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Keywords:

  • wind turbines;
  • self-citation;
  • nocebo effect;
  • vibroacoustic

Abstract

Objective : In recent years, claims have proliferated in cyberspace that wind turbines cause a large variety of symptoms and diseases. One of these, “vibroacoustic disease” (VAD) is frequently mentioned. 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.

Methods: 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.

Results: Google returned 24,700 hits for VAD and wind turbines. Thirty-five research papers on VAD were found, none reporting any association between VAD and wind turbines. Of the 35 papers, 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. Median self-citation rates in science are around 7%. Two unpublished case reports presented at conferences were found asserting that VAD was “irrefutably demonstrated” to be caused by wind turbines. The quality of these reports was abject.

Conclusions: VAD has received virtually no scientific recognition beyond the group who coined and promoted the concept. There is no evidence of even rudimentary quality that vibroacoustic disease is associated with or caused by wind turbines.

Implications: The claim that wind turbines cause VAD is a factoid that has gone ‘viral’ in cyberspace and may be contributing to nocebo effects among those living near turbines.