16.11.2012 - Infrasound myth raised again! Are the objectors trying to frighten everyone?

It was a quieter week in The Buteman's letter pages than we were expecting with just two letters and one piece of coverage regarding our plans for community benefit renewable energy at Ascog Farm.

Nonetheless, it wouldn't do to let the anti-campaign go quiet and our old friend (and neighbour) Mr Tony Harrison - owner of a modern and well-insulated £1m Huf Haus nearby - again chooses to stick his oar in!

Returning to an old theme (e.g. see the letter 'from' Scotland's only Tory MEP - to which he only put his signature, having never visited Bute) the topic this week generally surrounds noise and 'infrasound':

©The Buteman

Mr Harrison suggests that 'There is increasing concern that the infrasound or low frequency noise emitted from turbines is responsible for causing disorders that range from sleep disturbance, headaches, tinnitus, nausea, visual blurring, panic attacks to more general irritability.'

The article to which Mr Harrison refers by Nissenbaum et al, 2012 is a very recent publication with - according to respected scientific site Web of Knowledge (Institutional login required; luckily I have one as part of my PhD research!) - zero citations.

A quick web search reveals coverage of the article by anti-turbine broadsheet The Daily Telegraph which makes the point that the Nissenbaum et al. article will probably 'be used by critics of wind power to argue against new turbines being built near homes and for existing ones to be switched off or have their speed reduced, when strong winds cause their noise to increase'.

Yes indeed, Mr Harrison is using the article for precisely those purposes!

As several of the comments beneath The Daily Telegraph article make clear, the Nissenbaum et al. article is 'a seriously biased article'. Respondent Tim Jeffries criticises the report and article inviting the paper to state that 'I don't suppose you fancy mentioning that the three scientists involved all happen to be on the board of an anti-wind farm lobbying group, do you?'

This appears to be the case. Michael Nissenbaum and co-authors Jeffery Aramini and Christopher Hanning are all on the Advisory Group of anti-turbine lobbying organisation 'The Society for Wind Vigilance' which has a focus on the 'adverse' health effects of wind turbines!

Perhaps this explains the lack of citations in the scientific literature?

Furthermore, making a comment on an NHS web site exploring the controversy retired Dr Christopher Hanning states a Declaration of Interest: 'I am a Board Member of the Society for Wind Vigilance. The village where I live is subject to a windfarm application.' Hanning also endorses the 'Wind Turbine Syndrome' claims, book operation and web site of Dr Nina Pierpont.

'Wind Turbine Syndrome' has largely been lambasted: According to Chapman:

While most people have heard of the placebo effect (when an inert "drug" like a sugar pill or a sham surgical procedure like inserting random acupuncture needles is followed by people feeling better) its opposite, the "nocebo" effect, is less appreciated.

A nocebo effect occurs when people feel ill or are convinced they have symptoms after being told that something is harmful. For the past few months, I have been collecting claims about adverse health effects made by opponents of wind farms. Today the total stands at 113 different diseases and symptoms in humans and animals.

Other than perhaps the aftermath of a nuclear blast on population health, there is nothing known to medicine that comes close to the morbid apocalypse that is being megaphoned by anti-wind groups.

It is not just illnesses and symptoms that occur but "deaths, yes, many deaths mainly from unusual cancers", which have strangely never come to the attention of any coroner.

Did you know that wind turbines can cause lung cancer, leukaemia, diabetes, herpes, "electromagnetic spasms in the skull", infertility and the ghastly sounding "loss of bowels"?

Any very common problem together affecting literally millions of people across Australia (sleep problems, high blood pressure, lack of concentration, forgetfulness, children doing poorly at school, nosebleeds and muscle twitches) can all be explained by wind turbine exposure.

Nothing else is relevant if you live near one. But there are some benefits too. Those who are overweight can lose kilograms through exposure to wind turbines, but the excessively slim can gain weight as well!

Is this magic?
Wind turbines power mass hysteria (23.05.2012)

More research is underway, but turning to the peer-reviewed literature, a recent literature review has some interesting observations:

This study would seem to suggest that 'While it is acknowledged that noise from wind turbines can be annoying to some and associated with some reported health effects (e.g., sleep disturbance), especially when found at sound pressure levels greater than 40 db(A), given that annoyance appears to be more strongly related to visual cues and attitude than to noise itself, self reported health effects of people living near wind turbines are more likely attributed to physical manifestation from an annoyed state than from wind turbines themselves. In other words, it appears that it is the change in the environment that is associated with reported health effects and not a turbine-specific variable like audible noise or infrasound.'

In other words, if you don't like wind turbines you're more than likely to make yourself sick dislking them!

That would certainly seem to be the case, as anti-wind activists frantically distribute misinformation locally - much of it suggesting that noise or sunlight flicker (or the truly enormous wind turbines erroneously portrayed) will destroy the health of people living a considerable distance from the turbine site.

If you are disinclined to believe this sort of health scaremongering please support the planning application for wind turbines at Ascog Farm!