noise is easy to measure and make judgement on its effects, unlike infrasound. I imagine noise levels that would not cause a problem in themself may cause somatic symptoms, so perhaps this time we can clear up what’s really causing the problem.

  19. Love how Andja speaks right out of the LG’s playbook. So sad to see the guardians try their divisive magic in yet another community.

  20. I dont think any of the doctors are members or affiliated with any groups. You are really clutching at straws trying to put them down because they are members of the landscape guardians! haha
    Get your facts right before you make any more bs comments.

  21. Interesting that Dr Edelman edited the piece she originally published on the 4 Corners Have Your Say site. She edited (ie deleted) her her criticisms of Dr Witterts study which 4 Corners had portrayed as ‘groundbreaking’. Of course the ‘study’ was incomplete data of unpublished (and not peer reviewed) research and Dr Edelmans astutely noted flaws in his key study assumption. A significant question therefore arises as to why did she edit her original piece for Clarkes site? Was it too honest? (To read her original, see the 4 Corners site linked below). There is also a useful response from Opposite Corner on the same site. It is time that industry and its one eyed supporters acknowledged there is a problem that has nothing to do with so called scaremongering. As the 50 years 4 Corners show also reminded us tonight August 22nd, the original sufferers of asbestos related diseases from Witenoom were considered malingerers and bludgers, and the industry also portrayed them as scaremongerers then. This time it is simply a different multinational industry ruining the lives of affected people. It is time to end the denialism and face up to some honesty about adverse health effects for those at risk- do the real independant research into the problem (not funded by industry), site the turbines more appropriately to save the planet, and stop blaming the victims endlessly. And say Yes to Renewable energy and a renewed and united community at the same time.

    http://www2b.abc.net.au/tmb/Client/Message.aspx?b=37&t=1&ps=50&dm=1&pd=2&am=14899#m14899

    1. Actually I asked Dr Edelman to edit that bit because, if it was on my page rather than on the Four Corners comments, it wouldn’t be clear to what she was referring. (I didn’t have the Wittert quote involved on my page.)

      All quite inocent I’m afraid. Sorry about that.

  22. There is going to be alot of trouble around the leonards hill site, I know alot of very well respected people in this community who have lived here for years that are not happy with what is now going on.
    To add fuel to the fire we have doctors left right and centre coming out of the woodwork with horror stories, what is going on here people?
    Should we be holding the developer accountable? I wonder what qualifications he has? especially given what is still happening at waubra which was built under his guidance.

  23. One of the latest complainants near Leonards Hill was a campaigner against the wind farm for years. Now that it’s built she’s complaining of increased blood pressure etc.

    Environmental campaigners should be familiar with her circumstances: we are continually faced with the sight of the clearfelled logging coupes we didn’t save, the freeways through suburbs that we didn’t stop and all the rest of it.

    I don’t much sympathise in this case, but for someone who started with a negative view of wind turbines, and fought to stop them it’s not really surprising to hear she has some of the common symptoms of stress, now.

    It’s sad that there will be trouble around Leonards Hill, mick. You and your friends are going to make sure of it, and then milk it for all its worth, I suppose?

  24. Ben that appears to be somewhat of a poor stance. Just because they were opposed does it mean they should suffer ill health because of the topographythus causing issues at Leonards Hill?

  25. I didn’t say anything was due to the topography, nor that she (or anyone) deserves to be sick.

    The person in question is Jan Perry, who was a long term campaigner, featured a couple of years ago in the Australian (with an inaccurately labeled picture that’s clearly not at Leonard’s Hill):
    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/baillieu-policy-bodes-ill-for-victorian-wind-farmers/story-e6frg6nf-1225964780956

    I’m not her doctor so I can’t say why she is ill, but given she put so much effort into campaigning against the wind farm, feeling stress, anxiety, depression etc would not be surprising, and as I understand these things can be linked to poor sleeping, possibly raised blood pressure, etc. — that is my point.

    People who feel ill around wind farms do deserve to be taken seriously. We expressed support for the Senate Inquiry’s recommendation of a study into the health impact around wind farms. Doing a systematic medical study might unwind some of the tension, unlike the sensationalised press generated by political campaigners against wind energy.

  26. The `shop owner` also believes that her house was pressurised from before the wind farm was turned on. Oh, did we all forget that she is president of the local Landscape Guardians chapter, has taken the project to VCAT multiple times and has been on medication for five years because of the project?
    Poor lady is being used by the likes of Mick and the Courier for their own agendas. The more they they make her sick the better it is for their story and the worse it is for her situation.

  27. Thats a pretty poor response guys, because someone was against something and still is doesnt make them exempt from the health problems caused by turbines.
    And andros, how the hell am i using her for my agenda? you say yourself she is president of the landscape guardians, im not even a member, what a moronic comment, im sure she has a agenda to, just as you do.
    Can someone let me know what the qualifictions of the developer, Shapiro are? Is it just a coincidence or is something seriously wrong here?

