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Australian Parliament Senate rejects anti-wind bill, notes nocebo effect

An Australian Senate Committee has issued its report recommending rejection of an anti-wind private members bill, the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment (Excessive Noise from Wind Farms) Bill 2012. The Senate Standing Committees on Environment and Communications received 245 oral and written submissions, and issued a substantial report on November 28.

Overall, the committee came to the same conclusions as every other major study of anti-wind claims:

3.23 There is limited, and contested, published evidence that wind farm noise may be associated with annoyance and sleep disturbance in some individuals, but the causes are not clear…

3.44 The committee concludes that, while it is possible that the human body may detect infrasound in several ways, there is no evidence to suggest that inaudible infrasound (either from wind turbines or other sources) is creating health problems. In contrast, there is an established literature confirming the existence of psychogenic, or nocebo, effects in general, and at least one study suggesting they may be responsible for symptoms in some wind turbine cases.

3.50 …the wide range of symptoms, the regular expression of anxiety about wind farm construction, and the widely varying relationship between the facilities and the symptoms experienced, all suggest a complex situation that cannot obviously be ascribed to the operation of wind turbines alone. The committee concurs with Dr Tait that recurring claims of a wind turbine syndrome, for which there is no peer-reviewed evidence, are obscuring the focus on assisting properly the small number of people whose cases do need attention. The committee is also concerned that a nocebo response is developing, caused by the reproduction and dissemination of claims about adverse health impacts – claims not grounded in the peer-reviewed literature currently available.

See Acoustic Ecology’s comments on the report here. Simon Chapman, professor of public health at the University of Sydney, comments on the destructive power of the anti-wind nocebo effect here. The study currently being conducted by Health Canada is expected to primarily show this nocebo effect.

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