Deliberate Harm to the Health of Rural Australians, via the RET, Enabled by the CER, via Parliament
Tomorrow, the Bill to change the Renewable Energy Target (RET) will be debated in the Federal Parliament.
If you vote for the Bill as currently proposed by Minister Hunt, you will be allowing continuation and expansion of serious harm to the health of Australian rural residents, from unmeasured and unregulated infrasound and low frequency noise (ILFN) from large industrial wind turbines. This health harm includes turbine hosts, and results from ILFN from 600kW and larger turbines, extending out to at least 10km.i
The two inevitable long-term consequences of the failure to measure and regulate ILFN are health damage to many more families, including children, with a risk of permanent health damage and lifelong sensitization to ILFN, regardless of the ILFN source which will restrict where some can work, live and sleep; and the creation of acoustically toxic homes that are valueless and uninhabitable, leading to the creation of rural ghettos.
Wind turbine noise is not the only source of industrial ILFN urgently requiring safer regulation – but the subject matter of this particular Bill will not result in harm to human health from industrial noise and vibration from coal and gas fired power stations, coal mines or CSG field compressors.ii These sources also cause similar serious harm to physical and mental health, well known to the Federal Department of Resources & Energy.iii
The wind industry has known about infrasound emissions from wind turbines for thirty years iv since research led by Dr Neil Kelley, which included two branches of NASA, funded by the US Department of Energy, proved that military aircraft and wind and gas turbines generated pulsatile ILFN which directly caused sleep disturbance and physiological stress and a range of other symptoms and sensations, together known as “annoyance” – a descriptor totally inadequate to describe the severe damage to human health. Kelley also identified the issue of progressive sensitization, and recommended ILFN exposure limits to protect health.v
Sleep deprivation and chronic stress are both known to cause or exacerbate a wide range of diseases including depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, cardiovascular diseases including heart attacks, high blood pressure and stroke, and immunosuppression resulting in chronic infections and cancers.. Good quality sleep is of particular importance to children’s healthy growth and development. If government planning decisions and noise pollution regulations do not ensure protection of sleep citizens cannot attain the best possible physical and mental health, enshrined in all but one of the UN Human Rights Conventions and Covenants Australia has signed. vi The effects of severe or prolonged chronic sleep deprivation were also specifically recognised by the UN Committee Against Torture:vii
“The Committee against Torture (CAT) has noted that sleep deprivation used for prolonged periods constitutes a breach of the CAT, and is primarily used to break down the will of the detainee. Sleep deprivation can cause impaired memory and cognitive functioning, decreased short term memory, speech impairment, hallucinations, psychosis, lowered immunity, headaches, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, stress, anxiety and depression.”
Who Knows About the Health Damage?
Federal and State Health, Planning and Noise Pollution Regulatory Authorities and Departments are well aware of the health damage caused by excessive environmental noise, with sleep deprivation, neurophysiological stress, mental health problems, cardiovascular disease specifically listed in the major En Health 2004 report on Environmental Noise.viii Many Federal and State politicians know.
Despite the recommendations for multidisciplinary health research “as a priority” from the Federal Senate Inquiry into the Social and Economic Impact of Rural Wind Farms in June 2011, chaired by Greens Senator Rachel Siewert,ix there has been no multidisciplinary health research. However acoustical field work and investigation and psychoacoustic studies by acousticians with no commercial conflict of interest has shown:
- excessive ILFN out to nearly 10km which would be expected to disturb sleep (Hansen); x
- poor sleep quality, seriously impaired mental and physical health indicators in chronically exposed residents reporting impacts, which was even worse than hospital inpatients from comparative population studies (Thorne); xi
- excessive low frequency noise inside homes, pressure peak pulsations from multiple turbines, and measured wind turbine generated infrasound 30 + km away (Huson), xii and
- correlation of specific wind turbine operation parameters with severe “sensations” consistent with symptoms and sensations known to acousticians to be directly caused by exposure to ILFN (Cooper).xiii
None of this important recent acoustics field research was included by the NHMRC in any of its recent publications, yet has been internationally acclaimed by others working in this area. The NHMRC omitted other important research including the first Australian population survey at Toora, in 2004 by Dr David Iser.xiv
In other words, the NHMRC have fundamentally failed in their duty of care, and have failed the governments and politicians who rely upon them for credible, up to date, independent expert advice.xv
Apart from Ignoring the Facts What is the Wind Industry Doing?
The wind industry is predictably busy manufacturing even more evidence to support an alleged nocebo effect, (i.e. scaremongering), to explain the reported symptoms and problems.xvi In contrast, yet another study has recently demonstrated a direct physiological effect from wind turbine ILFN by showing that the brains of Japanese wind turbine workers showed a physiological stress response, visible in their brains via EEG. xvii
The Foundation’s Appeal to Politicians
Please help stop the deliberate ongoing abuse and harm to the health of an escalating number of vulnerable rural residents, which the issuing of RECS for health damaging wind developments by the CER is encouraging.xviii An immediate improvement would occur if the Renewable Energy Act was amended to:
- prohibit the payment of RECS to wind developments which cause noise nuisance including particularly sleep disturbance and physiological stress; until that noise nuisance is rectified and
- prohibit the sale of any wind power development until the noise nuisance is satisfactorily rectified.
Sarah Laurie, CEO, Waubra Foundation
Bachelor Medicine, Bachelor Surgery, Flinders University, 1995
Former FRACGP, FACCRM, Clinical Examiner RACGP, member AMA state Council, SA