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Renzo Tonin provides expert evidence to Senate Select Committee on Wind Turbines

Woodlawn Wind Farm, NSW

In June 2015, Renzo Tonin, managing director of Renzo Tonin & Associates, gave expert evidence on the health effects of infrasound to the Senate Select Committee on Wind Turbines.

The Senate Committee was established in December 2014. It’s terms of reference span the regulation and economic impact of wind turbines. A particular point of interest for the Senate Committee has been the health effects, if any, of infrasound from wind farms.

Infrasound is very low frequency sound, present in many day-to-day settings such as beaches and cities. In most circumstances it is inaudible to the human ear. However, there are some who claim that infrasound generated by the movement of the wind turbine blades through the air in some inexplicable way produces nausea, headaches, sleep disturbance and many other physiological symptoms in those exposed to this form of noise.

The Association of Australian Acoustical Consultants (AAAC) made a submission to the Senate Committee, which included their position statement on wind farm noise. The statement notes: “... investigations conclude that infrasound levels adjacent to wind farms are below the threshold of [human] perception.”

Dr Tonin, who has significant expertise in wind farm noise, appeared before the Senate Committee along with fellow AAAC members to answer questions in relation to infrasound.

Dr Tonin has previously been appointed an independent expert for the proposed Taralga wind farm in the NSW southern highlands, and was appointed to conduct an independent audit of wind farms at Capital, Cullerin Range and Woodlawn by the NSW Department of Planning.

At the 10 June hearing, Dr Tonin answered questions in relation to his research in this area, reported in his paper submitted to the Wind Turbine Noise Conference 2015 in Glasgow Scotland, “The Effect of Infrasound and Negative Expectations to Adverse Pathological Symptoms from Wind Farms.” The paper concludes there is no statistical correlation between exposure to infrasound and reported health symptoms.

The Senate Committee expressed interest in the progress of a research project, in which Dr Tonin is involved, recently submitted for a research grant to Australia’s National Health and Medical Council (NHMRC). The project proposes a comprehensive field study into the health symptoms of exposure to infrasound from wind farms. The study would expand on Dr Tonin’s recent research, and would include the artificial exposure to simulated infrasound in peoples’ homes. The NHMRC’s decision on the grant submission is expected in late 2015.

Dr Tonin drew the Senate Committee’s attention to the need to provide adequate funding to the NHMRC in support of such research projects.

The Senate Committee concluded in their Interim Report of 19 June 2015 that “independent, multi-disciplinary and high quality research into this field is an urgent priority”. The Senate Committee’s final report is due to be released in August 2015.

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