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An ill wind

Sunday 26 May 2013 8:05AM (view full episode)

In less than a fortnight, the small community of King Island will vote on whether a crucial part of Australia's clean energy future should proceed to the next stage. But the islanders are sharply divided, after claims by health promotion company the Waubra Foundation, and their controversial CEO Dr Sarah Laurie, that the noise wind turbines make harms human health. Sarah Dingle investigates.

UPDATE: Just under the 60% of King Island residents have voted in favour of a feasibility study into a proposed wind farm on the island. Hydro Tasmania has announced that they will proceed with the feasibility study. Press release here. 24th June 2013.

On tiny King Island, you're never far from the sea.

Its location in the Bass Strait means the island's right in the middle of the Roaring Forties, and experiences wind speeds of about eight metres a second.

‘Anything over 10 [metres a second] becomes challenging, anything under 8 becomes challenging,’ says David Mounter, the wind asset development manager with Hydro Tasmania. ‘It’s probably the best wind resource in Australia.’

State-government owned Hydro Tasmania is Australia's biggest renewable energy generator. It wants to build 200 wind towers on King Island, 150 metres high at the blade tip. Hydro Tasmania says this $2 billion project alone could generate more than a quarter of the nation's target of 20 per cent renewable energy by 2020.

Mr Mounter says the turbines would be spaced across one fifth of King Island. ‘Some of the images we've produced so far look into [parts of] the island where you won't see any turbines,’ he says. ‘And in other places out of the 200 you could see as many as 150. The island is flat but it's also got sand dunes and a lot of trees, so there are going to be places where you won't see many at all.’

This article represents part of a larger investigation into 'wind turbine syndrome' and King Island by reporter Sarah Dingle. You can listen to the full story on Background Briefing 8.05am, Sunday May 26.

But the company can't tell King Islanders exactly what the wind farm will look like because they haven't done a feasibility study. And in an unusual move, Hydro Tasmania has decided to ask the islanders to vote on whether the $18 million feasibility stage should go ahead.

Hydro Tasmania's business development manager, Miles Smith, says if the majority of the community don't support the wind farm, Hydro Tasmania may walk away. ‘I think our CEO's been quoted as saying 60% is what we're after,’ he says.

That gamble could backfire. A month ago, wind farm opponents invited Dr Sarah Laurie to speak at a public meeting on King Island. The CEO of health promotion company the Waubra Foundation had a message for the King Island community.

‘Yes, wind turbines do cause adverse health effects, and increasingly the data and research is showing it's happening,’ she told residents.

Dr Laurie and the Waubra Foundation say that the problem with wind farms is the low frequency sound emitted by the turbines. She says low frequency noise from wind turbines has a wide range of harmful effects on the body, including tinnitus, balance problems, dizziness, headaches, and what she says some residents near wind farms call ‘fuzzy thinking’ or ‘not being able to think clearly’.

At the King Island meeting, Dr Laurie even drew a connection between wind turbines and autistic behaviour.

‘People with autism are known to be particularly noise sensitive,’ she told residents. ‘There’re certainly children with autism, and families with more than one child with autism, who have a really difficult time the turbines start operating.’

Local beef farmer Chris Porter says he found Dr Laurie’s presentation ‘very reasonable and substantiated with evidence’. In his mind there's no doubt what King Island's decision should be.

‘If there is the remotest possibility health will be affected, property values affected or the community disrupted, I would think the most reasonable proposition is don't do it,’ he says.

Greg Barratt is Mayor of King Island. He's in favour of at least going to feasibility, although he says he’s beginning to feel the growing pressure around the issue.

‘It's been suggested individual councillors could be sued if there are health issues emanating from this wind farm,’ he says.

Retiree David Kerr says since Dr Laurie's visit, health is now one of the top community concerns about the wind farm proposal.

‘We've had [an] injection of mild hysteria creating a fear that didn't otherwise exist before the Waubra foundation became involved in our community,’ Mr Kerr says.

Professor of Public health, Simon Chapman says there's no credible, peer reviewed scientific reports which prove that wind farms harm human health.

‘I've worked in schools of medicine now for the better part of 30 years and I don't think I've ever come across anything which has remotely the same number of problems associated with it,’ Professor Chapman says. ‘There have been actually 17 reports that I've found—reviews I should say, not reports—which have looked at all the evidence to date when they were published, and none of those 17 reviews have said that wind turbines, and specifically infrasound, are harmful to health.’

Dr Laurie is currently the subject of a complaint to the National Health and Medical Research Council. The complaint alleges she's conducting research involving humans without oversight by an ethics committee, and she's having direct clinical contact with individuals, despite the fact that her medical registration as a doctor lapsed in 2006.

Dr Laurie denies that she's conducting research, but she told Background Briefing she does tell people who think they've been affected by wind turbines to keep health diaries and check their blood pressure, information which they've sometimes chosen to share with her.

‘[T]hey're doing it for their own benefit,’ she told Background Briefing of the research. ‘For their self-care and for sharing with their own doctors.’

The National Health and Medical Research Council says it doesn't necessarily make public the outcome of any complaint investigation. (NHMRC statement on complaint about Sarah Laurie)

King Islanders will vote on whether the wind farm proposal should proceed to feasibility in early June. Hydro Tasmania says a questionnaire will be sent to King Island residents on June 7th and they will have 10 days to respond.

View comments (152)


Sarah Dingle: Over the next few years, Australia is set to radically increase electricity generation from wind power. Wind is key to achieving our target of 20% renewable energy by 2020.

But developments are under attack from an anti-wind farm movement, which is putting major projects in doubt with claims that low frequency sound from wind turbines is making people sick.

Sarah Laurie: Tinnitus, balance problems, dizziness, headaches, and it can also involve what they call…I guess the residents sort of call 'fuzzy thinking', or not being able to think clearly.

Sarah Dingle: Dr Sarah Laurie heads the Waubra Foundation, a company incorporating a registered charity which is at the forefront of opposition to wind farms.

The health claims, although unproven, have had such an impact that the federal government's official position is there's no evidence either way on whether wind farms harm human health.

And the coalition, if elected, wants a full-scale national scientific investigation, says its energy spokesman Ian Macfarlane.

Ian Macfarlane: We want an independent assessment of exactly what the health impacts or otherwise are of wind farms so that we can resolve this matter once and for all.

Sarah Dingle: The matter has been resolved, according to a number of major reports from around the world. They all say there's no evidence that wind farms make people sick. But politicians are too afraid to stand by that, which is giving oxygen to false and at times bizarre claims, according to Professor of Public Health, Simon Chapman.

Simon Chapman: This is a disease in search of a cause, I think. Sarah Laurie believes that lips can quiver at up to 10 kilometres away from a turbine and that wind turbines can make a stationary car rock at up to 1 kilometre. I mean, these claims are absolutely preposterous, they're fairy stories.

Sarah Dingle: And some believe Dr Laurie could actually be causing symptoms.

Fiona Crichton: I think she's very genuine, but I'm concerned that the way that she's transmitting information, the way she's discussing the possible health risks from her point of view is likely to cause symptoms, I just think it is. Yes, I do.

Sarah Dingle: That's Fiona Crichton, a doctoral candidate from the University of Auckland, and we'll hear more from her later.

Now Dr Sarah Laurie is the subject of an extensive complaint to the National Health and Medical Research Council, alleging she's conducting research involving humans without apparent oversight by a Human Research Ethics Committee.

Do you think this constitutes research involving humans, if you're getting them to keep diaries and check their blood pressure?

Sarah Laurie: Sarah, they're doing it for their own benefit.

Sarah Dingle: Hello, I'm Sarah Dingle, and today on Background Briefing: the war over wind.

This is a conflict framed by anxiety and distrust, where rural Australians are caught in a tussle with science, industry and politics. As they see it, their backyards and their well-being are at stake. Also at stake is the country's clean energy commitment, fundamental to climate change policy.

Australia has some of the best places in the world to harness wind, and Bass Strait is at the top of the list. Tiny King Island, in the middle of Bass Strait, is right in the teeth of the Roaring Forties. This is the new frontline in the war over wind, and it's threatening to tear this small community apart.

Brian Youd: It's just like being back in the past, you've got a beach, you feel like you're the only person on the beach, no one's ever been here.

Sarah Dingle: Brian Youd is a fifth generation King Islander. He drives a gas truck, and for a bit of extra cash he carts the bull kelp that washes up on the shores to a drying station. Now there's a new industry proposed for King Island; what would be the biggest wind farm in the southern hemisphere. Brian Youd is worried.

Brian Youd: Renewable energy is a scheme that seems to be the latest fad, talk about carbon credits, everyone's after a 20% reduction, that's the figure they say, 20% reduction by 2020. At what price? Sacrifice 1,200, 1,400 people on King Island?

Sarah Dingle: The proposal is for around 200 turbines, 150 metres high at the tip of the blade, spaced across one-fifth of King Island's landmass. They'll definitely stand out.

Miles Smith is the business development director for Hydro Tasmania, the proponent of the wind farm project, known as TasWind.

Miles Smith: We've always said that we won't proceed with this project without community support.

Sarah Dingle: Hydro Tasmania is Australia's largest renewable energy generator, fully owned by the Tasmanian government. In an unusual move, Hydro says it will ask the community to vote in June on whether the proposal should go to a two-year feasibility stage. If a significant proportion vote no, the company may abandon the project altogether.

Miles Smith: I think our CEO has been quoted as saying 60% yes is sort of a figure that we'd be looking for. What we're trying to do here is set a benchmark for community consultation, and give them as many facts as we can to let them make their own mind up.

Sarah Dingle: Without a feasibility study, Hydro Tasmania's not in a position to answer all the questions about the TasWind proposal, like rental payments for hosting towers on properties, the shape of any community fund, or where exactly the turbines would go. Their inability to give answers has bred considerable suspicion.

Brian Youd's and his brother Michael are at the lawn bowls night in Currie, the main town on King Island.

Michael Youd: What concerns me is we've got a beautiful place here and it'll change it and you won't be able to reverse it back. A small percentage of people can get affected from health issues with them, you've got livestock, and once wind towers are up it restricts developments in the future.

Brian Youd: I think there's a fair bit of skulduggery going on, I think that this is bigger than what's been proposed.

Donald Graham: We felt that we needed to get our heads together because quite a significant proportion of the population clearly did not want this, and they thought that they were being manoeuvred subtly by TasWind.

Sarah Dingle: That's Donald Graham, one of the most prominent opponents of the wind farm project. He's vice chair of the No TasWind Farm Group. Donald Graham says there's no need to vote on whether to go to a two-year feasibility stage. Instead, islanders should vote point blank on whether they want the TasWind development or not.

Donald Graham: During that two years we'll end up with situation where nobody will want to buy land here, nobody will be able to sell land here.

Sarah Dingle: Because TasWind is conducting an $18 million feasibility study into a wind farm?

Donald Graham: Yes, yes, because who would buy a farm next to somebody that's going to host these turbines?

Sarah Dingle: One person who is keen to be a host is Rod McGarvie.

Rod McGarvie: I think they're quite elegant and I guess I like seeing the result of human endeavour.

Sarah Dingle: Rod McGarvie and his wife Val are retired dairy farmers. There are already five smaller wind turbines on King Island built as part of a hybrid power station. The McGarvies live less than three kilometres away, and often see them on their daily walk.

Val McGarvie: I can just go outside here and see them, I do like the look of them. I think I can imagine a whole 200 of them together as a farm, and to me it's going to be a wind farm; as we run cattle on a farm, we're going to run wind towers.

Sarah Dingle: The wind farm proposal has polarised the King Island community. For the Youd brothers, it's really hit home; their father Peter thinks it may be a good idea, but he acknowledges it's split his family and community.

Peter Youd: I've never seen the island, in my 46 years I've lived here, being divided like it is at the moment. I know of one occasion where a friendship of 55 years was busted. It has divided the family, I'd rather just leave it at that.

Brian Youd: Yes, my father's taken the view these are going to save King Island, and that's fair enough, that's his choice. I don't know of any of his grandkids or his own kids that want these things. He's not going to be the one around, and there's hidden things there we don't know about, where there are health issues, I don't know.

Sarah Dingle: Brian Youd's not the only one unclear on whether wind farms have any health impact. The federal government also says the jury's out.

In 2011, a Senate inquiry into the social and economic impacts of rural wind farms heard evidence from individual residents who said they were suffering symptoms caused by nearby wind turbines. The inquiry also heard from medical experts. It found that some people living close to wind farms do experience adverse health effects, but these are not necessarily caused by turbine noise, they might also be caused by 'stress', or 'perceptions of harm'. The Senate Committee said there was 'insufficient rigorous research' to know the answer, and thorough studies needed to be carried out.

Now the National Health and Medical Research Council is looking into it.

Warwick Anderson: I can assure you that a very thorough dredging of the literature is being done.

Sarah Dingle: In 2010, the NHMRC issued a rapid review of the evidence, saying 'there are no direct pathological effects from wind farms'. This is now under review, says the head of the NHMRC, Professor Warwick Anderson.

Warwick Anderson: We are just completing a careful systematic review of all the literature, both the peer reviewed and looking at the grey literature

Sarah Dingle: And what is grey literature?

Warwick Anderson: Grey literature is non peer reviewed literature. It varies a lot, from semi formal but not peer reviewed articles to opinion pieces. And although that is of course very low-level evidence in terms of a systematic evidence-based review, we felt it important on this particular issue because it's a new issue to make sure we hadn't missed anything of value in all that.

Sarah Dingle: This is another political and policy issue rooted in an argument about science.

The Waubra Foundation claims health problems associated with wind farms are caused by low frequency sound waves from the turbines. This includes infrasound. Infrasound is sound below 20 Hertz, which according to audiologists is too low to be heard by the human ear. Sarah Laurie disputes this and says some particularly sensitive individuals can hear infrasound. She blames low frequency noise and infrasound for so-called Wind Turbine Syndrome.

Sarah Laurie: We know that in the population roughly 10% of people will be quite severely motion sick. And those people seem to be the ones that develop the symptoms earlier.

Sarah Dingle: Dr Laurie says there are a number of serious medical conditions which directly correspond with the operation of wind turbines. These include heart attacks, irreversible memory dysfunction, severe depression with suicidal thoughts, and chronic severe sleep deprivation.

Sarah Laurie: There are a number of wind developments, particularly with the larger turbines, where people are reporting having these very vivid and quite violent dreams. Never happened before, doesn't happen when the turbines aren't turning, and it seems to correlate with particular wind directions. So when they're downwind, particularly.

Sarah Dingle: At a recent public meeting, Sarah Laurie even drew a connection between wind turbines and autistic behaviour.

Sarah Laurie: People with autism are known to be particularly noise sensitive. There's certainly children with autism and families with more than one child with autism who have a really difficult time when the turbines start operating.

Simon Chapman: I've worked in schools of medicine now for the better part of 30 years and I don't think I've ever come across anything which has remotely the same number of problems associated with it.

Sarah Dingle: Professor of Public Health Simon Chapman is best known for his decades of work on tobacco control, culminating in Australia's plain packaging laws. Now he's looking into Wind Turbine Syndrome, and he says the evidence is clear.

Simon Chapman: There have been actually 17 reports that I've found—reviews I should say, not reports—which have looked at all the evidence to date when they were published, and none of those 17 reviews have said that wind turbines, and specifically infrasound, are harmful to health.

Sarah Dingle: But Sarah Laurie says there's another literature review which contradicts those findings. It was done by two doctors from Ontario, Canada.

Sarah Laurie: Those two public health physicians—so they're doctors—looked at the literature and they looked to see whether or not there was actually an impact or not from the wind developments. And they found that every single peer-reviewed published study showed indeed that there was an impact of human distress from the effect of the turbines.

Sarah Dingle: So, the UK Health Protection Agency report on the health effects of infrasound, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection report, the Chief Medical Officer of Health in Ontario report, as well as the UK Health Protection Agency Environmental Health and Noise in the UK, all these reports and literature reviews say that there is no link. Do you dispute every single one of those findings?

Sarah Laurie: I dispute the finding that there is no link.

Sarah Dingle: You can read both literature reviews mentioned by Simon Chapman and Sarah Laurie at the Background Briefing website.

Sarah Laurie and the Waubra Foundation also cite the work of acousticians, engineers who specialise in the study of sound.

Sarah Laurie: There has been some work that's been done by Dr Bob Thorne, and he's collected data from wind developments in Victoria. He used standardised questionnaires that are used in other areas of research, particularly the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, which is a measure of sleep disturbance. We know that sleep deprivation is going to result in long-term serious health problems. That's peer reviewed, published science. And what we actually need to do is investigate inside the homes of the places where these people are reporting problems.

Sarah Dingle: A leading audiologist says the link between wind turbine noise and adverse health impacts is tenuous. Professor Richard Dowell is the chair of audiology and speech science at the University of Melbourne.

Richard Dowell: There doesn't appear to be very good evidence that it's harmful to human health.

Sarah Dingle: Professor Dowell says scientists try not to make black and white statements, and it's theoretically possible that extremely intense low frequency sound could affect balance.

Richard Dowell: At very high levels, it's certainly possible that low frequencies could be detected in the fluids of the inner ear, and because the inner ear not only has the hearing mechanism, it also has part of our balance mechanism, and so I think it could make you perhaps dizzy or feeling a little strange or something like that. Now, I have never seen any clear evidence of that occurring either.

