In this paper, I review two recently completed research papers that purport to provide scientific evidence regarding the adverse health effects of Industrial Wind Turbines (IWTs). Having done so, I find that they provide no scientific information. Rather, they present disinformation which may be used to improperly shape public policy. …
[S. Chapman, A. St George, K. Waller and V. Cakic, “Spatio-temporal differences in the history of health and noise complaints about Australian wind farms: evidence for the psychogenic, ‘communicated disease’ hypothesis,” unpublished (hereafter Chapman); and F. Crichton, G. Dodd, G. Schmid, G. Gamble and K. J. Petrie, “Can Expectations Produce Symptoms From Infrasound Associated with Wind Turbines?” Health Psychology, Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0031760 (hereafter Crichton)]
The two papers subject to my review fail to meet credible standards of professionalism to be taken seriously. Chapman observes a correlation between the timing of three specific publications and general increased media coverage with a recently increased number of complaints regarding adverse impacts of audible and inaudible wind turbine noise. However, his hypothesis tests are crude and without evidentiary value. Either hypothesis is supported by the data he proffers, data which are likely subject to serious measurement error. I would not rely upon his data to come to any conclusion. However, even if one were to believe the data, they are typical of diffusion rates of information regarding the positive or negative attributes of particular products, technologies, procedures and diseases. Given the naïve and simplistic experiment upon which it is based, the Crichton paper offers no evidentiary value.
There is, however, a scientific literature that has recognized the social effects of noise upon public health. This literature has developed survey methods and analytic procedures to quantify the adverse impacts of such noises. The earlier applications have been directed at the impacts of traditional sources of noise impinging upon neighboring individuals – highways, airports, railroad lines, and railroad shunting yards. Is it a surprise to anyone that particularly loud noises can be annoying? If one’s neighbor’s dog sat in the backyard and barked all night, does anyone believe this to NOT be annoying; indeed very annoying? Aren‘t there laws against this annoyance? Does anyone believe that this annoyance would NOT be greater in a quiet neighborhood or rural area, compared to a noisy urban area. Does anyone NOT believe that if such noises interrupt one’s sleep on a consistent basis, that person will begin to suffer psychological and physical (hypertension, stress-related) illnesses. Industrial wind turbines are just another form of industrial noise. The noise may have no adverse effects or it may have serious adverse effects. Serious, well-trained quantitative acousticians have analyzed the noises emitted from IWTs and found them to cause serious adverse health effects to a subset of residents living nearby. The etiology of those adverse health effects begin with sleep deprivation and annoyance and become more serious as affected individuals are continuously subjected to the noises. These effects are not the result of some mass hysteria.