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How the power of suggestion generates wind farm symptoms

A surge in health complaints linked to wind farms could owe more to increased discussion of health risk than the low-level sound generated by the actual turbines, according to a new study. The study by…

Exposure to infrasound, at the level produced by wind turbines, is an ordinary occurrence. Flickr/Wavy1

A surge in health complaints linked to wind farms could owe more to increased discussion of health risk than the low-level sound generated by the actual turbines, according to a new study.

The study by University of Sydney’s Professor Simon Chapman shows health complaints in Australia were rare until reports emerged about the purported health risks of living close to wind farms.

Increased numbers of people reporting symptoms linked to turbines could be explained by public warnings about health effects triggering the complaints; a phenomenon known as the nocebo effect.

This occurs because such information can create health concerns and related symptom expectations, priming people to notice and negatively interpret common physical sensations and symptoms.

In an experimental study published this week in Health Psychology, our experimental team tested the potential for information about the alleged health risks presented by wind farms to trigger symptoms reports.

Much of the conjecture about the health effects presented by wind turbines relates to the generation of sub-audible sound (infrasound), which is said to cause physical symptoms such as headache, nausea, fatigue and ear pressure. However, exposure to infrasound, at the level produced by wind turbines, is an ordinary occurrence. Infrasound is consistently present in the environment caused by natural phenomena, such as air turbulence and ocean waves; by machinery, such as air conditioners; and is produced within the body, by processes such as respiration.

In this study, we exposed 60 participants to ten minutes of infrasound and ten minutes of sham infrasound (silence), within a listening room designed for subjective listening experiments. Prior to the listening sessions, half of the participants (high expectancy participants) watched a DVD presentation which contained television footage, available on the internet, in which people living in the vicinity of wind farms recounted their experience of symptoms that they believed to be caused by wind farms.

Discussion within the community about the alleged health effects of wind farms may trigger the symptoms about which residents are concerned. Steve Abraham

The remaining participants (low expectancy participants) viewed a DVD in which experts put forth the scientific position that exposure to infrasound generated by wind turbines would not cause symptoms. Before and during each ten-minute exposure session participants rated their experience of 24 physical symptoms, such as dizziness, ear pressure, and headache.

Results showed there were no symptomatic changes before or during exposure periods in the low expectancy group. However, participants in the high expectancy group reported significant increases from pre-exposure assessment in the number and intensity of symptoms reported during exposure periods. This increase was the same whether exposure was to infrasound or to sham infrasound, indicating that exposure to infrasound did not add to the symptomatic experience.

Further, during both exposure periods, high expectancy participants reported more symptoms they had been told were typical of infrasound exposure, rather than symptoms they were informed were atypical.

The findings indicate that negative health information readily available to people living in the vicinity of wind farms has the potential to create symptom expectations, providing a possible pathway for symptoms attributed to operating wind turbines. This may have wide-reaching implications. If symptom expectations are the root cause of symptom reporting, answering calls to increase minimum wind-farm set back distances is likely to do little to assuage health complaints.

Ironically, discussion within the community about the alleged health effects of wind-farms may trigger the very symptoms about which residents are concerned. If this is the case, media coverage of the wind-farm debate must be balanced, so that undue emphasis is not placed on purported health risk.

A recent study has shown that media reporting about health effects and wind farms in Ontario, Canada contain factors likely to induce fear, anxiety and concern. Thus the media must take particular care that they are not creating and perpetuating health complaints attributed to wind farms.

Further reading: New study: wind turbine syndrome is spread by scaremongers by Simon Chapman

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  1. Dan Cass

    Lobbyist for the forces of good at Dan Cass & Co

    Great study, very apposite.

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    1. John Newton

      Author Journalist

      In reply to Dan Cass

      Certainly hope Graham 'Don Quixote' Lloyd soi disant environmental editor of The Australian reads this - although he'll most likely find a plague of eagles dying somewhere to refute it

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    2. Craig Memery

      Energy consumer advocate

      In reply to John Phillip

      Yeah Dan, you should declare your interest in great studies and appositeness.

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    3. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to John Newton

      Graham LLoyd wrote a long article on the dangers of wind farms, including the fact that, according to one study, wind farm noise is more intrusive than aircraft noise.