But the thing that is of interest to me is that if you measure the levels of infrasound in most cities from traffic and other sources, they're actually much higher levels than you get from a wind turbine, say, at any reasonable distance. So I think one of the studies was looking at 300 metres and then further out at maybe 1 kilometre from the wind turbine, but it was very hard sometimes to find out the contribution of the wind turbine to the low frequency noise and separate that from the contribution of just normal wind noise.

Sarah Dingle: Professor Dowell has spent the last year using a research grant to review the evidence for Wind Turbine Syndrome.

Richard Dowell: That literature review I suppose, looking at a lot of different studies from around the world, concluded there was no evidence of a link between the sounds generated by the turbines and any health symptoms. On the other hand there is evidence that you get much higher rates of reporting of such symptoms where there is a high level of annoyance or people are upset about the wind turbines being placed where they are.

Sarah Dingle: And wind turbines certainly do annoy some people. But Professor Simon Chapman says being annoyed is not the same as being sick.

Simon Chapman: Annoyance can manifest in health problems, you can experience all the symptoms that go along with being annoyed and agitated, but that is mainly due to one's belief about wind turbines, rather than to some property of the sound actually affecting you.

Sarah Laurie: If we're talking about sleep deprivation, and if there is a connection between specific acoustic frequencies and the sleep disturbance, as has been suggested and is certainly suggested by some of the preliminary results from data at Waterloo, then I think…

Sarah Dingle: Data by whom?

Sarah Laurie: Data by Professor Con Doolan. So that's one, and that was according to the resident who took part in that study.

Sarah Dingle: The single resident?

Sarah Laurie: The single resident, that's correct. Well, there's not a lot of data that's been collected, so we go on what we've got, Sarah. That's why we need a whole lot more of it.

Sarah Dingle: The Gillard government hasn't committed to doing that extra research. The federal opposition says if it wins power, the coalition will commission an independent panel of scientific and medical experts to investigate whether wind farms do harm health.

Energy spokesman Ian Macfarlane says the research has to focus solely on Australian wind farms.

Ian Macfarlane: Well, I think we need to satisfy the concerns of the community, and the concerns of the community are not satisfied by international studies. What we need to do is do a report here in Australia, in situ, in the communities that claim to be affected and then come to a scientific and medically based position after that.

Sarah Dingle: Do you think it's possible wind farms have an adverse impact on human health?

Ian Macfarlane: Well, quite frankly I don't know.

Sarah Dingle: The Waubra Foundation's CEO Sarah Laurie has been calling for a full-scale scientific investigation for years.

When you talk about the research that you want to do, how many of the wind farms in Australia would you like to target? How many people, how many areas are we talking about?

Sarah Laurie: Well, I think the wind developments where there have been problems reported. And that's most of them. I guess when I say 'most of them'…

Sarah Dingle: You don't think for control reasons you should go to perhaps a randomly selected number of developments, or developments where there have been no problems reported?

Sarah Laurie: I think absolutely you need that comparison, yes. But if you're talking about investigating the problems, you need to go to where the problems are.

Sarah Dingle: If federal and state governments agree to fund the research you're calling for around the country, and it clears wind farms of any adverse impact on human health, would you accept that?

Sarah Laurie: Sarah, the adverse impacts have been shown by a number of studies, both overseas and in Australia.

Sarah Dingle: With 51 wind farms in Australia, Professor Simon Chapman says the location of complaints is telling.

Simon Chapman: What I found in the study is that 72% of the complaints come from just six farms out of the 51 round Australia, and nearly 80% of those complaints have started after 2009.

Sarah Dingle: So what happened in 2009?

Simon Chapman: Well, 2009 was when some of the anti-wind turbine groups, who'd previously been mostly basing their opposition around aesthetics, and saying, 'Look, we simply don't like the look of these things. We don't believe that they belong in our bucolic, beautiful, untouched countryside. Let's get rid of them,' started saying, 'Well, let's start talking about health problems.'

Sarah Dingle: Sarah Laurie says she doesn't approach communities with concerns about wind farms, communities approach her and she'll talk to anyone seeking information.

A few weeks ago, Dr Laurie went to King Island to speak at a meeting of the No TasWind Farm Group.

Donald Graham: We've got Dr Sarah Laurie here, and I think she's got an interesting story to tell. [applause]

Sarah Dingle: Sarah Laurie had a clear message for the King Island community.

Sarah Laurie: There are two patterns of symptoms that are characteristic for exposure to the very low frequency sound energy. People don't describe this at other times. One of them is this waking up in a panicked state at night, and the other one is a very unusual and bizarre perception of body vibration. Sometimes it can be as subtle as just your upper lip.

Chris Porter: Her presentation was very reasonable. Everything that she talked about was substantiated with evidence.

Sarah Dingle: Chris Porter is a beef farmer and a member of the No TasWind Farm Group. He says it's obvious what the community's decision should be.

Chris Porter: If there is the remotest possibility that the health of King Islanders are going to be affected, that property values are going to be affected, that the community is going to be totally disrupted, I would think that you don't do it.

Sarah Laurie: The other study I think is of concern is one study of chronic exposure in rats for I think it was three hours a day of infrasound for 60 days. Certainly there was focal organ damage being reported. And there's some clinical histories that are suggestive that that is certainly happening in some people.

Andrea Bowden: Every time you would think this was a fact, it wasn't actually presented as a fact. But to the layperson who didn't know how to distinguish or maybe weren't watching as closely, they would've thought, oh yeah, this is a fact, and she's a doctor, and blah blah blah. Whereas I was like *cough*, yeah.

Sarah Dingle: Andrea Bowden is a business owner and youth worker who's spent 13 years living on King Island. She's also part of the TasWind Consultative Committee, the TWCC. This is made up of islanders for and against the proposal, set up to gather information for the rest of the community. Because of the divisions around the wind proposal, committee members can only speak in a personal capacity.

Andrea Bowden: I'm exhausted. I think we all are. I get stopped at the post office, the bank, the newsagency, and then before I get back to the car.

Sarah Dingle: What do people say to you when they stop you?

Andrea Bowden: Oh, well, 'I was for it until my kid told me that they were on the Great Ocean Road and they 18 kilometres from the nearest wind tower and they could hear them', blah blah blah. And I'm like, 'Really? They could hear them over the road? And the people?' 'Well, it was early.' 'Did they turn their car off?' And they're like, 'Oh well I believe my kid would've told me right.'

Sarah Dingle: Andrea Bowden doesn't think wind farms have an adverse impact on human health, and she's very sceptical of the evidence presented by Sarah Laurie.

Andrea Bowden: All the research that I've done shows no. I've read a lot of articles. If I found even one credible new source that says 'here it is, they're terrible, they give us cancer, they give us all athlete's foot' I would be up in arms. But I haven't found that. I don't think that we can anticipate the effects of anxiety on people who've never had anxious problems before, but what do you do? You're trying to fight an unknown foe in the fog. Is there really a foe, is it in your mind? You never know.

Sarah Dingle: Andrea Bowden says that's exactly the confusion Sarah Laurie creates.

Andrea Bowden: She comes out with her big smoke machine, in my opinion, and blows a big smoke and then tells you there's a thumping big nasty guy in there and she doesn't tell you whether he's a samurai or a kitchen chef, and whether or not he's going to cut you to shreds or beat you down or just make you some noodles.

Sarah Dingle: The King Island community is declining in population. There are now only about 1,500 residents, and in a small community divisions are amplified.

Here's the island's mayor, Greg Barratt.

Greg Barratt: I've been threatened with legal action if the council down the track approves the wind farm. It's been suggested individual councillors could be sued if there are health issues emanating from this wind farm.

Sarah Dingle: Who's making those threats?

Greg Barratt: I suppose the people who are anti the development.

Sarah Dingle: A week before Dr Sarah Laurie's visit, retiree David Kerr, who was also on the  TWCC, paid for an insert in the local paper questioning the reliability of claims by Dr Laurie and the Waubra Foundation. In response, the No TasWind Farm Group threatened legal action, which has shaken David Kerr.

David Kerr: They just say they're looking at the position and it's in the hands of their solicitors.

Sarah Dingle: Does that add a bit of extra stress to your job as you go about being a member of the TWCC?

David Kerr: Oh well, I'm human like everybody, yes. There has been the odd…[cries].

Sarah Dingle: Wind farm opponent Donald Graham says the article placed by the Kerrs was unnecessarily provocative in a small community.

Donald Graham: They should've thought before they did what they did. It's quoting rubbish, turning fact to fiction about all sorts of things.

Sarah Dingle: The No TasWind Farm Group has engaged a prominent Sydney-based public relations expert Ben Haslem to argue their case. Mr Haslem has experience in arguing the case for some controversial organisations, like James Hardie, the Church of Scientology, and the Exclusive Brethren.

There was also a threat to Dr Laurie, made ahead of her visit to King Island, according to Donald Graham.

Donald Graham: I didn't take it seriously, she didn't take it seriously, but I went to the police, explained the situation and I left it in their hands.

Sarah Dingle: The police officer in charge on King Island, Steve Shaw, told Background Briefing he received an email apparently from an anti wind farm campaigner in Spain, who said Dr Laurie could be harassed or worse during her time on the island. To follow up the complaint, the police visited the Kerrs.

David Kerr: We did receive a visit from the local police and they asked us if we were a threat to her safety whilst on King Island or whether we knew of any other island residents that could be a threat to her safety.

Sarah Dingle: David Kerr said they said they weren't, and they didn't know of anyone else who would be a threat to her safety either.

Sarah Laurie: Look, I've had a number of threats and quite a lot of hate mail, email. I am increasingly concerned about the level of vitriol and vilification in public discourse about this issue.

Sarah Dingle: Sarah Laurie also says her phone is being tapped.

Sarah Laurie: I've had it confirmed by police on a number of occasions when I've complained.

Sarah Dingle: Background Briefing has statements from the South Australian police and the AFP, saying they don't have any record of Dr Laurie's complaint, and the South Australian police say they have no evidence of her phone being tapped.

Sarah Laurie is the subject of a lengthy complaint made to the National Health and Medical Research Council. Background Briefing has seen a copy of that complaint. It says she appears to be conducting research involving human subjects, which Dr Laurie denies.

In 2011 Victorian residents Andrew and Maggie Reid provided public submissions to a senate inquiry. Andrew Reid said he had been monitoring his blood pressure twice daily under the supervision of Dr Laurie. Maggie Reid said that as a subject of Dr Laurie's research, her blood pressure was in the high to extremely high area, and she had begun taking blood pressure medication Micardis. Dr Laurie says the Reids shared a small part of their personal health journals with her at one point in time.

The National Health and Medical Research Council has a National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research. It defines human research as: 'The involvement of human beings through: taking part in surveys; undergoing psychological, physiological or medical testing or treatment; being observed by researchers; researchers having access to their personal documents.'

Sarah Laurie says she does tell residents who believe they have been affected by wind turbines to keep health diaries.

Sarah Laurie: I have suggested to them that that is one of the things that they can do. In the past sometimes they've chosen to share that with me, but mostly it's been done…well, it has been done for their benefit and it's also been done for the benefit of their treating doctors.

Sarah Dingle: Do you also ask them to check their blood pressure?

Sarah Laurie: I have suggested that that is one thing that they would certainly be advised to do if they've had problems with blood pressure in the past, in consultation with their own GPs. And that's a matter for them, between them and their treating doctor.

Sarah Dingle: And what about surveys? Do you get them to fill out surveys or questionnaires?

Sarah Laurie: No.

Sarah Dingle: So, do you think this constitutes research involving humans, if you're getting them to keep diaries and check their blood pressure?

Sarah Laurie: Sarah, they're doing it for their own benefit.

Sarah Dingle: At your suggestion and they're sharing the results with you.

Sarah Laurie: For their self-care and for sharing with their own doctors.

Sarah Dingle: Research involving humans is getting people to undertake psychological, physiological, or medical testing, and certainly if you're part of a research institute it's advisable to get ethics approval before doing that. Do you have ethics approval for the fieldwork you're doing?

Sarah Laurie: Sarah, it was made very clear to you that this, as you know, is the subject of a complaint that has been lodged with the National Health and Medical Research Council. It is inappropriate of me to comment on this matter.

Warwick Anderson: We will wait until we have her response, then we'll make a decision about how to proceed or if to proceed once we have that information.

Sarah Dingle: The head of the NHMRC Professor Warwick Anderson says outside of universities there's no legal requirement to have an ethics committee oversee research involving humans.

The complaint about Dr Laurie alleges that she is having direct clinical contact with individuals. (NHMRC statement on complaint about Sarah Laurie) Dr Laurie's medical registration lapsed in 2006.

Sarah Laurie: My current status as a registered or unregistered medical practitioner has absolutely nothing to do with this. I've made my registration status very clear. I'm a concerned citizen with medical training investigating a serious public health problem as the CEO of an advocacy organisation that has been consistently calling for research. We are asking why the research is not being done.

Sarah Dingle: The Waubra Foundation has commissioned some research. One of the subjects is David Mortimer, a resident of the Lake Bonney district in South Australia. In 2004, he agreed to host two wind turbines on his farm, less than a kilometre from his house, for which he was paid by the wind farm developer. At first it wasn't just the noise from the wind turbines that bothered him.

David Mortimer: The noises that we got from the turbines when we were living on the farm, combined with the noises from centre pivot irrigation units that had been recently installed, we considered a little bit too much for us.

Sarah Dingle: David Mortimer and his wife moved to another house in late 2006, where they are now two and a half kilometres from four turbines.

David Mortimer: And it was from that time that I particularly started virtually immediately getting physiological problems that I hadn't had before. The first thing I got was tinnitus, that's the loud screaming you get in your ears. An apparent heart arrhythmia…I call it 'apparent' because it turns out that it wasn't. After I consulted our doctor and we had an ECG and stethoscope check and all those things, that there was absolutely nothing wrong with my heart, my heart was beating along perfectly normally.

But, to carry on with the problems, I then got fits of depression or acute weariness. All I wanted to do was go to sleep and not wake up. I get nocturnal panic attacks, where I wake up in the middle of the night trying to get away from things that I have no idea what's chasing me.

Sarah Dingle: David Mortimer is one of a number of people who donate money to the Waubra Foundation. Last December, the Waubra Foundation paid for an acoustician to conduct three weeks of testing at the Mortimers' current residence, which is two and a half kilometres from the nearest turbine. David Mortimer says he kept a diary of his symptoms day to day and checked his blood pressure.

David Mortimer: I had to fill out forms for the period that the equipment was actually installed here, noting time of day and wind conditions, weather conditions, pulse rate, physical symptoms, whatever.

Sarah Dingle: And with the information that you check from all that monitoring, do you send that off with the acoustic as well?

David Mortimer: Yes, they were sent off and married up to that three-week period.

Sarah Dingle: Background Briefing spoke to the acoustician, Les Huson, who said he was conducting tests at six homes in Victoria and South Australia for the Waubra Foundation. Mr Huson also said he was asking residents to fill out questionnaires, which included a section for health complaints, and asked respondents to describe the severity of symptoms. Mr Huson denied that he had any blood pressure data.

Sarah Laurie says the Waubra Foundation is employing two acousticians, Les Huson and Steven Cooper, who conduct tests intermittently when the Foundation has the funds to pay them.

And at which wind farm developments?

Sarah Dingle: I'm not going to be disclosing that to you, because they do the monitoring at various times. The residents notice that the turbines are not as noisy when the monitoring is going on if it becomes public knowledge in the community that the monitoring is being conducted. And obviously…

Sarah Dingle: You think wind farm operators are actually reducing the amount of power they generate because your acousticians are going to visit?

Sarah Laurie: Yes, we do.

Sarah Dingle: And what evidence do you have of that beyond residents' anecdotal..?

Sarah Laurie: Oh, we've got some film footage that suggests that that's what is going on.

Sarah Dingle: And how does the film footage suggest that is the case?

Sarah Laurie: Well, you can see that the turbines are turning at different speeds. The wind is blowing at the same strength and you have turbines in the same area that are turning at different speeds, markedly different speeds.

Sarah Dingle: A senior engineer at Hydro Tasmania says individual wind turbines catch different wind speeds, even in a local area, and each turbine automatically adjusts to the wind, which is why they can turn at different rates.

The expectations of people who live near wind turbines may be a significant factor in the reporting of symptoms.

Fiona Crichton: I don't know Dr Laurie, but my reading of her work concerns me.

Sarah Dingle: Fiona Crichton is a PhD candidate in psychological medicine at the University of Auckland. In a paper published by the American Psychological Association, she and her co-authors decided to test whether expectations affected the number and severity of symptoms reported from infrasound, which is the low-level sound emitted by a number of sources including wind turbines.

Fiona Crichton: It lends itself quite nicely to what we call a sham paradigm. Because infrasound is below the threshold of human hearing and you actually can't detect it, you can tell people they're being exposed to infrasound and they're not.

Sarah Dingle: In fact, Fiona Crichton carried out a double blind study. She showed one group of 27 people a video of scientists explaining infrasound, saying there was no reason to assume it would affect health. This was the low expectancy group. She showed a second group video of media reports warning them of the health impacts of wind farms. This was the high expectancy group. Then she subjected both groups to ten minutes of real infrasound, and ten minutes of sham infrasound.

