PM dodges evidence to take tilt at windmills
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has linked wind farms to adverse health effects despite the lack of scientific evidence to back the claim.
Declaring that he would like to see the number of wind generators around the country cut, Mr Abbott told Sydney broadcaster Alan Jones that he understood the concerns of those who complained inaudible low frequency sound generated by wind farms caused headaches, nausea, sleeplessness and other health problems.
“I do take your point about the potential health impact of these things,” the Prime Minister said. “When I have been up close to these wind farms, not only are they visually awful, but they make a lot of noise.”
Mr Abbott made his comments just days after acoustic experts told a Senate inquiry there was no evidence that people were physically affected by low-frequency sound like that emitted by wind turbines.
Members of the Association of Australian Acoustic Consultants told the Senate inquiry into wind turbines on 10 June that several studies detected no perceivable physical reaction to so-called infrasound.
“We can measure the level of infrasound in a windfarm, and we know what that level is, and we can measure it inside rooms, and that has been done on a number of occasions,” Chair of the AAAC’s windfarm subcommittee, Chris Turnbull, said.
“If we replicate that level at the same character, and the same frequencies, that person is essentially exposed to the same level of infrasound in terms of character and level [as a windfarm],” he said. “To date, all of the studies have suggested that there is no reaction to that level of infrasound.”
The testimony came weeks after the National Health and Medical Research Council released the results of a three-year investigation involving the review of more than 4000 papers that concluded there “is currently no consistent evidence that wind farms cause adverse effects in humans”.
“Overall, the body of evidence that directly examined wind farms and their potential health effects was small and of poor quality,” the NHMRC reported. “There is consistent by poor quality evidence that wind farm noise is associated with annoyance, as well as less consistent, poor quality direct evidence of an association between sleep disturbance and wind farm noise.”
The Council’s conclusions follow an exhaustive process involving the use of independent reviewers to scrutinise the NHMRC’s methodology in reviewing the scientific literature and evidence, as well as public consultations and a revised and updated literature review.
They echo the AMA’s own conclusion that there is no evidence to back assertions that wind farms cause headaches, dizziness, tachycardia or other health problems.
In a Position Statement released last year, the AMA said that if wind farms did directly cause adverse health effects, there would be a much stronger correlation between reports of symptoms and proximity to wind farms than currently existed.
The AMA Position Statement on Wind Farms and Health 2014, which can be viewed at position-statement/wind-farms-and-health-2014, concluded that “available Australian and international evidence does not support the view that the…sound generated by wind farms…causes adverse health effects”.
The NHMRC, however, has not closed the book on the issue, indicating that further research into the possible health effects of wind farms on people within 1500 metres “is warranted”.
The latest furore over the health effects of wind farms has come just weeks after the Government negotiated a cut in the Renewable Energy Target (RET) from 41,000 to 33,000 gigawatt hours.
Mr Abbott lamented that the Government had been unable to secure an even deeper reduction, which was arrived at following months of haggling between the major parties that destabilised the renewable energy industry and deterred investors.
“What we did recently in the Senate was reduce…capital R-E-D-U-C-E, the number of these things that we are going to get in the future,” the Prime Minister said, “I would frankly have liked to have reduced the number a lot more, but we got the best deal we could out of the Senate, and if we hadn’t had a deal…we would have been stuck with even more of these things.”