Wind Turbine Noise a “Hazard to Human Health”: Alan Jones interviews Dr Jay Tibbetts
Last month we brought you the story of how the Shirley Wisconsin wind energy project was declared a human health hazard. Now we share this interview with Alan Jones from 2GB with the Vice-President of the Board of Health, Dr. Jay Tibbetts, where they discuss why the Medical Board had no choice but to declare the wind energy facility a human health hazard – not only to the community, but also to visitors and even a hazard to the health of passers-by.
Alan has a little radio show that more than just a few Australians tune into each morning. Syndicated through over 77 Stations and with close to 2 million listeners Countrywide – AJ as he’s known – is one of those people that leads the political charge on many issues that really affect ordinary Australians and which the rest of the press ignore.
You can listen to the audio or read the transcript below.
Alan Jones AO: Just changing direction here, because to most people listening to the program, I suppose, right now, although not people west of the Great Dividing Range – this tends to be fundamentally meaningless. When you talk about wind power. And of course all this debate about renewable energy targets. And we know that they’e pushing up the price of power. We know that they’re driving businesses offshore. We know that you are finding and you are writing to me that your electricity bill going through the roof. We are losing our international competitive advantage because we used to have the cheapest energy in the world and now we’ve demonised coal fired power and run like lunatics to embrace wind power and solar power.
But of course if wind power was not injurious to health, why wouldn’t we put the turbines where the wind is, in Parramatta Road all Macquarie Street, or on Bondi Beach or in Pennsylvania Avenue? We have a Federal Energy Minister Macfarlane, who cares nothing about the issues which drive from wind power. Indeed he sent a letter to Coalition members, Senators and staff recently which said: “Please find attached and below a standard letter in response to renewable energy target queries”. That is the argument that these targets should be abolished. And this is what he has told them. “The renewable energy sector should have greater clarity. By removing the need for a review of the target every two years, this proposal” – and he outlines some rubbish – “would ensure a doubling of new large scale and new small-scale renewable energy production under the renewable energy target scheme between now and 2020. In short, there will be more new renewable energy installed over the next six years of the renewable energy target than has been installed in the first 14 years of the scheme.” Well that will get him a job when he doesn’t stand at the next election with one of these companies on a big salary. But in other words more wind turbines and your electricity bill goes higher and higher.
What about the health consequences? Dr Michael Crawford is the director of the Waubra Foundation. They’ve been trying to alert government to health risks of wind power. They wrote very recently to Prime Minister Abbott, October 30, part of the letter says,
“The Australian government’s policies and practices in relation to wind farms are devastating many rural families through prolonged sleep deprivation and other health impacts”.
The letter says, “prolonged sleep deprivation is recognised as torture by the United Nations and thus all Australian public officials are prohibited from causing it by section 274.2 of the Australian Criminal Code. The Clean Energy Regulator public officials may face primary liability, under section 274 of the Criminal Code Act, for failing to avert situations which amount to torture by continuing to issue renewable energy certificates, for developments where persisting sleep deprivation has been reported”.
The letter goes on, the UN committee against torture explains why sleep deprivation is torture and they quote – this letter has gone to the Prime Minister –
“Sleep deprivation can cause impaired memory, and cognitive functioning, decreased short-term memory, speech impairment, hallucinations, psychosis, lowered immunity, headaches, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, stress, anxiety and depression”.
This is a UN committee. The letter to the Prime Minister said, of October 30 this year,
“The harm is being done to Australians with the complicity of the Australian government agencies, and apparently with the knowledge and acquiescence of ministers in your government. The problem is not a matter of wind farms per se, it is about where they are built in relation to people and how they are operated with respect to harmful noise generation. Current siting and operational decisions are based on maximising revenue for developers …”
foreign developers, I might add,
“… while ignoring and denying or downplaying the harm being done to people. In other words, torture is being done for profit”.
I would have thought that’s a pretty serious letter. Serious allegations.
What does our AMA say, the Australian Medical Association? “The available Australian and international evidence does not support the view that the infra …” – it’s run by a left-winger by the way, the AMA now – constantly criticising the Abbott government, but it says, “the available Australian and international evidence does not support the view that the infra-sound or low-frequency sound generated by wind farms, as they’re currently regulated in Australia, causes adverse health effects on populations residing in their vicinity.” And it goes on – the AMA.
I have a file here which you couldn’t jump over, of dreadful, dreadful letters from you people listening. I’ll just give you one. This is a woman who wrote to me, she is right next to a wind farm.
