The US National Library of Medicine's PubMed database has over 21 million research papers in it, but not one of them comes up if you search for 'wind turbine syndrome'. Meanwhile, no less than 17 reviews of the published evidence have all concluded that complaints about wind farms are mostly predicted by pre-existing attitudes to them rather than on any objective measure of exposure.
Clean Energy Council "Wind Energy Community Research in Victoria, NSW and South Australia, Polling Report, April 2012:
"100 years ago people were worried about having live electrical wires running through their walls. Today we wouldn't dream of living without electricity in our homes. 50 years ago asbestos seemed like a great building product. Today we know it causes cancer. As a society sometimes we worry about things and it turns out we had nothing to worry about. Sometimes it's the other way around. In the future do you suspect that concerns about the health impacts of wind turbines..."
A large majority (83%) of respondents said they felt that concerns about the health impacts of wind turbines will turn out to be nothing to worry about. - www.cleanenergycouncil.org.au/
A study, Wind Turbine Sound and Health Effects, was conducted in 2009 by a panel of medical professionals from the US, Canada, Denmark, and UK. The study concluded, "There is no evidence that the audible or sub-audible sounds [including infrasound] emitted by wind turbines have any direct adverse physiological effects."
Author: Dr Sarah Edelman 29 Jul 2011 "Anxiety is the key"
"For any psychologist who specialises in anxiety disorders it is totally unsurprising to see individuals who are stressed and fearful of the wind turbines also experiencing a range of physical symptoms. Our brain is designed to focus on threat. Once we perceive that something bad, dangerous or threatening is in our lives (or in our immediate environment) we become hypervigilant and aroused. People who are in an anxious state typically experience high startle reflex, insomnia, headaches, nausea, twitches, electrical sensations and various other symptoms. I see them every day. The symptoms described by the affected individuals in the [Four Corners] program are very typical somatic symptoms associated with hypervigilance. Some, like the man who described "a sensation of his heart wanting to leap out of his chest, and just feeling as if he was going to – about to die", are experiencing panic attacks.
While some people suggest that these individuals are just noticing random symptoms that we all experience, and attributing them to the wind turbines, in my view the individuals interviewed on the 4 Corners were clearly anxious and distressed, and were experiencing genuine physical symptoms. Anxiety related symptoms are not imagined – they are real. When these individuals leave the area they feel better because they feel safe – hypervigilance drops and nervous arousal subsides. However this is not the same thing as the biological pathways that are being proposed by those who claim a direct causal link between turbines and ill-health.
While somatic (anxiety-related) symptoms are associated with nervous arousal and lots of unpleasant symptoms they are rarely associated with serious medical illness, which is why Prof. Wittert's study found no increase in the prescription of medications for people living in the area. However in vulnerable individuals ongoing anxiety may lead to depression, which is a medical illness, and may be seen in future studies of this population. Further, even if not dangerous, the symptoms are unpleasant and distressing, particularly when individuals believe they reflect serious dangers to their health.
I don't have a strong view about the politics of wind farms, however I do think the scare mongering that is occurring (and especially involving children in the scare campaign) is unhelpful. It perpetuates the problem by feeding the fear that gives rise to anxiety and somatisation in susceptible individuals. I can guarantee that if you can remove threat perceptions, the symptoms will disappear. However banishing fear is a tall order, especially when beliefs are so strong and emotions are hot."
Doctor Edelman's candid view, as a practicing clinical psychologist, is a very valuable addition to the debate on the causes of the so-called "wind turbine syndrome".
Dr Simon Chapman, Sydney University discusses the ‘nocebo’ effect:
Researchers at the University of Auckland published an experimental study showing that people primed by watching online information about health problems from wind turbines, reported more symptoms after being exposed to recorded infrasound or to sham (fake) infrasound.
The study provided powerful evidence for the nocebo hypothesis: the idea that anxiety and fear about wind turbines being spread about by anti-wind farm groups, will cause some people hearing this scary stuff to get those symptoms.
The double whammy for the scaremongers comes in the form of an historical audit of all complaints made about wind farm noise or health problems on all of Australia’s 49 wind farms. Australia’s first wind farm, which still operates today, started generating power in 1993 at Esperance in Western Australia. Twenty years on, our 49 wind farms have seen 1471 turbines turning for a cumulative total of 328 years.
In recent years, and particularly since 2009, we’ve heard a lot about health complaints involving wind turbines, thanks to the efforts of groups such as the Waubra Foundation (none of whose directors live in or near the Victorian town of Waubra) and the interconnected Landscape Guardians. And, just as the nocebo hypothesis would predict, the great bulk of health and noise complaints have arisen since 2009: 82% of complainants made their first complaint after that date.
There are some 32,677 people living within 5km of these 49 wind farms around Australia, and just 120 – or one in 272 – of them have ever made formal complaints, appeared in news reports or sent complaining submissions to government. Moreover, 81 (68%) of these are people living near just five wind farms, each of which have been heavily targeted by wind farm opponent groups.