  28. The tone of this forum. is spinning out of control like the noisy two turbines at Leonards Hill. Now I know why the four directors of Hepburn Wind jumped ship so quickly

  29. The general timbre of the comments above – those for and against – shows the considerable passion generated by the topic, and I have little doubt that all the players genuinely believe that their position is correct. The problem is, in my view, that none are totally correct, the truth is somewhere in between.

    One one hand we have credible accounts of people suffering, but balanced against that are those who are not suffering. One explanation is that those not suffering are receiving wind farm rents – but that only accounts for a small number of non-sufferers.
    The science that investigates wind farm medical issues does not support wind farms as the cause. That might be because the research has placed some emphasis upon the audibility of turbines over frequency ranges, and asserting that below audible levels there can be no harm.
    Another study from Italy did not find that there was harm or no harm, but it did measure infrasound frequency some 11 km from a turbine site. The instrument, the Virgo Gravitational Wave complex, is so sensitive it can measure disturbance from events in far galaxies. Picking up a wind farm just kms away is not much of an achievement, but it did it anyway. But the article did not say that the infrasound detected caused health issues.
    My understanding is that infrasound has yet to be a proven issue, and I take note of the asbestos experience raised above, we might add tobacco to that as well.

    About Dr. Laurie, and whether you like her or not, registered or not, she has a strong bio, and should be capable of generating good research. However if you look at her recent submission to the Senate it offers a vast amount of unsubstantiated claims. By that I mean researched, peer-reviewed literature. I was surprised by it’s absence.
    The Pierpont book, Wind Turbine Syndrome: A Report on a Natural Experiment, is a self published book and has had its voracity questioned by Sydney University Professor Simon Chapman. The professors claims are objective and do, in my view, minimise the authority of the book.
    Dr Sarah Edelman is a very respected psychologist, with a very fine bio that covers an enormous range of experience and study. Her view that anxiety was the key factor (in the context of the Four corners program) appears well considered, and well within her range of expertise. Dr Edelman even offers an explanation for Professor Witterts (Head of medicine, Adelaide University) findings that “There is no hint of any effect on a population basis for an increased use of sleeping pills or blood pressure or cardiovascular medications whatsoever.”

    That leaves us where it is still not proven just what is wrong. However I am inclined towards Dr Edelman’s views. I believe that some people are susceptible to influence by allegations of wind farm health issues, and that it is likely that this has predisposed illness in some cases. Dr Edelman is firm that if the fear that causes the anxiety is removed, the symptoms will disappear.

    There might be a parallel to the wind farm issue, and that is the coal seam gas (CSG) activity in some areas. Gas companies are (apparently) barging onto farmers land. It could be that this invasion (as I have heard it called) will generate similar symptoms to those attributed to wind farms.

    1. A very reasonable and thoughtful comment Geoff. One error I’d point out is that the Virgo observatory study was seismic waves, not infrasound. See http://bssa.geoscienceworld.org/cgi/content/abstract/101/2/568. Note the reference to “Plio-Pleistocenic marine, fluvial, and lacustrine sediments and the Miocene carbonate basement” – definitely geological These vibrations came through the ground, not through the air. Seismometers can detect earthquakes on the far side of the world, so it’s not surprising that they can detect vibrations at infrasound frequencies at 11km.

      1. Thanks Dave, and you are correct, they did detect seismic waves, I should have been more careful. There seems to be little or no audible infrasound – traffic or surf is way more likely to produce those frequencies.
        But I had read that low frequencies had been detected, and that it was suggested that even inaudible sounds were detected at subconscious levels. However there was no claim that these detected sounds caused any issue.

        Martin as it happens I have a substantial PV system – have had for a decade now, so I am not going down an either/or path. I am certain that we need to reduce our CO2 emissions, and both wind and solar offer at least partial solutions.
        I would happily chat with you if you wanted to – I would like to understand your obvious and genuine frustration over wind. Any opposing views exchanged should help us all get to a solution that might please everyone.

  30. Dave Clarke, your earlier response at to why Dr Edelman edited out her major criticism of Prof Wittert’s study is rather disingenuous given she refers to Witterts study with a milder criticism later in the piece you reproduced. For a self proclaimed bush philosopher ostensibly concerned with truth and ethics, to reproduce such a cherrypicked piece significantly altered from its original form is surprising. Best for people to make up there own minds by reading her original piece on the 4Corners Have your say site.
    I happen to concur with you Dave on Geoff Hendersons reasonable and thoughtful comment. I would counter however that seismic infrasound is believed to be the way elephants (and whales via pressure waves in water) communicate. Ie the energy of the sound is transmitted through air to the ground (or water), this energy then being detected by the animal via resonance in its body eg via auditory apparatus (or indeed via resonance in a building for the human subject). To imply that being ‘only seismic’ such infrasonic energy could not affect human physiology and response is being ‘willfully blind’.
    What does it all mean? It means that independent experts in multiple disciplines includingi acoustics, medicine and psychology should be doing the research into adverse health effects for people living in proximity to industrial wind turbines as a matter of urgency, as the Senate recommended. It has not yet been done to determine cause and effect!
    In the meantime innocent susceptible rural dwellers who happen to live too close to a turbine are having their lives turned upside down, both by the turbines themselves and the disbelieving skeptical cheer squads. We should all be clamouring for the research to be done to find answers to these serious questions of safe siting of wind turbines.