“Early this morning at 12
– this is awful –
12:30 AM, I woke suddenly to an excruciating pain in the muscle above my elbow on my left arm. I was lying on my right side. I hadn’t slept. The pain was enormous. I got out of bed. I went back to bed and the left arm pulsating with pain. At 5:45 AM I woke again. The sound of intermittent ring, like a distant bell and my body felt sore. When I got out of bed, my body was stiff and sore. Aching around my kidneys, and hips and back. The last episode has just reduce me to tears and today I’ve just had enough. I don’t want to have to leave my beautiful farm in a pine box. This is my home. This is my life. I am so frightened about what’s happening to me as in long-term damage to my health.”
Now I have letters like these a mile long. “I wonder” … – one woman wrote to a newspaper down in Victoria dismissing the concerns about wind energy and health. And a woman wrote, a mother,
“I wonder if Jo Smith,
that’s the woman who wrote the letter,
would be quite so cocky if she’d spent the last few nights sleeping to the east of the Macarthur wind farm. If she came and talked to us she’d hear of our sleep disrupted nights, because of the noise is incessant and debilitating. When you try to block it out it comes through the pillow. She’d learn that there are nights when the noise is heard above the television. She might feel sympathy for those who suffer headaches and nausea which began after the turbines started turning. There are people at least 5 km away who are feeling the effects and suffering sleep deprivation. Not every night is as bad, but this week’s been awful. This morning we drove our son to Tulamarine. We were all wide awake about 2.30, we couldn’t go back to sleep. I had a fitful two hours of sleep prior to that. In total I had about two hours sound sleep. How safe are we driving on the roads if we’re sleep deprived?”
The letters go on. There is a mile of them.
“I arrived home this afternoon from a couple of days respite from Macarthur wind factory to see all the turbines turned off at 4:30 PM. I thought great, no infra-sound. When I walked into my home it felt quiet and peaceful. The air was clear. At 6:15, I was at my computer and I thought a large truck was coming down my driveway. I had to stop what I was doing and listen for a moment to work out what was going on. The noise was horrendous. The rumbling and rattling and thumping and banging – and for a moment I wasn’t sure what it was. I drove down to the corner and saw the turbines turning. That was what the ruckus was about. They were all being turned on again. Since then and now at 8:55 PM I felt as though I could jump out of my skin or go a round with a punching bag. My muscles are tight and electric. I feel as though I want to release this enormous energy. The air in the house is electric. My body is vibrating. My voice is even vibrating when I speak. Now I know how the prisoners felt in the war when Germany used infra-sound to torture them. This is what it must’ve been like. To send them mad. To scramble their brains. To render them helpless. This is infra-sound.
You know it.
I know it.
And my independent acoustician knows it.
Turn the turbines off at night so we can get a good nights sleep. Do the decent thing if that’s possible.”
Letters everywhere. Letters everywhere.
Well Dr Jay Tibbetts is a practising physician – a member of the Brown County Board of Health. A medical advisor to the Brown County Health Department in Wisconsin, America.
He has been alerted to the position of the Australian Medical Association and has called them ‘misguided’.
He has indicated that over the last few years his Board, the Brown County Board of Health, has studied the deleterious effects of wind turbines on human health and has found that they constitute ‘\”a human health hazard” for “residents, workers, visitors and passers by”. In other words, this is coal seam gas all over again. Shove them up and don’t worry about them. Dr Tibbetts has written to the AMA about its stance. Not only does Dr Tibbetts have the US study to fall back on, he’s well-informed in terms of the Australian perspective. And basically Brown County Board members in the State of Wisconsin in America have declared wind turbines a public health risk*. Dr Jay Tibbetts is on the line from Wisconsin. Dr Tibbetts thank you for your time.
Jay Tibbetts MD: Thank you Alan and good morning Australia and Sydney.
Alan Jones AO: What do you make of all of this, it’s astonishing isn’t it, that political leaders can ignore that kind of on-the-ground, at-the-coalface evidence?
Jay Tibbetts MD: Well that is the problem and as you said, it’s political, or at least a lot of it is. And it has to do with jobs and things that we don’t have a lot of control over at this time.
Alan Jones AO: I mean you have this Shirley wind farm near the town of Glenmore. Duke Energy Renewables. Three families have had to move out of their homes rather than endure physical illness. And your Health Department is the statutory authority for licensing, for inspection and for enforcement. What does that mean for wind farms where you are?
