Welcome to the website for the
New Mexico Citizens Alliance for Responsible Energy and Sustainability


Low Frequency Noise and Health

Here are two recent slideshow presentations that were given to residents of our community.
Click the images to download the PDF files (less than 2 Mb each).


Please visit the Acoustic Ecology Institute's News Page.


The anechoic chamber presentation was given by NMCARES member Dr. Eileen Mulvihill.
Read her July 08, 2009 article, Wind Farms' Effects on Health, in the Las Vegas Optic.

Vibroacoustc Disease

ILFN is the term for infrasound (0-20Hz) + low frequency sound(20-500Hz)
Vibroacoustic disease (VAD) is the name given to pathology resulting from long-term exposure to ILFN. A small number of people are immediately sensitive to ILFN, mainly through the impact on the vestibular system and these symptoms are often described by people living close to large turbines, fans, airport runways or busy freeways. Chronic exposure to high levels of ILFN over a period of years will impact most people, and was first described in aeronautical workers.
Suspicion of ILFN should arise if a patient exhibits one or more of the following complaints:

Or if the patient enters with one of the following diagnosis:

It has been twenty-five years since the final version of the Hearing Conservation Amendment was issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the U.S. Department of Labor. Since that time, some things have changed and others have stayed exactly the same. Certainly the noise-exposed workforce is more knowledgeable about the hazards of noise, and the use of hearing protection devices (HPDs) has greatly increased. There have been significant strides in the technology for measuring noise and for protecting hearing through HPDs. But there is considerable room for improvement. Some of the noise regulation's provisions are embarrassingly outdated, some are in dire need of improvement, and others, such as the requirements for engineering noise control, are not being enforced. Sadly, there seems to be little progress in reducing overall noise exposure levels.

There also seems to be a tremendous disconnect between the accepted reality of occupational hazards associated with low frequency sound and the widespread ignoring of chronic environmental exposure of whole communities to the ILFN of airports, traffic and now.....Industrial Wind Farms.

The presentation below is a summary in response to reports suggesting that identification of "Wind Turbine Syndrome" is unnecessarily alarming and misleading to the general public and that VAD, or Vibroacoustic Disease, is part of some conspiracy. Many proponents of industrial wind facilities charge that there are no adverse effects of low-frequency noise on human health because there are no "peer-reviewed" studies published on the subject (peer review is a process scientific journals use, sending the paper being considered for publication to 2-3 people who are considered experts in the field. The paper is only published if it meets the standards of the reviewers). According to Wind Industry publications, surveys of peer-reviewed scientific literature have found no evidence linking wind turbines to human health concerns. That comment is misleading. It is true that no peer-reviewed publication specifically identifies wind turbines as the cause of a variety of health affects, but the literature has many examples of studies demonstrating the adverse effect of low-frequency sound. Turbines produce a lot of low-frequency sound although the practice in the Industry is to use sound meters that are not calibrated to detect it. One of their references cited Health Impact Of Wind Turbines, prepared by the Municipality of Chatham-Kent Health & Family Services Public Health Unit. This review is of interest because of recent articles identifying a cover-up by civil servants who removed warnings of health effects of noise from wind turbines from a government study of 133 windfarms.

There is a large collection of articles published over the course of 40 years about military applications of infrasound as a nonlethal weapon. To be an effective weapon it must be able to incapacitate the target with relatively little effort. One thing that most of these studies have in common is the use of short term exposure of subjects to various sound frequencies and sound pressures. The 2 most-cited articles, Mohr GC, Cole JN, Guild E, Von Gierke HE. (1965) "Effects of low-frequency and infrasonic noise on man." Aerospace Medicine, 36, 817-24 and Slarve, R.N. and Johnson, D.L. (1975) "Human whole-body exposure to infrasound." Aviation, Space & Environmental Medicine, 46, 428-31, were not available. (Many of the documents cited below are no longer freely available on the Web, so please forgive any dead links you might encounter. We're working to find new copies and will fix the links as the documents become available. Thank you.)

There is also a large collection of literature published by a number of public health agencies both in the US and in Europe (as well as many other foreign countries).

