Infrasound: A Growing Liability for Wind Power

by Sherri Lange published at Master Resource, May 29, 2019. Ms. Lange has been instrumental in raising awareness in Ontario on the harms of wind turbines and is CEO of the North American Platform Against Wind Power.

Wind turbines appear to be at the apex of producing human discomfort, annoyance, and harm. In particular, infrasound and low-frequency noise (ILFN) harm because of impacts unique to this concoction of noise.

More than just audible sound, grinding, whomping, blade pass whooshes, an ever-present hum, industrial wind turbines have a silent, below audible impact. It is not like a day contamination/harm at work where people can go home at night for relief. With industrial wind projects literally engulfing homes and rural areas, there is little or no escape.

We have known for a long time how far the subaudible impacts really do travel, before attenuating. Now, there is even more evidence from Finland and Germany.

A recent interview by Birgit Hermes with top scholars and medical researchers, as transcribed and published on Stop These Things, AU, adds even more to our understanding of the power and “stretch” of ILFN and pulsation. In this interview, Dr. Christian Vahl, states: “Whether we hear it or not, every form of energy has physical effects, and infrasound is particularly dangerous because we don’t hear it.”

Wind-turbine victims are fully aware that their living spaces act as sound capture chambers, echoes of the sound signatures bouncing and vibrating within the homes, or passing through to the other side or through various presumed barriers. They do not discredit that the particular chaos of wind turbine “noise” is causing havoc, “Insomnia, heart problems, perception disorders, dizziness. These are just a few of the disease symptoms that can be caused by infrasound.”

Wind developers and promoters sometimes offer trees and new windows as barriers, or suggest earplugs and improved window coverings. They sometimes insist that the “noise” is no louder than a bowl of cheerios with milk, or crickets. They also cling vigorously to protestations of ample safety through local regulations of audible noise.

But these differ, some from 40 dBA (averaged) daytime limits, some at 50. (Nighttime guidelines are typically around 35dB.) It is typical to hear industry references to the sounds that are as quiet as “refrigerator noise,” or even the hum of a library.

These suggestions, explanations, and attendant regulations are crude and inaccurate attempt to minimalize the true impacts of low frequency, amplitude modulation, and Infra Sound. (For our purposes, we will use IS, or Infrasound as the general descriptor.)

The description of the impacts as “torture,” is repeated across the world. It is generally accepted that between 10 percent and 30 percent of persons have a reported and accurate response to ILFN. The industry covers its weak regulatory no-harm assessments with a $2.1 million dollar study from Canada (the Health Canada Wind Turbine Study, effectively rebutted here), and the Massachusetts Impact Study. Curt Devlin refers to the junk science reporting within “an unholy alliance between the wind industry and the Governor’s office.” (Massachusetts, Wind Turbine Health Impact Study 2012.)  He calls it a prime example of “public deception.”

But evidence of wind noise harms accrues. A recent Finnish assessment, scientifically valid and reproducible, found that infrasound (IS) only began to really attenuate after 15-20 km.

The pilot study does not show any significant reduction in damage caused by infrasound until over 15 kilometers from wind farms.

The pilot study carried out in Satakunta and Northern Ostrobothnia in Finland shows that the damage caused by infrasound from wind power plants will only decrease significantly more than 15 kilometers away from wind turbines. The study was carried out by the Finnish Association for Environmental Health (SYTe) in the spring 2016.

– It has been noticed from experience that after the construction of wind power plants, usually within a few months, people in the surrounding area have begun to get a wide range of symptoms, says Markku Mehtätalo, Chairman of the Finnish Association for Environmental Health.

This research is confirmed by the Max Plank Institute, a prior study whose findings exposed this same distance reach of the signature and imprint of ILFN related to industrial wind.

“Meanwhile, there seems to be a growing consensus that humans are indeed receptive to IS and that exposure to low-frequency sounds (including sounds in the IS frequency spectrum) can give rise to high levels of annoyance and distress. However, IS also came under suspicion of promoting the formation of several full-blown medical symptoms ranging from sleep disturbances, headache and dizziness, over tinnitus and hyperacusis, to panic attacks and depression, which have been reported to occur more frequently in people living close to wind parks…”

The study concludes that it is a first of its kind.