Fiona Crichton: In the high expectancy group they experienced an elevation of symptoms both during sham and during infrasound. The low expectancy group didn't experience any symptomatic change at all. There was no physiological impact of the infrasound, but it was all about expectancy.

There's a sort of assumption, I think, that reporting of symptoms means that people are being exposed to some sort of organic hazard. Which could be the case, but you have to be very careful that it's not being caused just by the whole idea of being sick. It's very tricky, and I think it comes down to responsible reporting, and responsible transmission of information.

Sarah Dingle: What do you think of Dr Sarah Laurie's work, do you think it's likely that she makes already anxious people sick?

Fiona Crichton: I think she's well meaning, but I think that she isn't aware of the fact that she's creating a health scare that could in itself create symptoms.

Sarah Dingle: By spreading concerns about wind farms, do you think you're in a sense contaminating the evidence before the research that you're calling for? You're telling people already that it's going to make them sick?

Sarah Laurie: No, I'm not, Sarah. With the greatest of respect, I'm not telling them that it's going to make them sick, and in fact I'm very careful when I go to these meetings to say to people that not everybody experiences symptoms. Some people are fine.

Sarah Dingle: There can be what's known as a 'psychological overlay' to symptoms. Audiologist, Professor Richard Dowell says conditions like tinnitus and balance problems are common in older people, and psychological factors can considerably worsen the effects for some people.

Richard Dowell: They then focus on that symptom very powerfully to the effect that they really can't even live their lives. In some ways I see a few similarities in some of the reports about these symptoms related to being close to wind farms.

Sarah Dingle: That people feel anxious and ill is not disputed. But there's been no evidence to date that wind turbines directly cause illness. The fear of health effects may be harming those individuals. And the same fears could hamper national efforts to reduce carbon emissions and achieve the renewable energy target of 20% by 2020.

Shadow energy spokesman, Ian Macfarlane says those efforts rely on wind power.

Ian Macfarlane: Of all the other technologies very few have the capability to install around 1,000MW per annum which is what's going to be required if we are to reach the 20% target. In fact the biggest challenge facing us getting to that target is to see enough wind farms built.

Sarah Dingle: Later this year the National Health and Medical Research Council will conclude its review of evidence on wind farms and whether they are harmful to human health.

And next month, King Islanders will vote on whether to proceed to the next stage of the wind farm, which on its own could generate more than a quarter of the national renewable energy target.

For more information, go to the Background Briefing website.

The co-ordinating producer is Linda McGinness, research by Anna Whitfeld and Jess Hill, technical production by Mark Don, and Chris Bullock is executive producer. I'm Sarah Dingle.


Sarah Dingle
Anna Whitfeld / Jess Hill
Supervising Producer
Linda McGinness
Sound Engineer
Mark Don
Executive Producer
Chris Bullock

Comments (152)

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  • Anonymous Academic 2 :

    22 May 2013 8:59:24pm

    Interesting loaded brief background to the coming program Sarah.

    Research into adverse effects of industrial wind turbine was urgently recommended by the senate approx 2 years ago. To date no direct research of adversely affected individuals in their homes with the full cooperation of the wind turbine operators has been conducted anywhere in the world. I wonder why? Are you wondering?

    Yet homes have been bought out at Toora and Waubra by the wind industry, with gag clauses, and some homes bulldozed. Dig a little deeper and you might find a real story to investigate, with a trillion dollar industry screwing country neigbours, and hosts in the name of huge profits.

    The RET is not in doubt because of genuine people airing valid real world adverse health experiences of turbines to close to their homes. It is in doubt because of cheap gas and the low energy density and unsustainable economics of current wind turbines.

    I will listen with interest and hope to be surprised.

      • david mortimer :

        23 May 2013 8:29:40am

        My wife and I are turbine hosts who have been suffering physiological affects of turbine generated low frequency and infra sound now for 8 years. We have had enough!

        It is claimed that there is evidence that this accoustic energy has no effect on humans. We, along with thousands of others like us around the world would like to see that evidence. On the contrary, there is evidence from e.g Professor Alec Salt PhD (an otolaryngologist) that this accoustic energy does affect people.

        Why is our government body on public health (NHMRC) hell bent on supporting the wind industry instead of the public health? They have done no scientific research, instead, parroting their personal opinion in the hope that if repeated often enough, people will accept it as fact.

        I'm disgusted. To all you doubters, come and try and live in our home - you would quickly change your mind!!!

      • Rationalist :

        24 May 2013 10:08:31am

        There has been a lot of proper scientific research on the effects of wind farms, none of them support the hysteria about adverse affects.

        The problem is that you do not accept the scientific facts, so you try to frame scientific studies as not good enough or as if there has been some conspiracy not to carry out proper scientific studies.

      • Rationalist :

        24 May 2013 12:03:01pm

        To "Anonymous Academic 2":

        Do not deliberately try to confuse passion for science with the scientific method.

        Science is about facts, not emotion. Scientists have to prove what they state and back it up with facts. Research about wind turbines are available in independant peer-reviewed scientific papers. If anyone thinks the science is flawed, they are welcome to prove it wrong.

        Scientific papers are proven wrong with facts, not political or emotional accusations and innuendo.

      • Anonymous Academic 2 :

        24 May 2013 10:28:47pm

        Rationalist, some 'proper scientific studies' and reading, if you are genuinely interested in science.

        Salt AN, Hullar TE. Responses of the Ear to Low Frequency Sounds, Infrasound
        and Wind Turbines. Hearing Research 2010; 268: 12-21

        Salt AN, LichtenhanJT. Responses of the Inner Ear to Infrasound. Proceedings of
        the Fourth International Meeting on Wind Turbine Noise, Rome Italy April 2011

        Salt AN, Kaltenbach JA. Infrasound from Wind Turbines Could Affect Humans.
        Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society 31, 296-302, 2011

      • Alex :

        25 May 2013 6:23:19pm

        This is gibberish.

        Its fashionable to blame everything on some sort of conspiracy these days.

        "suffering physiological affects" - amusing comment. You acknowledge that it is psychological then quote a pseudo scientist.

        Funny how 'thousands' of people really only amount to a few conspiracy nutters in Australia. Not the millions of people who have been living next to them for decades in Europe with no effect.

        You need a therapist and we need clean power.

      • AlVincent :

        25 May 2013 8:23:34pm

        Have the knockers of those with health concerns related to wind turbines been to Waubra and seen how ludicrously close to houses these red-eyed monsters were built? There is a laughable "viewing platform" in the middle of town, which is completely unnecessary given the turbines are in the midst of this tiny town. I am all for environmentally friendly energy sources, but not at the expense of people's health, just because it is cheaper to build close to reseidences in order to more easily meet government targets.Solar power is far less obtrusive on people's lives, but governments and energy companies are too lazy to pursue Australia's greatest natural power resource.

      • alex :

        25 May 2013 8:52:28pm

        Quoting an ENT (otolaryngologist) is not relevant. An ear specialist is not an acoustic specialist, nor are they qualified in psychiatric effects, which is ultimately what the claims about the acoustic effects come down to. There's no physiological effects (actual physical damage to the body), infection or otherwise, so basically it's all in the head.

        So based on that, I could argue that insect noises at night drive me nuts once I start to fixate on them, so we should work on eradicating all insects from the face of the earth because they too have harmful effects. Also add that crow that seems to like making one hell of a noise at my bedroom window in the morning when I'm trying to sleep in.

        I have no doubt that wind farms do affect some people, because they feel the effects. Unfortunately a handful of anecdotal evidence does not constitute hard data that represents humanity as a whole. If you live near a wind farm and it keeps you awake or drives you nuts, all that proves is that a wind farm keeps YOU awake and drives you nuts.

        Strobing lights can induce fits in some people too. Doesn't mean that flashing lights should be banned.

      • Polymath :

        25 May 2013 9:41:04pm

        From the first article above:

        "In the absence of data to the contrary, it is therefore reasonable to assume that if low frequency responses are present in the guinea pig at a specific level, then they will be present in the human at a similar or lower stimulus level"

        Quoting a review of research on guinea pigs doesn't seem that convincing.

        But, more than anything, Dr. Salt's papers are not science. Science is the process of observing a phenomenon, forming a hypothesis, designing an experiment to test that hypothesis, and analysing the experimental results to determine whether the experiment supports the hypothesis or otherwise. Dr. Salt merely reviews other people's work and suggests that more research should be done. Really anonymous academic, you should know better than to post a literature-review-plus-conjecture as your evidence. Relying on people to not read your references is the fast track to a credibility problem.

        The most surprising thing about Dr. Salt's first article was a claim that wind turbines were "loud" in the infrasound spectrum. Up to 95 dB loud at 4.8 Hz. This is loud. Standing on top of a lawn mower loud. Hearing damage after 8 hours loud.

        It is also puzzling, because none of the infrastructure "operates" at that frequency (most of the electrical kit operates at 50 Hz. The AC/DC converters are likely to be operating in the low kHz, and the blade "whoosh" as it goes past the tower is less than or around about 1 Hz). I was interested in the original research, and found my way via the links at the end of the paper to van den Berg's "The sound of high winds". Unfortunately he reads a bit like a conspiracy theorist. People deliberately measuring the wrong thing, studied ignorance among wind farm developers, that kind of thing.

        We should note at this stage that wind farms are still a more expensive form of electrical generation compared to gas or coal - even with the carbon price (at its current low levels). Building a wind farm is not the license to print money that one might expect from people who have an interest in shushing things up. In many cases from a business perspective building a wind farm is a hedge (against rising fuel and carbon costs - wind farms are impervious to those variables which keep fossil fuel generators awake at night).

        Mr.? Dr.? van den Berg ties the infrasound to matters of atmospheric stability - and he was specifically looking into still night-time air. Chapter 5 of that work is the really interesting stuff. It's actual science. He also asked some people living near turbines what they thought the sound was like. Descriptions vary. People were not necessarily annoyed by the sound; shadow flicker and the "constant rotation" were also cited as annoyances. Which are anecdotes, not "hard" science, but hard science tends to collapse when meat bags are introduced to

      • jm 10 :

        27 May 2013 8:42:42am

        Some of the purported health effects are clearly far-fetched, but let's focus on those that are not i.e. the psychological effects.

        There seems to be a misconception amongst the commentators that psychological effects do not count as real or worthwhile health effects, and that they have an easy, trivial remedy. One comment epitomised this way of thinking: "get a therapist."

        Think long and hard about this before replying to me. Think about it long and hard.

      • Gregory B :

        28 May 2013 2:14:12pm

        The intro to the story describes the symptoms. I get all of them and I live in the suburbs and the nearest wind-farm must be more than 20 km away. I never had these symptoms until recently so I blame the wind-farms.

  • Ketan Joshi :

    23 May 2013 10:32:35am

    The Victorian Department of health released a report into the issue of wind farms and health. I recommend you read their report here:

    There is no doubt this thread will soon become rife with self-reported claims of health effects.

    I implore readers to look carefully past the emotional commentary and ask whether there is any scientifically valid evidence that the symptoms reported, most of which occur frequently in the population, are causally linked to the operation of wind farms.

      • Anonymous Academic 2 :

        23 May 2013 11:15:35am

        I would implore Ketan's employer Infigen to be the first wind turbine operator in the world to participate fully, openly and transparently with independant acoustic and medical research into adversely impacted residents. ie on off testing and the public availabilty of wind data at hub height. Simon Chapman endorsed such transparency at the recent senate inquiry, invoking 'democracy'in the same breath. Silence since. Perhaps such data threatens the psychogenic theory?

        The Vic Health dept have sat on their hands with Waubra impacts since it inception. There independance from industry in prioritising public health is under a shadow.

        Scientific validity referred to by Keton includes external validity which is lacking in industry supported and sponsored research.

        I suspect BB will need to do another program if they are serious about investigative journalism. Wait and see.

        btw Keton, emotion and science are not mutually exclusive. Emotion does not intrinsically contradict truth. Some of the best and important science is driven by scientific passion.

  • Barry Sheff. :

    23 May 2013 12:08:17pm

    one sentence says it all......"I am worried sick about these wind turbines that someone told me will make me sick"

      • Anonymous Academic 2 :

        23 May 2013 1:16:12pm

        Lets do the science that the industry is strenuously avoiding Barry. ie of affected individuals in their homes (if they are still able to live/sleep there), with full and transparent industry support, and as recommended by Australia's senate. The silence of industry internationally on this point is deafening.

        Then if the turbines are indeed economically valid and sustainable, they can at least be sited appropriately with human health a priority rather than being 'collateral damage' and 'road kill', descriptors attributed to wind industry supporters of people adversely affected.

        So no, one sentence is not enough Barry.

      • Blair Donaldson :

        24 May 2013 3:58:58pm

        David Mortimer and an anonymous academic provide no credible evidence, just anecdotes.

      • keeping the bastards honest :

        24 May 2013 8:12:51pm

        Blair, perhaps the significance of a turbine host making public statements on personal adverse experiences escapes you?

        The pressure on hosts not to comment publicly is well known and enormous, with potential for legal and financial penalties. The revelations are groundbreaking.

        David Mortimer and his wife's courage to go public, is a very powerful indicator that 'something is rotten in Denmark' and deserves the praise and admiration of all people seeking the truth about adverse acoustic effects from turbines.

  • Barry Sheff. :

    23 May 2013 1:38:33pm

    there are recent studies showing that people are only getting sick where there are people like yourself, Anonymous ??, are peddling this claptrap that wind turbines will make them sick......the nocebo effect

      • david mortimer :

        23 May 2013 3:37:47pm

        Barry, I don't know where you live but I'm sure it not in the midst of industrial wind turbines as we do.

        For nearly 20 years I lived on and worked my farm with none of the wind turbine syndrome symptoms I now get. In the late 90's I was a wind farm tragic and bent over backwards to get our neighbours to sign up. I even fell out with my brother over the issue - his farm adjoined mine and he didn't want the turbines.

        The wind turbines went up in 2004.

        For the last 8 years I have had the wind turbine syndrome symptoms without knowing the cause - it worried me as my doctor could find nothing wrong. It was shear chance that 12 months ago I heard another person duscussing their problems since living next to a recently built wind farm. That led me to do my own research including having a full 3 week sonic evaluation of the inside of my home - cost around $6,000.

        The test showed very high levels of infra sound consistent with the number of turbines near our home. Also showed middle levels of low frequency sound at 50Hz and near harmonics particularly at +-100 Hz.

        All sounds still present when power to our property switched off. There is NOTHING else in our neighbour hood that can produce sounds at these levels that runs 24/7!! The nearest light industry is 20km away.

        NONE of our symptoms occur when we are away from our district.

        The income from hosting the turbines is a very big part of our retirement funds - yes, we are now retired - we don't want to lose that income but we want our health back. What choice would you make???

        We are sick of having to leave the district for a couple of nights each week to fortnight just to have a decent night's sleep. It is rapidly depleting our funds.

        I can understand the scepticism of the ignorant, I couldn't make myself believe it at first either but you try living with it 24/7/365!!! I go to bed most nights with my heart pounding and wonder if I will still be alive in the morning. When I wake up, all I want to do is go to sleep.

        When I sleep away from home - even in a truck bay next to the Hume Highway, the silence inside my head is profound and I sleep wonderfully.

        What other conclusion can I draw????

      • Anonymous Academic 2 :

        23 May 2013 9:37:02pm

        Barry, the recent studies to which you refer (Chapman’s and Crichton’s?) have major design limitations, and are poor in terms of strength of evidence. They focus on indirect data. These include the use of proxy health indicators (eg ‘complaints’ to companies and government, as well as proxy acoustic effects of turbines ie simulated turbine noise of short duration. What informed the simulated noise signature is rather unclear. The external validity of both studies is weak.

        What is clear is that independent and transparent medical & acoustic studies of actual affected people in their homes with the full cooperation of the wind industry (ie to release real time hub height wind data and power output data of individual turbines) would resolve the questions once and for all. Ie the seeking of direct evidence of acoustic cause and effect health impacts would be extremely strong evidence, one way or the other

        It could be done in a relatively straightforward manner for much much less than the cost of a single turbine. Yet it has not been done anywhere in the world. It would be direct evidence and could be replicated in multiple locations.

        The industry is reading these posts Barry. At least Ketan is. Lets see if there will be the first turbine operators in the world to agree to participate in some groundbreaking science, and help restore faith in their product…. Because we all know that faith for many has been destroyed up till now.

  • Bernie :

    23 May 2013 3:31:53pm

    David Mortimer,
    It's only fair that you disclose that:
    1) You didn't claim to be sick until 8 years after the wind farm was built.
    2) You claimed you were sick shortly after you decided to oppose the nearby Woakwine wind farm proposal.
    3) Your local council has never received a complaint about the wind farm you claim is making you sick.
    4) You had a small wind turbine in your front yard which subjected you to more sound, but you took it down before you went public with your wind claims.
    Two questions of you:
    1) Would you be prepared to release your medical records and make your doctor available for an interview?
    2) Would you be prepared to release all of your correspondence with the wind farm developer and the planning authority in relation to the proposal you oppose?

      • david mortimer :

        23 May 2013 4:42:24pm

        You seem to know all about me but you are anonymous to me.

