19 March 2013 — Wind turbine health complaints “were as rare as proverbial rocking horse droppings until the scare-mongering groups began megaphoning their apocalyptic, scary messages to rural residents”, a study has found.
University of Sydney public health professor Simon Chapman looked at the nocebo effect. In medicine, a nocebo is a harmless substance that creates harmful effects in a patient who takes it. The nocebo effect is the negative reaction experienced by a patient who receives a nocebo.
Professor Chapman tested four hypotheses relevant to the nocebo effect.
- Many wind farms of comparable power would have no history of health or noise complaints from nearby residents (suggesting that factors that don’t relate to the turbines may explain the presence or absence of complaints)
- Wind farms which had been subject to complaints would have only a small number of such complaining residents among those living near the farms (suggesting that individual or social factors may be required to explain different “susceptibility”)
- Few wind farms would have any history of complaints consistent with recent claims that turbines cause acute health problems (suggesting that explanations beyond turbines are needed to explain why acute problems are reported)
- Most health and noise complaints would date from after the advent of anti-wind farm groups beginning to foment concerns about health (from around 2009) and that wind farms subject to organised opposition would be more likely to have histories of complaint than those not exposed to such opposition (suggesting that health concerns may reflect “communicated” anxieties).”
Professor Chapman said all four hypotheses were strongly supported by the study with 63 per cent of all wind farms, including half of those with large turbines, never being the subject of complaint, the proportion of nearby residents complaining is minuscule, some complainants took many years to voice their first complaint, when wind farm opponents regularly warn that the ill effects can be almost instant, and health complaints were rare until rural residents were given negative information.
“The attribution of symptoms and disease to wind turbine exposure is a contentious ‘modern health worry’ which has seen increasing attention from governments, their regulatory agencies and courts after organised opposition, predominantly in Anglophone nations,” the study stated.
“Despite a profusion of claims mostly by wind farm opponents about harms to exposed humans and animals (currently numbering 216 different diseases and symptoms), 18 reviews of the research literature on wind turbines and health published since 2003 have all reached the broad conclusion that the evidence for wind turbines being directly harmful to health is very poor.
“Previous research has identified psychological factors such as having a ‘negative personality’, and holding beliefs about wind turbines being ugly as associated with complaining or being opposed to wind farms in one’s residential area.”