      He did fail to mention that this only applied when the aircraft was flying about 8 Km away, (about 70 dB} a noise that few would ever notice. but he did get his, very selectively chosen, facts right. He couldn't help it if the subeditor chose to emphasise this point, could he, ;-)?

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    4. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to David Rennie

      Graham Lloyd should go all the way and make a crust writing fiction, he's had enough practice at the Oz pretending to be the environment editor.

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    5. Dan Cass

      Lobbyist for the forces of good at Dan Cass & Co

      In reply to John Phillip

      Attack the greenies so you can avoid the inconvenient truth? Nicely played, Grumpy Old Man.

      Here's the facts; I donate far more to Hepburn Wind as a voluntary Director, than I make back as a return on my small shareholding.

      If you are like most grumpy old men in Australia, you probably have more invested in fossil fuels via superannuation, than I have invested in HW.

      The allegation that I am somehow financially corrupted by my role, is laughable.

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    6. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Dan Cass

      Didn't attack the greenies, Dan. Just pointed out that you are hardly a neutral voice in this and should have declared your financial interest. That's great that you donate to Hepburn Wind, but you've made my point for me - you have a vested interest in the results of this study finding against those who complain of WTS. Financially corrupted - no, but you cant claim to be impartial. Maybe you've got some study data about 'most gumpy old men in Australia' or is that just an ill-informed, unsubstantiated generalisation? I don't know, is that another 'inconvenient truth'?

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    7. George Papadopoulos

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      I think Graham Lloyd was quoting the research by expert accoustician Steven Cooper. Similar results were produced around two wind farms.

      But I am dealing with Blair Donaldson - heaven forbid!

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  2. John Newlands

    tree changer

    I think the symptoms may be a way of internalising resentment against several forms of annoyance. These could include the fact a view has been spoiled and most of the affected property owners get no recompense. This is far from a trivial matter as it goes to the heart of why people live in these areas in the first place. Another example is teenagers revving up dirt bikes when residents are seeking peace and quiet.

    I would be hostile to a wind farm within sight of my residence whether infrasound was detectable or not. It's the fact that it gets paid a premium price, currently 3.2c per kwh, when it is unreliable and requires fuel wasting backup. We have carbon tax so that should be all that is needed. In their wisdom the Climate Change Authority extended this renewable energy mandate. The more deep greens ridicule opposition to wind farms the further their political influence will decline.

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    1. Matthew Parton

      Project Manager

      In reply to John Newlands

      I agree that the symptoms are manifestations of the annoyance that you would expect from any development but claiming them to be related to infrasound has been shown in this study to be untrue and a bit of a dirty tactic.

      On your second point the carbon price is not high enough to drive any renewable electricity development. We should increase it to a level that wil drive investment and do away with the RET.

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    2. John Newlands

      tree changer

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      I favour a tough CO2 cap and let the various unrestricted technologies work out their position in the mix. Conceivably a wind overbuild could be part of a least cost combination if the gas price continues to escalate. However I don't think the public wants any more electricity price rises for some time.

      If urban greens want wind farms build them in the suburbs.

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    3. Craig Memery

      Energy consumer advocate

      In reply to John Newlands

      John,

      Your claims about wind energy being unreliable and requiring additional fuel are just plain wrong. With respect, you really need to understand how the energy market works.

      There is always more active generation capacity than is needed to meet demand at any given point in time. It's called spinning reserve, and it means that there is 100's of MW spare to maintain supply in case a major generator (like a large gas or coal generator) unexpectedly drops out.

      The level of spinning reserve…

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    4. John Newlands

      tree changer

      In reply to Craig Memery

      GM you're answering the question; how can wind be accommodated into the grid? I suggest the bigger question is; why bother? If dispatchable generation has to be throttled back to let in RET mandated wind energy then we have additional generating infrastructure ie doubled up investment. That is additional cost. On top of that we have non-optimal fuel use in combined cycle plant and greater use of open cycle gas plant, nearly as CO2 intensive as some coal plant.

      Empirical studies have found that the CO2 saving is only half what could be expected yet the augmented system costs more. See
      http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/89476/wind-energy-co2-emissions-are-overstated
      You have to prove the augmented system (wind + backup) costs less than say all-gas.

      Wind farm opponents are aware of these issues which is one reason they think it's a raw deal. I suspect that resentment is reflected by physical symptoms.

