Australian windmill study concludes health complains are psychological

We’ve seen this before with other new technologies. People are primed to attribute cause to the new thing, especially when they are told how “awful” it is.

Windfarm sickness spreads by word of mouth, Australian study finds.

Sickness being attributed to wind turbines is more likely to have been caused by people getting alarmed at the health warnings circulated by activists, an Australian study has found.

Complaints of illness were far more prevalent in communities targeted by anti-windfarm groups, said the report’s author, Simon Chapman, professor of public health at Sydney University. His report concludes that illnesses being blamed on windfarms are more than likely caused by the psychological effect of suggestions that the turbines make people ill, rather than by the turbines themselves.

The report, which is the first study of the history of complaints about windfarms in Australia, found that 63% had never been subject to noise or health complaints. In the state of Western Australia, where there are 13 windfarms, there have been no complaints.

Chapman said that if wind farms did genuinely make people ill there would by now be a large body of medical evidence that would preclude putting them near inhabited areas. Eighteen reviews of the research literature on wind turbines and health published since 2003 had all reached the broad conclusion that there was very little evidence they were directly harmful to health.

I’m thinking the same would apply to fear of electromagnetic frequencies like WIFi or smart meters.

The study found that the majority of complaints came from residents that were specifically targeted by windmill opponent groups. More complaints about health and noise began after the groups “began to add health concerns to their wider opposition”. This is a phenomena called priming when they now have a cause to connect to any anomaly.

The Australian national group that opposes windfarms, the Waubra Foundation, alleges that serious medical conditions have been identified in people living, working or visiting within six miles of wind turbines. Symptoms include sleep deprivation, hypertension, heart attacks and depression that they correlate with the operation of the windfarms. But a less biased assessment apparently says otherwise. This is not surprising. People fear new technology. Wifi, smart meters, microwaves, cell phone towers, electric pylons, GM foods – they all have detractors but the claims do not stand up to scientific scrutiny.

There is the possibility that infrasound or other vibration might cause issues for some people in some areas but this is measurable and can be corrected.

Photo credit: Danny Lawson/PA

Photo credit: Danny Lawson/PA

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  7 comments for “Australian windmill study concludes health complains are psychological

  1. March 15, 2013 at 9:19 PM

    I see parallels to all sorts of other phantom illnesses with this story.

    In any case, to be the devil’s advocate. based on personal experience, the scenery outside your door and what you see every day can certainly affect your mood, which in turn can affect all sorts of things related to mental and physical health. I remember when I moved to Florida years ago, my apartment overlooked a beautiful lake, and I’ll tell you that every morning I’d wake up, stand on my balcony and feel better than I’d ever felt in years. I feel the same way nowadays just driving through upstate New York. To me, windfarms simply look ugly and I’d hate to have to see them all the time. It may be all in my brain, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a real phenomenon.

    I’m not saying that that should cause an illness, but I’m not surprised if people are not happy living near them.

  2. One Eyed Jack
    March 15, 2013 at 9:24 PM

    Where is Don Quixote when you need him?

  3. Chris Howard
    March 16, 2013 at 12:48 AM

    I see Big Wind is up to their old nefarious shenanigans, again!

  4. One Eyed Jack
    March 16, 2013 at 2:42 AM

    To me, windfarms simply look ugly and I’d hate to have to see them all the time.

    Not half as ugly as a coal fired power plant belching out smoke.

  5. March 16, 2013 at 2:51 AM

    Talk about tilting at windmills!! I hereby dub Thee (Sir Morgellen, put thy much thread-matted sword into my hand) Don Quixote De La Mancha Disorder!!!

  6. rusty
    March 16, 2013 at 5:40 PM

    I remember when the whole countryside was full of windmills. Every farmer had several. They were ugly rusty clunky things. We had one just outside our side fence that was our towns only water supply.
    Strangely, these didn’t make people sick.

  7. March 16, 2013 at 7:13 PM

    Farm windmills were only 24V DC. You could only feel it from the chicken coop.

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