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NHMRC Draft Information Paper: Evidence on Wind Farms and Human Health submission

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Last Name: 
Chapman AO
Q1. Is the draft Information Paper presented and written in a manner that is easy to understand?: 

I have noticed what I believe are three inaccuracies in the draft report.  On page 2, it states that there are “around 90 wind farms” in Australia. When researching my paper (#1 below), I used many sources to try and determine the number of wind farms around Australia that were generating  commercially useful quantities of electricity that was being fed into the grid. I am aware that there are some examples of single, private wind turbines that supply power to private properties or for limited use. Two examples of these are the 5kw turbine in Bicentennial Park in Glebe (Sydney) and this one http://www.nicholspoultry.com.au/cgi-bin/page.cgi?nicholsS+1 powering a poultry farm in Tasmania.


However, I have been only able to find evidence of 51 wind farms across Australia – considerably less than “around 90”. This Wikipedia site http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power_in_Australia  claims there are 52.


Second, on page 4, it is stated that Australia’s first wind farm became operational in 1981. To my knowledge, the now decommissioned Salmon Beach wind farm in Western Australia was the first constructed in 1987 (see http://ramblingsdc.net/Australia/WindPower.html#Evolution_of_wind_turbines). The longest operating current wind farm in in Esperance, Western Australia which started in 1993.


Third, [NHMRC has removed third party information] who conducted the survey of [NHMRC has removed third party information] residents, is not a “Dr” (this should be corrected). She is a local resident with no medical or doctoral qualifications and is an active opponent of wind farms.

Q2. Does the draft Information Paper clearly outline how the evidence was reviewed and interpreted by NHMRC?: 


Q4. Is there additional evidence on the likely level of exposure to emissions produced by wind farms at nearby residences? : 

Here are recent papers that I believe should be of interest to your Committee

 1.       Chapman S, St George A, Waller K, Cakic V. The pattern of complaints about Australian wind farms does not match the establishment and distribution of turbines: support for the psychogenic, 'communicated disease' hypothesis. PLoS One 8(10): e76584. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0076584 16 Oct 2013.


Comment: This paper is of great importance to the question of whether there are likely to be psychogenic factors relevant to understanding the history and distribution of complaints about wind turbine noise and/or health problems. It is an attempted audit of all known complainants across all Australian wind farms (excluding complaints about non health related matters such as visual amenity or alleged danger to flora and fauna). Using four sources of information, we were able to find just 129 complainants out of an estimated residential population living within 5km of the wind farms of 32,789.


The central reason for the importance of this paper is that in recent years, the communicative environment about wind farms and health in Australia has become indelibly corrupted by often virulent claims about the harms of wind turbine exposure. This discourse was very uncommon and isolated before 2009 in Australia, when the Landscape Guardian anti- wind farm network began adding health concerns to their normal emphasis about assaults on visual amenity, and the Waubra Foundation commenced its publicity campaign. From that point on all communities with wind farms or with them proposed became exposed to information designed to make residents anxious about turbines and health problems. This raises major problems for any investigation into the question of whether complaints and symptoms are a direct result of turbine exposure or a nocebo response to the fear of what turbines are said to cause.


Our study, in examining (a) records of health complaints dating from times prior to 2009 and (b) in areas of Australia where anti-wind farm opposition has not occurred and so where anxieties have not been raised, provides vital data on whether residents experience health problems and complain in the absence of a communicative environment that is negative about wind farms and health.


We found that the large majority of complainants in Australia were concentrated at just 6 of the 51 wind farms and that most had occurred after 2009.


This paper has attracted enormous international interest. It was placed as a pre-print prior to final publication on my University’s e-Scholarship repository, where it has been viewed over 15,000 times., the second highest ever viewing total in over 8000 items.


The anti wind farm movement have attempted to critique it several times, mainly by selectively reading it and making erroneous claims about what the paper  actually says. One example of this is a critique made by Ms Sarah Laurie of the Waubra Foundation (see http://tobacco.health.usyd.edu.au/assets/pdfs/publications/Laurie-critique.pdf). Here is my response to her critique http://tobacco.health.usyd.edu.au/assets/pdfs/publications/Reply2Laurie.pdf


#2 TAYLOR, J., EASTWICK, C., LAWRENCE, C. and WILSON, R., 2013. Noise levels and noise perception from small and micro turbines. Renewable Energy. 55(July), 120–127 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.renene.2012.11.031


Comment: This English study reports that those “with a more negative attitude to wind turbines perceive more noise from a turbine located close to their dwelling and those perceiving more noise report increased levels of general symptoms. Individuals' personality also affected attitudes to wind turbines, noise perception from small and micro turbines and symptom reporting.”


This paper is particularly important to be read in conjunction with my paper #1 above. This is because critics of my paper have sought to argue that the rise in compliants in recent years is associated with the increase in the number of large wind turbines. They imply that smaller turbines do not cause problems. This paper shows that even with small and micro turbines, those with “negative attitudes” toward them have increased levels of reported symptoms.

#3TAYLOR, J., EASTWICK, C., WILSON, R. and LAWRENCE, C., 2013. The influence of negative oriented personality traits on the effects of wind turbine noise. Personality and Individual Differences. 54(3), 338-343 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2012.09.018


Comment: This is a companion paper to #2 above, which reaches similar conclusions but for wind turbines of all sizes.

You will doubtless have the paper Nissenbaum MA, Aramini JJ, Hanning CD. Effects of industrial wind turbine noise on sleep and health. Noise Health 2012;14:237-43. recommended to you.


These two published critiques below of the Nissenbaum et al paper will almost certainly not be referred to you by those claiming that paper is important.


#4. Christopher A Ollson, Loren D Knopper, Lindsay C McCallum, Melissa L Whitfield-Aslund. Are the findings of "Effects of industrial wind turbine noise on sleep and health" supported? Noise and Health, Year : 2013 | Volume : 15 | Issue : 63 | Page : 148-150


#5. Mike Barnard. Issues of wind turbine noise, Noise and Health 2013;15(63) 150-152


#6. Chapman S: Factoid forensics: Have “more than 40” Australian families abandoned their homes because of wind farm noise? [under peer review] Preprint: http://ses.library.usyd.edu.au//bitstream/2123/10008/4/FactoidForensicsFinal.pdf


Comment: An examination, using six  potential sources of information, about whether the claim that “more than 40” Australian families have had to “abandon” their homes near wind farms.


#7. Chapman S, St George A. How the factoid of wind turbines causing  “vibroacoustic disease” came to be “irrefutably demonstrated”. Aust NZ J Public Health 2013; 33:244-9.  


Comment: This peer reviewed paper explores the evidence base for the claim that wind turbines cause a problem called “vibroacoustic disease”, often promoted by wind farm opponents as a problem caused by wind turbines. It shows that this “disease” has no recognition in medicine and that the putative claim about a connection with wind turbines was based on an n=1 study of abject quality.


I would also recommend to you the two papers on experimental demonstration of nocebo effects from real and sham infrasound that will be send to you (I understand) by researcher from the University of Auckland (Crichton et al).

Page reviewed: 11 February, 2015