Medical Breakthrough: New Drug Cures Wind Turbine Syndrome

Wind Turbine SyndromeWind Turbine Syndrome. Three words that triggered a scathing response from one obviously pissed-off Aussie.

WindSector’s tweet with the teaser title “Medical Breakthrough: New Drug Cures Wind Turbine Syndrome” got some strong response so we decided to share the salient points. 

The excerpts below are from an article published yesterday in The Drum Unleashed section on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s website.

NOTE: The satirical excerpt headings are ours.

Bonus Audio The related interview with book author Dr. Nina Pierpont done by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. For your listening pleasure: 

Dr. Pierpont describes Wind Turbine Syndrome symptoms in the interview:

"The symptoms include sleeplessness, headaches, nausea, dizziness, tinnitus, ear pressure and pain, eye pressure and pain. "Episodes of alarm and panic awakening people from sleep, with physical symptoms of an adrenalin surge like a pounding heart. "Frequent night time urination and enuresis (bed-wetting) and problems with cognition and performance, including difficulty reading, loss of short-term memory and concentration and deficits in spatial memory and problem solving."

Excerpts | Wind Turbine Sickness Prevented by Money Drug

The Trigger

Last week an American paediatrician, Nina Pierpont, gave video evidence to a Senate Inquiry into the social and economic impacts of rural wind farms.

The Medical Guru

Pierpont is the global medical guru for a small movement virulently opposed to wind farms because of  “Wind Turbine Syndrome”, Pierpont’s very own entry into the long line of doomsday claims about diseases of modernity that are said to threaten us. She calls it “an industrial plague”. Plagues throughout history have killed millions, while wind turbines have so far killed no-one and seem likely instead to contribute to saving hundreds of millions of lives over future decades through reducing greenhouse gases. So Pierpont’s language gives us an immediate sense of her objectivity.

The Authoritative Book

Her reputation as an authority on “wind turbine syndrome” is a 2009 self-published book containing descriptions of the health problems of just 10 families (38 people, 21 adults) in five different countries who once lived near wind turbines and who are convinced the turbines made them ill. With approximately 100,000 turbines worldwide and uncounted 1,000s living around them, her sample borders on homeopathic strength representativeness.

The Peer Review Process

Her book says that her research has been peer reviewed. What this means is that she showed it to people she selected and then published some of their responses, including that by Oxford University’s Lord Robert May, whose subsequent public silence on the issue may suggest a re-think. Predictably, they all said her study was important. But this is a peer-review process that is frankly laughable. If only independent peer review was a matter of authors selecting their own reviewers and publishing the complementary ones.

The Research Process

So what are some of the problems with her research that any independent reviewer would raise? First, she says nothing about how the 10 families she interviewed were selected. She says “I chose a cluster of the most severely affected and most articulate subjects I could find”. Why choose “articulate” subjects and not randomly selected residents living near wind farms? More fundamentally, why did she not make any attempt to investigate controls (people living near turbines who do not report any illness or symptoms they attribute to turbines)?

Amazingly, she interviewed them all over the phone, did not medically examine any of her subjects nor access their medical records. So her entire “study” is based on her aggravated informants’ accounts. Even here, she does not describe who among the 10 families she interviewed, nor consider for a moment questions of accuracy about others giving “proxy” reports about others in their family. This is beyond sloppy.

Pierpont provides pages of information on her informants’ claims about their health while living near turbines. She also provides summaries of the prevalence of various health problems in these families prior to the arrival of the turbines. These are revealing. A third of the adults had current or past mental illness and a quarter had pre-existing migraine and/or permanent hearing impairment. These rates are much higher than those in the general population. In other words, her subjects were a group who are unrepresentative of the general population.

The Astonishing Antidote

Money is a highly effective antidote. Those most exposed to wind turbines include those who have them on their land. Yet miraculously, there are no known cases of such people making claims about being adversely affected by turbines. Strangely, it is always those who see the turbines on the land of their neighbours. Money, it seems, is an astonishingly effective preventive agent in warding off Wind Turbine Syndrome.

Historical Medical Precedent for Similar Maladies

In the September 21, 1899 issue of the British Medical Journal, Britain’s doctors were warned of the dangers of a new technological scourge: the telephone. The report noted that “not in women only, but in strong-minded and able-bodied men, symptoms of what we may call “aural overpressure” caused by the condition of almost constant strain of the auditory apparatus, in which persons who use the telephone much have to spend a considerable portion of each working day… The patients suffered from nervous excitability, with buzzing noises in the ear, giddiness, and neuralgic pains… The victims of ‘telephone tinnitus’, if we may so baptise this latest addition to the ills that flesh is heir to, seem all to be of markedly nervous organisation, and the moral may be drawn that such persons should not use the telephone.”

Other Technology Health Risks

Ever since, there has been a long history of sometimes protracted episodes of community concern about health risks said to be caused by new technologies. Some examples include television sets, computer screens, microwave ovens, electric blankets and other household electrical appliances, mobile telephones and base stations. Wind turbines seem likely to enter the annals of technophobic history.

Who is this guy?

Simon Chapman is most well-known for his anti-smoking tobacco control activism. He is a Professor in Public Health at the University of Sydney. He has published over 365 articles in peer reviewed journals and 14 books and major reports. His Public Health Advocacy and Tobacco Control: Making Smoking History was published in 2007.

Book Cover © 2010 Nina Pierpont

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