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    5. Marion Wilson

      retired

      In reply to John Newlands

      Has John Newland given any thought to how offencive his remarks are?. People bring houses, roads, clothes lines, out-houses, power lines, shearing sheds, fences, exotic trees, water tanks dams, cats, dogs, sheep, cattle, goats, pigs, deer and horses into pristine areas and then complain about windfarms spoiling the view. How precious is his view of himself?. The World Health Organisation was quite categorical in its analysis that wind power represents one of the most benign of all forms of electrical generation (alongside some other renewable technologies) in terms of direct and indirect health effects. There is no safer or healthier alternative. Millions of people, animals, sea creatures and birds are going to be caused terrible suffering and probable death because man caused global warming is destroying their place of living and obtaining food. Action is urgent and we have beople like John Newlands saying "Not in my back yard!" and "Not if it is going cost me anything"

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    6. Craig Memery

      Energy consumer advocate

      In reply to John Newlands

      John,

      Dispatchable generation is not 'throttled back to let in' wind energy.

      We have a competitive electricity market in (most of) Australia, in which all large generators either 1.bid to generate on demand when the price goes above a certain level, as chosen by the generator, 2. choose to generate (or not) at any time and receive the spot price, which is effectively set by the above generators, or 3. sell their energy to a retailer off-market, for anything from a fixed price where the retailer…

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    7. Liam J

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to John Newlands

      If tree changers want to own their views, let them buy them like everybody else has to.

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  3. Neville Mattick
    Neville Mattick is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Grazier: ALP Member at A 4th Generation Grazing Station

    "If symptom expectations are the root cause of symptom reporting, answering calls to increase minimum wind-farm set back distances is likely to do little to assuage health complaints."

    I have noticed a correspondent in this very place that reports effects at; can it be 10 kilometres ?

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  4. Craig Memery

    Energy consumer advocate

    Given that one of the many positive impacts of wind energy is a downward pressure on wholesale energy prices, from which all energy consumers benefit due to lower prices being paid to inflexible coal generators, the only headaches from wind farms in Western Victoria occur in Latrobe Valley.

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  5. Garry Baker

    researcher

    Given that a single wind turbine can deliver many thousands of dollars per annum in rental space for the land owner, then one might reasonable suspect nearby land owners, free of turbines, might feel a bit sick. Indeed, some might dwell on this lost opportunity as if it were a recurring nightmare. So perhaps blind studies could come in the form of a prank, where men in business suits arrive and offer them a wind tower or two. In other words, isolate at least one of the possible reasons for their symptoms

    Levity aside, there's a considerable amount of waffle being blown around in the public arena about wind farms.

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  6. Phil Dolan

    Viticulturist

    The suggestion that missing out on the financial side of the wind turbine industry means to me that economic thoughts cause these symptoms. 'It's the economy stupid'.

    Does that mean that if we get back to the barter system, all will be OK?

    Just a silly thought for a Saturday morning.

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  7. Peter Ormonde
    Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Farmer

    Great little study.

    I'm surprised it got through the ethics committee process given that you've just infected a group of otherwise healthy folks with psychosomatic disorders.

    Did you de-program the high-expectancy group at the conclusion of the experiment? If so how? That would be most handy.

    Or do we now have a flock of folks wandering about ducking and dodging the infrasound menace.

    There are quite legitimate criticisms of land based wind-power using horizontal axis turbines - but…

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  8. Alex Cannara

    logged in via Facebook

    So, the people in my old apartment in NYC didn't get sick from all the subway, fire & bus noise, so they had no right to complain?

    Or, the neighbor farm gets conned by a wind 'developer' to erect a few windmills that are ugly and noisy enough to be annoying, but that's ok?

    This piece falls below to level of the IgNobel-award threshold, but it's interesting to see who jumps onto it as somehow supporting the most wasteful form of 'renewable' power sources.

    Maybe it's not sickening to be perennially…

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  9. Fiona Crichton

    PhD candidate in psychological medicine at University of Auckland

    Peter, Two of the people recounting their symptomatic experiences on the high expectancy DVD explained that once they removed themselves from infrasound exposure, they no longer experienced symptoms. Thus the expectation was that symptoms would dissipate once exposure ceased. Ethics were happy with that.