Jay Tibbetts MD: Well, this is a whole new territory. As you said, we have authority over facilities, specifically food establishments and so on, but the utility is a different thing. However we have a situation where we are really – we have no option but to declare this a human health hazard under Section 38 of the Public Health Nuisance Ordinance of Brown County. And I just want to read to you the section that we used that’s section B under 38.01,
“A human health hazard means a substance, activity or condition that is known to have the potential to cause acute or chronic illness or death if exposure to the substance, activity or condition is not abated”.
Now, you know there’s no question in my mind, nor is there any question in the Brown County Board of Health’s mind, that this fits the description of a human health hazard.
Alan Jones AO: Yes, I mean, you have got on-the-ground evidence. I mean I read about a fellow called Darren Ashley, Darrell Ashley who lives within a mile of turbines there. He said his wife moved out of the house for several months until her symptoms disappeared. She has since moved back and the symptoms have returned. He said,
“I am getting worse and I can’t afford to move out. I’m just getting weaker. My legs, my back, my feet. My concentration is gone. Head pressure, earaches, headaches, it just goes on and on”.
How can government ignore this?
Jay Tibbetts MD: Well that’s the big question. And again it’s a political issue and it’s how we get to the authorities that we need to and unless there is enough of a cage rattle, things are not going to get done. I think right now we kind of poked a hole in a hornet’s nest and we’re going to hopefully make some progress here.
Alan Jones AO: I mean the UN Committee Against Torture says – we are talking about sleep deprivation here – I’ve got a file that you couldn’t jump over. About these desperate people writing to me to say that you’re the only person we can talk to who’s prepared to listen. The UN committee against torture says sleep deprivation can cause impaired memory and cognitive functioning, decreased short-term memory, speech impairment, hallucinations, psychosis, lowered immunity, headaches, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, stress, anxiety and depression. I mean all these things are related to me by the people who write to me, living within the vicinity of wind turbines.
Jay Tibbetts MD: Well that’s very true and yes, we have in our community, we distributed an informational letter to all the physicians in our community, in the County of Brown. And amazingly one large clinic refused to share the information with its providers because they had questions about whether any of these issues are really true.
Alan Jones AO: Well that’s right, I mean the letter that was written here, to the Prime Minister, was referred to the Minister for Industry and Energy, rather than the Minister for Health!
Jay Tibbetts MD: Yes.
Alan Jones AO: What!
Jay Tibbetts MD: Well what does that tell you?
Alan Jones AO: What does that tell you? I mean, our Coalition here, the Abbott Coalition made an election promise – before the election last year, to ensure that research recommended ‘as a priority’ – multidisciplinary research – would be conducted into this issue, but of course the wind power industry have lobbied the government – nothing has happened. And these people write and complain – where on earth do we go to get health justice for these people?
Jay Tibbetts MD: Well I want to correct one thing – we declared it a human health hazard (*not a risk).
Alan Jones AO: Hazard.
Jay Tibbetts MD: I interpret a risk being something you could take and not take. These people have no option. They live in an area that is a human health hazard.
Alan Jones AO: Good on you.
Jay Tibbetts MD: So they don’t have any option.
You asked, where we go from here. I think the best thing is, right now, to use some of the information that Rick James has given us. He states that:
“wind turbines produce infrasound at significant levels where an indicator is a human health response”.
His conclusion is, based on the above,
“it’s reasonable to conclude that the adverse health effects reported by members of the Shirley community are linked to the operation of the Shirley wind project turbines. While there may be debate about the precise mechanism that causes these sounds to induce the symptoms, it is clear from this study and others conducted in different parts of the world by other acousticians, that acoustic energy emitted by the operation of modern, utility scale wind turbines is at the root of adverse health effects”.
Now his solution, if you will,
“following the precautionary principle, it is concluded that the operation of Shirley wind project is exposing the community members to acoustic energy that can be linked to the reported adverse health effects. It’s similar to other historical problems and other infrasound sources. And the only method available to protect the community’s health, is not to operate the wind turbines close to homes.
Alan Jones AO: That’s it, that’s it.
Jay Tibbetts MD: For that to occur, either the utility must terminate operations, or it should operate a buffer zone – which you and I and everybody else knows does not exist in this point in time – between the wind turbines and the closest residential properties. Rick …
Alan Jones AO: That’s it, that’s it. Yes but – sorry just interrupting- earlier this year – so you’re talking about that survey – earlier this year, the Irish Department of Health, the Chief Medical officer warned in Ireland, that
“people who live near wind turbines risked having their health and psychological well-being compromised”.
