SENATE SELECT COMMITTEE ON WIND TURBINES
Monday, 29 June 2015
Extract from Official Committee Hansard (page 1 to 6):
Ms Green: I am CEO of a healthcare consulting firm with a national reach in the United States. My company works in all sectors of the healthcare industry. One of the core competencies of the firm is to develop educational programs to help doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers better communicate with their patients around various disease states. Currently, as a volunteer in my town, I am secretary of our energy committee and a delegate to the Cape Cod National Seashore Advisory Commission as an alternate. Cape Cod National Seashore is part of the United States National Park Service. In the late 1970s, I built a passive solar superinsulated home. I directed an environmental education school for several years. I work seasonally as a naturalist interpretive ranger for the National Park Service. I have been interested and active in the environmental movement since the early seventies. Today, I speak as a private citizen.
CHAIR (Senator Madigan): Thank you. Could you please confirm that information on parliamentary privilege and the protection of witnesses and evidence has been provided to you?
Ms Green: It has.
CHAIR: Thank you. The committee has your submission and we now invite you to make a brief opening statement and at the conclusion of your remarks, I will invite members of the committee to put questions to you.
Ms Green: Thank you. Until the beginning of 2010, I believed wind turbines were good and green. My town was interested in constructing wind turbines and a friend visited my office in early March 2010 to provide my husband and business partner and me with new information. Following the visit, I spent the next 10 hours researching wind turbines. That very day, after concluding my research, I was saddened but I became convinced there was credible evidence that wind turbines cause adverse health impacts for some people who live nearby. In the past, over five years, I have learned it is a global phenomenon that wind turbines make some people who live nearby sick and it is a dose response so these people become more ill over time.
My husband, who is now deceased, and I travelled to Australia and New Zealand in 2010-11 and subsequently created a film called Pandora’s Pinwheels: The Reality of Living with Wind Turbines. We then travelled around the world in 2012 and conducted interviews in 15 different countries. Most of the people we interviewed expressed that they were in favour of wind energy prior to wind turbine construction nearby. There are some common symptoms people the world over report who live and work too close to wind turbines. A good summary is found in the book Wind Turbine Syndrome: A Report on a Natural Experiment by Nina Pierpont, MD, PhD.
It does not matter whether people live in English-speaking countries or in countries where people do not speak English. People reported to us they are made sick when they live too close to wind turbines, no matter what country they live in. We interviewed people in both English-speaking countries and non-English-speaking countries alike who reported to us they were not ill prior to wind turbine construction nearby and after the wind turbines were operational nearby they were made sick.
We interviewed people in five countries—France, Germany, Holland, Denmark and Sweden—who either needed an interpreter to speak with us or who spoke broken English. Some locations were quite rural with little or no internet connection. Still, the people we interviewed through interpreters expressed the same symptoms, others the world over described to us. These people with no or limited internet connection even used similar phrases, analogies and gestures, as others did globally to describe their symptoms. What we actually found is most people are reluctant to speak about their health problems.
In the United States, there are privacy laws regarding medical information. Culturally, people do not openly discuss their health problems with strangers. We found this to be the case in the countries we visited around the world. It was a brave person who opened up to us about their health problems. Usually, the people we interviewed expressed they wanted to help others. If anything, people tended to minimise their symptoms or try to attribute the symptoms to other circumstances. Even when they acknowledged a common symptom such as sleep deprivation, many people who experienced additional common symptoms were reluctant to attribute these other symptoms to the wind turbines nearby. Furthermore, people the world over reported that they and their healthcare providers puzzled over health problems that appeared after wind turbines were constructed near their homes.
Many endured a huge battery of medical tests to try to determine what the cause of their health problems were. The medical tests, at a huge cost to the healthcare system, only ruled out various diseases. Typically, the cause of their sickness was not diagnosed by their healthcare professional. Frequently, we heard that the patients would be in a social situation with others in their neighbourhood and eventually people they knew well confided they had similar health problems that recently appeared, or after research online about a different topic these people reported stumbling upon the cause of their health problems, which were the wind turbines constructed nearby.