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    1. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Fiona Crichton

      Hmmm.... so there's 28 experimental objects wandering about in Auckland swatting away at imagined exploding bats and curling up in a ball whenever a truck rumbles past.

      Ethics, but not as we might recognise it.

      Stage two - deprogramming implanted disorders ... most useful. And harder than it might look.

      I'm actually not impressed by the derision and disregard on display for these real psychological conditions... "they'll be OK after a bit of time" just doesn't cut it for me actually. Just because something isn't real doesn't make it a joke.

      Anyway - a useful study and one which - like all the best studies -confirms my hunches. Just a bit brutal is all. Let's hope they've all signed waivers.

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  10. John Armstrong

    Retired Environmental Consultant

    Not everyone will be sensitive to low frequencies in the same way not everyone is sensitive to high frequencies. I worked as a musician for years and sometimes had to change motel rooms because I couldn't stand the pain in my chest every time I turned on the television. Our road crew didn't believe there was a problem and checked the room with a spectrum analyser. They found a 16k squeal that none of them could hear. Low sound is just as powerful stuff, that's why we have bass players but out of phase speakers will destroy it.
    It seems to me the problem could be reduced if towers were in pairs spinning in opposite directions. Each tower would phase out the low sound from its partner.

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  11. Dianna Arthur

    Environmentalist

    The 'placebo effect' does not work on animals - perhaps a study on such common rural animals as sheep, cows, horses & dogs such as Border Collies - none of whom (I respect animals too much to use the word 'which') have political agendas - apart from their next meal and a pat.

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  12. Fred Moore

    Builder

    If you don' get the Law of Conservation pf energy and the purpose of life (which is for organisms from rudimentary prokaryotes to man to seek Free Energy then of course you will not understand the dangers of wind farms.

    1: we know how much Free Energy is taken by wind farms-- its METERED! And its huge enough to alter a human beiings appreciation of their environment.In some cases where free energy flow is already small at ground level wind farms can destroy a family's purpose for being there creating…

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    1. Nonie Jekabsons

      Tree Spotter at -

      In reply to Fred Moore

      The "dilution is the solution to pollution" argument is not critical here. If the air is foul, the source is the reason. Less consumption of that which generates pollution in the first place is a start.
      I relate to those folks disturbed by sound etc as I live near a constantly growing airport. Need a balanced and properly researched study already, however a wind farm would be preferable to virtually any other source ("concentration")' of saleable energy next door. Indeed the UMI and other thermal & air quality issues of being in a city at all suck.

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  13. Gary Goland

    Researcher

    Many people in our communities across the world have been relating nausea, stress, dizziness, tinnitus and other symptoms told by residents affected by industrial turbines. Low frequency noise and vibration emissions are emitted by many sources in our communities, including industrial work sites. The effects have been brought to the attention of Councils, EPAs, local GPs and many politicians. The many conflicts affecting well being and productivity in our community need evidence. It is not easy…

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  14. Fred Moore

    Builder

    Gary,

    Energy can be converted from one form to another and wind energy can be converted to sonic flows with wavelengths approximating the size of a human braincase or a cardio-thoracic cavity.
    The mechanical stress consequences of this energy conversion is obvious to anyone but a Power company CEO or a megalomaniac Macquarie street polly.

    But that's not the worst of it.

    Wind farms SUBTRACT huge amounts of ENTROPY (order,LIFE, Intelligence) from downstream inhabitants & ship it off to the…

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  15. Tony Grant

    Student

    Oh, doesn't this sound like something that occurs...continually via our media?

    When wasn't Labor a "toxic/Juliar/evil/big taxing/ungodly/paranoid" party of policy seekers?

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  16. George Papadopoulos

    logged in via LinkedIn

    Fiona, I am frequently confronted by members of the public who walk into pharmacies seeking symptomatic relief for a variety of symptoms. Many times I can see something they have yet to identify or even be aware of. When I point this out to them, they suddenly become aware of some symptom or disease process they never had given any attention to previously.

    For example a younger customer comes into the pharmacy seeking something for a sore knee. I point out to them that their gait is abnormal and they right leg is shorted than their left leg. Their eyes open up and they suddenly "make sense" of a whole ranges of previous complaints and events.

    I think it would be better if you and other focussed more on doing research around the real reasons why wind farms cause distress in individuals, rather than expending a whole lot of effort painting these individuals with contemptuous labels.

