NHMRC Public Consultations

Skip Navigation and go to Content
Visit NHMRC website

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

ID: 
25
Personal Details
First Name: 
Mary
Last Name: 
Morris
Questions
Q1. Is the draft Information Paper presented and written in a manner that is easy to understand?: 

I have read both the NHMRC's Draft Information Paper and "Systematic review of the human health effects of wind farms"  prepared by AHTA.

The two documents were not difficult to read and understand, but do raise a  number of questions which this online response form does not provide the opportunity to address.

The one thing which is very clear from the Draft infomation paper is that  proper FIELD RESEARCH into health effects of wind farms AT THE WIND FARMS  is long overdue. As is the need for research in the area of acoustics  as mentioned on page 20 under Areas for further research.

I urge the NHMRC to make the call for targetted research and funds available as soon as possible for collaborative work on the ground at Waterloo, Hallett2, Macarthur and Cape BridgeWater wind farms - just to name a few. Particularly in the areas of measured physiological and biochemical characteristics (including sleep) along with an individual’s self-reported physical and psychological status (including annoyance) and research into measurement of noise.

 I emphasis field studies as there are certainly limitations in  laboratory studies which try to  reproduce the effect of infrasound carried in the turbulence of a turbine wake, from a turbine with a blade sweep area of 0.9 of a hectare and then determining it's effect on physiological symptoms, along with changing wind direction and variations of atmospheric conditions and topography. Will laboratory studies determine how sleep is affected by vibration of the bedroom floor or noise coming up through the pillow at Waterloo? It is an extremely complex situation for which current simplistic propagation models do not work.

 

Furthermore it is impossible to create the same sound field in laboratories to that that exists in the real world.

Acousticians (eg Schomer and Hessler) with experience in monitoring wind farm noise have highlighted the need for attended measurements to assess the actual noise and limited reliance on typical noise logging and generated wave files. Whilst the data may be suitable for frequency analysis the use of such data for audible assessment is questionable.

Questions have been raised as to the accuracy of sound filed in laboratory studies – particularly in the “hearing threshold” and perception threshold testing for infrasound often quoted. In many cases the  lower frequency limit is limited and testing by headphones would not seem to be representative of that experienced in rooms. The same “hearing threshold” tests are only of a two second tone of a steady nature. Such levels do not represent long term exposure or the characteristics of wind farm noise – nor the whole body vibration (feeling) identified by residents and in the early 1980s by Dr NlKelley.

The capability of a sound system (and recordings) to reproduce the actual audible effect of what was the original signal is questioned on a number of grounds.

The suggested laboratory validation exercise of a nocebo carried out in New Zealand was in effect a nocebo of a claimed nocebo because of the limited frequency response and generation of the infrasound by the sound system used. It could not cover cover the frequencies generated by turbines.  The real world is much more complex.

The acoustic testing at Waterloo wind farm under the “SA EPA program” provides conflicting information on audibility. We have acousticians from Adelaide University, an independent  acoustical engineer and the residents filling in noise diaries identifying audible tones and low frequency pulsations. Yet the SA EPA claim no audible tones/noise on their recordings.

If the University team and the independent acoustician conducted measurements in the same room (for a nominated house) as the EPA had their microphones and can measure and hear audible tones/noise there must be a fundamental question as to the instrumentation used and the method of “listening” employed by the SA EPA.  

Using a single microphone as a source to then produce a listening field cannot compare with a person using two ears and being present to the actual impact.

The acoustical research requires persons with experience in conducting the measurements using the appropriate instrumentation and independence and should be a collaborative approach.

Any acoustic measurements require groups of experienced acousticians with an exchange of data like that of the Shirley wind farm investigation that produced a primary report (signed by the four acousticians) with four separate reports as attachments. The SA EPA gave an undertaking to the community that the actual measurement data and wind farm operating data in the SA EPA  Waterloo testing would be made available to the team from Adelaide University and the independent acoustical engineer undertaking measurements as the same time. 12 months after the testing had commenced and despite repeated requests to supply the data the EPA we are still waiting.

