How Pseudoscience Con Artists Argue: A VAD Case Study

Barnard On Wind Redux Post: Mariana Alves-Pereira tried a lot of rhetorical tricks while avoiding any actual substance

In a rare occurrence, an anti-wind pseudoscientist engaged in a public debate with someone who wasn’t already convinced that wind turbines cause horrible diseases and actually knew what the evidence really said. The argumentative tricks that pseudoscientists use to try to win such debates were on full display. This post details those tricks.

2019 update: The discussion and this post occurred in 2013. Six years later, Mariana Alves-Pereira is still peddling her anti-wind pseudoscience and it continues to be spread by anti-wind groups. This material is completely fresh, sadly.

Mariana Alves-Pereira presenting at an anti-wind conference

First, a little on the pseudo-science. Vibro-acoustic disease (VAD) is the invention of Portuguese doctor, Nuno Castelo-Branco, who worked tirelessly and fruitlessly for roughly 30 years to get it accepted as a workers compensation payable condition. He claimed that long-term exposure to inaudible levels of infrasound made people sick. He and a very small team, most notably one Mariana Alves-Pereira, have continued to diagnose people with VAD although it has not been accepted by any medical authority as a legitimate disease. They have published roughly 34 studies in various journals over the 30 years, but a large percentage of them were published in an un-peer-reviewed supplement to the journal Aviation, Space and Environmental Medicine in 1999, a linkage which allows them to reference them as if they were viable studies. (This last is a trick mirrored by anti-wind campaigners with their special edition of the unindexed Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society out of the University of Toronto). The group claims an extraordinary range of symptoms including genotoxic effects, neurological disorders, heart disease and psychiatric issues from levels of infrasound that are common in our surroundings and below what exists within our bodies from normal bodily functions.

In October of 2013, a set of studies specifically assessing vibro-acoustic disease (VAD) crossed my desk. To summarize the longer post on the findings, the studies found no biomarker or physical evidence supporting the VAD claims using very sophisticated techniques well suited to the purpose, that no other researchers support or reference their claims and that the linkage to wind turbines is based on a single case study reported only in a conference, not in a peer-reviewed journal. Basically, the studies jointly show that VAD is fictitious and everyone except the VAD researchers and anti-wind campaigners knows that.

Of course, this isn’t news. There have been 19 reviews of the literature and complaints related to wind energy, and every single one of those reviews by highly qualified, credentialed researchers and groups ignored VAD, found that VAD in total was bogus, or that if there were any reality to it, there was no chance that it would express near wind turbines at the levels of infrasound that they emit. (Full quotes at the bottom of this post.)

Having written up the results, a quick Google search found useful places to make reference to these studies as a means of combatting the continued spread of this fictitious pseudo-disease. One of those places was an Occupational Health discussion group on LinkedIn. The moderator had posted a link to a 2004 report written by Castelo-Branco and Alves-Pereira in the journal Noise & Health summarizing their belief that VAD was real and that infrasound and low-frequency noise were horrible health risks. Please note that the moderator is not to blame for having been deceived by a 30-year pseudoscience campaign and workers’ compensation ploy; he’s far from alone in that.

Alves-Pereira had made an innocuous comment on the post prior to the debunking material being added. Upon addition of the debunking material, a useful and open discussion with the moderator and another group participant ensued over a few days in which the evidence showing clearly that VAD was fictitious was outlined with full references. Similarly high-quality material was provided showing that annoyance due to wind turbine noise as dominantly related to psychological factors not physical issues or noise, and that infrasound was harmless if inaudible.

Five days in, Alves-Pereira returned to the thread to respond to the vivisection of her pet disease. This is an analysis of the rhetorical tricks and sophistries she attempted in order to derail the discussion.

Quote 1: you have no biological or medical background, and have chosen to rely on statements and junk-science studies developed by “scientists” that have quite a different agenda other than improving the health conditions of workers and the general population.

Despite significant referenced material and clear and articulate statements that might be argued intelligently, rationally and with references, Alves-Pereira immediately goes on a personal offensive against the people behind the studies. She managed two serious smears in one sentence regarding the researchers of the three studies cited debunking VAD; the first that they were junk scientists, and the second that they had a hidden agenda. The latter is of course conspiracy ideation.

My response was to list the impeccable credentials of the various researchers from Norway and Australia, as well as the quality and reputations of the institutions she was maligning.

Despite a large opening, in the discussion I didn’t point out that Alves-Pereira, roughly 25 years into her career, is only an Auxiliary Professor, two full steps below tenured Professor, indicative of how the educational institution she is affiliated with views the quality of her work. Of course, that educational institute, Lusofona Univeristy, is the 10,059th best university in the world per Ranking Web of Universities, so not having tenure there is even more embarrassing.

The above is relevant as a very low-grade academic is attacking the academic qualifications and reputations of researchers far, far more respected and credentialed than she is, and pretending to academic authority she does not have in an attempt to win arguments. Her ad hominem attack on me is merely a puff of hot air compared to that, and did not have the intended effect of shutting me up as it likely does others.

Quote 2: I thought science was to be based on the merits of scientific methodology, and not personal and political credentials!

Having smeared the credentials and integrity of researchers and been slapped down for it, Alves-Pereira then performs a screeching 180-degree turn and pretends that I brought it into the discussion. This is typical of pseudoscientists and other con artists, and we’ll see another display of it further on. Bald faced lies and reversals are par for the course, and are only useful against the gullible who are being told what they want to hear.

Naturally, it wasn’t effective on me, and once again, I called her on her rhetorical tactic, pointing out that the record of her smears was in black and white and without dispute.

Quote 3: Thirty years of systematic and consistent research, with both human and animal models, by a multidisciplinary team, and recipient of several international scientific prizes…. Do you really think, Mike, that I am unable to defend this research?

Once again, Alves-Pereira is attempting to scare off potential debaters, this time by talking about how long and seriously the VAD group have worked on the subject. This is another appeal to authority, and an attempt to frighten off people questioning the work. And of course, it continues not to be a defense of the work itself and is an appeal back to the theoretical qualifications of the unnamed people and unstated awards that they have been granted. In other words “personal and political credentials” again, and still without any verifiable references.

Quote 4: Lets Skype! My (american) English is fluent as I am bilingual, so you need not fear language miscommunication….

There are two lovely twists to observe here. The first is that her initial attempt to shut down the publicly observable debate wasn’t working, so she wished to move to a private and deniable forum. The second is a little bit of snobbery regarding language skills, intended to make her debater feel inferior. Possibly a third with the little aside about American English which would likely be a dog whistle to other Europeans with anti-American sympathies. Presumably she knows better than to think that Canada is part of the United States.

Alves-Pereira is undoubtedly an excellent debater, and the gambits she had tried so far do work better in conversation than they do in print, where it’s very simple to scroll up and see that she had said the complete opposite in her previous comment.

Quote 5: I refuse to be baited into useless, superficial and scientifically dishonest discussions.

This is a lovely line. Three pieces of peer-reviewed research had been presented with clear statements about why they disproved VAD. Alves-Pereira’s initial response was ad hominem attacks on the integrity and qualifications of the researchers, virtually the definition of “useless, superficial and scientifically dishonest discussions“. Yet she’s turning this accusation on me, instead of herself.

Listening to pseudoscientists and other con artists, you begin to observe a clear pattern of them accusing the person they are trying to con of doing exactly what they are in fact doing.

Of course, my response was to point out that Alves-Pereira had every opportunity to respond to the evidence that had been clearly laid out, and that she was avoiding doing so. I declined to move the discussion out of a public forum.

Quote 6: Although I usually reserve these types of discussions for real scientific forums, I will agree to discuss some of the issues you raised, specifically the Norwegian study and the Chapman article, even though Letters to the Editors are being prepared for each journal.