We even interviewed people who lived for 11 years near wind turbines in a non-English speaking country—and that was in 2012. Several people came to an interview to talk about their property devaluation. It was only during the interviews when they heard others speak about health problems that the people realised they had been suffering because they lived too close to wind turbines. One man in his 80s sobbed during his interview. He had been visiting his doctor for 11 years trying to figure out what was wrong with his health.
The woman who invited us to interview her and her neighbours learned about health problems from wind turbines when she saw the film I produced Pandora’s Pinwheels, with interviews conducted in Australia and New Zealand, that was translated into her language. These people needed an interpreter; they did not speak English. She told me that her husband had passed away in the not too distant past due to heart problems. Before he died, he had complained quite frequently of common health symptoms people living near wind turbines experience. Although they visited their doctor frequently, no-one could figure out why he was so sick. She thanked us because, in seeing our film, it helped her to understand what her husband had been going through and why. It gave her closure that she did not have prior to viewing our film.
Another person at the interview told us she had to hold on to the walls of her house some days in order to walk from room to room and felt nauseous frequently. She knew she was unwell in her home and abandoned it. She did not know why until she saw our film. She came back to the area for the interview because she wanted to tell the world that wind turbines made her so ill that she sold her home at a huge loss.
One of the people I have known for the past five years lives in Falmouth, Massachusetts, which is very close to where I live—it is an hour and a half away. In 2010, he had recently retired to his dream home of many years. He was in great physical health, very fit and has over a 20-year record of normal to low to blood pressure. Since the wind turbines have been constructed in Falmouth, Massachusetts, he has reported that his blood pressure skyrockets to heart attack and stroke levels when the wind is coming in the wrong direction for him.
In Falmouth there are three wind turbines that are 1.65 megawatts near this person’s home. This person’s doctor, whom he has seen over the past 20 years, is in the Boston area and his doctor has been quite blunt. The doctor has told the patient that his life is in danger and he must move. Unfortunately, the Falmouth resident is crushed and cannot bear to leave his dream home at this point in time. He goes to other locations when the wind is predicted to be coming from the wrong direction. Others we interviewed in many different countries told us similar stories. Many reported they have abandoned their homes, sold their homes at a huge loss, purchased other homes to live in when the wind is coming from the wrong direction or in order to sleep in, and others spend time away from their homes at a huge and unexpected expense. People considered their homes as sanctuaries prior to the construction of wind turbines nearby. Now their opinion is not the same.
We have interviewed people on three continents who live more than five miles from the nearest wind turbine and are sick since wind turbine construction. I contend that we need honest research to determine how far wind turbines need to be sited from people in order to do no harm. People report to us that over time their symptoms become more severe. Many report not experiencing ill effects for some time following wind turbine construction, meanwhile their spouse became ill the day the wind turbines nearby became operational. They speak of thinking they were one of the lucky ones at first, but after a number of months or years they become as ill as their spouse. Not one person who stayed near wind turbines reported to us that they got used to it or got better; they all became more ill over time.
Since we are dealing with a dose response, we do not know over the projected lifetime of a wind turbine—say, 20 to 25 years—how far from people it is necessary to site wind turbines. To me, it is just wrong to knowingly harm the health and safety of people. There are responsible solutions to environmental issues that do not impact the health and safety of people nearby. Our humanity is in question when we continue to knowingly harm others. I thank you for your time today. I sincerely hope that you do take active steps to help the people in your country who are suffering due to living and working too close to wind turbines, and I am glad to answer questions you may have.
CHAIR: Thank you.
Senator LEYONHJELM: Good morning, Ms Green—I suppose it is not morning there. Thank you for your submission—
Ms Green: No, it is Sunday evening here.
Senator LEYONHJELM: Sunday evening? I am sorry to being interrupting your evening.
Ms Green: I am glad to speak with you.
Senator LEYONHJELM: You have interviewed people in 15 countries, I think you said, under all different circumstances and so on. I appreciate we are not pretending this is a gold-plated, statistical survey, but I am interested in your impressions because I think you have more experience of this than any other witness we have heard from. What do you think, based on your experience, are the common factors in the people you have interviewed in different communities living near wind turbines? What are the common factors to all of them?
