People who blame sickness on wind farms ‘may be bypassing doctor’

People who blame sickness on wind farms ‘may be bypassing doctor’

Wind farm commissioner says complainants may fail to seek medical advice ‘due to the possibly incorrect assumption’ that turbines are to blame

Canberra: The office of the national wind farm commissioner is concerned people are not going to the doctor because they are incorrectly attributing symptoms of illness to wind farms.

Commissioner Andrew Dyer published his first report to the Australian parliament on 31 March which revealed the office had received 90 complaint between November 2015 and 31 December 2016.

Complainants cited health conditions including “sleep disturbance, headaches, earaches, ‘pounding’ in the ears, tinnitus, tachycardia, high blood pressure, sight impairment, diabetes, chest-tightening, nausea and general fatigue”, which they blamed on both audible and low-frequency noise, “including infrasound, emanating from turbines”.

Because complainants gave only “anecdotal evidence” it was difficult to establish causality with the windfarm’s operations, the report noted. It expressed concern that complainants may fail to seek medical advice “due to the possibly incorrect assumption” that a nearby wind farm was to blame. But the report also noted that the presence of a wind farm or concerns about a proposed one could cause stress, annoyance or anxiety that could, in turn, result in health conditions. When relating to a proposed wind farm, that pressure could extend for several years.

“Debate continues around the world as to whether a wind farm causes physiological harm to residents living in its vicinity,” the report noted. It recommended that state and federal governments should continue to assess research, pointing to two studies funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council that were announced last year.

Of the 90 total complaints, 46 were about nine operating wind farms, most in Victoria; 42 were about 19 proposed wind farms, most in New South Wales.

A total of 67 complaints had been closed by the office, mostly because relevant information was supplied to the complainant, or they chose not to progress the matter. Among them were two complaints that did not specify a wind farm. The remaining 23 matters were “at various stages of the complaint-handling process”.

The report did not specify how many people had made the 90 complaints. Guardian Australia has sought clarification from the commissioner’s office on this point. Of the 28 proposed and operating wind farms that complaints had been received about, Dyer had visited 17, and some multiple times “due to complainant activity”. There was no mention of the office’s budget or expenditure in its first report.

The most common issues related to noise from turbines and health impacts, with many complaints raising more than one issue. Dyer’s role was independent and aimed to resolve complaints with “fact and evidence-based information”. It was reported that he had engaged with more than 500 stakeholders to 31 December 2016.

The role of national wind farm commissioner was established when Tony Abbott was prime minister for an initial period of three years, for remuneration of $205,000 a year. The environment minister at the time, Greg Hunt, announced Dyer’s appointment in October 215. In February last year, Dyer said half the complaints his office had received pertained to wind farms that had yet to be built.