The first thing to point out is “real scientific forums”. As pointed out, this debate occurred in a professional Occupational Health discussion group. Secondly, the lovely snobbery when her work is most often referred to and discussed in anti-wind campaign efforts is fascinating. Once again, she attempts from her lowly milking stool of an academic position to invoke scientific authority. It likely works a lot of the time.

The Letters to the Editors are a nice touch as well, as if a serious response to breaking news is under way, and she wants to keep her points reserved for that forum. However, the first study was published four years before this discussion, the second a full year before the discussion and the third was available on eScholarship five months before this discussion. Alves-Pereira is actually unable to respond to the content and has been for years, and is waving her arms to pretend otherwise.

Quote 7: The CT Scan is a complementary diagnostic medical test. Definitive clinical diagnoses are not established through these types of imaging techniques.

Alves-Pereira ignored the first study showing no acute biomarker changes at all, and leapt to discussion of the second paper. For context, a group of clinical and medical imaging experts associated with four respected Norwegian medical institutions designed the study specifically to assess the claimed thickening of the pericardium that VAD claims. They chose CT scanning as the appropriate and accurate technical approach to achieve this end. Without any references to third-party material supporting her statements, Alves-Pereira asserts that this was an inappropriate choice. While Alves-Pereira does have a couple of degrees, she is not a doctor, a clinician or a medical imaging specialist as the experts who chose CT scanning are. Once again, she is trying to trade on her authority to make a sweeping statement with the hope that it will merely be accepted.

Quote 8: The pericardial thickness that we have referenced since 1992 pertains to the pericardial thickening measured when the fragment is carefully removed at the beginning of the surgical intervention (performed for other reasons), and pinned in wax with the serosa side upward. This is not comparable with pericardia measured post-mortem or with pericardial fragments that have been subjected to surgical trauma.

This sounds very serious and credible, until you start to unpack the statement. First, it’s important to know the provenance of the samples. They were removed as part of coronary bypass surgery in six cases and were the result of autopsies in four cases, per the VAD groups 1999 paper, Vibro-Acoustic Disease: some forensic aspects, published in the same supplement with many of their other papers.

The first set of samples were from people with diseased hearts, likely due to the typical reasons why people have diseased hearts: diet, lack of exercise, smoking and drinking. Yet they are accepted as high-quality data points by the VAD group. The second set of samples specifically have the “pericardia measured post-mortem”, exactly what Alves-Pereira says is invalid. This is a tiny sample of low evidentiary significance at the best of times.

This is of course another situation where Alves-Pereira is making a bold-faced claim that research disproving VAD suffers from her own group’s poor methodology, yet another gasp-worthy reversal, as none of the people who underwent CT scans for the Norwegian study were dead or were cut up in any way.

Of course, this is all moot, as the secondary finding of the Norwegian study was that Castelo-Branco didn’t know how thick the pericardium was, and thought that the perfectly normal pericardium thickness of one to two millimeters he observed was three-four times thicker than usual. The Norwegians point out that this is not the case based upon well structured assessments from CT scans performed in London.

This is important to draw out, as Alves-Pereira is attacking CT scans as the correct technology, but based on an apples-to-pears basis. The Norwegian team assessed pericardial thickness on an apples-to-apples basis to world-standard data using the same technology and found no thickening.

Once again, misleading argumentative practices from claiming undeserved authority, to misleading comparisons, to claiming failures in others’ methodology that exist in one’s own. It’s quite a lot of misdirection to pack into two sentences.

Quote 9: Did anyone even bother to read the material to understand why the self-citations are relevant? For a better understanding, perhaps it would help to remind whomever is reading this text, that our team has been researching this agent of disease since 1980

For context, Prof Simon Chapman did a minor assessment of reliability of VAD papers using citations as a measure of reliability. He found a startling 74% self-citation by the VAD group of their papers, where 7% is the academic average. This is a standard assessment of scientific papers, made publishable only by the absurd degree to which the VAD group exceeded normal practices and by the negative impact of their claims on public health due to health fears and stress created around wind farms.

The first claim to draw out is the assertion that the VAD work was going unread. This is in context of three studies specifically aimed at debunking the VAD groups claims, and in context of a discussion thread where the VAD groups own work is being quoted. This is typical of pseudoscientific rhetoric, that no one has actually read and understand the work despite all evidence to the contrary. Yet again, another bold-faced reversal of reality, hoping that it would go unnoticed.

The second is that the VAD literature has been mounting since 1980, and no one except the VAD group and those debunking them are referencing it. Alves-Pereira tries a fascinating reversal again, where this is actually a good thing, instead of the remarkably obvious bad thing it is. Building on ones’ own work is one thing, but no one else bothering to cite it is a completely different issue.

Quote 10: unless I plan to write a treatise here on this forum, it is quite tedious to be discussing this through a written text not in article format.

All Alves-Pereira was being asked to do was to respond to three specific studies’ clear statements. At the point when she wrote this, she had already written roughly 900 words without actually saying anything substantive, accurate or referenced. Apparently it is completely acceptable to her to attack the integrity and credentials of others, but tedious to actually respond to the substance of their research.

Further, given that the studies had been publicly available for four years, one year and five months respectively, it’s remarkable that Alves-Pereira doesn’t have coherent boiler plate responses to them already written that she can cut&paste into any discussion or even reference in third party journals. Once again, this is evidence that she does not have a response, not evidence of the challenge of responding in an online forum.

Quote 11: mechanotransduction cellular signalling that explains LFN-induced pathology

As expected, pseudoscientific gibberish comes to the fore as well, in the form of a little known aspect of cellular functioning and a nice acronym that is meaningless in context of the first, outside of the echo-chamber of the VAD research group where it is taken as a matter of faith.

For context, mechanotransduction is a real thing. Cells use it for proprioception and some communication. However, there are two very large holes in the VAD group’s theory about its applicability.

The first is that per Leventhall’s long-standing work most recently updated in the July 2013 issue of the journal Acoustics Today, infrasound inside the human body from natural bodily processes is very high, in the range of 100 dB, and external sources need to be greater than about 120 dB to exceed it. The VAD group’s claim related to aviation infrasound was at 80 dB, or 10,000 times less intense than the well understood external threshold. The VAD group’s claim related to wind turbine infrasound was even more extreme, as infrasound from wind farms rarely exceeds 40–60 dB at the exterior of homes, or one million (1,000,000) to one hundred million (100,000,000) times less intense.

At heart, this is a key reason why every group of people capable of assessing medical literature who looks at VAD dismisses it. The levels of intensity are so far removed from anything which could overcome bodily generated infrasound that they are completely trivial, like dropping a pebble into a raging sea. Acousticians involved with wind farms and health I discussed this with said that the occasional time VAD is brought up in wind and health discussions among competent professionals, it’s dismissed almost immediately.

Second, mechanotransduction unlocks chemical changes and cellular responses to those chemical changes. The over 40 carefully selected biomarkers assessed in the Norwegian 2009 study would have detected these changes if any were occurring. No changes, therefore mechanotransduction is not impacted by external infrasound at the levels under discussion.

But from a pseudoscientist’s perspective, this gibberish is great stuff! They have this mysterious stuff called infrasound and low frequency sound with an ominous (and almost completely erroneous) history of weird effects, then they’ve got this mouthful of syllables that no layperson has ever heard of but which actually exists. It’s a golden combination, and Alves-Pereira is unafraid to drop it casually into the conversation hoping that it would finally do the trick of shutting the conversation down. It didn’t, of course.

Quote 12: Gibberish!? LOL! You are too funny! Which part exactly was gibberish to you?