  31. rusdtafarian you are agreeing that more research is needed to tease out what might be at play here. The first hard part is divining fact amongst the fiction, and the second hard part is getting everyone to accept the facts when they emerge.

    I am not sure that the great mammals communicate using infrasound, because like everyone I guess, I have heard whale and elephant sound on an Attenborough shows, and it was certainly not infrasound. And I would like to see a study that proved the suggested transmission pathways you mentioned. I can’t say they don’t exist or work in the way you suggest, but then I think it is unproven that the pathways you describe exist, and work the way you say. If you are suggesting that infrasound gets into our ears but is inaudible for some reason that might be correct, but it is another thing to take the next step and say that this is damaging or whatever.

    Yes, let’s have the necessary research to sort out the chaff from the clay. In the meantime you would maybe agree that the jury is still out. But consider this: one group that has done a lot of science on the issue is saying that there is no quality scientific proof of negative effects of wind turbines. On the other side there are sincere people claiming that there are negative effects – Dr Edelman was helpful here. At this time in the debate, I think that the groups that oppose wind farms on the grounds of health issues, need to present better research to support their claims that turbines are ruining their lives. If negativity exists, it should be possible to prove it and assign causality.

  32. Should there be some qualifications required by a developer of a windfarm ? Im yet to see any from this bloke shapiro, or his other mates newbold and buckle who did waubra.
    Newbold wants to be hawthorn president, i hope they go the same way as his wind company did!

  33. Geoff Henderson you very rightly highlight the question of ‘causation’ which arguably is the heart of the debate. Here are some useful definitions for a start: Sound is a mechanical wave that is an oscillation of pressure transmitted through a solid, liquid, or gas, composed of frequencies within the range of hearing and of a level sufficiently strong to be heard, or the sensation stimulated in organs of hearing by such vibrations.[1]
    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sound#Longitudinal_and_transverse_waves, Infrasound is sound that is lower in frequency than 20 Hz (Hertz) or cycles per second, the “normal” limit of human hearing. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infrasound). Low frequency noise 20-200Hz
    There are links on the above site/s to animal communication with references. There is extensive experimental research on infrasound and its human physiological effects including adrenaline stimulation and cardiovascular effects. Acoustician Geoffrey Leventhall has also published on this prior to working for the wind industry, as has NASA and many others, including the military in regards to weapons use and personnel impacts (The military research is essentially excluded from the public domain). Infrasound and low frequency noise are hypothesised by concerned medical clinicians as the likely principal cause of adverse health effects for those affected residents in proximity to turbines.

    Geoff, there is no dispute of an association of wind turbines with adverse health impacts. What is disputed are the causes of this adverse impact on health and well being, and its quantification. The published science (and literature reviews) to date largely involve Acousticians/medical doctors sponsored by or linked to the wind industry. There is very little (if any) independent peer reviewed medical scientific studies currently published, of a causal link of turbine adverse effects with either anxiety, nocebo effect, scaremongering, envy of neighbour hosts, host income as a ‘cure’, fear of technology or indeed infrasound and low frequency noise. The untested opinions and hypotheses by those such as Dr Sarah Edelman (psychologist), Professor Simon Chapman (sociologist) and medical practitioners including Dr Nina Pierpont (US child physician/paediatrician) all require valid independent scientific research which includes affected subjects (at the very least) to confirm or otherwise the mechanism/s of causation. Dr Pierpont advocated for such research in her controversial landmark study and in her Senate submissions/appearance. Prof Chapman, Simon Holmes A Court and Professor Wittert also supported the need for further research when appearing in the recent Senate Review (documented in Senate submissions and transcripts). On that they have all agreed. The industry has agreed. The Senate has concurred. Since then, a deafening silence from most politicians and the industry.

    In the meantime the ‘precautionary approach’ to turbine placement has been invoked by the NH&MRC, the peak Australian medical research and funding body (and effectively the Australian Judge, Jury and potential key sponsor of investigations, to extend your metaphor Geoff). Has anyone in government or industry taken any notice and resourced and actioned the research recommended by the Senate and others on behalf of ALL citizens (not just those affected), through an appropriate body such as the NH&MRC? (Prof Witterts preliminary data/study methodology has already been validly critiqued by Dr Edelman). Perhaps the announcement by the Vic government today is a start. The logical next step is urgent action in the form of transparent, independent & well-designed scientific medical/acoustic research of turbine proximity and adverse human impacts before the health of many more rural families is unnecessarily damaged and/or innocent rural folk are forced from their homes by turbines being placed inappropriately. I suspect Geoff that in the interest of public health, for the cost of a single turbine ($6.5mill on the basis of Hepburn winds publicized costs) the questions of causality could be honestly answered once and for all, and citizens, the industry, the planet, (and the Greens) would be better for it.