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    1. Matthew Albrecht

      Postdoctoral Researcher at Curtin University

      In reply to George Papadopoulos

      I'm pretty sure Fiona's research just pointed out a causal mechanism for many of the effects caused by wind farms. This satisfies your comment of "doing research around the real reasons why wind farms cause distress". Ultimately she found that it is likely to be a nocebo effect. This indicates that if people stopped spreading misinformation about the health effects of infrasound, a lot of the symptoms would cease. This has implications for the ethics of inducing nocebo effects on a population scale via misinformation.

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    2. George Papadopoulos

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Matthew Albrecht

      Matthew, your approach to science is wanting. Fiona's research simply detemines a process that could be relevant to the wind farm situation, but it doesn't exclude the possibility that people become aware of real phenomena and health impacts that they were not otherwise able to readily identify, thanks to the "scare campaigns"

      Having a low IQ is one thing, being deprived of information is another.

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    3. Matthew Albrecht

      Postdoctoral Researcher at Curtin University

      In reply to George Papadopoulos

      I never said that it couldn't, merely what was most likely. And you can't disagree that if misinformation about wind farms was stopped, there would, most probably, be a lot less symptoms "caused" by wind farms - especially given that some research has shown that the same symptoms can be nocebo induced.

      Nevertheless, of the two competing hypotheses that exist at the moment in relation to health effects of wind farms, it seems much more likely that the nocebo hypothesis is more correct. It has double-blind placebo controlled evidence, a long history of fundamental placebo/nocebo research, as well as accumulating public health evidence and patterns showing which of the two hypotheses is more consistent the data.

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    4. George Papadopoulos

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Matthew Albrecht

      Matthew,

      Once again I wonder whether your scientific approach to the matter.

      If the "misinformation" about wind farms stopped, then should include a ban on unfounded statements like "Wind farm X will power so Y amount of homes, create Z numbers of local jobs etc"

      Yes some symptoms will be induced by anxiety - people do not necessarily have the skills and knowledge to investigate claim and counter claim.

      The only research that directly examines human health and wind farms is that by Nissenbaum et al (2013) and Shepherd et al (2011). The research by Nissenbaum is interesting in that the results identity a clear statistically significally correlation between distance and symptoms. Has it been nocebo, symptoms would correlate with the "intensity of anti-wind propaganda".

      The research on nocebo is just that: it examines a phenomenon, not health and wind farms!

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    5. George Papadopoulos

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Matthew Albrecht

      Matthew,

      The other real reasons are low frequency noise and electro-magnetic radiation. They have been identified as likely culprits.

      These parameters are measureable and have been measured. Don't know why it is so difficult to comprehend.

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    6. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to George Papadopoulos

      "For example a younger customer comes into the pharmacy seeking something for a sore knee. I point out to them that their gait is abnormal and they right leg is shorted than their left leg."

      You measure leg lengths in your pharmacy? What method do you use?

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    7. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to John Phillip

      "such observations can be obvious"

      Is that right, Grumpy? What I actually do know is that "such observations" can be deceptive, until you do a propoer measurement.

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    8. George Papadopoulos

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Sue, something called the "eye" and a referral back to their doctor for follow up...

      The Japanese in anitquity had a habit of using blind men to practise traditional medicine. Do you know why?

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    9. Grendelus Malleolus

      Senior Nerd

      In reply to George Papadopoulos

      Did they really have that habit? Or was massage and acupuncture one of the few customary jobs a vision impaired person could undertake at that time?

      I'm sure you'll tell us why - but I'll give you my next question in advance - how can you tell if what they did was effective?

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    10. George Papadopoulos

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Grendelus Malleolus

      Grendelus, I wished you and others might have waited till the most wise medico Ieraci responded.

      As to how I can tell if their therapies were effective? Don't know how effective it was back then, but we know now have effective they are now.

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  17. Fred Moore

    Builder

    The Second Law of Thermodynamics and the Law of Conservation of Energy clearly demonstrate that medical harm is occurring to people living downstream.

    Silly dorothy dix pettifogging and space occupying filibuster are neat vested interest tricks but remain gum flapping in the face of the precise scientific principles involved. These people better hope that the new schools program is shut down before teachers and students realise the POWER of these fundamental concepts when understanding & dealing with bulk government and corporate corruption in our society.