When the gibberish was pointed out to Alves-Pereira, along with why it was gibberish, her response was once again to attack the understanding of the person questioning her. She finally did provide a reference of sorts, but only to another VAD paper which they had managed to get into another journal. Once again, Alves-Pereira attacks the individual, and only references the highly self-referential material supporting her argument. She is incapable of referencing other material that supports VAD or their claims because there is none, and she uses rhetoric intended to make others believe that those who question her are incapable of understanding.

As of the time of writing, Alves-Pereira has stopped responding. Another key characteristic of most pseudoscientists and con artists is that they play percentages. If one person isn’t being conned by outrageous statements, then they move on to the next and the next until they find someone who will buy it. Alves-Pereira has a greater depth of pseudoscience to spread than most, but it’s still the same thing.

Alves-Pereira tried ad hominems, conspiracy ideation, appeals to (non-existent) authority, fright tactics, bold-faced reversals, mirrored accusations and a variety of other argumentative tricks to win the debate, without ever actually responding clearly, coherently and accurately to the substance of the vivisecting studies. These are the tactics of pseudoscience and con artists. Watch for them in the ongoing debate on wind energy and health. You’ll see that 100% of anti-wind campaigners employ at least a subset of them, and usually a majority.

Full text of the discussion is below in the event that the thread is dropped from the Occupational Health LinkedIn group.

Andrew Cutz, CIH, AIHA Fellow

Vibroacoustic Disease noiseandhealth.org

Vibroacoustic disease (VAD) is … caused by excessive exposure to low frequency noise (LFN).

Mariana Alves-Pereira

Auxilliary Professor at Lusofona Univeristy

As with other physical agents, low frequency noise (LFN) exposure has a cummulative effect on biological structures. Hence the importance of ascertaining previous noise exposure histories (such as, living in close proximity to train tracks) when evaluating the effects of LFN within a certain population…

July 28, 2012

Mariana Alves-Pereira

Auxilliary Professor at Lusofona Univeristy

For literature on Vibroacoustic disease, see Journal: Aviation, Space & Environmental Medicine, 1999, vol 70, (March Supplement). This issue is entirely dedicated to Vibroacoustic disease as observed in the workplace (I.e., before wind turbines became an issue…). Alternatively, I can send electronic copies…

August 5, 2012

Mike Barnard

Vibro-acoustic disease is at best a mistake by an incompetent and at worst a workers’ compensation ploy. Norwegian studies focussed on it using helicopter crews and passengers as study and control groups found no evidence of acute or chronic changes. One also pointed out that the key physical evidence Castelo-Branco found — thickening of the pericardium — was misinterpreted as he thought the pericardium was normally 3–4 times thinner than it actually is. An Australian assessment found that 74% of all citations to VAD papers were from the VAD papers themselves, instead of the more usual 7%. http://barnardonwind.com/2013/10/04/vad-venal-arrogant-distortion/

Oct 6, 2013

David Jarrell, Manager, Technical Services OSIMS at United Safety

I’m wondering if there is a connection between VAD and the increasing community opposition to the erection of wind turbines in rural south west Ontario?

Mike Barnard

@David: only in that it is part of the anti-wind health disinformation being spread by those opposed to wind energy in Ontario.

Andrew Cutz, CIH, AIHA Fellow, Health+Safety Matters & Associates

Monday, October 7, 2013

Hello Mike!

It seems to me that you had done some original research work on ‘Vibro-acoustic disease” to state that… “It is at best a mistake by an incompetent and at worst a workers’ compensation ploy” -and- “is part of the anti-wind health disinformation being spread by those opposed to wind energy in Ontario”. Can you please share with the group research papers you are citing. We would like to learn from you.

Sincerely yours,

Andrew Cutz

Andrew Cutz, CIH, AIHA Fellow | Moderator, GlobalOccHyg List |http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/globalocchyg-list/ (on Yahoo Groups) |
RSS Feed http://rss.groups.yahoo.com/group/globalocchyg-list/rss |http://tinyurl.com/GlobalOccHyg-List (on LinkedIn) NEW!

Mike Barnard

Full references to all relevant peer-reviewed papers from Scandinavia and Australia, as well as cited papers and conference presentations by Castelo-Branco / Alves-Pereira are in the biblio section of the linked post: http://www.linkedin.com/redirect?url=http%3A%2F%2Fbarnardonwind%2Ecom%2F2013%2F10%2F04%2Fvad-venal-arrogant-distortion%2F&urlhash=pY–&_t=tracking_disc

For your convenience here are the three primary pieces of evidence against VAD:

CT Examination of the Pericardium and Lungs in Helicopter Pilots Exposed to Vibration and Noise, Jan Ivar Kåsin, Tor Ole Kjellevand, John Kjekshus, Geir B Nesheim, and Anthony Wagstaff, Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine x Vol. 83, №9 x September 2012, DOI: 10.3357/ASEM.3209.2012, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22946349

A helicopter flight does not induce significant changes in systemic biomarker profiles, Jan Ivar Kåsin, John Kjekshus, Pal Aukrust, Tom Eirik Mollnes & Anthony Wagstaff, Scandinavian Journal of Clinical & Laboratory Investigation, Vol. 69, №4, July 2009, 462–474, doi: 10.1080/00365510902745360, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19333819

How the factoid of wind turbines causing ‘vibroacoustic disease’ came to be ‘irrefutably demonstrated’, Simon Chapman, Alexis St George, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, Volume 37, Issue 3, pages 244–249, June 2013, DOI: 10.1111/1753–6405.12066,http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1753-6405.12066/full

Key quotes:

we have an on-going commitment to establish VAD as an occupational disease, reimbursable by Worker’s Compensation. (Castelo Branco 1999)

(Note: no medical organization or publication has accepted VAD as a disease as of 2013)

The most likely possibility is that sound and vibration exposure have no discernible physical effects on cellular tissue. (J.I. Kasin et al 2009)

On the basis of the CT scans, our findings do not support the existence of vibroacoustic disease, where pericardial thickening is the most prominent sign.
AND
Portuguese groups’ findings in the vibroacoustic disease patients do not seem to be elevated from normal values and that normal pericardial thickness may have been underestimated. (J.I. Kasin et al 2012)

Of the 35 papers on VAD, 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. (Chapman 2013)

Mike Barnard

It should be pointed out that Mariana Alves-Pereira, an earlier commenter on this thread, is part of the Portuguese research group with the extraordinarily high self-citation rate, and has been the primary person drawing unsupported links between the fictitious VAD and wind turbines.

Her evidence linking wind turbines to her non-existent disease is a very small and weak case study. She was the person who made the diagnosis of VAD, as far as I can tell, which is fascinating as she is not a medical professional and not expected to make diagnoses. Based on this single case study — the least reliable form of medical evidence –, she has been testifying and providing submissions around the world at wind farm siting tribunals.

I’ll quote Chapman’s 2013 paper at length:

— — — — –
None of the papers contained any reference to wind turbines. The on-line grey literature Google search showed that the claim about wind turbines causing vibroacoustic disease was apparently first made on 31 May 2007 in a press release by the Lisbon group three months ahead of a paper they planned to deliver describing two case studies at the Istanbul Inter-noise 2007 conference in late August 2007 and again at a wind conference in Lyon, France in September 2007. The release stated “These results irrefutably demonstrate [our emphasis] that wind turbines in the proximity of residential areas produce acoustical environments that can lead to the development of VAD (vibroacoustic disease) in nearby home-dwellers”.

The conference paper compared infrasound measurements in the homes of two families: Family F who lived across a wide river from a deep water grain terminal; and Family R, who lived in a farmhouse near four wind turbines located at distances of between 322 and 643 metres. Two in Family F had various pathologies described by the authors as VAD and a 12-year-old boy in Family R had “memory and attention skill” problems in school and “tiredness” during physical education activities, both common problems in school children. The measured infrasound levels in Family R’s house were higher than those in Family F’s house. The noise measuring equipment used to measure infrasound in the two houses was different. The authors concluded unequivocally that Family R “will also develop VAD should they continue to remain in their home”.

This claimed association was repeated by Alves-Pereira in an invited video-linked presentation to an NHMRC Wind Farms and Human Health Scientific Forum held on June 7, 2011. In this presentation she focussed on the case study of Family R. Slide #23 shows an arrow indicating the house concerned. It can be seen that there are many other houses in the area adjacent to the turbines, 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.

Alves-Pereira also referred to problems of ‘boxy’ or ‘club’ foot found in four horses kept at the property (slide #28). This problem too, she suggested, might be connected with exposure to wind turbines. Of five horses examined, four had boxy foot. The one that did not was acquired rather than bred on the farm. One other acquired horse also had boxy foot. Boxy foot is a common problem in horses and has many causes46 yet none of these were mentioned nor investigated.

— — — — — –

A Google search of “alves-pereira vibroacoustic disease wind turbine” will quickly show that VAD has gained lots of traction as a factoid in anti-wind groups world-wide, with widespread acceptance of this very weakly supported non-disease.

Mike Barnard

Finally, it’s worth noting the following:

Wind farms don’t harm human health, anti-wind campaigners do. 19 reviews world wide of all of the available research and complaints by credible, independent groups have cleared wind farms of health impacts. Meanwhile, studies in the UK, Australia and New Zealand point the finger at anti-wind lobbyists spreading health fears and jacking up stress.http://barnardonwind.com/2013/02/17/wind-farms-dont-make-people-sick-so-why-the-complaints/

Infrasound produced by wind farms is harmless; humans evolved with infrasound and wind farms produce less than waves on a beach, yet beach front property is in major demand.http://barnardonwind.com/2013/02/20/humans-evolved-with-infrasound-is-there-any-truth-to-health-concerns-about-it/

Analysis of the 50 most commonly cited studies, reviews and governmental reports used by both sides finds that the literature used by anti-wind campaigners to claim health impacts is much, much less reliable than the evidence showing no health impacts outside of limited noise annoyance to some. http://barnardonwind.com/2013/08/06/health-studies-reliability/

Andrew Cutz, CIH, AIHA Fellow, Health+Safety Matters & Associates

Thank you Mike! That is quite a treaties. What do you do?

“Analysis of the 50 most commonly cited studies, reviews and governmental reports used by both sides finds that the literature used by anti-wind campaigners to claim health impacts is much, much less reliable than the evidence showing no health impacts outside of limited *noise annoyance* to some. http://barnardonwind.com/2013/08/06/health-studies-reliability/

I know Dr. Mariana Alves-Pereira personally. Met her at the AIHce 2002 in San Diego, California. She seems like a nice person… Andrew

Andrew Cutz, CIH, AIHA Fellow, Health+Safety Matters & Associates

I do realize that this is maybe a local (“near field”) effect of the wind turbines but makes one think “outside the box”.

The UK Telegraph on “Wind turbines may be killing bats by ‘exploding’ their lungs”
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/energy/renewableenergy/10307646/Wind-turbines-may-be-killing-bats-by-exploding-their-lungs.html (ONE STRING)

Mike Barnard

Hi Andrew . . .

I’m sure Prof Alves-Pereira is nice in person, however, her fictitious disease and ongoing support of it is a contributing factor in the psychogenic illness related to wind farms. She, along with pediatrician Nina Pierpont in the USA, retired pharmacist Carmen Krogh in Canada and unregistered doctor Sarah Laurie in Australia, are promoters of the idea that wind farms make people sick and that infrasound is the primary factor.

Their past or barely relevant present medical credentials lend their words credibility. Their message of health fears is spread to people near proposed and active wind farms. Those people start feeling stress, paying inordinate attention to the relatively minor wind farm noise — past 350 meters or so — and either become ill with symptoms due to the nocebo effect, stress or attribute symptoms of more serious ailments incorrectly to wind farms. They then become part of the anecdotal base for the health hysteria surrounding wind farms.

Prof Alves-Pereira is contributing directly to making people sick with stress-related illnesses or preventing them from gaining appropriate treatment for underlying medical problems. Her misdiagnoses of VAD and linkage of the fictitious VAD to wind farms does not have nice effects, regardless of her personal character.

Fiona Crichton of the UofAuckland has done the best work on nocebo effects of infrasound and wind turbines. Her first study — well-structured, solid methodology, with medical ethics oversight, statistically significant, peer reviewed — found that the symptoms attributed to infrasound were in fact caused by exposure to material claiming that infrasound cause ailments. A second study, accepted for publication, shows that people told that infrasound will make them feel better — the placebo effect — actually do feel better.

Can Expectations Produce Symptoms From Infrasound Associated With Wind Turbines? Crichton, Fiona; Dodd, George; Schmid, Gian; Gamble, Greg; Petrie, Keith J. Health Psychology, Mar 11 , 2013, No Pagination Specified. doi: 10.1037/a0031760,

Prof Simon Chapman (PhD, AO, FASSA, HonFFPH (UK)) of UofSydney has a study — well-structured, solid methodology, etc — being published in PLoS shortly but available via the eScholarship site at UofSydney. It assesses all wind farms in Australia for the past 20 years, and gathers all health complaints made to them. It shows that 69% of wind farms began operating prior to 2009 while the majority of complaints (90%) were recorded after this date, and that 73% of complainants were residents near 6 wind farms targeted by anti wind farm groups (that include the Waubra Foundation. Further, there were only 129 complainants. He also maintains a list of the >220 health and animal symptoms now attributed to wind energy as part of the health hysteria, including Prof Alves-Pereira’s contributions.

Spatio-temporal differences in the history of health and noise complaints about Australian wind farms: evidence for the psychogenic, “communicated disease” hypothesis. , Simon Chapman, Alexis St. George, Karen Waller, Vince Cakic,

There’s also excellent work being done in the UofNottingham regarding the psychology of those who express annoyance about wind turbine noise. It finds, as all studies have, that annoyance is virtually unrelated to the level of noise, but is much more aligned with psychological factors.

All this is to say that something is going on, that people are making health complaints and that some people really are sick, but that the role that wind farms have in this is not a physical one with physiological impacts, but a psychological one.

Mike

Mike Barnard

Regarding me and bats, while not relevant to the subject of VAD:

I’m a business architect, which means that I have a systems engineering background and consider very challenging problems from a cross-disciplinary and broad perspective. Directly relevant to this conversation, several years of my background was devoted to issues of public health and to a lesser extent workers’ compensation. I had a senior role in building the world’s most robust and sophisticated public health surveillance, vaccination management, outbreak management and communicable disease management. I’ve worked on workers’ compensation related major programs of automation in three of Canada’s provinces.

Regarding bats, yes, the key work was done at the UofCalgary. Their explorations found that bats suffered barotrauma, the effects of sudden decompression in the lower pressure region directly behind moving wind turbine blades. Bats’ sonar and agility enables them to avoid the blades themselves, but in doing so a subset end up behind the blades. This lower pressure cavity is very much a near field effect.

I would urge you when thinking outside of the box about apparent health effects regarding wind farms and human health to explore the psychogenic path first. Of all of the ongoing wind and health research in the world, it is the path that has by far the greatest explanatory value and support of evidence.

One perspective for you to keep in mind regarding wind farms, health and infrasound. If there were physiological impacts, there would be a lot of workplace compensation claims made by the tens of thousands of people who have made careers in the wind industry as it has grown to roughly 240,000 utility scale wind turbines world wide.

Obviously I keep my finger on the pulse of this topic. Please feel free to reach out to me at any time with questions regarding wind and health that you feel would be of value to the members of your group.

Cheers,
Mike

Mike Barnard

The key takeaways:
1. Infrasound is harmless to human health even at very high intensities for prolonged periods.
2. As infrasound is impossible to perceive except at intensities where it becomes audible, it is and has been subject to all sorts of nonsense and hysteria.
3. Health concerns about infrasound — whether near wind farms or not — are a fascinating psychological and sociological concern, but not a physiological concern.

For those interested in ongoing discussion, please Link to me here using mbarnardca@gmail.com, or email me directly at mike@barnardonwind.com. I regularly correspond with most of the key researchers in this field, including Geoff Leventhall, Simon Chapman and Fiona Crichton and can ensure that you have accurate and useful information to bring to bear.

Mike Barnard

There seems to be a comment missing from you Andrew. I received this via email, but it isn’t showing up here. I’ll assume a LinkedIn glitch and answer:

Hello Mike!

We know that from the community noise assesments:

There’s also excellent work being done in the UofNottingham regarding the psychology of those who express annoyance about wind turbine noise. “It finds, as all studies have, that **annoyance** is virtually unrelated to the level of noise, but is much more aligned with psychological factors”.

Would wind farms pass any community noise by-laws? As with the high-voltage transmission lines debate — Would you like to have one in your back yard?
Now for ELF (60/50 Hz) stray fields Professor Granger Morgan came up with the “Prudent Avoidance Principle” and many cities had adopted this principle. Again, the science is not there but “annoyance” is. Andrew

URL: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prudent_Avoidance_Principle (His original paper is out there in cyber space).

In general, community, regional and federal noise statutes in most jurisdictions follow some variant of World Health Organizations principles for noise annoyance impacts. These guidelines at minimum are met with a 1000′ / 300 m setback. Personally, I would like to be able to afford a backyard that’s 300+ m long that’s anywhere near a decent coffee shop.

The guidelines are pretty straightforward. 50+ dB levels of noise on a regular basis at night lead to noise annoyance sufficient to disrupt sleep in a large enough subset of the populace to create sleep loss leading to detrimental health effects. 40+ dB levels of noise on a regular basis at night lead to noise annoyance sufficient to cause some sleep loss with virtually no health effects. 35 dB is the recommended level at night. These are generic noise guidelines, by the way, as the WHO is uninterested in the non-health impacts of wind turbines compared to real problems. Note that these levels are all well below standard urban noise levels at night, and urbanites solve these problems in the hundreds of millions by closing their windows, closing drapes and using free white noise generator iPhone apps, all mitigations available to rural dwellers as well.

Progressive jurisdictions such as South Australia use the 35 dB levels when modelling sound at homes using any of the handful of wind farm siting tools. Ontario used the 40 dB level plus a buffer for its minimum 1900′ / 550 m setback. It varies by State in the USA with setbacks as low as 1000′ / 300 m occasionally seen, but typically minimums are more in the 1200′-1400′ range as wind energy developers don’t want to annoy their neighbours unnecessarily.

The WHO target number of 35 dB is inside bedrooms by the way and WHO makes it clear that partially closing windows reduces sound levels by 10–15 dB with no other mitigations. That’s a big part of the reason there is variability in noise targets; in many jurisdictions, rural dwellers are expected to take some ownership for mitigating impacts of any development near them through trivial adaptations and are not entitled to having no change in their environment.

The prudent avoidance or precautionary principle is only for things where impacts are not understood. Noise impacts are well understood, and the literature is clear that there are no other direct impacts. Human psychology being what it is, no matter what you do, someone will be annoyed. A more suitable question is “What percentage of annoyed people for what period of time is acceptable?” In Italy, traffic noise annoyance for new roads is legislated that way at a threshold of 10%, and they are proposing having the same ratio for wind energy. Prof Chapman’s work shows annoyance levels are below 1% of people living near wind farms.

World Health Organization, Guidelines for Community Noise
http://www.who.int/docstore/peh/noise/guidelines2.htmlhttp://www.euro.who.int/_data/assets/pdf_file/0017/43316/E92845.

Mariana Alves-Pereira, Auxilliary Professor at Lusofona Univeristy

Hello Mike,

Very interesting sequences of thoughts and notions. If ever you would like to obtain the scientific knowledge on VAD directly from involved researchers, please let me know. From what I gathered as I perused over your interventions herein, you have no biological or medical background, and have chosen to rely on statements and junk-science studies developed by “scientists” that have quite a different agenda other than improving the health conditions of workers and the general population. But, everyone has the right to choose their own sources of information…. Good luck!

Mike Barnard

Ms. Alves-Pereira has responded with an ad hominem attack and defamation of the characters, motivations and qualifications of the individuals involved in research finding VAD to be a non-existent disease. Ignoring her irrelevant attack on my qualifications to read, understand and cite appropriate medical studies, it’s worth looking at the other people she is directly defaming as “scientists” with hidden agendas.

The authors of the VAD citation study are Prof Simon Chapman and Alexis St George. Prof Chapman is Professor of Public Health at the oldest School of Public Health in the southern hemisphere which is one of only two in Australia to have a maximum ERA score of 5 for its research output. He has 456 publications in peer reviewed journals. His work has been cited 7833 times. His h-index is 45 (Hirsch, the inventor of the H index says “an h index of 40 after 20 years of scientific activity characterizes outstanding scientists likely to be found only at the top universities or major research laboratories” [Hirsch JE. An index to quantify and individual’s scientific research output. PNAS 2005;102:16569–72); He is an elected Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia and will be presenting the Academy’s annual Cunningham Lecture this year. His most recent accolades include becoming an Officer in the Order of Australia for “for distinguished service to medical research as an academic and author, particularly in the area of public health policy, and to the community”, and Honorary Fellow of the UK Faculty of Public Health for his contributions to public health worldwide.

The authors of the two Norwegian studies debunking VAD are Kåsin JI, Kjekshus J, Aukrust P, Mollnes TE, Wagstaff A., Kjellevand TO, , Nesheim GB. They are PhDs and medical doctors representing agencies including the Norwegian Defense Medical Services Institute of Aviation Medicine, Unilabs A/S and Rikshospitalet University Hospital and Faculty of Medicine Department of Cardiology, Institute for Internal Medicine Rikshospitalet University Hospital, and Institute of Immunology University of Oslo and Rikshospitalet University Hospital. They are dedicated medical health professionals with specific expertise and depth in the areas of research pertinent to the purported impacts of VAD.

The World Health Organization requires no defense, of course.

As a reminder of their findings:
The most likely possibility is that sound and vibration exposure have no discernible physical effects on cellular tissue. (J.I. Kasin et al 2009)

On the basis of the CT scans, our findings do not support the existence of vibroacoustic disease, where pericardial thickening is the most prominent sign.
AND
Portuguese groups’ findings in the vibroacoustic disease patients do not seem to be elevated from normal values and that normal pericardial thickness may have been underestimated. (J.I. Kasin et al 2012)

Of the 35 papers on VAD, 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. (Chapman 2013)

Ms. Alves-Pereira’s inability to defend her work from much more credible and dedicated researchers without resorting to smearing their names is indicative of the merit of her work.

Andrew Cutz, CIH, AIHA Fellow, Health+Safety Matters & Associates

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Dear Mike and Mariana,

First time I came across the VAD studies was back in 1999 when asked to do a literature search on “infra-sound” for a client looking at electric arc furnaces near Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. The original 25Hz(?) transformers powered the giant (“two storey”) graphite electrodes. I found it hard to accept that the reported cardio-vascular (heart) symptoms by the furnace men where due to “workplace organizational issues” (stress). When one stood close to the electric furnaces — one could feel the chest and abdominal cavity resonate. I found it hard to believe as a layperson that these infra sound exposures could not cause health effects after long-term exposures.