  34. rusdtafarian you spent some time on that reply, thanks, and you make some good points. I think more research and time might bring us closer to the truth about just how this thing works – for my part I can’t claim to say it IS or it IS NOT a wind turbine cause, I’m not sure anyone can just yet. I am saddened when I see inflammatory press releases and emails with lots of red writing and font styles, whipping up angst about wind farms and making indignant claims. Especially so without proper authority behind the claims.
    I notice you have named both Prof. Chapman and Sarah Pierpont. You are aware that Prof. Chapman panned Dr Pierpont’s book on numerous grounds including her sample size, composition and methodology. If I have to choose a researcher, I’ll take Prof. Chapmans work over that from a self-published book with a doubtful research basis.
    If I may comment on your closing line about the planet being better off. If it is found that turbines are in fact responsible for various health complaints, does that mean all wind farms are doomed? If so, how is the planet better off? Earth desperately needs renewable energy, and for the moment at least, wind power is the best available option. That may change, but not for some years. To have any chance of meeting the 2020 RET wind must be allowed. Victoria’s move against wind is not smart; they still allow free access to killers like tobacco and alcohol, so puting the brakes on wind farms as they have looks like amateur policy to me.

    1. Putting the brakes on wind and giving landholders veto rights when those same people cannot veto a coal mine on their back door is pure hypocrisy. Of course this inconvenient fact is omitted in responses by apologists for the pro fossil fuel mob but then, objectivity has never been a strong point of the anti-windies.

  35. Geoff, paediatrician Dr Pierponts study is considered as early limited research into the issue by its own referees, one of whom queried its ‘generalizability’ (p 290,comments published at the end of the Wind Turbine Syndrome report). Pierpont herself acknowledges and advocates the need for further research. I contend her report has been frequently misrepresented and would suggest you read the book to judge it on its own merits. It is early research of an emerging health problem, not ‘the last word’. Sociologist Prof Simon Chapman to my knowledge has not interviewed or researched any of the people experiencing adverse effects in relation to wind turbines to date, and his publication on the subject includes opinion pieces (not refereed studies) on Croakey and ABC’s The Drum. One of his Croakey pieces in fact was referenced in the NH&MRC Rapid review of 2010, this itself raising serious questions about the methodology of the NH&MRC and their own standards of scientific evidence given their pivotal influence in this debate.

    Are industrial scale wind facilities doomed Geoff? I hope not, if they are sited with human safety as the priority requirement above all others (and assuming they are as economically viable as claimed). Determining a safe setback distance from habitation based on independent research as per my earlier comments should be a fundamental precondition of any industrial development, wind included. Don’t sacrifice the health and wellbeing of rural folk unfortunate enough to live too close to turbines (neighbours and hosts) for the sake of cheap grid connection (ie maximising profits at the expense of ‘a few’ susceptible rural dwellers living in the wrong place). If large scale WTs were as benign to human health and well being as they are claimed, they would be on the foreshores of all our major cities, lots of wind & close to major power users etc. They are not because the adverse impacts and public outcry would shut down the industry. If the only windy sites are close to habitation (difficult to conceive) and it is the only way to save the planet, the industry should be honest about the adverse effects and buy out those who are going to be affected for a fair and reasonable market price before they build. The current commercial strategy of secret buyouts and host contracts with gag clauses are not a healthy indicator of industry honesty and transparency and concern for the health and wellbeing of all citizens (hosts, neighbours and the rest of us).

    In the end Geoff lets urgently do the independent medical and acoustic research which has not yet been done before too many more rural families lives are wrecked. It would seem that rural & remote station country with adequate setback easier to achieve or offshore is the best location for such facilities. Taking more care with location does not seem too much to ask? Or are our country brothers and sisters living near a windy ridge or coastline close to the grid being ‘farmed’ by wind corporations simply ‘collateral damage’ where the hasty maximising returns to shareholders is the dominant creed above all else?

    1. rusdtafarian we don’t seem to disagree on too much, but…

      Dr Pierpont is held out as expert, based on her book alone. Her sampling is not scientific nor objective…her study is highly questionable as to its authority. So it should really get little traction at all, save to demonstrate how unhelpful questionable research can be.

      More research? Sure, but let’s hope all the actors will accept the science whichever way it falls. And if you look at the current science, the anti-arguments are not well supported at all. I think that means the onus is on the opponents to prove their case.
      Frankly, if I were advising some of the personalities of the opposing view, I would suggest they present themselves in a more credible and polished manner. I’m sure you know what I mean.

      Finally, Prof. Chapman is a tower of a citizen. If you have a moment, got to:
      http://sydney.edu.au/medicine/people/academics/profiles/simonchapman.php and see what makes me say that. I think he is qualified to remark on Dr Pierpont’s book.

  36. Blair, I would argue that initiating a 2km setback for wind unless a landowner agrees otherwise is about choice for residents which up until now have been treated with contempt by industry. Whilst I am not an advocate or apologist for coal (and perhaps its own contempt) and its direct impacts on its neighbours & its particulates from power stations, & Co2 for all of us, I do know it is in a fixed locations underground, whilst the wind is not so constrained. Ie there are more site choices for the wind industry to ‘mine’ so they can be located away from human habitation. If coal does trump the neighbours every time, it should buy them out fairly. So it should be with wind , except that industry has more choices to go elsewhere itself as alluded to above. I also think the term anti windies is a little off the mark for myself and many of my concerned greens party friends. I prefer pro wind (in the right place), a bit like pro choice. But then not everyone agrees about pro choice either.