The VAD team was formed in 1980 to investigate the biological effects of low frequency noise exposure. They have a series of peer-reviewed articles describing their identification of vibroacoustic disease. Their leader, Dr. N.A.A.Castelo Branco has been the senior investigator on this subject for over 25 years. He has been thorough and consistent in his push to have VAD recognized as a global problem that needs to be addressed by all governments. The WHO recognizes his outstanding contribution.

Biographies of Drs. M. Alves-Pereira and Nuna Alvares de Abreu Castelo Branco

Nuno Alvares de Abreu Castelo Branco, joined the Portuguese Air Force in 1962 and is a retired Colonel of this branch of the Armed Forces. He graduated from Lisbon University Medical School in 1971 and in 1977 was awarded the degree of Aerospace Pathology Specialist by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington, D.C., USA and a degree in Aerospace Medicine at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX, USA. He became a Medical Specialist in Surgical Pathology, at the Civilian Hospitals of Lisbon, Portugal. In 1979 he was promoted to chief medical officer at an aircraft manufacturing rework and maintenance facility owned and operated by the Portuguese Air Force. Since 1980, he has coordinated a team of researchers who investigate the biological effects of low frequency noise exposure, known as the VAD Team. M. Alves-Pereira has a B.S. in Physics from SUNY at Stony Brook and a Masters in Biomedical Engineering from Drexel University in Philadelphia. She is currently concluding her Doctoral studies at the Department of Environmental Engineering and Sciences at the New University of Lisbon, in Portugal. She has been working with the VAD Team since 1988 and has been the Assistant Coordinator of this team since 1999.

An overview of the VAD team's publications

Links to many of the VAD team articles can be found on the side panel at the top of this page.Initial VAD studies focused on occupational settings within a military aeronautical plant. In late 1980's, they expanded to military fixed- and rotary winged aircraft. In 1999, the VAD team began its studies within commercial airliners and expanded to other occupations with significant exposure to low frequency sound. The results of these studies demonstrated the importance of infrasound as an agent of disease. These are peer reviewed articles that report on research related to mechanisms in cells that stimulate biological effects in response to infrasound and low frequency noise. VAD (vibroacoustic disease) involves an abnormal growth of elastin and collagen within the extracellular matrix surrounding the heart, kidney, lung and trachea of VAD patients. Exposure to low frequency noise results in cellular growth that reinforces the structure of the above-mentioned organs and causes a change in communication between and through cells in the body. Until about 2004, mainstream acoustic science embraced the idea that only auditory noise causes hearing loss by effecting cellular communication through biochemical pathways. The authors of these articles challenge that view and recognize that there are biomechanical forces involved in a wider range of impacts on human health.

The authors go on to suggest that the current state of inquiry in this science of auditory and sub-auditory effects is primitive. They suggest that acoustical phenomenon - both auditory and sub auditory - have effects on biological tissue. VAD is a result of exposure to ILFN (Infrasound and low-frequency noise) thought to be within the range of 0-500 HZ. Measuring noise in A-weighted decibels is not sufficient according to the authors. The authors suggest that we can understand noise as we have learned to understand electromagnetic energy, i.e., we may not see it or feel it but it has effects (such as x-rays). The authors suggest that ILFN affects organs differentially because each the tissue in each organ has its own resonance properties.

Anyone who is skilled in the art of physical therapy knows that the mechanical properties, behavior and movement of our bodies are as important for human health as chemicals and genes. However, only recently have scientists and physicians begun to appreciate the key role which mechanical forces play in biological control at the molecular and cellular levels. An article by Dr. D. Ingber, who first described the model of tensegrity, describes what his team has learned over the past 30 years as a result of their research focused on the molecular mechanisms by which cells sense mechanical forces and convert them into changes in intracellular biochemistry and gene expression-a process called "mechanotransduction". Ingbers Prog Biophys Mol Biol. 2008 Jun-Jul;97(2-3):163-79. Epub 2008 Feb 13 work has revealed that molecules, cells, tissues, organs, and our entire bodies use "tensegrity" architecture to mechanically stabilize their shape, and to seamlessly integrate structure and function at all size scales. Through the use of this tension-dependent building system, mechanical forces applied at the macroscale produce changes in biochemistry and gene expression within individual living cells. This structure-based system provides a mechanistic basis to explain how application of physical impacts, such as low frequency sound, might influence cell and tissue physiology.

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