As for the wind-farms… the jury is still out there. At what stage is the Health Canada study (survey)? I put down my name on their distribution list about year two ago and still waiting for a single update. Yes, the wind farms across Ontario went from none to whole ugly landscapes. I used to work (2008–2009) up in the Grey County for the competition near Tiverton, Ontario.

Should we move the VAD discussion to Yahoo Groups? That way we could share the cited studies and make our own evaluations. When I worked for the Physical Hazards Group (1984–1989) at the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) in Hamilton, Ontario … we had to follow the “XYI Principle”. Find out what X and Y are saying, and come to your own (“I”) decision. How about using a 4×4 severity vs. probability decision matrix following simple industrial hygiene precepts?

I can be reached at <andrewcutz@hotmail.com>.

Sincerely yours,

Andrew Cutz

Andrew Cutz, CIH, AIHA Fellow | Moderator, GlobalOccHyg List |http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/globalocchyg-list / (on Yahoo Groups) |
RSS Feed http://rss.groups.yahoo.com/group/globalocchyg-list /rss |http://tinyurl.com/GlobalOccHyg-List (on LinkedIn) NEW!

NIR Group · Health Effects of Non-Ionizing Radiation |
http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/NIR_Group/ (on Yahoo Groups) |
http://tinyurl.com/NIR-Health-Effects-Group (on LinkedIn) NEW

Mariana Alves-Pereira, Auxilliary Professor at Lusofona Univeristy

Hello Mike and Andrew!

Interesting response from you Mike! I thought science was to be based on the merits of scientific methodology, and not personal and political credentials!

Shall we examine the scientific evidence together?

Lets examine exactly what the Norwegian team studied, and how.
And let us examine exactly what was the purpose of the Chapman article, and why exactly it is that we self-cite our studies.
Perhaps, it might also be of interest to include the study conducted in 2012 by Chao et al. (Taipei Medical University) Effect of low frequency noise on the echocardiographic parameter E/A ratio (Noise and Health, Vol 14(59): 155–158), among several others….

Thirty years of systematic and consistent research, with both human and animal models, by a multidisciplinary team, and recipient of several international scientific prizes….
Do you really think, Mike, that I am unable to defend this research?

Lets Skype! My (american) English is fluent as I am bilingual, so you need not fear language miscommunication….
Andrew, perhaps you could moderate a skype conference call for us?…

Lets have an honest discussion of scientific results, and not some parliamentary-like session of back and forth acrimonious debate that leads absolutely nowhere.

Mike, I refuse to be baited into useless, superficial and scientifically dishonest discussions. However, if you would like to have a genuine discussion about the science behind our statements, then please, let us make it so!

Mike Barnard

Ms. Alves-Pereira, my apologies but you have every opportunity to respond to the specific and cited papers here in this forum for all to see. In fact you had that opportunity before you started your defense by smearing dedicated and decorated public health researchers. Please do remember that you started down that path, so pretending that the argumentative ploy was mine is very obviously false to anyone who is able to read.

I have access to full copies of all studies I reference. I have presented the very strong evidence that your pet disease has been debunked. VAD is not recognized by any medical authority because the evidence is extraordinarily weak or has been proven to be outright false.

Please feel free to argue your case here, in black and white, or on the Yahoo discussion Andrew has offered to set up. I will forgive your occasional lapse into Portuguese; my grasp of the language is weak and based on Brazilian Portuguese but technology is a great assistant, just as it is in finding the evidence that VAD doesn’t exist.

Please understand that while I have read virtually all of the literature on wind and health, of course I correspond regularly with many of the credible researchers, acousticians and public health professionals who recognize VAD for what it is: pseudoscience. I will call upon them as necessary when your arguments veer — as they must — into intentionally confusing gibberish. I have no doubt of your rhetorical skills. It’s your evidence and logic that are in question.

Please also understand that I am the author of barnardonwind.com, a blog devoted to countering antiwind disinformation and pseudoscience such as yours. This suggests two things. The first is that before you dig yourself in deeper it would be useful for you to have a look at who you are arguing with. The second is that I will of course document this no doubt delightful exchange for all to see. As my blog is referred to for source material in wind tribunals world wide, you might want to consider that seriously.

Cheers,
Mike

Mariana Alves-Pereira, Auxilliary Professor at Lusofona Univeristy

Hello Mike and Andrew,

Well, Mike, you have successfully baited me! LOL!

Although I usually reserve these types of discussions for real scientific forums, I will agree to discuss some of the issues you raised, specifically the Norwegian study and the Chapman article, even though Letters to the Editors are being prepared for each journal.

The goal of the Norwegian study was to determine if a certain population (helicopter pilots) exposed to LFN and vibration had “evidence of pathological changes in the pericardium or lung tissue, such as thickening of the pericardium or focal lung fibrosis, compared to an age-matched control group of typical office workers” (p. 858–9). Since no such imaging data was identified, it was concluded that there was “no evidence to support such a diagnostic entity (…) [o]n the basis of CT scans, our findings do not support the existence of vibroacoustic disease, where pericardial thickening is the most prominent sign” (p.864).
There would seem to be some mismatch between what is stated at the outset as the goal, and what is then concluded. Wouldn’t you agree?

The CT Scan is a complementary diagnostic medical test. Definitive clinical diagnoses are not established through these types of imaging techniques. Take cancer, for example. A CT scan can view a large mass, i.e., imaging can strongly suggest a diagnosis of malignancy, but only the histological examination of biopsied or surgically removed tissue will provide a definitive diagnosis. To attempt to establish the existence, or inexistence, of a clinical entity based solely on imaging, complementary diagnostic techniques is not sound medical science.

The pericardial thickness that we have referenced since 1992 pertains to the pericardial thickening measured when the fragment is carefully removed at the beginning of the surgical intervention (performed for other reasons), and pinned in wax with the serosa side upward. This is not comparable with pericardia measured post-mortem or with pericardial fragments that have been subjected to surgical trauma.

Some additional technical issues exist but are not appropriate for discussion herein.

The Chapman article states “The aim of this study is to examine the quality of the evidence on how VAD came to be associated with wind turbine exposure by wind farm opponents”, and the methodology used was “Searches of the web (Google advanced) and major research databases for papers on VAD and wind turbines. Self-citation analysis of research papers on VAD.”

Is this really the accepted practice in science? A public health issue is raised, and instead of biologically verifying the claims, instead of objectively evaluating citizens’ complaints, instead of reproducing studies in order to show that previously obtained results are wrong, a Google search is performed and the number of self-citations is counted…

And then the issue with the number of self-citations…
Did anyone even bother to read the material to understand why the self-citations are relevant?
For a better understanding, perhaps it would help to remind whomever is reading this text, that our team has been researching this agent of disease since 1980 (way before wind turbines were even an issue for the general population), and still continues to do so. The scientific buildup is made on prior results. The rationale for many of our study designs today requires knowledge of previously obtained findings.

So you see, Mike, unless I plan to write a treatise here on this forum, it is quite tedious to be discussing this through a written text not in article format.

Other crucial issues include the inadequate segmentation of the acoustical spectrum to establish dose-responses of LFN-induced pathology, the persistent and scientifically unsustainable position that defends: “what you can’t hear won’t hurt you”, and mechanotransduction cellular signalling that explains LFN-induced pathology….

Mike Barnard

Ms. Alves-Pereira, your response is very weak on several fronts.

There are three studies that have been specifically designed from the ground up to assess VAD by researchers other than those in your group.

The first was in 2009. You did not respond to this study, despite having had four years to formulate a response. To summarize, a team of experts in internal medicine and cellular biomarkers designed a test to evaluate whether there were any changes in more than 40 parameters as a result of helicopter flights. These biomarkers were chosen as they were most likely to expose any underlying acute mechanism which could explain chronic issues. The study was well structured. The study had high statistical validity. The study had both a study and a control group. The study assessed both those with long-term exposure at levels asserted to cause VAD and those with no long term exposure.

The study found no changes of any significance from any of the biomarkers from either the study or control group as a result of helicopter flights.

The authors acknowledged that this was only one portion of debunking VAD, as it did not address the chronic impacts believed to have been found, but that is was compelling nonetheless. Obviously, a relatively magical mechanism is required to create chronic conditions if no acute changes are found in over 40 relevant biomarkers.

The second study was in 2012. Once again, it was designed specifically to address VAD, and specifically to address the sole piece of physical evidence that VAD relies upon for asserting chronic changes. The first problem for VAD physical evidence, of course, is that VAD sufferers are solely identified by the VAD research group and no other. The second is that only a tiny fraction of supposed sufferers appears to have been assessed for pericardial thickening, according to the 1999 paper Vibroacoustic Disease: some forensic aspects. According to that paper, ten of 236 purported sufferers of VAD, six of who had what appear to be seriously confounding factors leading to coronary bypass surgery, are the basis for claim.

This study was designed to overcome the limitations of VAD methodology, first by removing those expressing confounding factors from the study and control groups, then by having statistically valid numbers of those with long term and short term exposures assessed. Also, manual handling of samples does introduce errors not created by CT scanning, so a possible source of errors was eliminated. Once again, the study’s methodology, structure and statistical validity were carefully designed by a cross-disciplinary team of medical experts in cardiac and imaging specialties to catch specifically any physical alterations that matched those claimed by VAD.

The study found no such evidence, despite greater accuracy, greater sample sizes, more sample locations and a more robust control group methodology.

Ms. Alves-Pereira tries to divert attention again, by selectively quoting from the study introduction and conclusions. As a reminder, the entire study was set up to assess VAD claims, so her assertion of variance in intent vs findings is irrelevant.

Ms. Alves-Pereira attempts to wave her arms and assert that CT scans are insufficient for this purpose. She attempts to insert an irrelevant argument related to post-mortem assessments as if that is a weakness of the CT scan study, however four of the ten samples that VAD relies upon are post-mortem samples from autopsies per the same 1999 paper. This is typical of pseudoscientific arguments, where they pretend that the weaknesses of their own methodology are actually the weaknesses of others’.

On one side, are deeply experienced Norwegian clinicians with deep expertise in the strengths and weaknesses of medical imaging. On the other side, we have Ms. Alves-Pereira. There is no reason to believe Ms. Alves-Pereira over several deeply credentialed medical imaging experts in several institutions.
(cont)

Mike Barnard

Ms. Alves-Pereira’s response to the third study is perhaps the most amusing, and also the most frustrating. Assessment of the quality of evidence in peer-reviewed studies for assessing its reliability is a very difficult and multi-factorial process. Included in that process when various pieces of evidence are weighed are indeed the quality of the journal and the citation history of the piece of evidence. Strongly cited studies have stood the test of time and are referenced regularly by other scientists as the basis for their work. Studies which are solely cited by the original researcher have not found any acceptance in the eyes of other scientists. A simple assessment such as performed by Prof Simon Chapman — whose impeccable, lauded and multiply awarded public health credentials have been firmly established earlier in the discussion — is part of assessing the quality of evidence.

That study found massively high self-citation rates — 74% — and almost no citation by others. The VAD groups’ peers have spoken. VAD studies are not worth citing, and those assessing the evidence would note this.

Similarly, the evidence-based medicine pyramid used world wide to weight evidence for the purposes of defining both diseases and treatments is clear about the hierarchy of evidence. Expert opinion by itself is at the bottom of the stack. Case studies and series, and similar anecdotal evidence are at the second level from the bottom. Cohort studies are the next level of evidence. Randomized trials are next. The next two levels are multi-study reviews by qualified professionals where they weight evidence and determine what is the highest probability based on evidence: critical reviews and finally systematic reviews.

As can be seen from the studies, the VAD group has case study or anecdotal levels of evidence at best. The Norwegian studies are randomized trials level of evidence, two full levels of quality of evidence above the VAD evidence. This makes the Norwegian studies much more compelling immediately to anyone used to assessing medical studies. However, the 19 reviews world wide of the evidence related to wind and health have been informed by evidence-based medicine, and the majority have based their assessment methodology on its principles and practices. These have been performed by public health organizations and researchers world-wide using deeply accredited and professional resources at the request of governments because of the fears raised by disinformation related to health. None of these reviews has found any evidence of health impacts or any mechanism for them outside of noise annoyance. These reviews have a high weight as a result, typically higher than any individual study while not quite as much as would critical appraisals or systematic reviews of a topic via the formal process. They are the assessments at the highest level of evidence available now and must be taken very seriously.

Ms. Alves-Pereira’s attempt to dismiss Prof Chapman’s approach to assessing the quality of VAD evidence is only evidence of the insufficiency of her thinking in regard to assessing medical evidence.

Please also note that so far in this discussion I have provided verifiable references to several peer-reviewed and standard bodies of knowledge. Ms. Alves-Pereira has referenced her own work, quoted studies I have cited and made no references to support her other assertions.

She expects us to believe her because she says so. That’s expert opinion, and it’s at the bottom of the pyramid of evidence.

Mike Barnard

And here is the unexplained gibberish that is expected:

  • mechanotransduction cellular signalling that explains LFN-induced pathology….

I will encourage Ms. Alves-Pereira to expand upon this, explaining how the complete lack of biomarker and chronic changes found by the Norwegian teams is supplanted by hypothesized vibration that is less than that created by the human heart beating in the internal cavities of the body and inner ear (Leventhall, Acoustics Today, 2013)

Andrew Cutz, CIH, AIHA Fellow, Health+Safety Matters & Associates

Friday, October 11, 2013

Hello Mike!

Please let me know if you need my assistance to upload the various studies, articles and links to the NEW “Vibroacoustic Disease (VAD) Discussion” (on Yahoo Groups) at:http://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/vad_group/info

I will be shutting down this “thread” shortly.

Best regards,

Andrew Cutz, CIH, AIHA Fellow | Vibroacoustic Disease (VAD) Discussion |http://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/vad_group/info (on Yahoo Groups) |
http://tinyurl.com/VAD-Group (on LinkedIn) NEW!

Mike Barnard

I will have no problems putting studies and articles into the Yahoo Group.

However, I strongly urge you to maintain this thread as the primary forum for discussion and as the record of discussion. It is searchable by Google and is a rare public thread where those such as Ms. Alves-Pereira consent to debate their work with people who actually know what they are talking about. It is a useful public record of Ms. Alves-Pereira’s sophistries and rhetorical tricks as she attempts to defend the indefensible in the face of rather overwhelming evidence. Of course, I will keep a copy of each of the pertinent comments regardless, and likely include them as evidence in a blog post on the discussion in the near future.

PDFs etc into Yahoo Groups is an appropriate fire-walling of material to a limited audience in respect for copyright.

Mariana Alves-Pereira, Auxilliary Professor at Lusofona Univeristy

Hello Mike,

Regarding your previous comment.

Gibberish!? LOL!
You are too funny!
Which part exactly was gibberish to you?

I was going to suggest that you read the following article
(Alves-Pereira M, Castelo Branco NAA. Vibroacoustic disease: Biological effects of infrasound and low frequency noise explained by mechanotransduction cellular signaling. Progress Biophysics & Molecular Biology 2007; 93: 256–279)
which might clarify the “gibberish” for you, but, perhaps that is a useless suggestion…

Please let me know if you have any specific questions on this issue.

Mike Barnard

As expected, Ms. Alves-Pereira has waved her arms, pointed at the VAD group’s discredited research and not provided any substantive responses to the three peer-reviewed studies of higher methodological and evidentiary value which fully discredit VAD.

In the paper cited by Ms. Alves-Pereira, the group takes mechanotransduction — a known mechanism for proprioception and intracellular signalling — and mixes it with their fixation on infrasound. They ignore the reality that the body is an extremely noisy place at the infrasound level, generating about 100 dB internally, an amount requiring roughly 120 dB of external infrasound to achieve equivalence. To be clear about orders of magnitude, the VAD group claims effects in aviation at around 80 dB of infrasound. Assuming that infrasound would have to have substantially higher intensity to actually impact bodily systems, the absolute minimum threshold would be in the 130 dB range. This is 100,000 times the intensity of 80 dB infrasound and 100,000,000 times the intensity of infrasound from wind turbines at homes.

This is known science, and referenced and spelled out in the article from Leventhall I referenced when calling it gibberish. A key aspect of pseudoscience is taking something real, complex but little known and smashing into the pseudoscientific hodgepodge as if it has explanatory value. No research in the world except theirs shows that mechanotransduction is influenced by infrasound at this level in any negative way, or that mechanotransduction could lead to the effects that they claim. This is why it’s gibberish. It’s equivalent to saying that quantum mechanics explains psychic phenomena or homeopathy.

To summarize:
1. No biochemical changes from infrasound
2. No physiological changes from infrasound
3. No way for external infrasound below probably 130 dB to have any impact on the normal and ongoing mechanotransduction processes of the body
4. No one in the medical and scientific communities takes their work seriously

She is incapable of defending the work because it is indefensible in face of the evidence. She is, of course, free to prove me wrong merely by providing coherent, referenced and logical responses to the three studies. And by citing work other than the VAD groups which supports their wild conjectures. Or even by providing a handful of serious studies by third-party and credible researchers published in quality peer-reviewed journals which reference VAD, take it seriously and demonstrate its validity.

Regarding providing PDFs, Andrew, I have emailed them to you and provided complete references sufficient to find the material for others. Ms. Alves-Pereira is uninterested in studies not conducted by her small group it seems. Unless she provides a substantive response and references research supporting her position, it is unlikely that the Yahoo Group will be of value. If you expect it to be a resource for others, please let me know and I’ll add them under that auspice as well of course.

Mike Barnard

Of course, you don’t have to take my word for any of this. None of the 19 reviews of wind energy and health have found VAD to be in any way applicable even if valid to wind turbines.

Here is what the highly qualified and credentialed team who performed the Massachusetts assessment of wind energy and health had to say about VAD:

“the connection is not substantiated given the very low levels of vibration and airborne
ILFN that have been measured from wind turbines”
http://www.mass.gov/dep/energy/wind/turbine_impact_study.pdf

The most recent published literature review by a Finnish team also consider VAD and dismiss it (Google Translate from Finnish with some cleanup):
According to the current survey, wind noise does not directly affect the health of people living nearby. In addition, the hearing threshold of less than audibility in infrasound has not have been found to be degrading to human health. In addition, the majority of the wind turbine infrasound is mixed with ambient sounds of other infrasound, and therefore will not increase infrasound exposure. Studies have shown that low-frequency noise-induced health effects are needed in creating higher volumes than the wind turbines produce, or what infrasound restrictions in Finland permit.
CUSTOMER REPORT VTT-CR 04827–13 | 16/08/2013
Literature Review — wind power,
health effects
Authors: Sarah Huttunen, Johanna Kohl, Nina Wessberg
Confidentiality: Confidential

The Victoria Department of Health in Australia rightly ignored it completely in its recent statement on health and wind energy:
• There is no evidence that sound which is at inaudible levels can have a physiological effect on the human body. This is the case for sound at any frequency, including infrasound.
http://docs.health.vic.gov.au/docs/doc/5593AE74A5B486F2CA257B5E0014E33C/$FILE/Wind%20farms,%20sound%20and%20%20health%20-%20Technical%20information%20WEB.pdf

An Oregon review of all of the available literature on wind energy and health by a highly qualified panel dismissed any infrasound impacts as well:
Wind turbine-generated infrasound (frequencies below 20 Hz) is below levels that can be perceived by humans [23–26].

Focussing instead on audible noise levels and psychological factors that might cause annoyance as the sole concern.
http://public.health.oregon.gov/HealthyEnvironments/TrackingAssessment/HealthImpactAssessment/Documents/Wnd%20Energy%20HIA/Wind%20HIA_Final.pdf

Bolin et al dismiss VAD in general and in relation to wind energy in specific:
Discussion of vibroacoustic disease remains at a hypothetic stage and evidence of problems related to noise from wind turbines is lacking.
Infrasound and low frequency noise from
wind turbines: exposure and health effects
Karl Bolin1, G¨osta Bluhm2, Gabriella Eriksson3 and
Mats E Nilsson2,4
http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/6/3/035103/pdf/1748-9326_6_3_035103.pdf

(cont)

Mike Barnard

Knopper at all are highly dismissive of VAD in their 2010 health and wind energy review:

In 2007, Alves-Pereira and Castelo Branco http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/industrial-wind-turbines-infrasound-and-vibro-acoustic-disease-vad/ webcite issued a press-release suggesting that their research demonstrated that living in proximity to wind turbines has led to the development of vibro-acoustic disease (VAD) in nearby home-dwellers. It appears that this research has only been presented at a conference, has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal nor has it undergone thorough scientific review. Moreover, Alves-Pereira and Castelo Branco appear to be the primary researchers that have promulgated VAD as a hypothesis for adverse health effects and wind turbines.

To date, these studies have not been subjected to rigorous scientific peer review, and given the venue for their distribution and limited availability of data, it is extremely difficult to assess whether or not the information provided is reliable or valid. What is apparent, however, is that these studies are not necessarily scientifically defensible: they do not contain noise measurements, only measured distances from study participants to the closest turbines; they do not have adequate statistical representation of potential health effects; only limited rationale is provided for the selection of study participants (in some cases people living in proximity to turbines have been excluded from the study); they suffer from a small number of participants and appear to lack of objectivity as authors are also known advocates who oppose wind turbine developments.

Health effects and wind turbines: A review of the literature
Loren D Knopper1* and Christopher A Ollson2
http://www.ehjournal.net/content/10/1/78

Likewise, the UK Health Protection Agency dismisses both VAD and its applicability to wind energy based on the literature:
Recent work with Danish Air Force personnel who ‘are standing directly beside the jet fighters during running up and shutting down the jet engine’ showed no effects on health, other than the potential for hearing loss. Overall levels were in the region of 115 to 120 dB (Jensen et al, 2008). Jensen et al concluded: ‘This study does not support the findings of the Portuguese researcher group’.
http://www.hpa.org.uk/webc/HPAwebFile/HPAweb_C/1265028759369

The Colby et al study of wind energy and health dismissed VAD thusly:
There are no epidemiological studies that have evaluated risk of VAD from
exposure to infrasound. The likelihood of such a risk, however, is remote in light of the
much lower vibration levels in the body itself. Studies of workers with substantially higher
exposure levels have not indicated a risk of VAD.
http://199.88.77.35/EFiles/docs/CD/PlanCom/10_0426_IT_100416160206.pdf

There is a lot more, but this quick skim shows that whenever a group of serious people who are highly qualified to assess medical literature and health concerns get together to look at wind energy and health, they dismiss VAD specifically for wind energy and usually in totality.

Before Ms. Alves-Pereira attempts to smear these people again, they are dedicated public health professionals, academics, medical practitioners and researchers from multiple countries and multiple organizational structures unrelated to wind energy. These are people committed to public health, and like me, they consider false diseases like VAD to be fairly reprehensible.


Barnard on Wind was a global resource debunking anti-wind myths and memes that ran from 2011 to 2014 when it was retired. Due to the glories of the Way Back Machine, the content still exists. Now that TFIE is up, old Barnard on Wind posts will resurface regularly.