    1. Rusdafarian, what about other landowners who want the turbines on their properties, does democracy only work one way? They have to forego the opportunity of additional income, local jobs are lost and local councils miss out on additional rates that benefit the whole community just because one owner has convinced himself or allows himself to be convinced that his health is in peril, or as is more often the case, he simply doesn’t like the look of turbines so he oppose them?

      Never mind there is no evidence, clinical or otherwise to support claims of health effects from turbines. Never mind that the majority of opponents to wind farms are driven by envy or selfishness, have connections with conservative politicians or the fossil or nuclear fuel lobby, or as was the case here in South Gippsland, purchased land ahead of time in hopes of a quick buck via compensation payout or leasing their land for turbines? Do some homework and you find out the truth of my assertions.

      Now that the Baillieu government has effectively outlawed wind projects across the state, do you still assert that “there are more site choices for the wind industry to mine”? Your use of the word “mine” makes me wonder if you really are all that interested in the environment.

      By the way, the term “anti-windies” exactly describes what these hypocrites are, they don’t seem to mind large highways, expanding cities, overhead power lines, large industrial estates, creation of new coal mines or coal seam gas projects, they just get a bit miffed when somebody proposes a windfarm project. Your selective concern is naive at best.

      1. Blair
        Lets do the multidisciplinary medical acoustic research asap to sort it out. It is about time that government and industry sponsored and initiated research (at arms length) into this issue. The evidence from multiple studies could be there for all to see for much less than the price of a single turbine in fairly quick time. The longer they leave it the greater uncertainty. There is a growing body of clinical case series observations of a problem that needs to be investigated with independant well designed scientific studies.

        I do in fact mind all the highways, .cities…coal… coal seam gas that you refer to. I also consider industrial scale windturbines as ‘large industrial estates’, so my concern is not as selective as you might think. And the wind industry has far more safe options for siting compared to the others. Unfortunately they are in other states than Victoria. But you can keep your Grand Prix.

  37. Geoff, I know Chapman has done great things for public health and smoking issues in particular. He is a respected researcher with awards and status. That does not mean he is infallible on this issue.

    Nina Pierpont is also a remarkable professional of high standing.integrity and achievement.
    And she has made her own valid criticisms of the NH&MRC position.

    But lets not get bogged down in celebrity worship and baracking for our respective teams!

    This issue should be beyond personalities given the real human cost that is occurring in rural areas. The Senate submissions alone are evidence of that. And the senate has recommended urgent research.

    Re the ‘ onus is on the opponents to prove their case’, that will rely on independent research funded by government not industry, not research funded by the victims themselves, if the history of asbestos is anything to go by. Killer Company by Mat Peacock about Hardies scheming and the asbestos tragedy is a remarkable work of investigative journalism by a true hero of the ABC. The parallels with the wind industry denial are frightening, not least the complicity of industry, and government in the name of jobs, and the economy. And now we hear the asbestos cost in human health is continuing with the wave of home renovators exposed to this menace that was known about by industry back in the 1950’s, and arguably back in the late 20’s and 1930s.

    So bring on the turbine and human health research urgently to help prevent a current bad situation getting much worse.

    1. rusdtafarian at some point one should accept some authority – we should be satisfied that an opinion proposed by a credible person is correct, as least as conditioned by the authority. After that we must resort to some higher authority – probably of religious dimension. No offence to Believers intended, but Divine Entities have been silent on earthly matters for some time now, so that leads us back to informed homo sapiens. I’ll accept Prof Chapman thanks.

      As far as the onus for more research goes, this must fall to the anti group because the science to date finds little issue with turbines especially wrt infrasound. They should publish some facts that stand scientific scrutiny, and it is their task to provide that data.

  38. Geoffrey, we will have to agree to disagree!

    I believe the NH&MRC is an appropriate authority (as opposed to an individual), with or without their flaws, and remembering they have invoked the precautionary priniciple on this. We will all wait for their next statement with interest, hopefully more rigourous than the last in 2010. In the meantime the wind industry will seek to ram through as much development as it can at the cheapest available sites . ‘Within existing law’. That’s what multinational corporations do. Public health is not their priority.

    With this emerging public health issue, by definition it is in our societies interest to seek answers to the problems. Well designed medical/acoustic studies for peer reviewed publication on this topic is well beyond the means of individual community members. In my view it must therefore fall to our governments to sponsor the research independent of conflict of interest, perceived or otherwise.

  39. ‘emerging public health issue’ Come off it.
    To suggest that envy, stress and worry about change, experienced by an incredibly small number of anti wind NIMBYs is anything like asbestos related disease is ridiculous.
    Want your study? Then look at all electricity generation – oh, and do a bit of research on asbestos related disease in the Latrobe Valley.