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  18. John Harland

    bicycle technician

    As a supporter of wind energy it irritates me to see the same patronising guff all over again.

    "infrasound", just as with any other sound, may be soothing or irritating, or not register on the consciousness at all. Natural sounds tend to be soothing, mechanical sounds may not be. It depends to some extent on the periodicity of the sound. Infrasound from turbines will fluctuate with the position of the blades and may be particularly troublesome for some people.

    It is very likely that turbine…

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  19. Fred Moore

    Builder

    When the Tacoma Narrows bridge shook to pieces and collapsed in a light breeze it was because of RESONANCE between the dimensions of the bridge structures being similar to the wavelengths carried in the wind Field.

    Did US authorities say it was an optical illusion and go into communities and treat victims' of the collapse concerns with the respect they deserve. THAT would be kind of silly now!

    Similarly when non audible turbine compression fields floating downstream from Wind Farms contain wavelengths similar to brains or livers of thoracic cavities and cause chronic mechanical harm up in critical organs of folks downstream i suggest that going out and showing respect for their concerns is LEGALLY the last thing you ought to be doing. It could be construed as attempting to subvert the course of justice.

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    1. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Fred Moore

      SO, Fred, you don't accept the findings of this research?

      What evidence is there is "chronic mechanical harm" to brains, livers or thoracic cavities from sound waves? How do they penetrate the skull, for example?

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    2. Fred Moore

      Builder

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      What I accept is the lengths vested interests will go to protect the investments. Hitler burned books.
      These gutless wonders just tamper with science and hope no one points out the stupidity. Personally If I had big investments in wind farms I could do a far better job of scientific deceit and mumbo jumbo because I have a scientific flare.

      BTW as a clinician you would have to have passed math courses on Fourier transforms and RESONANCE concepts in POWER matching & Energy Transfer. So you must…

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    3. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      "Hitler burned books"

      Score one for Godwin's Law.

      But, again, how do sound waves penetrate the bony skull, Fred Moore (Mr Peter's clever answer notwithstanding)?

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    4. George Papadopoulos

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Fred Moore

      Fred, I have pointed out to Sue Ieraci many times before papers about the effects of ILFN on the human body. She doesn't get it, because she never will I think...

      Here is a nice document written back in 2001 prior to the "WTS" saga: http://www.scribd.com/doc/94830987/Infra-Sound-Brief-Review-of-Toxicological-Literature Same message as what one hears after wind turbines went in... This is the prophetic form of nocebo, also known as the Chapmanian prospective mass hysteria hypothesis.

      See also this list of papers: http://docs.wind-watch.org/literature-low-frequency-noise-wind-turbines.pdf

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    5. Grendelus Malleolus

      Senior Nerd

      In reply to George Papadopoulos

      But back to the original point of the article - how come these effects occur mostly around wind farms where anti-wind farm activists are busy and not around t'other ones?

      If you were to claim a specific illness as the result of a specific resonance pattern I might feel more inclined to your hypothesis but over 200 random conditions makes it seem far more likely that the nocebo is with us.

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    6. George Papadopoulos

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Grendelus Malleolus

      Grendelus, ever wondered which symptoms come up most and least often? If you do wonder about this, then keep wondering why such an analysis is carefully avoided by Chapman and Co.

      Say for example head/sinus pressure sensations vs reports of thyroid disturbance. Don't be surprised if the former is very consistent.

      Sometimes self-proclaimed nerds are anything but wise nerds.

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  20. John C Smith

    Auditor

    Who thought burning a bit of coal will affect the climate and temperature of the globe.
    Interfering with the natural wind, what is awaiting us?

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    1. Russell Walton

      Retired

      In reply to John C Smith

      Yes, extracting energy from the planet's atmospheric circulation will probably eventually cause climate change, someone will suggest re-commissioning all those old coal-fired power stations.

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    2. Liam J

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to John C Smith

      We've had over a centurys worth of warnings on co2, based now on many observations in many countries over many decades.

      With wind, an technology much older than (our knowledge of) electricity, we've got a few extremely localised complainants and zero replicable observations of harm.

      If you're so worried about interfering with the natural wind i assume you don't fly, drive, or hang out the washing.