        1. First point already explained but again..I didn't know what was the cause - certainly didn't suspect wind turbines.

        2. We found out about the Woakwine wind farm 10 Dec 2010 - why did I wait until mid 2012 to voice my concerns? Simple, once again, we didn't realise that the turbines could be a problem. Believe me, Woakwine or no Woakwine, I would have been just as vocal if I had found that the turbines were affecting me.

        3. I thought I should take my health concerns to my local doctor not the local council - in any case we have met personally with the mayor and town planner on the matter. The meeting was minuted.

        4. Yes, we had a small turbine as we are not connected to the grid. It was 20ft tall and about 400 watts and almost never worked, then it broke. If you look carefully, that one has been replaced with a slighly bigger one (500watts) that does work. It didn't even appear as a blip in the noise floor when the acoustic testing was done.

        Medical records are confidential and contain matters that are not pertinent to wind farms. The doctor I originally consulted has long left the area - since then I have only consulted for my annual check up until a few month ago. If the doctors recorded my concerns then I am prepared to consult with them to see if there is anything relevant.

        The planning department should have the corespondence should you seek it. The same applies to the developer.

        If the developer had ever bothered to consult with us at any time re the Woakwine project, we would be far more obliging.

        End of discussion.

  • Edward :

    24 May 2013 12:24:03pm

    Dear David,
    I don't know anything about how windmill noise sounds like, as I am not living anywhere near windmills.
    I do know about infra-sound however because I play around with sub-woofers which do deliver very low frequencies. If I play a 100 Hz sine wave through my sub-woofers and leave it on for say one or two minutes, you do definitely notice a significant change when it stops. Of course it depends on the volume level as well.

    Also I am aware that infra-sound does not have to be audible to still be perceived by the human body.

    What I want to know from you is, ...... can you actually hear the ~ 100 hz noise the windmills make or is it too low in volume? Also, does wind direction alter the effects on you?



      • david mortimer :

        25 May 2013 1:55:42pm

        To Edward,

        I can hear the low frequency sounds as a deep discordant rumbling sound similar to 50Hz electric motors (I have been in electrics all my life). It can not be blocked out using ear plugs.

        The infra sound, of course, I can't hear, instead I sense sharp pressure pulsing at around 1 to 5Hz. This I can compare with my heart beat as I am measuring my pulse and believe me, they are not similar.

      • Anonymous Academic 3 :

        26 May 2013 9:56:37pm

        To David Mortimer: The problem is not the wind farm at all - it is the VLF transmitter in Western Australia that is used by the American Navy to communicate with their submarines.

  • Benny :

    24 May 2013 12:42:16pm

    Ahh the infrasound myth continues...
    There have been numerous scientific and reputable studies conducted on this subject matter; here in Australia and around the world. Please see the latest nail in the coffin of (former) Doc Laurie’s argument and her fear campaign. This study was released by the SA EPA in Jan 2013 and shows that infrasound measured near wind farms is the same or less than other rural and urban environments.

    To the lovely King Islanders, don’t be fooled by the scared haters! You have a chance for a clean, sustainable industry that will benefit your community immensely and you will help offset all that dirty brown coal spewing pollutants on us all.

    On a funny note, the ocean is a huge generator of infrasound, and one that will only get louder as the sea level rises around King Island (if these nonsense arguments continue).

    (concerned consumer of electricity and believer in rational thinking)

      • keeping the bastards honest :

        24 May 2013 10:45:35pm

        Benny,something for the rational side of your personality:

        Salt AN, Hullar TE. Responses of the Ear to Low Frequency Sounds, Infrasound
        and Wind Turbines. Hearing Research 2010; 268: 12-21

        Salt AN, LichtenhanJT. Responses of the Inner Ear to Infrasound. Proceedings of
        the Fourth International Meeting on Wind Turbine Noise, Rome Italy April 2011

        Salt AN, Kaltenbach JA. Infrasound from Wind Turbines Could Affect Humans.
        Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society 31, 296-302, 2011

      • Benny :

        25 May 2013 1:31:28pm

        Thanks "keeping the bastards honest". I have read your references and it is clear that you have not read my reference.

        Prof N Salt has attributed many symptoms to the presence of infrasound, and he also has decided to link the cause of infrasound to wind turbines. I am not supporting or refuting his claims, but it is worth pointing out that he uses conjecture, not evidence in these assertions. Salt has not measured any data, the SA EPA has measured data, and their conclusions are about as decisive as any scientist will get.

        Since it evident that infrasound exists in the natural environment at levels that exceed areas nearby to wind turbines, it seems only logical that the symptoms listed by Salt "could" occur anywhere. Funny that isn't it? my guess is that neck pain, sleep disturbance, vertigo, motion sickness, high blood pressure, stress, annoyance etc might just occur anywhere! go figure

      • keeping the bastards honest :

        25 May 2013 3:56:11pm

        Benny, fyi, a critique of the EPA Resonate report.

        I would suggest the resolution of the 'he says she says' nature of this debate is the independant medical and acoustic research of affected individuals in their homes, with full industry transparency and support as advocated by Anonymous Academic, and indeed by the Australian Senate.
        The scandal is that it is not being done systematically anywhere in the world, and would settle the argument.

        Instead we have red herrings such as nocebo research and inadequate Sonus and Resonate reports.
        Why? Huge investments of Union sponsored Super funds and unaffordable REC schemes are a good place to start. And the egos of the odd academic and EPA and government employee thrown in for good measure. Oh, and the occasional acoustician of questionable skills, knowledge and equipment.

        If the industry and their supporters do not agree to truly independant transparent science in the field, they will continue to suffer the international backlash against turbines too close to homes, and will continue to be perceived as having ‘something to hide'.

      • alex :

        25 May 2013 9:37:05pm

        Those three "articles" appear to have been posted twice, by "anonymous academic 2" and "keeping the bastards honest".

        Did either of you actually read them, or just copy/paste them from some other tin foil hat forum?

        "Responses of the Ear to Low Frequency Sounds, Infrasound and Wind Turbines" is freely available on the Internet. It's only 12 pages, and a reasonably quick read. Just search pubmed.

        This is just a research article that uses data from other articles to determine if a human ear can actually be stimulated by inaudible sounds, and at what sound intensity levels are needed at what frequencies. That's it. It does not report on an actual experiment that was conducted using wind turbines and real people, in a controlled and blinded experiment.

        The article merely concludes that an ear can be stimulated by infrasounds, at specific levels, and because people are complaining it warrants that further research be done.

        The other two "articles" that both of you refer to are simply the same author saying the same thing in different contexts (the second instance was just a meeting into wind turbine noise; that's not a peer reviewed journal).

        Quoting the same author saying the possibility may exist and more research is needed is not the same as providing three actual research papers providing experimental evidence.

        That article was published in 2010. It is now 2013 and guess what? More research exists.

        So rather than quoting one outdated article that doesn't even confirm your claim, go spend some time on Google Scholar ( and search for some articles about wind turbine syndrom dated 2012 and 2013. There's a few.

        If you spend less than 20 to 40 hours searching and reading, you've done a half arsed job so go do it again.

      • Ralph :

        26 May 2013 7:26:01pm

        The infrasound myth continues.
        I think you will find similar issues in later years to asbestos, thalidomide, smoking, lead in petrol etc etc etc.
        The industries and those that make money from any activity have a history of lying and hiding scientific evidence that would harm their position.
        Dr McBride was all but deregistered before the mountain of evidence forced the hand of those in control.
        Lets hope proper investigations are carried out before Billions we do not have are spent, only to pull the towers down if there is a problem that can not be solved.
        Remember the US and others have weapons that use noise to disable their enemies

      • Anonymous Academic 3 :

        26 May 2013 10:26:38pm

        To 'keeping the batsrads honest". You advocate independent reseacrh that pre-supposes that the problems are caused by the wind farms when clearly they are not. They are caused by the VLF transmitter in Western Australia (and the others around the world). Any biased research of the type that you advocate wouldn't even detect the real cause of the problem.

  • Mike Barnard :

    24 May 2013 3:53:51pm

    Sarah Laurie and the Waubra Foundation aren't 'controversial', they are an Orwellian Newspeak front for NIMBYism and fossil fuel.

    Wind farms don’t harm human health, anti-wind campaigners do. 17 major reviews world wide of all of the available research by credible, independent groups have cleared wind farms of health impacts. Meanwhile, studies in the UK, Australia and New Zealand point the finger at anti-wind lobbyists spreading health fears and jacking up stress.

    Infrasound produced by wind farms is harmless; humans evolved with infrasound and wind farms produce less than waves on a beach, yet beach front property is in major demand.

    King Island is the latest victim of a roving band of pseudoscience peddlers who have a variety of mostly unsavoury reasons for opposing wind energy. Read more about the strange bedfellows of anti-wind lobbying here:

    Moderator: This comment has been edited in accordance with our house rules. You will find a link to the house rules when you click on 'add your comment'.

      • keeping the bastards honest :

        24 May 2013 7:50:54pm

        Dear Mike, you seem to promote a widespread belief that the seductive exclusive and rather expensive (heavily subsidised) green ‘sugar coated pills’ (and suppositories) peddled and dispensed by the wind industry are ‘the magic bullets’ which are both prophylactic and cure from the disease of CAGW (and from any personal responsibility to reduce consumption, population, and international air travel).

        This ‘cure’ is in reality a psychogenic effect, a form of mass hysteria, an insidious communicated disease infecting those who swallow it (or insert it) whole thinking erroneously it will reduce their emissions and boost their self righteous aura, and is well established in the medical literature.

        It is of course the placebo effect.

        On Sunday we might hear how far the contagion has spread in the ABC

      • Anonymous Academic 3 :

        26 May 2013 10:30:43pm

        Dear "keeping the bastards honest" - you are indeed scathing in your contempt for Mike. I am beginning to suspect that you are in fact a member of the American Military Industrial Complex whos is anxious to point the finger at wind farms instead of the true culprit the American Navy.

      • Bruce :

        28 May 2013 8:01:13pm

        Mike Barnard you have not a clue what you are talking about. If the noise of the usless industrial wind turbines are stoping you from having a good night's sleep, they will end up having an effect on your health, & that is not rocket science, as blind fredie can see that. If Chapman can't see that, he is dumber then dumb. The bloody fact is, most people are their first, so they should be at least lissened to . I bet most people that think they are good, don't live anywhere near them, or are on the fraudlent money. Carbon doixide, you can't smell or see, so it must be in you mind why it kills you. All this about the noise of wind turbines don't have affect on your health is CRAP.

  • Mr. A. Marciniak :

    24 May 2013 4:18:20pm

    To the community of King Island, I just like to say, NOT GREEN , NOT Cheap ,NOT Reliable,Bad for the Environment and the people that have to live with Turbines,just look at what happened when Roaring 40'S build the 37 x 3mgw. Turbines in Waterloo South Australia ??,people started getting sick not long after they turned them on, and long before Dr. Sarah Laurie come to Town .

  • Jamesonthesea :

    24 May 2013 5:25:18pm

    Waubra Foundation
    Jump to: navigation, search

    This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.

    The Waubra Foundation is a front or astroturf group created by Peter Mitchell on March 1, 2010 to oppose wind farming in Australia. It was registered with Business Affairs as an incorporated body on that date but later deregistered on July 13, 2011. Ref1 Ref2

    The Waubra Foundation claims to be an independent organisation but it has direct links to the Australian Landscape Guardians, the Liberal Party of Australia and mining interests who in turn have inks with the right wing thinktank, Institute of Public Affairs, (IPA).

    The Waubra Foundation does not exist in any physical sense, there is no building, just a post office box. The address, Box No.1136, South Melbourne, Victoria 3205, is shared by Sarah Laurie, the Australian Landscape Guardians and Lowell Resources, a mining investment company owned by Peter Mitchell.

    Sarah Laurie, the Waubra Foundation's “medical director" and now CEO, promotes unfounded health concerns and an unrecognised condition called “Wind Turbine Syndrome", allegedly caused by wind farms despite her lack of any recognised, peer-reviewed evidence that could possibly support such claims. She has a medical degree but is not a practising doctor, has no medical research qualifications, nor does she have any recognised qualifications relating to acoustics or physics. She claims wind turbines can cause ill-health up to 10 km away but relies only on untested anecdotes and a poor understanding of the physics of sound.

  • Marcus :

    24 May 2013 6:42:55pm

    Oh, there are so many extremely gullible peoe prepared to believe the crap spouted by astro-turf groups desperate to keep us addicted to fossil fuels. Note that the IPA, a major backer of the Waubera Foundation, is a strong proponent of CSG-something with many proven ill-effects, unlike the wholly mythical "wind turbine syndrome". I suggest RN does better research in future.

      • keeping the bastards honest :

        24 May 2013 9:20:51pm

        Markus, the BB program has not yet gone to air as I type. I would suggest if you are privy to RN's research now, you are either an employee of the ABC, an insider, or prone to a little astro turfing of your own!

        If you do some research, you will know that Dr Laurie has indeed assisted people affected by acoustic pollution of compressors in the CSG industry. Yes, yet another pollutant, under recognised of this and the coal industry. Interestingly AGL and Origin(until recently) have been heavily involved in both wind and gas, and of course coal. They dont see a conflict, they seek a profit, at neighbours expense.

  • Michael :

    25 May 2013 1:21:58pm

    I can tell you all the most probable cause for all of this is two fold: Ageing and Psychological. You are all getting older, having more health problems, you seek a scapegoat. My suggestion lay off the meat and start taking things such as COQ10. Second problem is the psychological aspect. You think this ever present turbine harm is causing you ill health, so it is. As a sufferer for many years of Anxiety and Depression I know how just how easy it is for thoughts of illness to manifest into actual illness. My advice here, use solid reasoning, are you ageing? Can the humm of windturbines cause issues any more than the ever present racket of living in the CBD can? How about people who live in the tropics, over half the worlds population, who have humming fans on 24/7. Get real people you are all spreading your own demise through panic. The mind is a terrible beast when untamed.

      • Solid Air :

        25 May 2013 5:15:27pm

        The acoustic equivalence to the ceiling fan or urban noise or indeed the sea is erroneous. If that were the case, the industry would not be spending the millions on acousticians they currently do. Why need acoustic modelling if there is no acoustic effect to be concerned about? Why have any setbacks at all if the acoustic issue is irrelevant. (Blade throw is another issue, but doesnt seem to worry the Vic and NSW governments with proximity to roads).

        There is clearly an acoustic problem. Independent credentialed acousticians are confirming this. The longer the government and industry ignores, denies,and obfuscates truly independant research the harder will be their fall.

        Good luck with taming your beast.

  • Epi101 :

    25 May 2013 1:33:43pm

    Two words: Andrew Wakefield.

      • Truth and Reconciliation :

        25 May 2013 4:03:57pm

        Two words: Calculated Smear

  • Chris A :

    25 May 2013 1:56:05pm

    Before giving too much credence to the words of the Waubra Foundation, and their CEO 'Dr' Sarah Laurie, you should see this description of the Waubra Foundation:

    which makes their agenda clear.

      • David Norman :

        25 May 2013 11:42:23pm

        @ Chris A. ... you're quite correct. It does make the agenda of crystal clear.

  • Concerned observer :

    25 May 2013 2:12:04pm

    As a farmer and renewable energy developer I have always been supportive of wind farms as a synergistic use of the land, and lamented that our own property was not suitable. Since then observations have led me to feel relief this was the case. Industry gag orders on farm sites are an immediate red flag for any objective observer. On one farm near Lake George with a number of turbines the owners are happy with the money, but have had to abandon their sheep breeding operation because there was a major reduction in lambing % after the turbines were installed. Likewise a feral deer herd that had roamed the hills and ridges for decades has disbanded and left the area. Anecdotal? Of course. After all there could be simple explanations for both these events. However whilst ever industry gags those directly involved and brands anyone else as cranks or hypochondriacs who become sick because someone says they could be, then as a community we have a responsibility to get these issues properly resolved and not let Business As Usual ride rough shod through isolate, divide and ridicule strategies. Anonymous Academic is right, lets see a study with comprehensive terms of reference and independently funded.

    NOT to prove wind farms "bad" but to identify and fix any problems so they can contribute to our futures without issue.

      • Lake George :

        26 May 2013 8:48:09pm

        What rot. We have not abandoned any farming practices because of the wind farms and you can come and knock on our door any time you like and we can show you. In fact the wool has been the best ever, the sheep shade themselves in the shadows of the turbines and lambing percentages are as good as they have ever been. We farm the property much more efficiently because of the new roads as a result of the wind farm which also gives us much better bush fire protection. Around 20 people live on the wind farm and all report no 'wind turbine syndrome'. The local vet and doctor both say they have seen no wind turbine syndrome. The deer are still there you are also welcome to come and see them. Heading into what looks like another drought we are very grateful for the income from the turbines. We have no gag clause and you are more than welcome to come and speak to us. If you truly believed in the future of farming and renewables then you would advocate for wind farms which take up no agricultural country rather than a coal mine which destroys valuable farming land and uses billions of litres of water. I suggest you ask us before commenting on our behalf. My guess is you favour nuclear but unlike you I won't speak on your behalf.

      • shaynea :

        29 May 2013 3:22:51pm

        Concerned observer your lack of response to Lake George leaves me to conclude that you must be among the small group who keep this issue alive by peddling rumour and half-truths. If you are as reasonable as you present, why haven't you apologised and retracted the false information you stated in your post?