  40. Leroy, to deny there are genuine health problems emerging (around the world) in association with living close to industrial scale wind turbines is to to be willingly blind. Denial has been and is the precise strategy of the asbestos, smoking and wind industries. Up until the last 18 months or so the wind industry has got away with it. The Senate, NH&MRC, Prof Chapman, Simon Holmes A Court, Prof Wittert to name a few all recongise the need for further research into this emerging public health issue. As have wind industry representatives themselves e.g Acciona spokesman Andrew Thompson on the Vic 7.30 Report in commenting on the Senate recommendation for urgent research into the issue. I find the callous disregard for genuine human suffering by the strident cheer squads of wind industry disturbing. The ‘you are either with us or against us’ approach of some members the environmental movement on this is reminiscent of GW Bush on Iraq, which we all know was propaganda. Place turbines at evidence based safe setback distances and the problem is solved. The Vic government has recongnised this and made a welcome and honest start, albeit too late for many already affected. The sooner Industry gets on with it and recognises the need to prioritise human safety the better, because at the moment they are soiling their own nest. Good luck to the states with more open spaces and to environmentalists with open minds and a compassionate heart.

  41. There’s nothing honest about the Victorian government’s setbacks because they bear no relation to any scientific studies. To mitigate noise problems, 2km may be much too far or not far enough; it’s based on factors like the local topography (is there a hill in between?), the type of turbine, their configuration ( several in a row lined up all pointing in the one direction would generate much more noise in that direction that to the side) etc etc etc.

    It’s funny you mention denial. You put wind turbines in the same category as asbestos – but actually, the anti-wind lobby are the ones full of deniers: climate deniers. Stop saying black is white.

  42. Rusdtafarian, I appreciate your earnestness and your desire for good outcomes, but don’t let this get in the way of clear thinking.

    No one denies that there are people near wind farms who are ill, and it is common knowledge that activists have been collecting case histories of these people. However, no medical health body or scientific body or any of the other people you have mentioned have found the argument that the illness is wind turbine related to be compelling. In fact Witterd demonstrated under oath that Lauries data showed, if anything, that people got better when the turbines were on. (I’m not making this up, it is in the court transcripts.) Chapman has explained that Pierpont’s and Laurie’s case studies are not science and not particularly useful.

    You are misattributing your position to a range of institutions and people. All that has happened is that industry, government and others have recognised that there is now significant concern around wind farms in some sectors of the community and that this warrants urgent attention. One suggested response to these concerns is to run some good research in a very public and open setting. However, if you are have interpreted the current case studies as sufficent proof of a problem, then I am afraid that you do not understand the scientific process and the research outcome will be lost on you.

    Lastly, the Victorian government has not recognised your health concerns. The minister himself said that he has not seen convincing arguments either way on the health issues.

  43. Andros , I think we agree in part at least.

    The case histories and studies such as Pierpont and Laurie’s are indeed compelling observations of a problem associated with wind turbines. What they are not is evidence of causation, hence Witterts court evidence you cite. It is in everybody’s interest to do the well designed scientific studies urgently rather than ‘business as usual’ which industry seems to favor whilst people adversely affected rot or move out of their homes. As for the scientific process or method, it can begin with observation (ie the case studies and case histories) which raises questions leading to hypotheses that can then be tested with well designed studies, the information then shared through peer reviewed publication. The opinions & hypotheses of Pierpont, Chapman, Edelman etc all need to be tested if we have any concern for rural folk living near wind turbines or indeed the people who build and maintain them.

    I also think the Vic government actions speak louder than their words.

  44. Ben, I am not privy to the data and studies informing the Victorian Governments setback policy, just as much industry noise data is kept from the public domain . I am aware however that figures of a minimum 2km setback have been recommended in the literature as well as multiples of turbine height (up to 20x in Europe), 1.5km by French Acadamy of Medicine
    There is a bill currently before the House of Lords calling for 2km setback for turbines 100-150 m tall, and for 3km for turbines 150m)

    It is also on the public record that some residents in Waubra have been affected well beyond the 2km mark. Perhaps the Vic government have not ignored their citizens but listened and acknowledged affected individuals and families and factored that into their decision making?

    I am sure you are correct that there are a number of modifying factors that come into play including topography layout weather geology etc. Indeed recommendations of variations in setback depending on terrain are exactly what Dr Pierpont has recommended in her study (p254). So lets do more independant research, publicly and transparently to improve the knowledge and refine the models in this area to improve resident safety, and acceptance of windturbines. Its in everybody’s interests to do so.

    In the meantime the Vic government is honestly acknowledging there are problems and adopting a precautionary approach.

  45. rusdtafarian I thought I had said all I meant to say on this but, quoting you above:

    “In the meantime the Vic government is honestly acknowledging there are problems and adopting a precautionary approach.” is rubbish. It’s in the same league as “privacy” and “duty of care”, two other weasel concepts used all to often to deflect fair criticism.

    The Vic government has made its determination against wind farms despite there being very robust science denying infrasound as an issue. That the outcome suits you is clear enough, that’s your business. But please don’t hold the government action as being something noble and in the best interests of the world. It is neither of those things: what it IS, is bad government and terrible policy.

  46. The government has done what a multitude of rural people have been asking them to do for the last 6 -7 years.
    I find it disgusting that people still want to impose turbines on rural people when its patently obvious that things have gone wrong at more than 1 location.
    whats the bet most of you live in inner urban areas and couldnt give a stuff about country people? looks like you’ve been beaten by them this time.