Ms Green: I think we seriously do not have enough research to understand this problem fully. We saw the same symptoms. Slide 17 that I submitted has a listing of the common symptoms that Dr Pierpont lists in her book. I really believe that we just do not have enough information yet. But throughout the interviews, country by country, people described the same symptoms. Many times they used the same phrases to describe them and the same gestures—even if they were not speaking English. There is a common thread here.
Senator LEYONHJELM: Do you get the impression that not everybody exposed to wind turbines is affected the same? Have you seen evidence of substantial individual variation?
Ms Green: I have, indeed. Just as some people are more prone to asthma and some people are more prone to lung cancer, let’s say, or any disease, we did see a variation. It appeared that if there were people who were, say, prone to migraine headaches, they were severely affected. But, again, there were people who did not seem to have the symptoms who were living either in the same house or nearby. I do not know whether it is a question of time, if over 20 years people become more sensitised and they will become sick. Very frequently we did hear the same theme running through the stories of the people we interviewed, where, say, the husband thought he was one of the lucky ones and six months later he could not sleep, he was experiencing ear pressure, ear pain and severe headaches or other symptoms.
Senator LEYONHJELM: We are aware of community groups in English-speaking countries who have expressed opposition to wind turbines, but we are not aware of that sort of phenomenon in non-English speaking countries. Have you encountered that?
Ms Green: Yes, indeed. We travelled around the world. It was a 10-year goal. We had it very well planned out and we thought it was for pleasure. But people kept emailing us and asking us to come and interview them. So we met people in a lot of non-English speaking countries, and they were such nice people, I have to say. They had just about any profession you would like to mention. They just wanted to tell their story. Many times these people wanted to talk to us for other reasons such as their house had been devalued because the wind turbines were nearby. As they were listening to other people in the room talking about their health problems, these people realised that they had been struggling with the same illness since the wind turbines were constructed nearby. They had never made that correlation before; in fact, they were quite frustrated. They told us that they would go back and back continually to their healthcare provider and talk about these symptoms, and they could not find a resolution or a reason. As I said, there is one man I recall quite vividly just sobbing—and that was in 2012; he was in his 80s. He had realised that since the wind turbines had been constructed nearby he was experiencing these symptoms that were the common symptoms.
Senator LEYONHJELM: Some witnesses have suggested to us that there is a relationship between not only the distance their residence is from the turbine but also the power of the turbine, the size of the turbine. Have you been able to come to any conclusions on that or is that outside your interest area?
Ms Green: No, it is not outside my interest area. In fact, it is quite alarming to me, because I have interviewed people who live near wind turbines that you in Australia would probably consider to be quite small and solitary—wind turbines that are 100 kilowatts, even—and they are experiencing health problems, even people living near a 10-kilowatt wind turbine. Frankly, it is the nearest wind turbine to where I live, and a number of neighbours are having problems, and not just with the audible noise but with the infrasound and low-frequency noise, based upon the symptoms they are reporting to me. It really is quite alarming. In my state, Massachusetts, there is a woman who has told me she lives more than five miles from the nearest wind turbine and she is quite ill. The onset of her symptoms was when the wind turbine was constructed. When she went on trips she was fine; when she came back she was ill, and it has only become worse over time. That wind turbine is not as powerful as wind turbines in Australia, and it is a solitary wind turbine.
Again, we travelled quite a distance in France—mid-south-eastern France—over a number of days at the invitation of the people in the area and visited several different communities where there were wind turbines. One of the situations is that the wind turbine is 10 kilometres from one of the neighbours who is very ill and 12 kilometres from the other neighbour. The person who lives 12 kilometres away reported to us that she had been very supportive of the wind turbines. She is very well known as an environmentalist in the area, has quite a reputation as an environmentalist and is highly regarded. But she is quite ill, and it was very difficult for her to speak with us.