        This is important because the actual evidence we do have indicates that responsibility for the anxiety and illness among people who have wind turbines in their vicinity is caused by this very practice. The wind turbines and companies are not to blame here- the peddlers of this nonsense carry direct responsibility for the real suffering of these people.

      • Murray May :

        29 May 2013 3:41:43pm

        For an organic farmer's take on what he has observed with his animals and a wind farm, have a look at the second video at:

  • goawayscaremongers :

    25 May 2013 2:18:44pm

      • David R Allen :

        26 May 2013 10:22:32am

        A must read link. After reading the link, review your opinion on the statements of (Dr) Laurie.

  • Shane 2 :

    25 May 2013 2:36:12pm

    Where does the money for Sarah Laurie and the Waubra Foundation come from? Follow the money.

      • Monty :

        25 May 2013 4:39:48pm

        Where does the money for industrial windfarms come from?

        They cannot pay for themselves without RECs and Super fund financing and are regularly onsold. Funding has dried up with GFC because business knows they are an unreasonable risk. Origin bailed out of wind for sound business reasons. Chinese interests are positioning strategically. Maintenance costs increasing with age, like any mechanical machine and they do not do what they claim to ie reduce CO2 emissions. They are regularly stalled for maintenance. They promise environmental salvation, and deliver many neighbours misery. The likely Abbot Government are a threat to funding.
        They are a PR success(until recently) and tragically an environmental lie.

        Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and forget Industrial Wind. It doesnt do what it claims and says.It is a complete and utter FRAUD. It is the golden goose that the wind industry has strangled.
        Rather, it is the DEAD PARROT.

  • snooksy :

    25 May 2013 6:20:23pm

    Its total nonsense that wind farms are dangerous. We have a moral responsibility to try to improve the condition of the planet for the next generation. Please build one in my backyard! Only I live in a city and there would be little point.

    They are not an eye sore. They are beautiful because they are helping the planet. Australia is lucky to places where we can locate wind farms.

  • well done RN :

    25 May 2013 7:24:26pm

    30 plus comments and it has not even been aired so I am looking forward to the polemic discussions after the show. Unfortunately it is near impossible to change the opinion of a true believer. The debate on wind turbines is a wonderful case study on so many levels - misunderstanding epidemiology (the hierarchy of evidence), the use of astro groups, the propagation of fear, how 'science' is communicated on the internet, risk perception and risk governance.

  • Harry C :

    25 May 2013 9:16:27pm

    I have been suffering dreadful noise pollution for several years now to the point where I have tried unsuccessfully tried to sell my home. I have undergone therapy. I have tried every means possible in order to stop the noise but have lost the battle. I live nowhere near any wind turbines. I live in a small country town and on a daily basis I am inundated by trail bike noise, loud thumping bass music from a subwoofer at all hours of the day, and even the noise of mining trucks 24 hours a day. The mining trucks will soon stop, but the rest continues. Selfish people everywhere pumping there selfish noise into the world and nobody cares about the negative effects that has on people. I will gladly swap immediately with anyone who lives near a wind farm. You have no idea what noise pollution is.

      • keeping the bastards honest :

        26 May 2013 10:57:02am

        Harry,where is your evidence that the industrial wind turbine operators are not selfish?

        You should also speak to the 30+ families who have left their homes due to adverse effects from windturbines too close. Some have had to walk away from their farms.

        Unfortunately you wont be able to swap with those who have been bought out by the industry with gag clauses and their homes bulldozed.

      • Harry C :

        26 May 2013 12:16:35pm

        To "keeping the bastards honest".

        I do not need to provide proof of the selfishness or otherwise of the wind turbine operators. That is not the point I was making in my post. I am merely pointing out two facts. One is that my own health is suffering because of my own local noise pollution. Two, I would genuinely swap with these people who live near wind farms "if I could". I was making the point that the wind farm noise, whether it is genuinely harmful or not, is to me a preferable type of noise to live with than what I currently endure. Personally, if someone offered me money to buy and bulldoze my house, I would grab it and run. I tried selling my house for well below what it cost me and didn't attract a single looker.

        While you continue with your campaign to "keep the bastards honest" please bear in mind that there are other sufferers of noise pollution with nobody to stick up for them. Please don't attack me when I am just pointing out other types of noise pollution and how bad they can be too.

  • Bernie :

    25 May 2013 10:04:55pm

    Dave Mortimer,

    Your story is interesting, being the first Australian wind farm host to claim Wind Turbine Syndrome and one who is very vocal on the topic. Thanks for answering the questions and excuse me if they cast any unnecessary doubt upon your claims. Some more questions:

    1) Who advised you that wind turbines made you sick? Was it a health practitioner, or did you diagnose yourself after attending a Madigan/Xenophon anti-wind meeting?

    2) Have you ever:
    a:- worked alongside large calibre guns?
    b:- worked with the toxic chemicals used in fibreglass manufacture?
    c:- worked with electronics solder which contains lead?

    3) Have you been gagged?

    4) How long before the Woakwine hearings did you publicly reveal your conviction that wind turbines have made you ill?

    5) So your doctor has confirmed that wind turbines are making you sick? Did you receive a diagnosis of Wind Turbine Syndrome before you went on Today Tonight?

    6) Would you be happy to share your noise monitoring report showing unusual levels of noise at your house?

    7) Can you demonstrate with the data how the noise varied with and without your own turbine operating?

    8) You didn't give a straight answer to the question on whether you would allow the examination of your medical records. Let me rephrase. Would you be prepared to provide your medical records to a review board that would guarantee that non-wind related issues were not disclosed?

    9) The planning authorities and the wind developer are not permitted to release your correspondence without your consent. Would you be prepared to provide this release?

      • Dr David Sare :

        25 May 2013 11:30:22pm

        As the Local doctor who long since left the area, June 2007, I do recall, without access to my records, that David Mortimer had genuine health concerns of a nature that , in retrospect could be a legitimate reaction to wind turbine noise. I doubt that my records would detail these issues, as in my ignorance of possible cause I probably focused on other matters of more conventional priority in the consult. Thus seeking to scrutinize his records would likely be non productive and be just an exercise in counter intimidation. I do particularly remember his uncomplaining manner about other health matters, and his quietly competent nature with a well trained background in engineering and electrical matters. I recall him as a person who would make a very credible witness.
        As a windlover, windsurfer, and latent greenie, I liked the introduction of the turbines. But my first experience of being nearby to an active mill did generate a sense of indefinable reservation.
        I would urge that this debate focus on some better consideration of variable and perhaps idiosyncatic, bur important, reactions amongst some individuals. Maybe it could just be the need for better gearbox designs that don't growl so much.

      • JohnS :

        26 May 2013 12:59:03am

        With or without notes, any former patients of a Dr David Sare should be extremely concerned about their privacy now.

      • Bushit Detector :

        26 May 2013 1:33:26am

        Dear Bernie

        your patronising and inquisitorial tone suggests you work for the industry. Respect for country folk is what the industry is sadly lacking. No wonder it is on the nose.

      • Arthurs :

        27 May 2013 8:05:41pm

        It's pretty hard to take David Mortimer seriously when so many questions remain without convincing answers. He makes good TV and radio, that's if you are Today Tonight and Alan Jones (those bastions of quality journalism), but when you scratch the surface, his story has more holes than a sieve. If Sarah Laurie is the best the anti-wind lobby can do for "Medical Expertise" and David Mortimer is the best they can do for an "Affected Landholder" then this whole health scare will blow over as quickly as microwave fear. (Remember that?)

  • Bren :

    25 May 2013 10:43:32pm

    Sarah Laurie is in no way qualified to make the claims she does. She has not engaged in any formal scientific or academic research nor does she have any specialisations or further education beyond general practice. She is no longer registered as a GP. She has been selected as a mouthpiece due to the fact "doctor" can be placed in front her name. See the following link for a transcript of her testimony where she admits she is not qualified.

    I am not going to delve into Waubra being a front for the fossil fuel industry because simply being able to discern between pseudo-science and proper science is all that is needed to understand that this group and others like it are lying to you. The "scientific evidence" they present is anecdotal evidence of people experiencing illness while living near wind turbines. This is not how scientific studies are carried out and it is also logically fallacious. It can be debunked simply on the basis that a person can experience the same symptoms (and note that the symptoms are extremely vague) of this "turbine syndrome" while living nowhere near wind turbines. I ask of sufferers; how do you know turbines are the cause of your illness and has a medical professional confirmed this?

    There is also an alarming trend of these groups being unwilling to scrutinise their own evidence while completely ignoring the scrutiny of those more qualified than themselves.

    Either Waubra and groups like them are, and excuse my bluntness, completely stupid or they have a clandestine agenda.

    People of King Island, please do not sell yourselves short. Do not let yourselves be swayed easily and come to your own conclusions through impartial and objective critical thinking. The decision you make affects not only yourselves but the whole of Australia and the future of our power industry.

      • Bushit Detector :

        26 May 2013 1:20:15am

        Bren, I disagree.

        The imminent change of Federal Government is what threatens your view of what a power industry ought to look like. Hence the recruitment of the ABC to the cause.

        The problem with wind power is that it doesn't do what it claims. The industry constantly misrepresents capacity as actual output. And it is not cost effective. And its mitigation of CO2 is grossly overstated. ie it is a RORT in green clothing.

        And as has already been posted, the industry has refused to cooperate transparently with acoustic/medical studies of affected people anywhere in the world.Doesn't that make your antennae twitch, just a little??

        When Simon Chapman loudly advocates for such independant research,and the industry agrees unconditionally, then I will have a change of heart about their integrity.

        Interestingly, the sums have also been done on the host fees of 8000-15000 per turbine per year. These are mere crumbs compared to the REC's earned, somewhere between $300,000-400,000 per year according to reliable calculations. And of course the companies ensure they bear no liability for turbine removal when they become obsolete.

        So, excuse my bluntness, you are either completely stupid, or have a clandestine agenda. Or work for the wind industry.

  • Murray May :

    25 May 2013 11:20:10pm

    Let's hope King Island can learn from the Falmouth case. Here is a clip from the following link:

    "Initially, complaints about health impacts were met with skepticism, and for three years the turbine issue festered. Today, there are bumper stickers and lawn signs reading, 'Heal Our Town.' And many residents who don't even live near the turbines say they have to go."

  • Tony Cavanna :

    26 May 2013 8:33:29am

    If a mine had been proposed instead of a wind farm the residents affected would have had no chance in opposing it. The health concerns of the local community would have been totally overlooked. There would certainty have been no politicians from the main parties chipping in calling for inquiries.

  • David Duncan :

    26 May 2013 9:04:42am

    Unfortunately, I felt this was a fairly poor piece of investigative journalism, and a real missed opportunity.

    I found Dr Laurie totally unconvincing, but the program spent too much time trying to discredit her reputation.

    It would have been easier, and a more helpful contribution to public debate, to just pull the arguments and assumptions apart.

    Waubra is doing its own research and making arguments entirely from 'within' the context of the perceived problem. Recording subsonic noise near turbines near people who have health concerns they believe to be caused by the turbine is not helpful.

    Noise can be disruptive and it is everywhere. How does the level of subsonic noise vary over space anyway, how does it compare to levels near other types of industry or in built-up areas?

  • David R Allen :

    26 May 2013 9:14:12am

    New Scientist reported a meta-analysis of medical symptoms reported as linked to wind farms. They also looked at similar medical symptoms attributed to technology going back over time. Things like Microwave ovens, television and computer screens and even early telephony, cellphones and towers, Wi-Fi and smart electricity meters. Guess what. All of these technologies caused exactly the same symptoms attributed to wind farms. Why would this be? When new technology is introduced, it always produces irrational responses from irrational people. Is there any campaign today to close down television transmitters? Or ban microwave ovens? No. Time cures irrationality.
    The meta-study also identified the selective nature of adverse wind farm effects. Where a community supports the local wind farm there are no medical issues. Where a community has been inflamed, medical issues abound. On maps it looks like random measles spots. If wind farms cause harm, the medical effects would be across all farms, across the world. There is no such evidence.
    And money cures the medical problems alleged to be linked to wind farms. The moment you pay someone, they're cured.
    The full report can be viewed here.

      • Murray May :

        26 May 2013 11:46:01am

        Simon Chapman's take on mobile phones, WiFi etc. is likewise misinformed. To get up to speed on this suggest googling David Carpenter and wifi. He is a world authority on this, and is familiar with a massive literature on it.

        Carpenter is also the editor of the BioInitiative Report 2012 that covers an additional 1800 studies since the 2007 report. The 2012 report is avaiable online. In essence, the report flags an issue of major public health importance given the number of people now exposed worldwide.

      • David R Allen :

        26 May 2013 1:49:27pm

        Murray. The New Scientist article was just commonsense. The stuff like "paying money" makes the health effects of wind farms go away, is not something you need anyone with letters behind their name to help you understand. So is the parallel paranoia about all those other new fangled gadgets identified in the article. Anyone can join the dots. You don't need "experts" to tell you what to think.

        This type of New Scientist article is the type that pulls the rug out from under the feet of the articulated and lettered conspiracy theorists who push their own agenda's in guise of caring for your health.

        Background infra-sound in a city is much worse that wind farms. It doesn't make us sick. Join the dots people.

        This link posted higher up in this blog is a must read for all King Islanders, along with the New Scientist link.

        The internet has put the oxygen of conspiracy theorists into every lounge room. The 9/11 attacks were the CIA. The UN is a communist / Jewish / (Insert your own villain here) conspiracy to take over the world. Measles vaccination is a Christian plot to sterilize Muslims. The Holocaust didn't happen and no man has walked on the moon. blah blah blah.

        They all have common features. One of them is lettered individuals like David Carpenter mentioned in Murray May's post. I can understand how people believe Carpenter and Dr Laurie. They sound great. Only problem is, they have no evidentiary clothes. All through this blog, people keep pointing to alleged "Scientific" proof of the danger of wind farms. It's just low frequency noise. (Pun intended)

      • Murray May :

        26 May 2013 5:33:13pm

        The New Scientist article was essentially an opinion piece written by Simon Chapman, whose background is in sociology.

        Dr David Carpenter on the other hand is a physician and professor of environmental health, who has extensive knowledge in the biomedical area. The BioInitiative Report 2012 which he edited gives a deep treatment of this area from a biomedical perspective, not a sociological theory tied to people's apparent fears of new technology.

        The evidence in relation to EMFs, mobiles, WiFi etc. has only become stronger since the 2007 report.

      • George Papadopoulos :

        26 May 2013 6:42:58pm

        David, do you ever question what the "meta-analysis" really analysed?

        Chapman just slabbed out anything he could find on the internet, with no reference to incidence of complaints or patters of complaints. He avoided comparing these problems to claims made in scientific literature about wind turbines. Any guess why?

        Had he bothered to do a better job one would easily recognise that wind turbines are commonly causing problems associated with sleep deprivation, vibrating structures, air pressure changes and perhaps electro-magnetic radiation.

        Meanwhile I suggest you work out what a "meta-analysis" really means.

      • David R Allen :

        26 May 2013 8:22:40pm

        Yes George. Meta-analysis is defined as; "In statistics, a meta-analysis refers to methods focused on contrasting and combining results from different studies, in the hope of identifying patterns among study results, sources of disagreement among those results, or other interesting relationships that may come to light in the context of multiple studies."
        Fits wind farm conspiracy theories like a glove.
        George. Why don't I suffer from infra-sound disease given I live in a major city, where infra-sound is far worse than that generated by wind farms? Why George? If it produces these claimed symptoms next to a wind farm, it should be a screaming epidemic where I live. If you can explain why I am exempt, along with everyone else in cities, then I will concede.
        I note in reading many of the conspiracy posts in the this blog, that most of their authors weren't paying attention in high school science class. The comments, the grasping for evidence, regardless of how tenuous, and the leaps of faith to dubious conclusions shows that they do not understand the scientific process.
        We need to double the Gonski budget to correct this gross failure by Australian schools to teach a tiny rump of the general population how science works.

  • Pam Connelly :

    26 May 2013 10:41:36am

    We lived 1.2kms from the first of the BIG turbines in 2008 before Sarah Laurie's so called "contamination" (I prefer to call it fair transparent education of facts.) We were not even imagining that the turbines could effect us and none of my neighbours or ourselves had ever heard this theory (you could call us "uncontaminated"). Well the first sign of odd behaviour was the neighbour's dog shaking his head and scratching at the windows as soon as they turned them on.(He died of a an unexplained stress disorder at 6 years of age 6 months on). One day with my 2 closest neighbours over for a cuppa we figured out that we were all weeing very frequently and very small ammounts. Other symptoms snuck up slowly and in no way would you think the turbines would cause them , the only way we found this out was the extreme change as soon as we left for whatever reason when all symtoms dissappeared even the weeing and then returned on returning home, only then did we connect the symptoms to the turbines. Long story short,...we have all moved away. We have omplained in writing to the company, local council etc but keep hearing how at our windfarm NO COMPLAINTS HAVE BEEN LODGED ABSOLUTELY UNTRUE but these are the statistics people believe and to this date nobody BUT Sarah have even asked us how things are going.Sarah was introduced to us from our neighbours who looked her up and is honest, green, concerned and being made out to have all sorts of untrue agendas for God knows what reasons. We are not anti turbines but truth needs to prevail and the science needs to be done and a solution to the health risks ,but for now just put them a bit away from peoples homes or re locate those willing to move away.Reading and hearing in the media that we were told we would get sick and invented our symptoms really frustrates the hell out of us.thanks for reading this. Pam.