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  21. Anthony Nolan

    logged in via email @hotmail.com

    This entire debate lacks any real sociological and political understanding of why rural residents might object to wind power. Generally, low levels of education, low income and material insecurity create conditions in the bush absolutely ripe for the somatization of powerlessness. This, however, escapes most of the commenters. Pathetic, really, and a good example of exactly how not to build alliances between urban environmentalists and the bush.

    So, if you wind mine fans want to convince people…

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    1. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Anthony Nolan

      Anthony, you seem to miss the point that around 80% of people do want and are happy with wind turbines, see the CSIRO survey among many others. The Hepburn community windfarm illustrates the point.

      A few people oppose smart meters, vaccinations, road laws, and evidence-based medicine but you don't appear to be supporting their arguments.

      The arrogance comes from those windfarm opponents who have set up organisations like the Waubra Foundation, individuals with interests in mining, oil and coal.

      Proponents of wind energy and renewables generally, are trying to do something about producing clean energy to ease pressure on the planet, a planet you claim you care about. How about some objectivity for a change?

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    2. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      Oh I agree with you Blair. It doesn't seem that there is any scientific evidence for medical concern about the health affects of wind mines; the opposition is irrational.

      But wind mining appears to be pretty dead in the water in NSW and Vic; that's a big political loss needing to be addressed.

      I agree that a rational approach is best which is why I'm trying to persuade Simon Chapman that the proponents of wind farms are blowing their chance for support because of the manner and tone towards…

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  22. Craig Memery

    Energy consumer advocate

    A few commenters have voiced concern about the wind turbines extracting energy from the wind, and the effect this might have on health (or climate).

    Speaking as a renewable energy specialist and former wind engineer, I hope they'll be reassured to learn that the portion of energy taken from surface winds at a distance of 1km from the wind farm is less than 0.1%, and this trivial number drops off rapidly the further away you go. This is basic physics based on first principles.

    Compared with normal hourly, diurnal and annual variation of wind, and considering the natural variations in wind energy from one location to the next (high-wind locations where wind turbines are sited often have 1,000% higher wind energy resource than low-wind locations), it is clearly implausible that the energy taken out of the atmosphere by a wind farm could impact health (or climate) in any way.

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  23. Steve Woodman

    logged in via email @bigpond.net.au

    "Increased numbers of people reporting symptoms linked to turbines could be explained by public warnings about health effects triggering the complaints; a phenomenon known as the nocebo effect."

    Regardless of the immediate cause - infrasound v knowledge of infrasound - the distress suffered is real to the person ... the root cause is the infrasound generated by wind turbines ... this study has no relevance to the siting of wind farms ...

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    1. Steve Woodman

      logged in via email @bigpond.net.au

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      Regardless, the stress to the people concerned is real ... and it comes from nearby wind farms - be it less than the surf or city traffic is not the point ...the distress is still real to these people living in the countryside.

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    2. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Steve Woodman

      Not really, the stress comes from believing propaganda put around by cranks such as Sarah Laurie, Randall Bell & Co. How do you explain the lack of any claims of illness from windfarms in Western Australia, some windfarms in South Australia and Victoria were the anties hasn't been active (as yet)?

      I have already stated I accept that some people don't like the look of turbines, so be it. I don't like the look of skyscrapers, tattoos or Collingwood supporters but I can live with them.

      Instead of feeding the paranoia, how about providing some constructive middleground alternatives?

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    3. Steve Woodman

      logged in via email @bigpond.net.au

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      The stress these people feel is real to them ... and cannot be compared to your trivial ability to accept the existence of tattoos ... show some compassion to these people who really suffer ... show some respect

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    4. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Steve Woodman

      No Steve, this is the smug arrogance of the missionary ... the zealot who regards normal people - those less convinced - with disdain. And this is the very behavious and attitude that makes people sick.

      Ends up having the whole industry effectively shot down in Victoria - to the extent that even the Labor Opposition in that state is humming and twiddling its thumbs regarding the whole issue of windfarms... won't dare say what its policy is. But that would be everyone else's fault... the fools.

      A green bulldozer. How disappointing. Just like the coal miners and CSG companies and all the rest of them... nothing new or different or green at all really.

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  24. Lyndal Breen

    logged in via Facebook

    I've recently developed an irritating pulsating ear at night which keeps me awake.
    I just wish I could blame it on a wind turbine.

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