Not In Their Minds: Denial in the Wind/Health Debate

By Sherri Lange — February 18, 2015

“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the states of facts and evidence.” (John Adams, 1770)

“Facts are stupid … (laughter) stubborn things.” (Ronald Reagan, 1988)

When President Reagan, in his address to the 1988 Republican National Convention, stumbled on the word “stubborn” – referencing the famous John Adams quote above – he might as well have been talking about the chasm between the facts of acoustic investigation of wind turbine installation, as reported by the victims, and the hyperbole and spin from the industry itself.

“Wind Facts” are openly portrayed by the industry as “stupidly obvious” things: green, clean and free. Complainers, aka victims, are dismissed as hyper sensitive if not hypochondriacs. Academic or government studies often portray such subjects as having a natural disposition for unhappiness and discomfort about things such as body type, with inferences of predilection for an anti-wind position and negative physical effects.

Perhaps, the wind intelligentsia says, the disgruntled are unhappy that they are not profiting from the wind turbine installations. Perhaps the subjects are just a bit crazy, even indulging in the so called, Nocebo effect, whereby negative anticipation of a project infects one with inordinate fear and possible physical reactions.

Reading victims’ statements on their experiences from around the world is like reading a very clear compendium of shared experiences: medical effects (tinnitus, pressure, dizziness, nausea as an example), including emotional impacts from sleeplessness, and not excluding effects of vibration shadow flicker, audible noise, and ILFN.

Add to this the stress of not being understood, not being taken seriously, even possibly by family physicians, in cases. The innuendo and propaganda machine has been working effectively, and it has not been easy for even medical professionals to immediately see the trees in the fog of “clean, green, free.”

Walking Down the Street?

In an recent and astonishing display of wind industry innuendo and bravado, Ketan Joshi, Research and Communications Officer for Infigen Energy, published a blog on February 3rd, 2015, entitled “Is Walking Down the Street a Major Health Risk?.” The fanciful premise, that walking down the street is in somehow equivalent to the painful experiences of wind victims, is frankly, the extreme end of myth: No one really expects that following the imaginative title that a stronger sense of fact will follow.

What does follow, is the inevitable reference to the highly erroneous Health Canada “study” survey, widely questioned and by many discredited, with its highly selective and secretive data, not yet released, and its ubiquitous references to “annoyance.”

Mr. Ketan further expresses that ”we’ve found that the overwhelming majority of people that live near turbines are very happy with their presence.”

Cooper Study

Among the hundreds if not thousands of victims worldwide, six people in three residences at the project of Cape Bridgewater, would beg to differ. So would Steven Cooper, author of a ground breaking study that strongly correlates low-frequency turbine noise and their “sensations” and ill effects (we would suggest, among OTHER known ill effects).

This is the first time in the world where a turbine operator (Pacific Hydro) has cooperated, and allowed a turn off of the turbines, in order to provide a blind study for these victims and for the Acoustician. Residents living between 650 meters and 1.6 km of the wind turbines were asked to document their effects, headaches, pressure, ringing ears, heart racing or sensations of “heaviness.”

Noise, vibration, and “sensation,” were categories rated, on a scale of one to five. Mr. Cooper indicated in phone conversations and in media releases, that this was the first time that residents were asked to use the category of “sensation,” as opposed to experiences of “audible noise.”

When the results were tabulated with overwhelming and clear evidence of the cause of their sensations, victims quickly expressed relief: more study of the residents’ experiences at the Cape Bridgewater survey site, can be viewed here.

“It is an absolute relief, like an epiphany to have him (Mr Cooper) say I was not crazy (that) when I am doing the dishes I feel nausea and have to get out of the house.”

“Another participant, Jo Kermond, said the findings had been ‘both disturbing and confirmation of the level of severity we were and are enduring while being ridiculed by our own community and society’.”

Victim Letter to Health Minister Hoskins

On hearing about Cooper’s study, Ontario (Canada) resident, Virginia Stewart Love, wrote a letter to Eric Hoskins, Liberal Minister of Health.

Hello Dr. Hoskins,

I have written to you in the past and also provided you in person with information regarding the physical health effects of IWT on myself, my family and my neighbours. I imagine that your position demands a great deal of your time which would explain why I have not had a response from you regarding my concerns.

Below is an article that describes a study conducted at the Cape Bridgewater Wind Farm in southwest Victoria, Australia and funded by wind farm operator Pacific Hydro in which a methodology has been developed to undertake assessments using narrow band infrasound.

What is of interest is that the research included sensation rather than audible noise as an indicator of residents’ perception of nearby wind turbines. These sensations were experienced at narrow band sound pressure levels. The findings are consistent with research into health impacts from early model wind turbines conducted in the US more than 20 years ago (I.e. Acoustic Noise Associated with the MOD 1 Wind Turbine: Its Source, Impact, and Control, N. D. Kelley, February 1985). Many people filling complaints with the MOE over the years have described these sensations. I have maintained from the beginning that I feel the turbines and only hear them when I am outside or in the summer when the windows are open. (Our emphasis. Letter reprinted with permission of the author.)

