“Do Wind Turbines Make People Sick?”
Is Now a Rhetorical Question (Part I)
A series of letters and responses arrived at the door of the editors of Sound and Vibration, following the 50th anniversary edition which published a multi author submission on whether or not wind turbines make people sick. The article can be found here.
By Sherri Lange
“Hostility, or higher levels of stress, especially of an aggravated and chronic nature, are known to contribute significantly to “increased risk of incident stroke, and or transient ischemic attacks.”
Comments came quickly to the editors of Sound and Vibration: 50th Anniversary Issue after they published an article by four authors (George Hessler, Geoff Leventhall, Paul Schomer, and Bruce Walker): “Health Effects from Wind Turbine Low Frequency Noise & Infrasound: Do wind turbines make people sick? That is the issue.”
In this article, the authors suggested that complainants’ hostility and “a low coping capacity” contribute to ill health and that grievances against the impacts of wind turbines are exaggerated (a common human tendency). We note that health impacts from chronic hostility may and do include: stroke, heart attack, depression, chronic inflammation. But the suggestion that hostility, low coping skills, and exaggerated symptomatology are the cause of impacts experienced—serious and sometimes fatal impacts—is to us a serious breach of logic and reason. Checklists of insinuating questions on certain health surveys of impacted persons are equally insulting. Do you have low self-esteem? Are you overweight? Are you depressed? Quoted in the authors’ analysis and findings is the Health Canada study, which did ascertain that the level of community “annoyance” is correlated to a statistically significant degree with the presence of wind turbine noice. But excluded from the Health Canada study were people under 18 and people over 79, two of the most impacted age groups. This highly disputed study notes that “annoyance was statistically lower among the 110 participants who received personal benefit, which could include rent, payments, or other indirect benefits of having wind turbines in the area, e.g., community improvements.”
The authors’ handy anti-victim dictionary imputes, annoyance, hostility, and low coping skills to victims who self-report symptoms and suffering—people who in some cases have lost homes, health, community, and jobs. Here is the first egregiously patronizing comment to victims:
It has been the first author’s privilege and pleasure to associate and collaborate with three prominent co-author scientists in the wind turbine acoustical field. All four authors do not doubt for a moment the sincerity and suffering of some residents close to wind farms and other low-frequency sources, and this is the reason all four would like to conduct, contribute or participate in some studies that would shed some light on this issue. It must also be said that it is human nature to exaggerate grievances and that some qualitative measure must be made available to compensate affected residences.
I wonder if the author expects the victims to have Stockhom syndrome, so that they might willingly invite the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), their putative captors, as a possible partner for further studies on them.
The use of ad hominem and insinuation about the psychology of wind turbine victims is a long-standing practice, but readers did not expect after some pushback on this subject worldwide, to read this additional kind of attack on their personal integrity and the factuality of their symptoms.
We commented on the ritual of turbine-impact-denial earlier: Not in Their Minds: Denial in the Wind/Health Debate
Excerpt from a letter to Sound & Vibration, written by the North American Platform Against Wind Power (February 22, 2017):
While Mr. Cooper’s Cape Bridgewater study is lightly referenced in your published piece, it is clear to us that the work he has done is conclusive and groundbreaking, especially for those inside that study, finally vindicated and offered hope. It would also behoove the authors to reference the most up to date and finely tuned machines available: victims’ bodies and minds and their completely honest reporting of symptoms. People simply do not up and leave homes, sleep in pup tents, or at the Walmart parking lot, for no reason. They do not manufacture symptoms, and spend countless hours sleepless and stressed, often losing employment, because they are “imagining” or “hostile.”
In this letter, we respectfully express our objections and concerns for the piece recently published in your 50th Anniversary edition of Sound and Vibration. Short title: “Do wind turbines make people sick?”
The journal article’s] authors explain:
However, a nocebo effect may occur, by which expectation of an outcome may lead to realization of that outcome (Chapman, Joshi at al., 2014).
There are a large number of coordinated objector groups working internationally. A web page (https://quixoteslaststand.com/) gives links to more than 2000 groups that share information on wind turbines, while some make unsubstantiated, anecdotal claims about their effects. However, there is no doubt that when stress is persistent it may result in somatic effects in a small number of people who have a low-coping capacity, although the ability to cope can be enhanced (Leventhall, Robertson et al., 2012).