  47. No fewer than six football and netball teams from Waubra made it into the finals in the Central Highlands League. Well done Waubra in taking out the seniors, reserves and juniors for the football!

    1. Well done Waubra. Last few times I have been there it seems to be thriving, in spite of the doomsayer stuff about the turbines.

      My sons U10 soccer team were un-defeated in the Bendigo league. Sadly, the community wind farm we want to get going here in Castlemaine has been killed off – at least for now – by Ted Baillieu. We will find a way to get it going, but its a big kick in the guts to a great community project. Lets hope its up and running by the time my son is in the adults league. He asked me why Ted was ‘so stupid’ and whether ‘Ted just like coal mines’ when I explained that our project has been shut down by the ‘no go’ zone.

  48. Rusdtafarian, it seems like the infrasound explanation is losing support.

    Sonus found that levels of infrasound found near wind farms are comparable to those found near the beach or in the city (i.e. most Australians live with these levels all the time) and Dr Peter Selligman has explained that body-generated infrasound is an order of magnitude higher than anything received from a wind turbine.

    The well regarded Danish EPA has recently issued a statement that “Infrasound does therefore not pose a problem in regard to modern wind turbines.” and “Where infrasound is inaudible, it does not affect health.”

    The anti-wind lobby has abused the public’s unfamiliarity with infrasound to push their barrow and erode social licence. It’s unfortunate that they have used lots of well meaning concerned people to further their goals. Outrage based on infrasound is reminiscent of similar fear campaigns run by anti-fluoridation lobby, anti-vaccination lobby and those objecting to mobile phone towers.

    Ms Laurie and the NIMBY-run, compromised Waubra Foundation appear to rule out psychosocial factors (including annoyance from audible noise and anxiety derived from feelings of disempowerment and feared health effects) as an explanation, but you have to admit that it looks to be a plausible hypothesis. Wouldn’t you agree it’s worth studying the psychosocial dimension, or do you rule it out too?

    1. I would agree Andros that it could be psychosocial factors it also could be an actual illness caused by infrasound or some other factor. We will not know until an independent government funded study is completed. I equate wind farm syndrome with sea sickness it does not affect all people but to those it does it is very real and debilitating. Sea sickness is not caused by envy that someone can afford a boat either.

      1. The problem is that the antis will not accept any science that doesn’t support their view. Even if the findings are inconclusive they’ll chalk it up as supporting their hypothesis.
        On a micro level, the Landscape Guardians continue to run the line that wind turbines need gas backup and don’t abate carbon, despite incontrovertible rebuttal by AEMO.
        On a macro level, most antis from Peter Mitchell and Randall Bell to Mick deny the science of anthropogenic climate change.
        It’s duplicitous for anti-science fossil-fueled folk like the LGs and Waubra Foundation to demand a study that we all know they will ignore or refute unless it supports their agenda to shut down the wind industry.

  49. Why did waubra teams do so well – was it wind money paying for those players?? And is winning the measure of a successfull club??!

    And this great wind farm debate never acknowledges the differenent noise output from different size turbines. Many of the newer turbines are up to 3MW – far bigger machines than the majority of the 100,000 turbines world wide.

    And how many families have to be affected before the pro wind farm group will accpet there is a problem.

  50. Andros, infrasound is hypothesised to be at least one of the mechanisms for the adverse effects that people some people are experiencing. Enough to force many from their homes, or for wind companies to buy out (secretly with gag clauses as is on the public record at Waubra and Toora at least). I don’t believe it is a case of support or not ‘for infrasound’, but that it should be tested through well designed independent scientific investigation. Audible noise is also suspected to be at issue, not least because the wind industry has changed its public posturing on this over the last 12 months or so. See Industry acoustician Eric Sloths presentation to the CEC (May 2010?)where he pointed out the industry should not say the turbines are ‘not noisy’, but just ‘not annoying’. He then went on to ask what proportion of the population is allowed to be annoyed, or words to that effect. This was a publicly available powerpoint, that seems to have miraculously disappeared in its full form from the CEC website. So the industry is at least acknowledging that these things can be noisy now!

    If you read my earlier post on this site, I have suggested that the claims such as by Dr Edelman, and Prof Chapman of psychological causes are also opinions warranting investigation, but cannot be considered as scientific proof either in relation to wind turbines adverse effects. They are opinions worthy of investigation. Unfortunately they are often presented as scientific truths which they are not in relation to the cause effect health issues under discussion.

    As for the Sonus report it was industry sponsored. Ie not independent. It appears to be a report to find ‘no problem’ in a similar vein to Professor Witterts preliminary findings on the 4 Corners piece. Dr Seligmans opinion is just that. He is extrapolating from his particular clinical experience which is not based on research in relation to the specific acoustic issues pertaining to industrial scale wind turbines.

    As for Dr Laurie (the repeated industry use of Ms is intentionally disrespectful and misleading Andros, so I suspect you are an industry rep, or perhaps even a think tank!!) she is advocating for urgent research before more rural folks lives and communities are turned upside down unnecessarily.