“It is common knowledge that the industry has lobbied to exclude low frequency noise from the guidelines that regulate noise for IWTs, the assumption being that IWT could not be compliant under such regulations. Avoiding the truth never makes a problem disappear.”

This is but one more piece of research that can be added to the volumes of studies already conducted that show a link between IWT noise and health impacts for those residing in close proximity to developments. Studies using all the pertinent data need to be conducted in order to find the solution. Building more turbines before we have those answers will only add to the growing numbers of people impacted.

I hope that you will find this study worthy of investigating.

Sincerely,

Virginia Stewart Love

What we know is that much has now been written about Steven Cooper’s valuable narrow band/sensation study. This is a game changer, but to many, it is a solid and soon to be enduring confirmation of the work of predecessors such as Bob Thorne, 2012, or Kelley et al, 20 years ago. It is a validation, a concrete and reproducible “snapshot” of how narrow band LFN is clearly impacting residents too near wind facilities.

High level accepted and accredited acoustic experts, such as Bob Thorne, Bob Rand, and Steven Ambrose have peer written that the Cooper study is comprehensive, and highly professional. Thorne applauds the distinction between audible noise and “sensation,” and further distinguishes from his previous studies, that reliance on dBA is not an accurate indication of relationship to physical effects.

In a publication called “Problems with noise numbers for wind farm noise assessment,” as well as in the Abstract for the Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society, August 2011, Thorne notes that wind factories have sound “characters” as opposed to limited sound “levels.” These are unique, and modulating and tonally complex.

Thorne states: “Wind farm compliance measures based on a specified noise number alone will fail to address problems with noise nuisance.”

The wind industry’s instance that it is in noise or dBA “compliance,” is regularly challenged by residents, acousticians, and engineers. Regulations vary across regions, and the truth is that despite this obvious non-compliance, and that the industry continues to appear to unduly influence policy makers. As stated by Professor John Harrison, “Wind farm compliance measures based on a specified noise number alone will fail to address problems with noise nuisance.”

But now the “stubborn” facts of ILFN will inevitably wind their way through policy – and seriously affect the industry’s ability to claim its product is “safe”. Indeed, it may prove be a more direct route to legal compensation for victims.

Steven Ambrose writes in his peer review of the Cooper study:

“Wind turbines have raised the bar to ‘home abandonment’. This life-saving option is not affordable; most experience diminished quality of life, degradation of health, and loss of wellbeing. The population majority remains unknowing and unaffected by wind turbines because they live far away or genetically protected from ‘sensations’. I was surprised to learn that I should not live near a wind turbine neighbor. I have no sympathy; I have real empathy.”

Conclusion

We applaud the participation of Pacific Hydro in the Steven Cooper study.

Given the government-dependence of the wind industry, and the very troubling negative health externalities of wind-turbine living, a moratorium should be placed on any proposed or under-construction wind factories. This industry needs to look and listen to its neighborhood victims, taxpayers all, with respect, not distain.

For documentation and further research, please consult the bibliography below.

————

Sherri Lange, a writer, educator, and photographer, became interested in industrial wind and energy issues as a result of a proposed near 400 offshore installation near her East Toronto home. After working to achieve several moratoria, including the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, Town of Ajax, City of Pickering, City of Scarborough, and the off shore Ontario moratorium, she worked towards the organization of several groups around the Great Lakes, and was appointed the CEO of the North American Platform Against Wind Power, NA-PAW.

Sherri Lange’s group efforts have achieved five wind power moratoria votes, including the TRCA (Toronto And Region Conservation Authority) and the Ontario offshore moratoria. She is the CEO of the North American Platform Against Wind Power.

Resources:

http://www.infigenenergy.com/renewable-energy/blog/wind-health-.html

http://www.pacifichydro.com.au/english/our-communities/communities/cape-bridgewater-acoustic-study-report/

http://oupacademic.tumblr.com/post/60397790031/misquotation-facts-are-stupid-things

http://waubrafoundation.org.au/2015/steven-coopers-cape-bridgewater-acoustic-research-commissioned-by-pacific-hydro-released/

http://waubrafoundation.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Thorne-B.-Cape-Bridgewater-study-NMS-congrats.pdf

http://waubrafoundation.org.au/resources/thorne-r-problems-with-noise-numbers-for-wind-farm-noise-assessment/

http://bst.sagepub.com/content/31/4/262.abstract

http://www.nrel.gov/docs/legosti/old/1166.pdf

http://docs.wind-watch.org/Laurie-Mt-Bodangora-WF-submission.pdf

http://waubrafoundation.org.au/resources/ambrose-se-congratulations-steven-cooper-cape-bridgewater-report/

http://waubrafoundation.org.au/resources/rand-r-congratulations-cape-bridgewater-acoustic-study-report/

http://stopthesethings.com/2015/01/27/what-real-experts-are-saying-about-stevens-coopers-wind-farm-noise-study/

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