The other person related a story of trying to detect what the problem was because he could not sleep and was becoming so frustrated that he would go in his car to try to find the source of what was keeping him awake. He talked about going night after night until he went into the wilderness. He could not imagine what was there, and then he found the wind turbines. They were creating a humming noise in his head at that point. He could actually hear this frequency. In our discussions with researchers, medical professionals and scientists, one of the scientists told us that what people hear is mostly a bell curve—that is the way it was described to us. Most people hear audible noise within a certain range, but there are people who are more sensitive to noise, and they hear sounds that most people would consider inaudible.
Senator URQUHART: I have a lot of questions. I am not going to get through them all, so I am wondering whether you are able to take some on notice at the end.
Ms Green: I will try. I am very busy, but I will try.
Senator URQUHART: In your submission you say you run a healthcare consultancy. Do you have any qualifications in health care or medicine?
Ms Green: I have a background in education.
Senator URQUHART: What is the name of your company?
Ms Green: I do not want that on the record.
Senator URQUHART: Can I ask why?
Ms Green: I am speaking today as a private citizen. I would be glad to give you that information if it is held as in-confidence.
Senator URQUHART: Okay. How many employees do you have?
Ms Green: My husband has passed away. He was my business partner, and I have scaled back the business. I am the only employee at this point in time. However, I will tell you that I have created in our company, with teams of people, educational programs that have been implemented throughout the United States. One of the oncology programs that was created by my team, which was quite a large team, interviewed over 100 oncology patients throughout the United States and numerous doctors and nurses and was mandatory for all of the oncology nurses in the Kaiser health system in California.
Senator URQUHART: In your submission you say that 300,000 physicians and healthcare professionals have undertaken training through your company.
Ms Green: That is correct.
Senator URQUHART: What are the products or services? Is it communication? What is it that you actually sell?
Ms Green: There is a number of different core competencies in our company. One is developing educational programs around different disease states, such as oncology, diabetes, heart disease and various other disease states. Another path we have taken is to develop a service quality initiative. My husband was an extraordinary speaker and was often the keynote speaker for national conferences in all sectors of the healthcare industry.
Senator URQUHART: In your opening statement you talked about how you had interviewed many people from various countries. I could not find any of the transcripts, either in your submission or online. I am sorry if I have missed them.
Ms Green: You have not missed them. In the company we are still in the process of editing the films. It was a huge undertaking of many months, at huge expense. There is a lot of information that is still being edited.
Senator URQUHART: Are you able to provide copies of the transcripts and the full names of the people you interviewed?
Ms Green: No. It is on film; it is videotaped interviews, and the film is being edited.
Senator URQUHART: You talked about how you undertook the research after you had new information from people within your area who were concerned about wind farms. Was that the purpose of the interviews?
Ms Green: No. In my town, one month after we learned that our energy committee wanted to put one 1.65 wind turbine in our town—and we had conducted the research and people in our town were quite concerned—our board of selectmen, which is like your town councils, decided to not move forward with the project. I am now on my energy committee, as secretary, and we are devising a plan to become 100 per cent electrical energy efficient without wind energy but using other alternative methods. Are you asking me what propels me to do the interviews?
Senator URQUHART: Yes. I guess my real reasoning was whether the purpose of the interviews was to inform the body of research on international attitudes to wind farms. Is that why—
Ms Green: No. It is not an attitude; it is to understand the realities of living near wind turbines—living, working, attending school, being incarcerated near wind turbines.
What happened was that my stepson was living in Australia and we went to Australia at the end of 2010. I knew there was a location called Waubra and I had seen the Dean report that had been recently published. I put out one little email asking ‘We will be in the Melbourne area and is it possible to meet some of the people that are living near the wind turbines at Waubra? Is it possible to see the Waubra area?’
It was amazing that I was connected with the people in that area of Australia. My husband and I drove to the area and we interviewed over 17 people in one day. They welcomed us into their homes. We did not know what to expect. We turned the camera on and we asked them questions, and they told us their story. We had no idea what we were going to find. We went to New Zealand and people emailed us after they had heard we had been to Waubra. They asked us if we would come and visit them and interview them. We did that in two different locations in New Zealand. When we came home we put together this film called Pandora’s Pinwheels—
Senator URQUHART: You interviewed people—
Ms Green: During our 2012 travels we just thought we would go back to Waubra and talk to the people at Waubra because we had been emailing them over the year. But people around the world kept on emailing us and asking us to come and interview them.