And the Irish Examiner newspaper reported that following a review of research on the effects of wind turbine noise on human health, the deputy chief medical officer said
“there is a consistent cluster of symptoms related to wind turbine syndrome which occurs in a number of people in the vicinity of industrial wind turbines”.
And they called the wind turbine syndrome:
“a condition suffered by people living within earshot of the noise made by wind turbine blades as they spin around”.
Now if it weren’t a risk, why not put them on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington?
Jay Tibbetts MD: Well of course – then you have the option of avoiding them.
Alan Jones AO: Yes. Just Amazing.
Jay Tibbetts MD: These people don’t have that option.
Alan Jones AO: No option at all.
Jay Tibbetts MD: They’re living in this stew, if you will.
Alan Jones AO: Yes, human health hazard – a stew, a stew.
Jay Tibbetts MD: That’s exactly what the motion was – a human health hazard.
Alan Jones AO: Good on you. Good to talk to you. And thank you for your time and we may need to talk again.
Jay Tibbetts MD: Very well, and we will certainly be available to do it any time.
Alan Jones AO: There he is Dr Jay Tibbetts, the Vice President of the Brown County Health Board in Wisconsin. They’ve declared wind turbines a human health hazard. We’re asking poor Australians, defenceless Australians, to just cop it. And in Canberra, Macfarlane and Co. They write to the Prime Minister, and the letter gets to the Department of Energy, the Minister of Energy, not the Minister for Health.
For a detailed discussion on the Brown County Board of Health’s declaration that:
“To declare the Industrial Wind Turbines in the Town of Glenmore, Brown County. WI. a Human Health Hazard for all people (residents, workers, visitors, and sensitive passersby) who are exposed to Infrasound/Low Frequency Noise and other emissions potentially harmful to human health.” – see our post here.
The impacts of turbine generated low-frequency noise and infrasound are known and obvious to those unfortunates living in what have become sonic torture traps. But, for the uninitiated, it’s like trying to explain a migraine to someone who’s never had a headache.
It’s the incessant low-frequency noise and infrasound generated by giant industrial wind turbines that features as the most common source of complaint from those now forced to live next to wind farms: turning a quiet night in into an occasion of acoustic torture (see our post here); and destroying many a good night’s sleep (see our post here).
Human beings place enormous value on silence. A while back we covered a piece from The Economist that argued that it simply makes good business sense to keep the noise down (see our post here).
As The Economist noted, humane societies have separated noisy activities since the time of the ancient Greeks – booting roosters, tinsmiths and potters out of Greek cities – and, in later times, organ grinders out of London.
In Australia today, roosters are banned in cities, suburbs and in most country towns. They have a body clock set earlier than most people and have a routine habit of waking up the whole neighbourhood. Faced with an errant rooster, authorities are quick to act against Foghorn Leghorn & Co on PUBLIC HEALTH GROUNDS.
Planning laws in most States prevent panel beaters from operating in built up areas before 8am and after 6pm.
And – either by operation of EPA regulations or planning laws – there is a total ban on the operation of chainsaws and lawn mowers in cities, suburbs and most towns. That strictly enforced prohibition operates, in Victoria, for example, Monday to Friday: before 7 am and after 8 pm; and on weekends and public holidays: before 9 am and after 8 pm.
So why then is it that hard-working rural people – who live in very quiet night-time environments – are bound to put up with this, night after merciless night?
As we’ve pointed out there’s nothing “odd” about the impact of incessant low-frequency noise on human health. Neil Kelley was all over the relationship between turbine generated low frequency noise and sleep disturbance over 30 years ago (see our posts here and here). And noise-induced sleep disturbance has long been defined by the WHO: “as a health problem in itself (environmental insomnia), it also leads to further consequences for health and well-being” (see our post here).
So, if night-time noise isn’t a health problem, then why is it that there are strict rules about the permitted times for operating chainsaws and lawn mowers – rules that keep roosters out of towns and cities – and rules that mean the plug gets pulled on rock bands and music venues at midnight in residential areas?
But this is to comment on the noise that wind farm victims get to hear, whereas much of the acoustic energy emitted by giant turbines is not heard, but felt: which, by definition, is referred to as “infrasound”. Infrasound has been the wind industry’s “elephant” in the room – it’s made sure to bury it by drafting noise standards that ignore it; and, when hit with the evidence, lying about its impacts – but that line of “defence” is unlikely to last much longer (see our post here).
For a great little summary on wind turbine generated infrasound and its adverse affects on health, check out this video of Professor Alec Salt laying it out in clear and simple terms: