Doubt cast on wind turbine illness claims

Confidential briefings given to the state government, and obtained under freedom-of-information (FOI) laws, repeatedly warn there is no current credible scientific evidence linking wind farms to ill health.

The NSW Health briefings advise that much of "evidence", used by those who claim wind turbines cause ill health, falls "...into the lowest category of scientific evidence."

The briefings are also critical of Dr Sarah Laurie, who has played an influential role in local opposition to a planned wind farm at Flyers Creek.

"NSW Health has met with Dr. Sarah Laurie?There is a clear hierarchy in scientific evidence and case reports [as provided by Dr. Laurie] fall into the lowest category of scientific evidence," one of the briefings advised.

"On this basis, such studies can be regarded as hypotheses generating and not as hypotheses proving. In other words, they raise a question, but do not provide an answer.

"To be widely accepted as evidence for adverse health effects, the study design, methodology and analysis has to be peer reviewed. This is lacking for the critical information presented by Dr. Laurie."

A study by Nina Pierpont, presented frequently by wind farm opponents as scientific proof of a link between turbines and ill health, was dismissed as "not of sufficient scientific rigour" by NSW Health.

"This 'study' is not a rigorous epidemiological study; it is a case series of 10 families drawn from a wide range of locations," a ministerial briefing written on July 5 last year stated.

"This work has not been properly peer reviewed... nor has it been published in the peer-review literature.

"The findings are not scientifically valid, with major methodological flaws stemming from the poor design of the study."

Jonathan Upson, senior development manager for Infigen Energy - the company trying to build a 44 turbine wind farm at Flyers Creek - said information contained in the briefings did not come as a surprise.

"The organisation in NSW that is in charge of protecting the public's health has met with Sarah Laurie on several occasions, provided her with an opportunity to put her best case forward and has concluded that her information is of the 'lowest category of scientific evidence', makes statements about the National Health Medical Research Council that are 'inaccurate and unsubstantiated', and quotes from Nina Pierpont whose work is 'not scientifically valid' and has 'major methodological flaws'," he said.

Dr Sarah Laurie could not be reached for comment yesterday but in an interview with the ABC Online, Dr Alan Watts said he felt sorry for NSW Health.

"I feel quite sorry for the NSW Health department because I believe they've put themselves in an invidious position, a position from which they cannot come back from and they will look foolish when the research proves them to be totally and absolutely wrong," Dr Watts told the ABC.

The Carcoar based doctor, who is opposed to the Flyers Creek wind farm development, said all concerned residents were asking for was more research to be conducted.

"We're asking that research be conducted, paid for by the wind industry, because they're the only people making money here, and done under an independent body and assessed properly with properly conducted research.

"That is not an unreasonable proposition," he told the ABC.