  • Plain packaging WARNING :

    26 May 2013 11:40:16am

    To be absolutely clear, Simon Chapman may have worked in medical schools, but is not a clinical medical graduate.

    He is not an acoustician

    He is a media master and researcher sociologist with connections to the ABC.

    He has received a $1,8 million grant from the NH&MRC to research media and health

    It is on the public record that Sarah Laurie is in his sights given his repeated naming and personal focus on her on the ABC and elsewhere. ie shoot the messenger, loud and clear.

    It would be interesting to know if he approached the ABC or the ABC approached him about this story.

    There is a problem. Senator Rachel Siewert, the Green Chair of the 1st Federal Senate Inquiry into Windfarms recommended urgent research, as did the Labor, Liberal and Family First Senators on that committee. I hope Ian MacFarlane and Liberal party keep to their genuine research promise, because the Greens and Labor would appear to have reneged on this.

    Thanks ABC for making this an election issue

  • George Papadopoulos :

    26 May 2013 12:26:45pm

    Simon Chapman says: there's no credible, peer reviewed scientific reports which prove that wind farms harm human health.

    Is Simon Chapman a wind industry activist or a public health professor?

    Most people would be deceived into thinking that that means there are no reports to be taken seriously.

    "Proving" is different to "showing associations". There are two studies, and the ONLY studies that examined the health of people living around wind farms. Both suggest that wind turbines are causing harm. (Shepherd et al 2012, and Nissenbaum 2013)

    Just as Simon says, these papers are not proof of any problems. However, if you wish to become a subject of future research into wind turbines and the harm they may be causing to human health, it will help if you have them installed in the vicinity of your home...

    If by that stage you feel like a harmed human guinea pig, then you can blame the public health professor who tries to turn medical practitioners into scaremongering witches.

      • Richard Green :

        27 May 2013 2:42:35pm

        The previous comments about Prof. Chapman's integrity are rather quite slanderous and uninformed. Anyone familiar with his work fighting "Big Tobacco" knows of his integrity.
        Ad Hominem attack- your argument is irrelevant!

      • Mike Barnard :

        03 Jun 2013 11:22:18am

        The Nissenbaum / Aramini / Hanning study published in Noise and Health is unreliable. The data actually shows that everyone in the study group sleeps poorly, not just the ones close to wind farms. Their data is too scattered to support a correlation between wind turbine placement and sleep. Five of the six authors and thanked reviewers are Advisory Board members of the anti-wind lobbyist group, the Society for Wind Vigilance, but their long histories of anti-wind activism are unstated. One of the authors, Nissenbaum, was active in the wind farms studied previously doing poorly structured studies that would have increased fear and stress.

        The Shepherd material is equally suspect.

  • Wayne :

    26 May 2013 1:00:15pm

    Recently we have had all the debate about the desal plant in Sydney, I would like to point out it is not so much the construction of these facilities, it the cost of running/Maintenance verse the output, just like the desal plant, they build it. But the cost of maintenance is huge, so i say the same with the wind farm/s, build cost, maintenance cost? when do we actually see any money back?.
    Then their is the cost of building the project and construction materials and wastage in building the Turbines and installation, how environmentally friendly are we being?
    I ask this of myself every time i am involve in desal / Pure water as an electrician constructing and maintaining such equipment.

      • Mike Barnard :

        03 Jun 2013 11:24:03am

        Wind farms pay back total environmental debt in under six months according to industry standard full lifecycle analyses. Other forms of generation; not so much or never. Fossil fuel is particularly odious, but no utility scale form of generation is as benign as wind energy cradle-to-grave.

        Fiscal payback is a little longer, anywhere from 2-4 years of their 20-25 year lifespan depending on site.

  • Josie :

    26 May 2013 2:03:00pm

    Listening to replay of this excellent program. Interesting research from our Scandinavian wind farmers. Contrast with Australia. In the Scandi lands, the profits (of wind farms) are distributed throughout the community. In Australia, the landowners (who have the land for the farms get all the glory IE CASH). Those with land that does not have commerical wind have symptoms. Peeps on wind do not. Curious? Solution: Those whose land is great for Windfarms, should give a psyment to their surrounding land holders. My prediction: Wind Farm opposition system will end.

      • George Papadopoulos :

        26 May 2013 3:10:45pm

        Perhaps another way to look at it is that paying people to suffer might delay or prevent them speaking out about an agreement they got themselves into.

  • fiasco :

    26 May 2013 5:01:33pm

    The wind power I saw recently in Sweden was doing a fine job and the citizens happy in the region.It seems where there is no fear-mongering, the "syndrome" is absent.

    On the other hand, disease from coal and diesel fumes, and the CO2 increase, are truly serious.

    Is it cynical to wonder if the coal industry is behind the anti-wind lobby?

      • George Papadopoulos :

        26 May 2013 6:35:54pm

        Does it ever make sense to you why people around coal mines and coal plants sometimes complain about the same problems as those around wind turbines?

        Is that because some medical practitioner is warning them about health problems or is it because they too suffer from low frequency noise and noise nuisance?

  • Phil of Brisbane :

    26 May 2013 6:40:02pm

    Thanks Sarah for an interesting Background Briefing. It's a pity that it didn't explore the links between the Waubra Foundation/other anti-wind energy groups and groups backing the climate change misinformation campaign that has been raging in Australia for years now! These links show us the real reason why wind energy is being opposed - blatant support for the fossil fuel juggernaut that is cooking our planet! We have got to stop burning the stuff, and a wind farm on King Island would be a wonderful help.
    Renewable is Doable… We Do It Now or We Do It Hard!

      • Murray May :

        26 May 2013 6:57:04pm

        As Senator Nick Xenophon comments, he is all in favour of doing something about climate change. However, the economics of wind farms don't stack up, and nor do the environmental benefits.

  • Volker :

    26 May 2013 6:52:58pm

    I have listened to Background Briefing for many years and have always admired the programme for tackling real in depth stories. I was very disappointed by this biased bit of reporting. I think you would have been better off to put your efforts into the real stories behind the wind turbine industry – gag clauses in agreements, divisive tactics, denial of problems despite complaints etc – anything for the mighty dollar. You might be surprised what you find!
    The young reporter was hell bent on crucifying Dr Sarah Laurie, a woman who is apparently trying to do the right thing by people, unlike some of the so-called scientists and experts. I would have thought after all the reporting that’s been done over the years ABC would know that when multi-national companies are pushed into a corner their next reaction is to kill the message by shooting the messenger. It appears that your radio reporter has knowingly or unknowingly given a helping hand.
    We know that scientists do not have all the answers, even if they like to think they do. There was a time scientists thought it was harmless to have your shoes fitted using an xray machine and that it was perfectly ok to have DDT puffed up the sleeves of your clothing to rid yourself of lice... never mind the wholesale lobotomies that were also sanctioned by scientists. And the list goes on.
    And when it comes to literature reviews, that’s not research, that is just regurgitating old studies. I’d like to remind these scientists that there are real people in this world who get up in the morning and do real jobs which help, directly or indirectly, to keep the grant funding rolling to keep them in the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed. If you are to be taken seriously, get up from behind your desks and do some real in depth unbiased research.
    Because “sorry, we were wrong” one day won’t cut it anymore.

  • Jacob king :

    26 May 2013 7:00:38pm

    Did anyone else pick up an eerie similarity between the anti-wind farm 'expert' on this program and the general vibe of anti-vaccine advocates and global warming deniers. I do not know if wind farms cause all or any of the health problems described but it seems dubious at best. What was obvious is the need for better and wider science education in this country. Just because someone has an organisation and a PR flack it does not mean they should be listened to.

  • Nicholas McL. :

    26 May 2013 9:53:08pm

    I suppose that Sarah Laurie (Please don't call her a doctor she is not registered as such) would be happy with a coal fired station next door. Are coal fired stations good for our health?

  • wedgetail :

    26 May 2013 11:41:30pm

    Having been for a health check recently to a registered health professional who has never even heard of Dr Sarah Laurie, it was of relief to me to have my symptoms described to me as a result of exposure to "infrasound" from living in close proximity to a " non human scale " 2 megawatt Industrial Wind Turbine at a nearby Wind Facility. I was treated with respect which in the 21st century is what modem healthcare is supposed to be all about. We should not be ridiculed and treated as outcasts as if it were the middle ages. This is the second concerned registered health professional who has stated that we should abandon our property and get away from the turbines. I have been told that my health comes first and that the legal battle could go on for years! From my point of view the time for debate is over regarding testing inside homes and on the ground. GET ON WITH IT! People are suffering out there. Thanks to the ABC for investigating this issue. More research needs to be done though. People do not abandon their homes for no good reason.

      • David R Allen :

        27 May 2013 8:23:54am

        Wedge. Where are you going to move to. You heard the program. Low frequency infra-sound, the source of your health problems is orders of magnitude worse in built up areas. Cities are awash low frequency infra-sound.

        Human beings have an incredible ability for self delusion. We can talk ourselves into anything. Cults. Super foods. The National Rifle Association. Vaccination. Gambling ads have no effect. While we are allegedly the most intelligent animal that has ever lived, we are next to useless at using that intelligence in a critical way.
        Wedge. Your medical symptoms are psychosomatic. Induced by the irrational screeching Shaman of the internet conspiracy age. Off to Uni Wedge and do a BA in Philosophy, to train you brain to think rationally.

      • keeping the bastards honest :

        27 May 2013 10:38:05am

        David R , your post is pretentious and irrational.

        Your own self delusion in making a medical diagnosis is breathtaking.

        Back to uni?

      • David R Allen :

        27 May 2013 1:17:26pm

        Dear K.T.B. Honest. If it is your position that my post is pretentious and irrational, you need to argue your case. Just making a statement is not proof or evidence of anything. Why is my post pretentious? Why is my post irrational? Argue you case. If you can't then your comment is simply that. A comment. It falls into the same category as "Wind farms cause illness."

        I'm still waiting for any opponent of wind farms in this blog to answer my question. If built up areas and cities have far greater volumes and frequencies of infrasound, why don't people in the cities suffer the same illnesses as those claimed to be caused by the same noise from wind farms? Why is city noise different from country noise? It's a simple question. I awaited your reasoned and logical response Honest.

        The rational answer is the illnesses are self induced, based on what biased people tell the victims. Have you every watch a TV program on some disease and find yourself sitting their, feeling your lymph nodes or thinking, I've got that.

        Psychosomatic is defined as:- Of or relating to a disorder having physical symptoms but originating from mental or emotional causes; and Relating to or concerned with the influence of the mind on the body, and the body on the mind, especially with respect to disease.

        This is a rational explanation for the illnesses reported by people close to wind farms. If you think psychosomatic illnesses are a load of hogwash, look up Munchhausen's Syndrome and Munchhausen's syndrome by proxy. Very powerful and dangerous. And it's all in the mind.

        So Honest, if my explanation has rational and evidentiary support, am I self delusional, like someone suffering from a psychosomatic illness?

      • Murray May :

        27 May 2013 1:50:24pm

        In reply to David R Allen, I suggest going to the following website to find out more on wind turbine noise being worse than other sources of noise at the same dB level. Amplitude modulaton and low frequency noise/infrasound are part of the reason why this is so:

        An additional issue is that you don't have banks of turbines 150 m high installed in cities close to people's homes. Also rural areas have quiet background sound levels at night generally, so you would expect to see effects from installing low freqency generating machines.

        For more on low frequency and its effects, go to the website of Professor Alec Salt who is an expert in this area. Here is a related letter from him:

      • David R Allen :

        27 May 2013 6:06:04pm

        Dear Murray and George.
        It is not good enough to point to a news article on the web, or some material from a lettered person and saying; "See, this proves our case. This trumps everything anyone else has ever said."

        It doesn't work that way. Science doesn't work that way. The arbitrator in this matter is epidemiology. See here.

        The science of epidemiology says wind farms have no adverse medical effects. You can post whatever you like, but until the science of epidemiology agrees with you, you don't have a case. You are punting that some isolated articulate agenda driven person has some credibility up against a world wide analysis of epidemiology. It's like punting your entire superannuation lump sum on Melbourne FC winning the AFP flag. It's possible, but the odds are so long that you wouldn't risk your cash.

        It's the same as saying global warming isn't happening. There is no credible science to negate it. It's just a matter of how much the warming will be. Even the most ardent global warming deniers in the US now admit that the world is warming, they now just say that its natural, not man made.

        If wind farms cause harm, there would be a consistent pattern across the whole globe. What epidemiology finds is that the correlation between claimed disease and wind farms is directly proportional to the size and the vigour of the opposition to the wind farm. No opposition, no disease. High opposition, high claimed disease. Now even you two know that this cannot possibly be true.

        As a scientific skeptic, I do battle with internet conspirator's all over the world. The arguments put up by these conspirators are all the same. A claim of harm, without any scientific evidence infects a community, then blog, pseudo expert, media savvy commentators and self interest agenda driven people get on board. The wind farm harm campaign is a text book internet conspiracy. It has the same validity as the 9/11 CIA claim.

        Immunization conspiracies are identical in structure to the arguments you post.

        Anyone who claims they are suffering any illness caused by wind farms, is in fact suffering a psychosomatic episode. As the epidemiology study points out, giving cash to complainants cures their disease.

      • keeping the bastards honest :

        27 May 2013 8:53:18pm

        David R
        As requested.
        Some dictionary definitions to begin
        :pretentious :attempting to impress by affecting greater importance, talent, culture, etc., than is actually possessed
        :Irrational: not logical
        Wedgetail described a medical diagnosis attributed to 2 registered medical professionals after a personal health check.
        On the net in order to ridicule a medical diagnosis to suit your position, you proffered your own medical diagnosis : ‘Your medical symptoms are psychosomatic”. It may seem rational to you, but a medical diagnosis is not based on what ‘you’ think, rather on a thorough medical examination, history and any tests that are part of a clinical examination. You have not carried out an examination and may not in fact be qualified to do so.
        That you made the diagnosis is both pretentious and irrational. Some researchers are of course suggesting ‘psychosomatic’ or ‘psychogenic’ when they have never medically examined an affected person or people. Of course Simon Chapman cannot-he is not a qualified clinical medical practicioner. He has relied on indirect data, a weak form of evidence in terms of clinical cause and effect
        However, I think we might agree that the independent medical and acoustic studies of affected people in their homes with the full and transparent participation of the wind industry would settle the debate. Ie direct evidence. But the industry is yet to cooperate anywhere in the world. Perhaps you could encourage them in the interest of science and public health being the righteous skeptic you seem to be?
        Finally, I would add “delusions of grandeur: a false impression of one’s own importance. I think that is a logical description of your position. Self delusion is self explanatory.

  • Wind Farm worker :

    27 May 2013 11:00:23am

    As a worker on a wind farm I spend my entire day closer to the turbines than most people. After eight years in the industry I have never noticed any symptoms nor have any co-workers complain either. We are not gagged and are highly qualified to be able to leave the industry if we thought there was a problem. I can honestly say that livestock and native animals such as roos and emus are often seen relaxing in the shade of the wind turbines. I kill more birds on the drive to work than the wind farm will ever kill. I do feel sorry for many of the neighbours who have worried themselves sick. I find it concerning that people see Dr Laurie as a lovely person when she directs people to faceless websites that liken the industry to Nazis and refers to anyone concerned about Climate Change as "Greentards"

      • Murray May :

        27 May 2013 11:41:12am

        Have spent the last couple of years looking at this issue in detail. Everywhere you look with wind farms you find conflct. The comments here on this BB program are just the tip of the iceberg. Communities are divided and people now often no longer talk to each other, and I have also heard about violence as well. The adverse health symptom pattern is similar internationally, and peer reviewed studies in NZ and Maine, USA have confirmed the sleep disruption effects. Some people appear to be more sensitive than others. Just because you don't have a problem doesn't mean that others do. I have a strong environmental background and am obviously concerned about climate change, but what I have read so far on wind turbines as a solution is far from convincing. Wind turbines score badly on multiple fronts.

      • George Papadopoulos :

        27 May 2013 12:22:25pm

        A different story is told here about wind industry workers and health:

        Go to approximately the third minute and you can see a NAMED ex-industry employee describing his fateful end in the wind industry.

        Shame you can't blame Sarah Laurie for casting a spell on this guy!

  • Janos Horvath :

    27 May 2013 12:43:10pm

    I would like to share my experience with continuous deep sound with you.

    In the 1980s, I was living in an apartment in Budapest which received hot water and heating from a heating station, that serviced about 5,000 apartments. This station was working 24/7, although from March to September it only supplied hot water. The problems were the cold winter nights when the turbines/pumps were working with full capacity.

    This station was about 1.5 kilometres from my apartment. When the TV was on or there was any other noise in my home the noise of turbines was not disturbing. But when everything went quiet, then there was a continuous low frequency noise that eventually became so dominating that I could not focus on anything else but on this noise. There was no escape from it, I used earplugs, pillows over my head, the near infra sound travelled everywhere. The only way to get distracted from it was to try to sleep with the TV on. You can imagine the sleep deprivation this has caused. Luckily, these only happened on perhaps 15-20 nights in the winter when the station was working at a certain power level. Also, as a twenty years old, I bounced back easily with less sleep. Not sure about those middle age or older people who complain about the wind-turbines.

