Wind-linked disease fails to catch-on amongst scientists

A new study has found that "vibroacoustic disease" which is linked to wind farms is not recognised in scientific literature outside a single Portugese research group. What's more they used a sample size of one in linking this apparent disease to wind turbines.

Groups opposed to wind farms are referencing an ailment “vibroacoustic disease” that a new study suggests is not recognised as a genuine health problem in the scientific literature, beyond a single research group in Portugal.   

It is claimed by opponents of wind farms that they emit large amounts of low frequency noise (although noise measurement studies suggest this is not the case) which has been found to cause an ailment referred to as “vibroacoustic disease” or VAD. 

The Portugese researchers who coined the disease based on studies of aircraft technicians, believe that chronic exposure to low frequency noise greater that 90dB leads to a range of ailments. These include slight mood swings, indigestion and heatburn to more severe problems such as psychiatric disturbances, duodenal ulcers, intense muscular and joint pain and even haemorrhoids.

However a study published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health has drawn doubt over the veracity of VAD as a legitimate disease with little recognition amongst health researchers.  The study entitled, ‘How the factoid of wind turbines causing ‘vibroacoustic disease’ came to be ‘irrefutably demonstrated’ ‘, undertook a search of the scientific journal literature as well as a search of the internet to determine the prevalence of VAD as a genuine health concern.  

The peer-reviewed journal search for ‘vibroacoustic disease’ retrieved 182 papers. Screening of titles and abstracts resulted in exclusion of 62 articles which used the term vibroacoustic in relation to either fetal ultrasound measurement or occupational measurement of noise.  After removal of duplicates, a total of 35 papers were found on vibroacoustic disease. Of the 35 papers, 34 had a first author from a single Portuguese research group. Seventy-four per cent of citations to these papers were self-citations by the group whereas median self-citation rates in science are around 7%.

In addition none of the 35 papers contained any reference to wind turbines.

Instead, according to the authors of the study - Simon Chapman and Alexis St. George, vibroacoustic disease was linked to wind turbines through a conference presentation case study by Alves-Pereira of a single 12-year-old boy who had “memory and attention skill” problems in school and “tiredness” during physical education activities. 

Yet according to Chapman and St George such complaints are very common and further analysis would be required before suggesting they could be attributed to the nearby turbines. They stated,

“there are many other houses in the area adjacent to the turbines [nearby to the 12 year old boy’s residence], but her research group conducted no investigations of residents in any of these, as would be expected in any elementary epidemiological investigation. Again, Alves-Pereira asserted that wind turbine exposure was a plausible explanation for the boy’s school problems. No other possible explanations were considered in the presentation or apparently investigated.”