“The results of the present study can be summed up in the following way: Prolonged IS (Infrasound) exposure near the participants’ individual hearing threshold led to higher local connectivity in three distinct brain areas–rSTG, ACC and rAmyg–, while no such effect was observed for stimulation above the hearing threshold. Our data also shows that near-threshold IS was associated with connectivity changes on the network level, emphasizing the role of the rAmyg in IS processing. To our knowledge, this study is the first to demonstrate that near-threshold IS does not only produces [sic] physiological effects, but that the neural response involves the activation of brain areas, which are important for auditory processing but also for emotional and autonomic control. These findings thus allow us to reflect on how (sub)-liminal IS could give rise to a number of physiological as well as psychological health issues, which until now have only been loosely attributed to noise exposure in the low- and very low-frequency spectrum.”

We highly recommend the quick survey of experts, researchers and acoustic engineers, as recently published on Stop These Things. The interview covers a concise but important reflection on information on Infrasound as torture, its former interest by the military, and the increasing scientific interest in features and particulars of the ever more recognized impacts of powerful subaudible IS (Infrasound), below 20 hz.

Infrasound is also known as the “fear frequency”

Interviews include, among others: Alec Salt, USA, heart specialist and researcher Dr. Christian-Friedrich Vahl, Germany, Lars Cerenna, DK, Sven Johanssen, DK, and John B Alexander, USA (who fought in Vietnam as a US Army Colonel). Importantly, the series of brief and enlightening conversations include a few victims of wind turbine “noise.”

Insa Bock and Hermann Oldewurtel, East Frisia, have a turbine facility (15 turbines) 700 metres from their homes. They describe the “mental blank (sic) outs,” and until removing themselves, experiencing never-ending sleeplessness, ringing in the ears, dizziness even while reclining, and panic.

While reading this survey, please reflect on the distance that ILFN now is said to travel long distances with little reduction in power, and acknowledge how many victims of wind are within these circles of harm: even out to 15-20 km.

Watch below:

“Wind Turbine Infrasound as a Weapon”

Transcript Selections: Please refer to this for entire transcript.

Narrator: Infrasound occurs where large masses are in motion. This happens in nature with avalanches and earthquakes, for instance. But infrasound also arises through technology and industry. It’s caused by large machines and blasting. Even wind turbines generate infrasound whenever their blades rotate. In a densely populated country like Germany, where wind farms border on residential areas, many people are robbed of their sleep.

Insa Bock: It’s worse when I lie in bed at night. After five or 10 minutes, I feel kind of dizzy. My heart starts to race and I get this massive ringing in my ears. To some extent, I also feel claustrophobic and stressed.

Narrator: Insa Bock and Hermann Oldewurtel live in East Frisia near the town of Esens. Located scarcely 700 metres from their home, is a wind farm with a few dozen wind turbines. Since they function even at low wind speeds, the wind park is in operation virtually 24-7.…

Hermann Oldewurtel: We were informed that it would not be possible to carry out the tests at the time, because the wind direction and wind strength were not right.

Narrator: Left in the lurch by the authorities, the couple commissioned the measurements themselves. They were carried out by expert Sven Johannsen. Amongst other things, he used a vibration sensor, because wind power plants also generate structure-borne sound. In other words, vibrations. Johannsen compared the structure-borne sound pattern of the wind farm with that of the house.

Sven Johannsen: It’s like comparing fingerprints. You can prove which source something was triggered off by. In this case, we suspected the wind turbine.

Narrator: Microphones measure the interior and outside areas. A micro barometer records minute air pressure fluctuations. All the appliances are synchronised to register infrasound and structure-borne sound simultaneously.

Sven Johannsen: When powerful vibrations occur, as a rule, even minimal acoustic pressure in the air-borne noise range is sufficient to cause discomfort. If there were no vibrations, the acoustic pressure could be a bit higher before it’d have this effect. So here, we have interaction between structure-borne sound and normal air-borne noise. That’s why it’s important to look at both at the same time.