    As an engineer I tried to analyse the problem and came to the following assumptions (cannot call them conclusions as these would require proper controlled tests and research but it is not my expert area):
    • Infra or near infra sound waves carry more energy and travel much further than other noises. (This is a fact)
    • Various studies show that certain low frequency sounds cause anxiety or fear in subjects.
    • Noise with mixed frequencies, even if containing the disturbing frequencies will be processed by our brain without stress. However single frequencies, if we hear them long enough (not just infra but any frequencies) will “exhaust” the various chemicals in the nerve cells that carry and process the information and this causes a stress. We will feel an urge to move away from the source of the sound and become agitated if cannot do so.
    • Various people have different abilities to hear/feel infra or ultra sounds. Some people may react to sounds that others do not even notice.
    • Various people have different capacity to focus or concentrate or get distracted. Certain disturbances/noises may distract some people from what they do while others can carry on without braking concentration. ADD and ADHD are the extreme cases, the majority of people is in between.
    • Some people sleep deeper, some lighter. For example from early childhood I used wake up to noises, or for example I can wake up at a certain time only by thinking about it when going to sleep. Whereas my wife may even miss the alarm clock too.
    • Psychosomatic illness, is also an illness. Just because our known tests cannot show a chemical inbalance in the body, one cannot dismiss p

  • David Doe :

    27 May 2013 1:21:10pm

    This piece made me absolutely furious.

    Pseudo-doctors making bold claims with no evidence plying their trade on the scientifically ignorant to the benefit of the established energy industry.

    Add a dash of hysteria and multiple anecdotal accounts supporting well distributed talking points, as can also be evidenced in the comments here, and you've suddenly got an insurmountable problem; big industry exploiting wilfully uninformed and/or ignorant people to their detriment, while simultaneously using them to remove or impair a direct competitor for their product.

    Astro-turfing at its finest.

    Would love to see a thorough investigation of the sources of funding for the Waubra foundation and others of their ilk to determine where the money's coming from.

      • George Papadopoulos :

        27 May 2013 8:03:17pm

        What about an investigation into why Simon Chapman, a public health professor, spends so much time and effort ranting opinions that support the wind industry, but never gives the slightest benefit of the doubt towards research that suggests that wind turbines may be harming human health?

  • David Doe :

    27 May 2013 2:08:20pm

    Not specifically for posting to the comments thread, but go ahead if you feel like it, moderator.

    Judging by the tone and style of several of the comments found attached to this article, it would be instructive for the ABC journalists to view the IPs of submitted comments and see if they can be matched with comments appearing to originate from a different source/name, or comments from other discussion threads on similar topics.

    No sinister overtones, just what I surmise to be an interesting and do-able thought experiment for a journo with a little bit of time and available data at hand to investigate.

  • Hawkeye :

    27 May 2013 5:34:07pm

    To the citizens of King Island, there is no need to pollute your idyllic island either visually or sonically. You can get free power by simply setting up a heat collector of pipes on the ground, connected to a steam driven generator and then heat up the patch of ground. The heat from the ground will generate twice that amount of heat from back-radiation from the atmosphere. Use half of that heat to heat the water for the steam to drive the generator while the other half of the heat will again create twice as much heat from the atmosphere and the system will run forever.

    Do not take my word for it. The past three IPCC Assessment Reports, AR2 1995, AR3 2001 and AR4 2007, contain an illustration of the Greenhouse Gas Global Warming effect with AR4 showing 168 Watts per square metre irradiating the Earth's surface from the Sun and 324 Watts per square metre back-radiation from the atmosphere. The draft of AR5 also shows much the same illustration with a slight change in the numerical values to 161 Watts per square metre down from the Sun and 342 Watts per square metre back-radiation (even more efficient, it must be all that extra CO2 in the atmosphere) so it must be correct. Simply radiating heat up into the atmosphere will give you twice as much heat in return. Free energy for one and all care of the brilliant minds at the IPCC.

    The fact that the proposition contradicts all prior scientific theory and experimental results should not worry you as the IPCC are the world experts. After all this is the reason that we have a Carbon Tax and are busily working to "de-carbonise" industry and our society in general.

    You can simply test the idea. Stand in a wind protected area in full sunshine and feel the heating energy from the Sun. Then move to a shaded area, not in direct sunlight and not next to a hot object, and you should feel the double amount of heat that is coming down from the atmosphere. I cannot feel it but then I am labelled as a sceptic and a denier so I obviously do not know what I am experiencing.

  • richard green :

    27 May 2013 6:11:37pm

    The fact that this illness appears mainly to be psychsomatic, or at most a borderline disorder made worse by psychosoatic factors does not mean it is not REAL and does not mean we can dismiss it out of hand. The suffering involved is REAL and we owe it to ourselves as a society to treat it.

    All of the sufferers interviewed, and most of their critics are conflating "Psychosomatic" with "Imaginary". Thats just not true. Dr Norman Swan has done some excellent programs on the real organic effects of cortisol.

    In urban areas most of those affected would have been offered psychotherapy and/or medication to help them cope, but because of traditional stigma and the fact thse affected are in rural areas, this has been dismissed out of hand by both the patients and the treating doctors. Mental illness can kill, concentrate on that and stop looking for infrasound faries at the bottom of the garden.

      • Murray May :

        27 May 2013 6:19:30pm

        They used this victim-blaming psychosomatic line on RSI years ago. The Ministry of Defence in the UK has objected to a number of wind farm developments there, because vibration from wind turbines is detectable out a good distance e.g. 20 km or so, and interferes with their instruments. Think about it. Great fans with huge wing spans installed in great chunks of concrete in the ground spinning with great force in the wind. And you are in a house 1.5 km away. Psychosomatic hey? Not what the instruments are saying.

      • George Papadopoulos :

        27 May 2013 8:10:46pm

        Psychomatic illness is not psychiatric illness. It is a "don't know what the hell is wrong" diagnosis that is commonly, but not exclusively, associated with psychiatric illness. See:

        Sometimes severe nutritional deficiencies are associated with severe depression. Does that mean that these individuals are inherently psychiatric ill?

        Perhaps the best to is do research and to listen very carefully to what the victims of wind turbine developments are complaining about.

      • David R Allen :

        28 May 2013 8:38:11am

        Nottingham University carried out an actual scientific experiment, as distinct from a pseudo scientific crystals and tarot card experiment.
        They also did psychological profiles on all 1270 subjects who lived within 500 metres of 8 .6Kw turbines and within 1Km of four 5 Kw turbines.

        They found that the people who claimed adverse affects from the wind turbines were more likely to be "neuroticism, (propensity to be more anxious, to take longer to revert to an equilibrium), negative affectivity (the propensity to feel negative emotions), and also frustration intolerance (sensitivity towards frustrations, discomforts and annoyances). "

        They concluded:-

        "The researchers concluded that the people who live near a turbine and can hear some noise, did not suffer more non-specific health symptoms than people who could not in reality hear the same sound. The study indicated that generally it is not the turbine noise per se that is causing the symptoms. Indeed, for those individuals who did not score highly on these negative orientated personality traits, reporting hearing the sound was not associated with symptoms. This association was only evident for those higher in these traits. "

        Yep. I'd say that was psychosomatic.

        BTW. If Honest is still reading, you will note that I don't diagnose people with psychosomatic illness, but I rely on people who do science, who come to that conclusion. Evidence is the only decision maker here.

      • George Papadopoulos :

        28 May 2013 10:48:42am

        David, you certainly have a very selective appetite to research when you say: "as distinct from a pseudo scientific crystals and tarot card experiment." Both papers that I quote above were published in peer-reviewed journals.

        The study you quote is highly irrelevant to the argument industrial wind turbines - you quote turbine sizes that are about 1000 times smaller than industrial wind turbines: "8 .6Kw/5 Kw turbines" versus 1-3 mega watt!

      • David R Allen :

        28 May 2013 11:33:07am

        Highly irrelevant George. Proof that underlying adverse psychological profile was more likely to produce psychosomatic illness than a normal person.

        Clearly you missed the point. The size of the turbines is irrelevant to the conclusion that some people, of a certain psychological profile, are more likely to imagine disease, if given prompts, such as Dr Sarah Laurie provides.

        I note you've made no response to epidemiology as being the appropriate and competence science to determine this issue, and that epidemiology finds no causal relationship.

      • richard green :

        28 May 2013 4:15:41pm

        Thank you David, very interesting

        Murray, please re read what i said: psychosomatic is not the same as imaginary. I am not interested in what the MOD's sonar buoys can detect, its the human ear in question.

        Is infra sound measurable? Yes. by instruments.

        Is infra sound detectable by the human ear? Maybe, at very high levels.

        Does infrasound which is detected by the human ear have the same effect on every member of the population? No.

        The burden of proof in on the proponents of the theory. Its not up to industry or government to fund, willy-nilly, research into every potential public health issue.

      • Murray May :

        28 May 2013 4:59:38pm

        Richard - in addition to a PhD in the environmental field, I have a psychology background to Masters degree level and know what such terms mean. I underlined how this idea has been grossly misused to avoid biologically mediated causes of disease. An example I gave above was mobile phones, mobile phone towers, WiFi for which there is strong evidence of harm (see the BioInitiative report 2012 and also Dr David Carpenter). Simon Chapman puts all this in the "fear of technology" box, with little if any understanding of the vast biomedical literature drawn on in the BioInitiative report. Similar for low frequency sound in the case of turbines, and even audible noise from turbines to levels not considered acceptable in suburban areas. Sleep deprivation leads to ill health. There is a responsiblity on governments to prevent disease, rather than just introduce new technology willy-nllly. If this is not the case, why should people be concerned about the introduction of CSG on a wide scale then? Likewise, there is no evidence at all that wind turbines are safe, and definitely evidence that they are a problem.

      • David R Allen :

        28 May 2013 6:17:05pm

        Just another thought. A psychosomatic illness is still an illness. It is real for the sufferer, but it is not caused by the wind farms.
        So should the world stop building wind farms, because some susceptible people develop symptoms that they attribute to the wind farms, but are not actually caused by the wind farms.

        While I feel for the people who think they have symptoms, I suspect that we should treat those symptoms, but that treatment does not include banning all wind farms.

        As the epidemiology shows, if you give a person enough cash, they have a miracle cure.

      • Murray May :

        28 May 2013 7:01:27pm

        To David R Allen. Recently a Bill to control excessive noise from wind farms was introduced into the Australian Senate. This is to control gross audible noise pollution from wind farms and does not even address infrasound or low freqency noise, even though the latter are important issues. Are you seriously suggesting that loud audible noise from wind farms is creating psychosomatic illness? If so, the current community noise standards in suburbs to control air conditioner noise, for example, can be removed, as we can just say that people are imagining this noise and any ill-effects from associated sleep disruption.

      • David R Allen :

        28 May 2013 8:28:38pm

        Murray. What an amazing sideways leap. From low frequency infra sound being the problem, you've now jumped to audible noise. Where did that come from.

        Just to steer you back to the debate in question. Should all wind farms be banned, because some people are susceptible strident campaigner induced symptoms?

        Where's the greater good. The planet can fry because someone thinks they get a headache, that they wrongly attribute to wind farms.

        Or are you in sympathy with the Waubra Foundation, a global warming denier front organization.

      • George Papadopoulos :

        28 May 2013 8:35:33pm

        David, is epidemiology valid? yes it is.

        Are your comparisons valid? Maybe if you ever thought that because lions and cats are felines, then that makes them both a perfect backyard pet!

        Isn't it amazing how you avoid my questions on the papers of Shepherd and Nissenbaum?

        Given your subsequent posting, I suggest you study why barking dogs annoy neighbours more than their proud owners. Maybe you could propose that mad barking dogs become a community asset - they might decrease annoyance for some people...

      • Murray May :

        28 May 2013 8:46:08pm

        David - I didn't design the Bill - that is just a first step and is just to control gross noise pollution. Infrasound and low frequency noise need to be included too. The EPAs are slow to address this latter issue, and have stuck with A-weighted noise standards so far (not good enough). Wind farms are a fizzer on so many fronts, community dividers par excellence, adverse health effects, landscape disruption, poor economics, and questionable GHG reductions. Like Senator Nick Xenophon, I'm all for sensible action on climate change, but not with silly solutions. Unfortunately, many environmental types refuse to really look at what is going on, having decided that wind farms are some sort of 'saviour'. Sorry, but they aren't. Reduction of energy use is critical too, with too much focus on supply side and not enough on demand side.

      • David R Allen :

        29 May 2013 8:47:28am

        Murray and George. Have either of you read Merchants of Doubt. Award winning book. In brief. Two unheard of history professors in the US had a specialty of taking a truck load of public documents on some issue, writing a very good book on the subject that would be read only by a few people who had an interest on that topic.

        Since all the legal cases in the US about smoking, all of the documents from the tobacco companies are now public documents, and there are in fact over a million of them are posted to the web. They decided to write the history of the smoking debate.

        Some way into the research when they were profiling the major players they stumbled across a surprise. The advocates and lobbyist employed by the tobacco companies were also involved in the DDT debate. But wait, there's more. The same advocates and lobbyists fought the acid rain debate, the ozone hole debate, the Strategic Defence initiative. There are more causes, but the final one was carbon and global warming.

        The publicly available documents revealed that the tactic these advocates and lobbyists identified as being effective was to raise a tiny bit of doubt. Not proof or high probability. Just a tiny bit of doubt will prevent governments making decisions. E.G. "There is no proof that smoking causes lung cancer." "There is no proof that man made CO2 is warming the planet."

        The historians through access to many public documents, exposed a system for skewing public debate on environmental issues. They also identified the advocates and lobbyists all subscribed to the radical free market philosophy. That is, Government is only involved in defence and law enforcement. Everything else, and I mean everything, health, education, transport and infrastructure is left entirely with the free market. They believe with the level of a religious fundamentalist that the free market can solve all problems. This is a fail on Smoking, banning DDT and Chloro Fluro carbons / Ozone hole. It was a fail on every issue they championed. Only regulation succeeded in solving environmental threats.
        Every document cited in Merchants of Doubt is publicly available on the web. Every point has a citation and reference. Anyone who wants to check the authors conclusions can look up the very document they are discussing. Proof beyond reasonable doubt.

        Now if you are still awake Murray and George, the point is the Waubra Foundation is a text book "Doubt Raising" organization. Their tactics are described in detail in Merchants of Doubt. They are ticking all the boxes. They don't believe in global warming. They want to stop all abatement initiatives. They think the market will kick and save us. They will use whatever tactics they want regardless of the collateral damage. They don't care if they scare and induced medical disease symptoms bystanders, just so long as they stop the wind farms. Locking onto wind

      • David R Allen :

        29 May 2013 9:05:49am

        I ran out of characters so the post didn't fulling load.

        The Waubra Foundation, by locking onto the Wind Farm Syndrome, hope to stop the King Island wind farms.

        Murray's post at 28 May 2013 8:46:08pm had a hit of doubt raising. One can never tell when debating on the web who their opponent is. I hope that Murray is not a Waubra Foundation member. I would commend to all readers the award winning book, Merchants of Doubt if they want to understand the process of political debate going on in relation to global warming. The King Island wind farm debate is straight out of the Merchants of Doubt playbook.

  • Windbag :

    28 May 2013 3:03:32pm

    Good story highlighting the staggering ignorance and twisted rationale of those who oppose wind farms based on health.

    BUT you report the donut and not the hole in this yarn.
    This wind farm will NEVER BE BUILT.

    I suggest you investigate the cost of connecting to the grid the power generated on the island and you'll find there's no commercial case to build it.

    It will never get past the $18m spent on the feasibility study.

    Why? Well, in the absence of any real jobs to work on and in typical Tassie-style, at state taxpayers expense, it keeps Taswind just operational and some well-paid people in jobs.

  • christopher hewson :

    28 May 2013 3:14:19pm

    Wow...this is fantastic RN!!! You should be proud to get so many passionate people who have the time to listen to RN and to make a comment about a subject they feel so strongly about. Love it..!
    Now.....everyone...put all that passion and energy into making our country a better place.
    I have only 1 real problem with a 'Dr' whos not a 'Dr' using the title 'Dr'. I am an architect who can only use that term if I continue my registration & pay my yearly insurance.... Passing yourself off as something that you were before..? Thats not cool.....

      • King Island Cream :

        29 May 2013 9:10:48pm

        Coincidentally Prof Chapman has also broadcast repeatedly on the ABC that Dr Laurie is unregistered, as she herself has always acknowledged.

        Curiously Prof Chapman is not a clinical medical practitioner himself, registered or otherwise. It goes some way to explain the gaps in his medical knowledge and understanding.

        At least Background Briefing has the good manners and respect for the medical profession to use the honorific to which the academically qualified members are entitled, even if they too at the ABC chose to focus on the person and not the ball.

        Indeed Christopher, your seeking to shoot the messenger as well suggests a contempt for seeking the truth and making our country a better place.