In our estimate, there are well over 5000 international groups questioning the various failures of industrial wind. There are 1500 in France alone. The impact claims are not “unsubstantiated,” and the sheer volume of anecdotes has now become “data.” We respectfully suggest that the level of “persistent stress” happening worldwide in absolute tandem with legitimate reporting of symptoms, is of the level that some, including we, are calling it a pandemic, and many have referred complaints and a call to action to the World Health Organization. Again, the insinuation that victims have “low-coping capacity and that this can be “enhanced,” is outrageous and insulting to victims.
The authors of the letter go to object to the journal article’s ad hominem attacks and references allegedly repudiating health impacts:
In a compacted manner of explaining our objection to this research paper, here is a shortened list of objections:
- References to low coping capacity and nocebo, depression, and exaggerated responses from victims.
- Using the Clean Wisconsin study and the Health Canada so-called “study” as reference points. The HC study is widely repudiated, and only included to our knowledge is a single impacted person, and the turbines were turned off the day she reported to an investigator. Efforts to include truly impacted persons did not materialize. The HC study begins with a policy statement that Canada wishes to expand wind power to 20 percent by 2020. Hardly an independent statement. Many, including Robert McMurtry, Order of Canada, have explained the lack of integrity with this study, sadly now referenced by international agents of the wind industry.
- This below begs a more fulsome reply from us:
Infrasound has a special place in discussions of the health effects of wind turbines, with many claims centered on direct pathological interactions, initially fostered by media scare stories originating in the 1960s and still continuing (Leventhall, 2013a).
In his 1974 popular science book Supernature, Lyall Watson described infrasound as causing deaths (“fell down dead on the spot”), while focused infrasound “can knock a building down as effectively as a major earthquake.” This is unfounded, but an aura of mystery and danger persists around infrasound deep in the minds of many people, where it waits for a trigger to bring it to the surface. A recent trigger, heavily manipulated by objectors and media, has been wind turbines (Deignan, Harvey et al., 2013).
A concept from psychology is the “truth effect,” which explains how we can develop belief in false statements through their repetition by others (Henkel and Mattson, 2011).
We believe statements that are repeated, especially by different sources.
The path to our belief is made easier by each previous repetition.
Advertising and political propaganda are clear examples of the operation of the truth effect, which is also known as “illusory truth.”
We all also have our preferred beliefs. When there is a choice, we tend to believe what we wish to believe.
It is, again, difficult to understand the injection of, to our view, pop psychology “truth effect,” exploration into a scientific paper. Using fear of infrasound in extreme examples does nothing to elucidate the impacts from highly variable pressure pulsing, ILFN, dBA, shadow flicker, and vibration. Nothing. The use of these arguments detract from the authors’ wished-for effect of believability.
The assertion that, over time, the “speculative claims,” lacking evidence, will become “discredited” over the next 5-10 years. Repeated references to annoyance and stress, and “individual’s reactions.” Again the statement is pronounced as if from authority, quite false, that there is “no established evidence.”
- The assertion that in “hostile” persons, the stress may become exacerbated.
- Sleep disorders are worse, the piece suggests, in “hostile” persons.
- The authors invite their participation in further study, some of which may include intensive interview systems in complete “cooperation and possible sponsorship” from the AWEA in America, and others. Such a survey must have the complete cooperation and possible “sponsorship from the industries’ national representative, AWEA (American Wind Energy Association) in America and others throughout the world. The authors would like to suggest questions to any study team.” It appears to us that any such sponsorship would or might be considered by victims and communities as collusion again by industry and persons who as in this article suggest condescension and complete lack of understanding about the complexity of the human body’s ability to measure impacts, and report with integrity. To us, this idea is incredulous. There has been enough of this kind of reporting and “study,” with to our view, insincere results, and lingering impacts with no relief at all.
(About sleep disruption or deprivation, please consider that a simple sleep test inside homes, in real time, may prove extremely useful. It is widely understood that sleep deprivation is a path to disease. It is well known that the single most reported impact of industrial wind, is sleep deprivation.)
Please also visit Parts Two and Three: Rhetorical Question: Do Wind Turbines Make People Sick?