In Question2 I make a number of comments about the above 2 NHMRC documents:

 

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

1. Comments on Transparency On a positive note, this current review reveals the identity of the reviewers which gives it more credibility than the 2010 NHMRC document.  The 2010 Rapid Review reviewed a very limited number of papers and concealed the fact that the 2010 reviewers :S Chapman and G Leventhall, were responsible for this earlier document  and could hardly be called impartial as they are both very public supporters of the wind industry.

2. Comments on the Independence of the Expert Review Panel

I bring to your attention, the fact that Dr Norm Broner (SKM) was the acoustic consultant who signed off on the noise predictions for  Stage 1 of the Waterloo wind farm in SA which is now notorious for noise problems.

In terms of further research in the  area of acoustic measurements and noise prediction,I recommend that Dr Broner  return to Waterloo and carry out post construction noise measurements in order to compare  these with his 2009 predictions, and   with a view to developing a more accurate noise prediction model.  I am happy to facilitate this as I am well acquaintedf with the 40 or so affected households.

Clare & Gilbert Valleys Council (C&GV) approved the development of the Waterloo wind farm partly on predictions made in  the  Environmental Noise Modelling Report  authorised by Dr Broner in 2009.  The Waterloo wind farm is well known for having noise problems with noise levels exceeding those predicted by Dr Broner. The noise problems have been widely acknowledged by the Clare and Gilbert Valley's Council and Local Government Association Central Local Government Region. eg Mayor Aughey's evidence to the South Australian Parliamentary Select Committee into wind power in SA. Transcript available at:  http://docs.wind-watch.org/SA-select-comittee-wind-farms.pdf

3. Both NHMRC 2014 documents quote heavily from Evans T, Cooper J, Lenchine V. Infrasound levels near windfarms and in other environments. Environmental Protection Authority South Australia; 2013 [Viewed April 2013]; Available from: http://www.epa.sa.gov.au/xstd_files/Noise/Report/infrasound.pdf Also known as the Resonate Report.

The Evans et al  document was in fact published well after the cut off date for inclusion in the NHMRC review. Co-authors  J Cooper and T Evans  are acousticians for Resonate Acoustics which provided services to the wind industry.

This Evans et al document (also known as the EPA/RESONATE report) has attracted some contraversy at the NSW AAS  meeting in March 2013 from [NHMRC has removed third party information],  SOURCE :NSW AAS TRANSCRIPT MARCH 2013,

4. In addition, the Evans et al report only measured infrasound at 2 wind farms - 1 house at each wind  farm for only a few days. These 2 houses were not at wind farms which are well known for noise problems, nor were they at houses  of severely affected residents. Which raises the question why choose these houses when there are dozens of well known ones near Waterloo  and Hallett 2 windfarms which might have been investigated as well? In addition, the investigation used a very small sample size. n =2

5. The Evans et al report says that  noise was measured when the turbines were on and then when they were switched off and made the conclusion that the windfarm was not contributing sigificantly to the infrasound level. Unfortunately NOT ALL TURBINES  within the vicinity were turned off as can be seen by looking at AEMO data for the period. As ILFN attenuates very little over distance, turbines were still operating some 8 km from the microphone and would have contributed to the infrasound noise level, thus rendering the conclusions invalid.

6. I find it surprising that the Evans et al report would meet the NHMRC criteria, when hundreds of other worthy documents were excluded.

7. I find it surprising that  the work of so many  internationally respected experts was rejected by the reviewers - it seems the criteria set by the Expert Review Panel were  extremely narrow.

 I trust that the NHMRC will address this absence of knowledge  by adequately funding meaningful collaborative research in order to bring some clarity to this issue.