    The senate recommended the same, as did Prof Chapman, Mr Simon Holmes A Court, and many other reputable people. It is yet to be done. (I suspect industry and federal political resistance in the name of self interest). In the meantime the precautionary principle as invoked by the NH&MRC would seem prudent to observe, as the Vic Government in their wisdom, has done. And for independent rigorous scientific research into cause effect issues in relation to industrial scale wind turbines to commence immediately.

    Then they can be sited more appropriately without harming human health which I presume is in everybody’s interest, industry included.

  51. rusdtafarian try this article out. It is titled: Health Effects and Wind Turbines: A Review of the Literature, and the publication date is 14 Sept. 2011.It is pretty current.

    Click to access 1476-069X-10-78.pdf

    I notice in your posts a tendency not to accept anyone’s authority no matter what their worthiness – e.g. Professor Chapman. Well here is a summary of peer reviewed literature. The authors have trawled through a hefty amount of peer reviewed literature and then been peer reviewed themselves. That gives them a pretty high level of authority, way better than average you would agree?

    1. Hi Geoff
      Thanks for the link. Yes, another review of the literature. To their credit the authors were upfront about their conflicts of interest with their work for the wind industry. The declaration of conflicts is there for a reason. We all have our bias which influence our perspective and our presentation of information. Literature reviews are no different.

      My bias is that people who are having problems from residential proximity to wind turbines, enough to force some from their homes, should be listened to not vilified (or secretly bought out by wind companies with gag clauses), and their experiences scientifically investigated by multidisciplinary teams of medical and acoustic researchers. This should include measurement inside peoples homes of the full acoustic spectrum. I understand this is yet to be done anywhere in the world. Hence it wont appear in a literature review! More studies with direct links to wind industry are not the answer. The Senate recongised this and recommended urgent independant research. No action since. I would suggest the reasons include politically inconvenience at the very least.

      With due respect for Professor Chapman, he has not interviewed significant numbers of residents (or any?) adversely affected by industrial wind turbines. He is entitled to his opinion however I don’t consider him an authority on this subject. His ‘authority’ to date seems more about his position of power within the health system rather than his published peer reviewed evidence in the area of adverse health effects industrial wind turbines.

  52. Rusdtafarian, just asking again, do you rule out psychosocial factors as being a possible cause for “Wind Turbine Syndrome”? Ms Laurie seems to change topic whenever asked about this, but surely it is one very plausible explanation. How about you, do you rule it out?

    1. Andros, psychosocial factors alone are not why (at least) 20 family homes have been bought out secretly with gag clauses by Big Wind at Toora and Waubra. I dont believe the wind companies are that stupid.

      Lets do the independant research to answer your question as to the psychosocial component of these adverse effects. I would suggest you read Pierponts book for a clearer understanding of her hypothesis as to the cause of WTS. She too has recommended further research as has Prof Chapman, Simon Holmes a Court and many others.

      1. rusdtafarian Prof. Chapman is a researcher and a scientist. He understand and practises the principles of proper research, of scientific method and rigour. Without being an expert on wind farms (I don’t know his knowledge of those) he is still able to see whether research had been properly conducted so that it means something. That is why he was able to criticise Pierponts book – her conclusions were not based upon scientific method. Even if Pierpont was correct, the study can’t be used as authority because it’s basis is so poorly constructed.

        If you have a proper and thorough investigation into something you can have some confidence in the findings – if the methods used were fair and rigorous. If the investigations were flawed or lacked objectivity and structure, you should be wary of the findings – right? So when you see flawed research you should not take it as gospel. And if a noted researcher says it is not good research, it is good to listen.

      2. If these homes were bought out secretly, with gag clauses, how did Ms Laurie & co find out? And presumably the secret gag clauses mean that we just have to take your word for it? This sounds like unprovable, unverifiable conspiracy theory stuff.

        Which the term “Big Wind” also buys into. Please! These tiny companies can’t even get the cash to build their projects in most cases. Sure they have more money than me, but that’s not saying much. Big Wind is a more accurate description of me after a night of beer and pizza. If only the renewable energy industry was deserving of such ominous descriptions…

      3. It would be good to have some evidence that these gag clauses are factual. Is there any? Are we just to take wind farm opponents’ word for it that they exist and in particular that they stop people talking about health problems? (I can believe that, if a wind company buys a house, it will include a clause to stop the sale price being made public. I suspect if there are gag clauses at all, they are of this type.)

      4. It is not possible to contract out of your common law rights. No confidentiality clause in any contract could remove someone’s rights to report adverse health effects.

        Sarah Laurie, do you support rusdtafarian’s claims that at least 20 family homes have been bought out secretly with gag clauses at Toora and Waubra? Can you publish the clause in question?

  53. Rusdtafarian, can you provide any evidence whatsoever for your claim that “20 family homes have been bought out secretly with gag clauses”? Ms Laurie was asked to produce evidence for this to the senate committee and the presenter on ABC Ballarat has asked his listeners to substantiate this claim. Is there any evidence except for the non-disclosure clause placed on Trish Godfrey (that doesn’t prevent her from speaking about health concerns).

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