Asbestos was first mined around 4,000 years ago but it wasn’t until the late 19th century that it caught the attention of builders and manafacturers who prized its resistance to fire, heat, electrical and chemical damage. The fact it was also affordable was a bonus. It was used widely in such applications as electrical insulation for hotplate wiring and in building insulation where the fibers were often mixed with cement (resulting in fiber cement) or woven into fabric or mats. For much of the early part of the 20th century it was hailed as a wonder material and a true technological innovation.
The first published reports of health issues related to asbestos were published in the 1920’s but evidence had been mounting since at least 1907. Despite a large amount of published research asbestos was still being used commercially in the 1980’s but legislation in the UK introduced in 1985 and 1999 finally banned it’s use.
The story of asbestos is well known but is far from an isolated case. Technology moves far faster than medicine and evaluating all the potential health issues of new technology is an almost impossible task, but as cases such as asbestos show when concerns are raised they should be investigated fully and not simply ignored. (Wikipedia has more information about asbestos)
Infrasound is a term that isn’t often heard.
Infrasound is sound that is lower in frequency than 20 Hz (Hertz) or cycles per second, the “normal” limit of human hearing.
While many natural phenomena can generate infrasound, it’s also generated by various pieces of human technology – wind turbines being one of them. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests exposure to infrasound over a prolonged period can lead to health problems. The fact that wind turbines generate infrasound is not in dispute (though the manufacturers claim that modern designs have reduced this to a point where it is no longer an issue) and has been documented.
The term Wind Turbine Syndrome has been coined to encompass the health issues observed and while the European Platform Against Windfarms is proposing a mandatory 2km minimum distance for new developments,
there is evidence from a study in Australia that even at 5km people suffer effects.
Given the recently announced plans by Ecotricity to construct 4 wind turbines around 700m from our house (I have previously said 350m but in fact the closest turbines would be more like 700m away) these studies are concerning.
It took around 80 years for the full effects of asbestos to be fully recognised and acknowledged, during which time an incalculable amount of pain and suffering was caused. I think we should learn the lessons of the past and whenever health concerns are raised they should be fully investigated before technology is granted wider usage.
In the case of wind turbines, an immediate moratorium on all projects planned within 5km of population together with a fully independent scientific review of the evidence would seem to be an appropriate response.