Narrator: Vibrations, then, increase sensitivity to infrasound, an additional burden for residents.

Insa Bock: When I was lying in bed, I actually noticed the vibrations on the mattress. I had this strange feeling that something was wrong. Then in the half-light, I clearly saw the mattress move several centimetres.

Insa Bock: When the buzzing starts, it’s like you are in a beehive. You just need to put your hand on the wall of the house, and feel the vibrations….

Narrator: Professor Alec Salt works at the Washington School of Medicine, in St Louis, in the United States. He is an internationally recognised expert on the physiology of the inner ear, and for some time now, on the fact that the ear reacts to infrasound. It’s an observation Salt and his team made more by chance in carrying out research into a disease of the inner ear. The doctors used infrasound to test how the diseased ear reacts to external stimuli.

Alec Salt: We discovered that if you went down to very, very low frequencies, your results got better. So instead of having a sound you can hear like 30, 40 hertz, we went down and down and down. And we discovered even 5 hertz was getting lovely results.

Narrator: The researchers wanted to get to the bottom of this surprising discovery. Why did the ear react to the signal even though it was inaudible? The answer lies in the complex anatomy of our ear, which amongst other things, is equipped with two different types of sensory ear (hair) cells.

Alec Salt: When a human is exposed to infrasound, that sound is going to go into their ear. It’s going to stimulate their outer ear cells. It’s not going to stimulate their inner ear (hair) cells, which are the ones they’re hearing through. So they’re not… They don’t hear the sound at all, but there’s still electrical responses in the ear, to the sound. And that is still stimulating another pathway.

Narrator: Based on his own observations and on an intensive study of specialized literature, Salt’s findings are regarded by colleagues as undisputed, but that is not the case outside the world of science.…

Narrator: This study is the continuation of earlier experiments. Scientists, Professor Simone Kühn and her colleagues had exposed test persons to brief infrasound signals below the auditory threshold. In other words, sound they couldn’t hear. The researchers then took a look at what happened in the brain.

Simone Kühn: What was interesting to note was that conditions with infrasound exposure, close to the auditory threshold are somehow special. Intense activity took place in the anterior cingulum, a region of the brain which deals primarily with conflict situations, and also in the right amygdala, the region which is linked to stress management.…

Narrator: So what we consciously hear can be assessed and if necessary, ignored. But things that are only perceived subliminally, in other words, subconsciously, generate stress and perhaps even fear. Someone who knows all about this, is John B Alexander, a former US Army Colonel. He fought in Vietnam, became a member of the US Special Forces, and later, he headed a department which focused on the development of unorthodox weapons.

Narrator: After the 1980’s at the latest, they included infrasound.

John B. Alexander: The first question was, are the effects that we’re reading about real? And what you found is, yes. There were some people who were physiologically affected. They were nauseous. They would get dizzy. There were some who had psychological issues, fear factors, inability to think, kinds of things.

Narrator: Effects that the US Military thought that could be used well against an enemy. Prototype infrasound weapons of monstrous dimensions were then developed, along with infrasound test chambers for animal experiments using rhesus monkeys. Other powers also expected great things from infrasound as a weapon.

John B. Alexander: Remember, when we started, we’re talking 1980’s, we’re talking the bad old days. So we’re talking the Soviet Union still exists. Getting data out of Soviet resources was extremely difficult. But there were reports, like controlled defensive behaviour the DIA had, that suggested that they were looking in that area. My experience with the Chinese had been the same. They looked across a wide, wide range of technologies.

Narrator: In the mid-2000’s, at the latest, the idea of putting infrasound to military use, was abandoned. The problem was the technology and the fact that infrasound does not affect everyone in the same way. For military commanders, that is unacceptable.

John B. Alexander: We found that some people are affected dramatically. Some people are affected a little bit, and others not at all. From a weapons perspective, I shoot a bullet, I know what it’s going to do to your body. As a commander, if you’re going to have a weapon, you want something that when I pull the trigger, I know exactly what the effects are going to be or can have a pretty close approximation.