Senator URQUHART: So you conducted interviews in 15 countries, as I understand it from your submission. Is that how you got the contact information on the people you interviewed?
Ms Green: I do not understand your question. Everywhere we were travelling people kept on emailing us and contacting us and asking if we would come and interview them and talk with them. They wanted to go on camera and tell their story. We had no agenda; we had no plan. We work in the healthcare industry; we talk about various illnesses and disease states, and we educate doctors and nurses about disease states. I am sorry; I want to retract that: we find a cross-section where patients are having issues with the communication around their disease state, and the doctors and nurses are having issues around communicating with their patients. We find those intersections and help doctors and nurses better communicate with the patients. So we are trying to improve patient care. That is what we do as one of the core competencies of our business.
When we found the health problems with the wind turbines and when we saw in every country we visited that people were saying the same thing, we wanted to get that word out to people like you who are hearing from your constituents that they are having health problems. That is all I want to do—to provide you with the truth.
Senator DAY: Ms Green, as you might imagine, we have received submissions from hundreds of people who have reported adverse health impacts and yet we are being accused of trying to destroy the wind industry. We are being accused of rigging this inquiry and of being engaged in a political stitch up. What has been your experience with such hostility towards genuine inquiry?
Ms Green: I really do not have a response for you, Senator. I have heard a lot of stories from people and I have experiences myself, but I really do not have a response on that topic.
Senator DAY: Okay. I will follow up then: you say that a number of governments around the world are realising there is a need for more or better regulation surrounding the wind energy industry. Which governments are doing better in this area, in your opinion?
Ms Green: I know that in my state, I have a new governor and my governor has a background in health care, and I am expecting that my governor understands that people do have health problems when they live and work too close to wind turbines in my state.
Senator BACK: Ms Green, I have just one quick question; I know that we are over time. In Australia, we are proceeding to have independent medical research undertaken for the first time. One of the proposals put to us is that they try and simulate this effect of either noise or infrasound, and do so in a one-off exposure in a clinically sterile circumstance for exposure times of somewhere between 10 to 30 minutes and an hour. From what you have learned and heard—and from interviewing people—do you think there would be anything to be learned in exposing somebody for a very limited period of time, and once only, in a sort of laboratory-type circumstance? Do you believe that is likely to lead to any reasonable outcome or result that we might be able to use?
Ms Green: Senator, I am not a researcher or a doctor. But given what I have heard from people and what people have reported to me, I find it highly unlikely that that would have any results that would have any validity.
Senator BACK: Thank you.
CHAIR: Thank you for evidence today to the committee, Ms Green. You will receive questions on notice and if you are able to come back to us with answers to those, that would be appreciated.
Ms Green: Absolutely. I would like to thank the committee; the chair, Senator Madigan, and the members of the committee, and also to thank you, Graham.
CHAIR: Thank you, Ms Green.
The complete Hansard is available at ParlInfo:
Senate Select Committee on Wind Turbines – 29/06/2015
Lilli-Ann Green’s submission to the Australian Senate Select Committee on Wind Turbines:
“Pandora’s Pinwheels: The Reality of Life with Wind Turbines”
Australia and New Zealand
Introduction and Background of those interviewed – experts, journalist, people who live in three separate areas too close to wind turbines
- 10:46 – Prior Attitudes
- 13:14 – People felt lied to
- 28:03 – Noise, the many facets of wind turbine noise and how it is different from other industrial noise
- 53:37 – Health impacts and how close is too close; some people live over 2 miles from the nearest turbine
- 1:18:51 – Shadow, blade flint, flicker, red flashing lights
- 1:23:00 – Property values
- 1:31:34 – Community fracture
- 1:37:48 – Quality of Life; Amenity
- 1:45:44 – What would you tell others if a wind developer comes to a community
- 1:49:09 – Conclusion