Imaginary harms of windfarms

In many places, and we’ve certainly seen it here on PEI, there are some people who are convinced that wind turbines are harmful due to the impact of infrasound (extreme bass waves or vibrations, that have a frequency below the audibility range of the human ear 20 Hz to 22 kHz)

There may be harm of some sort to some of the people who live in proximity to wind farms, but the evidence is inconclusive. Opponents use FUD arguments (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) to play on this to prevent the construction and expansion of these farms.

A recent study suggests that at least some of the problems are in the minds of suggestible people.

Can Expectations Produce Symptoms From Infrasound Associated With Wind Turbines?
By Crichton, Fiona; Dodd, George; Schmid, Gian; Gamble, Greg; Petrie, Keith J.
Health Psychology, Mar 11 , 2013
Abstract
Objective: The development of new wind farms in many parts of the world has been thwarted by public concern that subaudible sound (infrasound) generated by wind turbines causes adverse health effects. Although the scientific evidence does not support a direct pathophysiological link between infrasound and health complaints, there is a body of lay information suggesting a link between infrasound exposure and health effects. This study tested the potential for such information to create symptom expectations, thereby providing a possible pathway for symptom reporting.

Method: A sham-controlled double-blind provocation study, in which participants were exposed to 10 min of infrasound and 10 min of sham infrasound, was conducted. Fifty-four participants were randomized to high- or low-expectancy groups and presented audiovisual information, integrating material from the Internet, designed to invoke either high or low expectations that exposure to infrasound causes specified symptoms.

Results: High-expectancy participants reported significant increases, from preexposure assessment, in the number and intensity of symptoms experienced during exposure to both infrasound and sham infrasound. There were no symptomatic changes in the low-expectancy group.

Conclusions: Healthy volunteers, when given information about the expected physiological effect of infrasound, reported symptoms that aligned with that information, during exposure to both infrasound and sham infrasound. Symptom expectations were created by viewing information readily available on the Internet, indicating the potential for symptom expectations to be created outside of the laboratory, in real world settings. Results suggest psychological expectations could explain the link between wind turbine exposure and health complaints. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved)

We all have preconceived notions about how the world works and what we expect to happen in certain circumstances. As skeptics we recognize this and try to combat this bias. It’s not always easy, and sometimes you have to accept that you have been wrong. In this case, I’m still waiting to be convinced that the harm from wind energy outweighs the benefits.

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4 Responses to Imaginary harms of windfarms

  1. Steve says:

    Really, Lance? Right-wing blogs are your source material for scientific issues?

    What are you going to offer us next? A post from Shawn Hannity to convince us that Obama really was born in Kenya?

  2. The Scottish study was specifically on building wind farms on peat bogs, not on wind farms in general. I think it is important to note that no form of energy generation is completely without environmental impact. We cannot compare wind to non-wind. We much compare wind to coal, oil, solar, nuclear, and hydroelectric.

  3. Lance says:

    You are correct Curmudgeon. Steve should thank you since he didn’t read the links after he saw their right-wing origins.

    Steve, it’s important that readers of ultra left-wing blogs get a view of the truth occasionally for as you might have heard: “and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free”. Despite its origin even the old Curmudgeon may agree with this quote.

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