Last update: December 13, 2017

Waubra FoundationApril 14, 2014AustraliaAustralia

Provision of Expert Opinion concerning the Adverse Impacts of Wind Turbine Noise

By Sarah Laurie, CEO Waubra Foundation

Dear Mr Abbott,

I confirm that I have been provided with practice direction 5.4 relating to Expert Witnesses (Rule 160), and that I have read it and understood it.

I have been asked by you to provide a report to address the following question:

Will noise or other direct or indirect consequences (and which consequences) of the operation of the Stony Gap wind farm erected as contemplated in the Application, and involving turbines of the type and dimensions referred to in the Application, in your opinion be likely to cause adverse health effects or significantly exacerbate existing adverse health effects to a significant percentage of the population living within up to 10 kilometers of the turbines from the Stony Gap Wind Farm?

In my opinion, it is inevitable that this proposed wind development, if built in this location with turbines of the specified size, will cause serious harm to the physical and mental health of a significant percentage of the surrounding population, including particularly to vulnerable groups such as young children, the elderly, and those with pre existing medical and psychiatric conditions, who live and work in the sound energy impact zone of this proposed Stony Gap Wind Farm (SGWF), out to a distance of at least 10 kilometers from the turbines, over the lifetime of the project. This harm will be caused directly by the audible and inaudible sound energy generated by the wind turbines, which will cause significant repetitive sleep disturbance, and physiological stress. The physiological mechanisms have been demonstrated in animals to be due to abnormal activation of the vestibular system and sympathetic nervous system by the effect of infrasound and low frequency noise (ILFN) on the inner ear.

These are serious adverse health effects, which lead to a range of other symptoms and illnesses by interfering with the hypothalamic-pituitary axis (“master” control mechanism of the endocrine system), disturbance of the autonomic nervous system and compromise of immunological competence.

This report is confined to the adverse health effects on human health from sound energy, reported by residents living near wind turbines as this is my specific area of knowledge and expertise. Other adverse health effects such as symptoms and illnesses resulting from exposure to shadow flicker have certainly been reported by residents at wind developments, but are not addressed in this report.

My opinion is informed by my direct knowledge of the reported health problems of residents living near existing Wind Turbine Developments, particularly in Australia and Ontario. My opinion is also informed by the known adverse health consequences resulting from exposure to environmental noise, and the known serious adverse health consequences of chronic sleep deprivation and chronic stress.

Sleep deprivation and stress related symptoms are the commonest health complaints reported by residents living near wind turbines, and in my opinion, they are individually and collectively responsible for the observed and reported deterioration in some residents’ health with cumulative exposure to operating wind turbines.

There is extensive and longstanding peer reviewed published clinical research detailing the known interconnections and associations between chronic sleep deprivation, stress and numerous clinical disorders including ischemic heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, immune suppression resulting in increased infections and malignancies (cancers), depression, and anxiety.

The observation of these particular preexisting symptoms and health problems worsening with exposure to wind turbine noise is not surprising to clinicians and mental health professionals, when they learn what is now known about the way infrasound and low frequency noise, regardless of the source of the noise, are known to affect health via repetitive sleep disturbance, and the physiological and psychological stress pathways.

The specific reasons for my opinion are set out below.

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