The first study exposed some people to the "infrasound" that groups like Fairhaven, MA's "WindWise" say causes illness, while others were actually exposed to nothing ("sham infrasound"). Some were warned that it was likely to make them sick ("high expectancy") while others were told it likely wouldn't ("low expectancy"). The results:
The response from the "high expectancy" group was to report that the "infrasound" had caused them to experience more symptoms which were more intense. This was the case whether they were exposed to sham infrasound or genuine infrasound. The report explains that "the number of symptoms reported and the intensity of the symptom experienced during listening sessions were not affected by exposure to infrasound but were influenced by expectancy group allocation."So what does this mean for building and siting land-based wind turbines? Can you write by-laws to satisfy the "wind turbine syndrome" crowd, as Fairhaven is trying to do? Lead author Fiona Crichton:
In the low expectancy group, the infrasound and sham infrasound had little to no effect. In other words, the study found that if a person is told that wind turbines will make them ill then they are likely to report symptoms, regardless of whether they are exposed to infrasound or not.
The findings indicate that negative health information readily available to people living in the vicinity of wind farms has the potential to create symptom expectations, providing a possible pathway for symptoms attributed to operating wind turbines. This may have wide-reaching implications. If symptom expectations are the root cause of symptom reporting, answering calls to increase minimum wind-farm set back distances is likely to do little to assuage health complaints.Another preliminary study from a public health professor at the University of Sydney finds "only a tiny proportion of people living near turbines do actually complain and, when they do, the complaints coincide with campaigning from anti-wind groups."
The studies reaffirm mountains of independent studies showing no direct health impacts from wind turbines. But they also confirm that, as Stephen Colbert detailed, if you get told they'll make you sick enough times, you might think wind turbines gave you herpes.