Narrator: The military has lost interest in infrasound, but medicine hasn’t. Inaudible sound is attracting more and more research. Professor Christian-Freidrich Vahl is Director of Cardiac, Thoracic and Vascular Surgery at Mainz University Medical Centre. Over the last two years, he and his team have devoted their research to the subject of infrasound. The focus is on the acute effects. The researchers are studying human heart muscle fibres. For this experiment, two fibres from the same patient are isolated. Only a few millimetres in size, the specimens are still alive.

Narrator: They are secured into identical pieces of equipment. One will serve as a control, the other will be exposed to infrasound in the form of a 16-hertz frequency for one hour. The aim is to measure how the strength of the heart muscle fibre changes under the influence of infrasound. This is already the third series of tests, carried out by the workgroup. Two earlier series have already been concluded.

Christian-Friedrich Vahl: We can definitely say that under these acute conditions, infrasound really does have a distinct effect on heart muscle tissue. Both series of tests have revealed a clear reduction in heart muscle strength.

Narrator: Here in the laboratory too, the low-frequency sound cannot be heard, at least not consciously. It becomes visible when Dr Ryan Shabban holds a sheet of paper in front of the loudspeaker. It is not yet clear just how infrasound manages to reduce the strength of the heart muscle, but one theory has already been put forward.

Christian-Friedrich Vahl: Think of a rowing boat with rowers in it. They are the cross-bridges of the muscle. If this rowing boat is now exposed to an infrasound signal and suddenly starts to shake, if it were an eight maybe, four of the crew would continue rowing. But the four others would get out of step, and in a jiffy, the boat would lose speed.

Narrator: What causes the rowing boat, or to be more accurate, the heart muscle, to get out of step, is the energy of the infrasound.

Christian-Friedrich Vahl: Whether we hear it or not, every form of energy has physical effects, and infrasound is particularly dangerous because we don’t hear it.


Sophia Roosth, Frederick S. Danziger Associate Professor in the Department of the History of Science at Harvard University, prepares us for another way of looking at Infrasound. In “An Infrasonic History of the Twentieth Century,” Roosth behooves a larger understanding away from anthropocentric and “earcentric” models, and asks us to realize the entire body’s ability to “hear”, not just the ears.

Professor Roosth contemplates the work of Nina Pierpont, author of Wind Turbine Syndrome, and offers insights into Vibro Acoustic Disease, so termed by Dr Castello Brano and Dr Mariana Alves-Pereira of Portugal. She suggests that what was once an idiosyncratic explanation of rogue natural (earthquakes, volcanos and son on) and industry noises, is now a vibration embedded in modern life,  “an unavoidable blight, a vibration blanketing the modern technologically mediated globe.”

If this vibration “blanket” feels especially anxiety ridden and disease promoting, it may be augmented by the now highly pervasive addition of several hundred thousand industrial wind turbine swaths worldwide (546’388 Megawatt installed capacity 2017), from which victims can rarely escape, save by complete removal of their persons. More than a mere industrial “nuisance,” and an accepted part of a technologically advanced culture, wind turbine factories are far better described as a “weaponization.”

Curt Devlin, of Fairhaven Mass., writes about wind turbines, and the right to be free from “unwanted experimentation”:

“This (the taking of profits) is why the global wind industry has strategically and systematically sought to silence wind turbine hosts and neighbors with property buy-outs and non-disclosure agreements. Undoubtedly, this is also why they and those who support them have publicly targeted acoustic engineers, health practitioners, and public health experts who have attempted to expose this truth in accordance with their canons of professional ethics. This industry subjects legitimate science to ridicule, its authors to character assassination, and its sleepless victims to blame and aspersions of mental defect. All of this is done to cloak conscious criminal cruelty in the name of unbridled greed.”

With zero societal, economic, or environmental benefits, and irreparable harm of every kind, it is time to talk disarmament, even reparation. And greens supporting wind power must let bygones be bygones and check their premises. Wind turbine energy, government-enabled, is the worst kind of energy.

Watch offsite:

Infrasound: Noise we can’t hear

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Wind Concerns is a collaboration of citizens of the Lakeland Alberta region against proposed wind turbine projects.

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