  • Wedgetail :

    29 May 2013 2:11:33pm

    Wedgetail says thank you to those who have responded to my earlier comment. I am going to take the advice of my local GP as they have been a part of the community for over 16 years now. They are a party to research that many others are not. They are I suspect experiencing what could be described as a "cluster" of people coming in to the practice with similar health concerns. They are registered medical professionals. I am not. But several acoustic experts have visited our property and have stated in their opinion that there is a problem with both infrasound and audible sound. I have seen the meter readings with my own eyes. You cannot compare the refrigerator to an 8-9 tonne wind turbine blade spinning in the night at over 100mph around 600m from our kitchen sink . At times there is little or no background noise to mask it. We have lived with this problem for several years now and I am not willing to gamble with my health. I have lived both overseas and in Australia in a rural situation and in the city. I have never experienced anything like this in my life before!

  • Athro Dai :

    30 May 2013 9:18:00pm

    Does Ms Laurie have any degree that would entitle her to style herself "doctor", seeing she is no longer a registered Medical Practitioner? According to my reading of Registration Acts in these here Colonies and the Imperial Act up till the time Smallpox ceased in Australia, Bachelor of Medicine graduates had a legal right to style themselves "Doctor" only while actually registered to practise. This right got extended to Dentists and Vets during the 1960s, and later on to Chiropractors. PhDs and Doctor of Science candidates have to prove competence to do the research and write up a thesis and defend it in v high level examination.

    It was demonstrated decades ago that ordinary people can be sorted into groups that have higher or lower sensitivity to low frequency and very low frequency sounds, such as transformer hum near electricity substations. This turned up when the UK CEGB carefully investigated floods of apparently irrational complaints from people living in the vicinities. The tips of turbine blades move at near the speed of sound. That's noisy anyway.

  • King Island Cream :

    01 Jun 2013 10:36:19pm

    Dr Sarah Laurie is a distinguished medical graduate, and it entitled to use the title ‘Dr’. Athro Dai is incorrect.

    To Sarah Dingle investigative reporter, it is blindingly obvious that the science that is being avoided at all costs by the industry and their one eyed supporters is that of the independent medical and acoustic studies of those people adversely affected in their homes too close to industrial scale wind turbines.

    Why? The industry says it would provide ‘uncertainty’ in the market. This is clearly a much greater priority for the Wind Industry than the ‘uncertainty’ of the health of rural folk unlucky enough to live too close to the Industrial scale wind turbines (IWT). They also have a liability risk they seek to avoid.
    If the industry wanted to know the definitive answer to the problems reported around the world in proximity to IWT they would have cooperated/initiated research years ago. A skeptical view is that they already know the answer.

    But they do not want to know, publicly at least. Yet it is the only way they can restore any credibility. It is an ill wind of their own making, and only blows them backwards the longer they refuse to face it. And the Greens are trashing their own political credibility the longer they aid and abet the obvious industry avoidance of impartial and independent scrutiny.

    King Islanders have a clear choice. They not only have a clean and green brand to protect, they have a way of life to cherish.
    So Sarah D, your story title should really have been “an ill wind industry”.

  • Mike Barnard :

    03 Jun 2013 11:35:07am

    As many of the usual commenters brought up many of the usual anti-wind disinformation talking points, here are some additional leavening facts, fully referenced:

    Wind farms reduce greenhouse gases; real world results in Texas, the UK and Australia prove this is true. Industry standard, full lifecycle analyses for all forms of energy find that wind turbines pay back their carbon debt faster than any other form of generation. Every MWh produced by wind energy eliminates 99.8%+ of the CO2 that would have been generated by shale gas or coal, as they are first to be eliminated from the grid as generation sources. As the full lifecycle analyses show shale gas has 50 times the CO2e and coal has 100 times the CO2e per MWh, that’s a lot of global warming gases that are eliminated with every MWh of wind energy.

    Wind farms are the best source of energy for wildlife including birds: global warming and air pollution are the big threats.

    Wind turbine setbacks of 350-400 meters are completely safe in all but the tiniest fraction of cases. The World Health Organization sets 50 dB of regular and prolonged night time noise that cannot be mitigated via closed windows and white noise generators as the level at which sleep loss becomes a concern. 40 dB, the level that Ontario’s Regulation 359/09 regulations make the norm 99% of the time for 99% of properties, is a good cautionary level. 35 dB, the level set in a couple of Australian states, is even more conservative.

    Governmental support for renewables is minor compared to fossil fuel subsidies, health impacts and the cost of global warming; remember Hurricane Sandy drowning New York City.

    Wind farms are harmless to groundwater and aquifers, and much better than continued mining, shipping and burning of fossil fuels.

    Wind farms aren’t ugly: coal plants, coal mines, diseased lungs and smog are ugly.

      • keeping the bastards honest :

        03 Jun 2013 6:30:41pm


        MB, I cannot see how it is ‘anti-wind’ to advocate for independent medical and acoustic studies of those people adversely affected in their homes too close to industrial scale wind turbines. After all, the multiparty Australian Senate committee chaired by Green Rachel Siewert recommended this 2 years ago.

        No action since from the Government. Does the union super funds investment in wind have anything to do with this lack of response do you think? The Liberal party have pledged to fund the research should they win government. Lets hope they keep their word. And then if the economics add up, they can be sited more appropriately.

        Given MB that you were also the published author of a misleading and factually incorrect (and some have alleged defamatory) document circulated on King Isand (and referred to in the Background B program) seeking to strategically discredit Dr Sarah Laurie, it is gobsmackingly hypocritical for you to pontificate about ‘disinformation’! (I note content was also edited by the ABC on one of your earlier posts in accordance with House Rules)

        So lets do the independent medical and acoustic science in the Australian context, collecting direct data (not sham data manufactured in a laboratory, or indirect health indicators), of real people adversely impacted by living too close to industrial wind turbines. Before any more families are driven from their homes and farms.

        And as Rachel Siewerts committee recommended 2 years ago.

      • Murray May :

        04 Jun 2013 9:00:44pm

        Mike Barnard quotes some weird stuff. Just to correct the record, here is a quote from a paper by Robert Thorne and Daniel Shepherd "Wind turbine noise: why accurate prediction and measurement matter" at Acoustics 2011, Gold Coast Australia:

        The WHO Europe (2009) ‘Night Noise articles for Europe’ identifies in Table 2 the effects of outdoor noise on sleep.

        · The WHO recognizes the existence of vulnerable groups and acknowledges the existence of individual differences in noise sensitivity.
        · Health begins to be degraded between 30 and 40 dB.
        · A Lnight,outside level of 30 dB is the level that can be considered “safe”.
        · A Lnight,outside level of 40 dB and above can be considered as the marker for “unsafe”.
        · The table is based on a 21 dB noise reduction from outside to inside the residence; a level of 40 dB outside is 19 dB inside
        · Supplementary noise indicators (LAmax, sound exposure, etc) may be needed to describe and assess noise for night period protection.

        Given that 10 dB is perceived as a doubling in sound level, one can see why Mike Barnard's conclusions are way off track. Amplitude modulation in the case of wind turbines makes the sound much less tolerable by human beings. Up and down, up and down, up and down, you get the picture.

      • Murray May :

        04 Jun 2013 10:54:06pm


        "Experimentally it was found that a 10 dB increase in sound level corresponds approximately to a perceived doubling of loudness."

      • George Papadopoulos :

        06 Jun 2013 10:04:22pm

        Mike Barnard self references extensively to his own blog site.

        I wonder whether he sees anything wrong with the recent paper of Simon Chapman who attacks researchers for self citing.

  • George Papadopoulos :

    06 Jun 2013 10:08:14pm

    Re King Island: Cr Barratt fears the wind farm debate could end up as divisive as the Franklin Dam dispute which fragmented the West Coast community in the 1980s.

    "It has been a dreadful experience," Cr Barratt said.

    "It has caused dissension. These kind of rifts can last a lifetime."


    Why on earth proceed then? If the project goes ahead then the King Island won't just be hosting wind turbines but the conflict that goes with it.

  • Russell :

    07 Jun 2013 11:36:53am

    I've just got 'round to listening to the podcast.

    Good effort - great to see some attention drawn to the issue.

    It was disappointing, though, that the status of the Waubra Foundation as a astroturfing front for the fossil fuel industries via the IPA.

    I'm sure Simon Chapman would have made you aware of this, seeing as he is one among several authors who have drawn attention to it.

    Why should Sarah Laurie take the heat on her own? The blame must be shared with the vested interests behind the Waubra Foundation, which also includes the Liberal Party.

      • Russell :

        07 Jun 2013 12:50:10pm

        Woops - I meant to say - it was disappointing that the story neglected to mention the status of the Waubra Foundation as an astroturfing front for the fossil fuel industries via the IPA.

      • Murray May :

        07 Jun 2013 2:46:18pm

        I heard Christine Milne in the Senate paint rural people concerned about wind turbines as a front for the coal industry i.e. astro-turfers. A great way to get people who have environmental interests never to vote Green again. Well done Christine. There may be some climate change denying influences that are part of the agenda e.g. Alan Jones, but then Alan Jones has come out against CSG as well, and is in line with Green interests there. The fact that left leaning Senator Nick Xenophon has considerable concerns about the shonky envionmental claims linked to wind turbines, their adverse health effects, and problematic economics, suggests the astro-turfing stuff is overcooked.

      • Russell :

        07 Jun 2013 10:37:55pm

        I can certainly relate to the sensitivity of the matter - these people feel they are fighting a genuine environmental battle, so to seemingly be slapped down by the Greens must hurt.

        But the facts of the matter are that these groups are out-and-out astroturfers. The founder has spent his career in the coal industry; the organisation is funded by the IPA; the IPA is funded by numerous fossil-industry donors, and supported by the Liberal party.

        The rest of the facts are that the health claims are all without a shred of evidence, in contrast to the large and proven health costs of coal power generation (even if you don't accept the proposition of anthropogenic global warming), which every kilowatt of wind power serves to reduce.

        The facts hurt sometimes, when you're emotionally invested in a particular point of view and the people trying to talk you out of it seem to lack tact. I can relate to that - but it must be hard to be tactful while countering the obviously predatory FUD tactics of these astroturf groups, one of the key figures of which (Randall Ball) even threatened to break the Victorian premier's arms if he rolled back Baillieu's anti-wind legislation. Nevertheless, everything I have read about people such as the likes of Friends of the Earth/Yes2Renewables' Leigh Ewbank suggests an extremely conciliatory and understanding approach. Unlike the arm-breaking coal-diggers.

      • Russell :

        07 Jun 2013 11:10:19pm

        P.S. Murray I forgot to pick up on the "rural" aspect of that post. I really have to agree that the rural-vs-urban-Green divide is a massive disaster that needs to be fixed. As a lifetime urban fringer I can't claim to be rural but as a shooter / hunter on the one hand and a committed environmentalist on the other (one and the same in my mind) I could fairly blow an artery over the urban anti-ecology animal-rights activists that have infested The Greens (starting with Bob Brown's ole mate Peter Singer).

        The country redneck vs urban greenie confontation is a massive fallacy that needs to be utterly exploded, but for that to happen will take genuine engagement from both sides. It needs to happen. Both sides will benefit. I do think the likes of Christine Milne (dairy farmers' daughter) are a positive force in that regard. On the other hand have you checked out the postcodes of the Waubra Foundation's board of directors?

      • Murray May :

        08 Jun 2013 11:51:05am


        Like any organisation, Waubra is a mix of political interests, but it's clear that the central person taking the lead with the Waubra case, Dr Sarah Laurie, is like Senator Nick Xenophon, a left of centre person. She has previously voted Green (reference to this in recent Alby Schultz speech in Parliament), and originally supported wind farms until she found out how damagaing they are. She is really a medical person more than anything else with genuine concerns for the victims. Hence her interests in low frequency noise from CSG developments as well. Senator Chris Back has also spoken very sensibly in response to the Christine Milne astroturfing guff. Like I said, it's way overcooked, and Christine Milne has successfully alienated previous Greens voters, including me. The Greens blindly continue to ignore all the problematic issues with wind including adverse health effects. I personally asked Senator Larissa Waters to look into more. No change or concern that I can observe with the Greens.

      • George Papadopoulos :

        09 Jun 2013 11:13:04am

        Russell in case you weren't aware there are two studies that show an association between wind turbines and sleep deprivation, poor health and mental health:

        Nissenbaum et al 2013:;year=2012;volume=14;issue=60;spage=237;epage=243;aulast=Nissenbaum

        Shepherd et al 2012:

        Maybe you should spend less time hypothesising on conspiracy theories etc and make a genuine attempt to understand why people are getting so ill around wind turbines.

  • Name withheld :

    09 Jun 2013 7:32:28am

    I lived on King Island in the 1990's. It is an amazing place, but one needs to dumb down to be accepted. Ignorance prevails and the small group of progressively minded people are spurned and vilified.

    I would be surprised if they are clever enough to endorse the amazing 'new economy' project that would guarantee their economic future. Fortunately we have another island along the roaring forties a little further to the east.

      • Murray May :

        09 Jun 2013 11:05:53am

        At one stage, the people of Toowoomba voted no to the idea of recycling sewage for drinking water. There were cast as country hicks who were backward looking. Not so, as various water experts including Peter Collignon (professor of medicine and microbiology expert) confirmed the good sense in such a decision from a health perspective. I hope the people of King Island can see that industrial wind energy will not only wreck the landscape, but bring adverse health effects to some for sure, and ongoing community division that would also be very negative for the social health of the island.

      • Russell :

        09 Jun 2013 10:19:33pm

        On the other hand I suppose you're happy for the coal power stations in Vic and Tassie to keep on pumping out toxic substances into the atmosphere, with extensively proven health costs (even without considering global warming)?

      • Murray May :

        09 Jun 2013 10:27:15pm

        No I think energy consumption should be reduced, and Australia should not open mega coal mines to export more coal.

        I think solar and other renewables should be pursued, but industrial wind has to be one of the biggest fizzers I've come across. Conflict abounds, landscape wrecked, noise and vibration and adverse health effects. Certainly no greenhouse gas emissions saviour, that's for sure. Those who still think they add up are in denial.

      • Russell :

        10 Jun 2013 6:06:59pm

        "Industrial wind" - that's a pretty funny turn of phrase to use given that your average wind farm has no buildings, no chimneys, no resident workforce. Yes they are industrial artifacts being used to drive an industrial economy.

        It's about being pragmatic. It's the lesser of two evils (the alternative being coal). If you're holding out for the luddite revolution, I'm afraid it's never coming.

      • Murray May :

        10 Jun 2013 9:39:00pm

        OK then, what do you suggest to prevent the growth of aviation worldwide? I don't see many greenies putting off their international flights. Aviation is committed to a "growth forever" scenario. Increasing greenhouse gas emissions is of no concern to the aviation industry, other than some greenwashing thrown in. And why does the government promote industrial wind turbines on the one hand as some sort of solution, and yet also support the opening of mega coal mines for export of Australian coal? Kind of illogical?

      • George Papadopoulos :

        10 Jun 2013 9:52:23pm


        If you feel that 150m spinning monstrosities don't deserve the title "industrial", then I also suggest you call lions, elephants and 300kg boars cute, backyard pets.

      • Russell :

        11 Jun 2013 4:16:02pm

        The government doesn't promote wind turbines, Murray. If you mean the state government, Baillieu's mates with anti-wind campaigner Randall Bell, who threatened in the media to break Napthine's arms if he rolls back Baillieu's anti-wind laws.

        If you mean the federal government, as with the mining tax that no-one pays, renewable energy incentives etc are barely more than a greenwash. All they need to do to win a heap of votes is create the *perception* of being marginally more environmentally conscious than the Liberal Party. Meanwhile the big business interests who control them are laughing all the way to the bank.

        So why are we seeing big wind projects come about if it's not the government pushing it? Simple economics. It's now the cheapest new-build power generation option, even without a carbon tax / price.

      • Murray May :

        11 Jun 2013 6:24:16pm

        If the federal government is not promoting wind turbines, then why did Alby Schlutz say in parliament that in his electorate of Hume
        alone, the subsidy for new wind
        turbines, excluding existing
        turbines, is set to reach $500
        million to $1,000 million per
        year, or up to $10 billion over 10
        years. If that's not promotion, I don't know what is. If an Abbott government lets this kind of support drop, guess what's going to happen to industrial wind? I don't generally agree with the Liberals, but Howard on gun control and dropping subsidies to support the damaging wind industry are two areas where I do.

  • Chris W :

    10 Jun 2013 10:53:19am

    Amazing comment stream (perhaps reflecting astroturfers).
    I'm wondering why, for a start, there's been no experiments inviting lots of people (naive and non-naive?) to the Mortimer's house (could've started with the Senate Committee!).
    I also don't remember the program making any mention/investigation about people's houses being bought out confidentially (and if so, why).
    Glad ABC's given this air.

      • George Papadopoulos :

        10 Jun 2013 9:55:17pm

        Chris, with reference to "astroturfers" are you referring to foreigners such as Mike Barnard or to Australians like myself?

  • Pete :

    11 Jun 2013 11:40:55pm

    Wind farms are like highways, except prettier. We build them where they are useful. The place to build one is King Island. If you find them mildly annoying, put up with it. If it drives you crazy, sell up and move somewhere quieter.

    If you can prove that the building of infrastructure has reduced your property value then you deserve compensation, otherwise bad luck. Sorry, things change.