MOST IMPORTANTLY I call for a National register of patients who report wind turbine effects and a system of reporting this which will remove the current angst between overworked rural GPs who don't want to get involved and patients who are having their concerns trivialised.  A simple reporting system is needed to  remove the stigma attached to this issue- where the GP can rightly handball the patients concerns on to  be collated by state and national health authorities, rather than burying the issue. as is currently the case. This in turn will create a national data base for research if patients choose to be involved. At the moment , the issue is unquantified and will continue to remain so  while patients are rebuffed by their GPs and their GPs  decline to get involved.

 

 

Q3. Is there additional evidence on any health or health-related effects specifically related to distance from wind turbines or exposure to emissions from wind turbines?: 

The AHTA  and NHMRC seems to have  been highly selective in this review and excluded an enormous amount of research which could have comtributed to a better understanding of the issues.

The criteria have been far too restrictive and as a result, much important epidemiological work has been disregarded.

 Morris M.  A comparison of wind turbine acoustic measurements and analysis, resident responses  and wind farm power output during on-off testing at a South Australia wind farm.  April 2014.  available on  www. waubrafoundation.org and  www.wind watch

 

 

Morris , M, 2013 Waterloo Case Series Preliminary Report   http://waubrafoundation.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Waterloo-Case-Series-Preliminary-Report.pdf

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

 Morris M.  A comparison of wind turbine acoustic measurements and analysis, resident responses  and wind farm power output during on-off testing at a South Australia wind farm.  April 2014.  available on 

http://waubrafoundation.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Morris-M.-On-off-tesing-comparison-Submission-to-NHMRC-April-11-2014.pdf

 and www. waubrafoundation.org and  www.wind watch

Kelley N. D, McKenna H. E , Hemphill R. R, Etter C. l,  Garrelts R. l, Linn N. C, Acoustic Noise Associated with the MOD .. 1 Wind Turbine: Its Source, Impact, and Control, February 1985  http://waubrafoundation.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Acoustic-Noise-Associated-with-the-MOD-1-Wind-Turbine.pdf

 

K. Hansen, N. Henrys, C. Hansen, C. J. Doolan, D. J. Moreau, "Wind farm noise - what is a reasonable limit in rural areas?", Acoustics 2012, Fremantle, Western Australia, Australia, 21 - 23 Nov, 2012.

C. J. Doolan, D. J. Moreau, L. A. Brooks, "Wind turbine noise mechanisms and some concepts for its control", Acoustics Australia 40(1), pp. 7 - 13, 2012.

B. Zajamsek, D.J. Moreau, C.J. Doolan, K. Hansen "Indoor Infrasound and low-frequency noise monitoring in a rural environment", Acoustics 2013, Victor Harbor, SA, 17 - 20 November, 2013.

Morris , M, 2013 Waterloo Case Series Preliminary Report   http://waubrafoundation.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Waterloo-Case-Series-Preliminary-Report.pdf

Q5. Is there additional evidence on whether it is plausible that noise, shadow flicker and electromagnetic radiation (of the type and at the levels produced by wind farms) might affect healthy functioning of the human body?: 

B. Zajamsek, C. J. Doolan, D. J. Moreau, K. Hansen, "Simultaneous indoor low-frequency noise, annoyance and direction of arrival monitoring", 5th International Meeting on Wind Turbine Noise, Denver, Colorado, 28 - 30 August, 2013.

C. J. Doolan, "A review of wind turbine noise perception, annoyance and low frequency emission", Wind Engineering 37(1), pp. 97 - 104, 2013.

C. J. Doolan, D. J. Moreau, "An on-demand simultaneous annoyance and indoor noise recording technique", Acoustics Australia 41(2), pp. 141 - 145, 2013.

Morris , M, 2013 Waterloo Case Series Preliminary Report   http://waubrafoundation.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Waterloo-Case-Series-Preliminary-Report.pdf

Page reviewed: 11 February, 2015