Grumbling over sound waves / Low-frequency emissions cause health problems, residents claim
Friday, July 30, 2021 1:44 PM

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Jul. 30, 2010 (The Yomiuri Shimbun) -- Low-frequency sound waves have been a source of contention around the nation recently, with residents in different areas complaining of headaches and insomnia they say are caused by emissions from nearby facilities such as wind power plants and mobile phone stations.

According to the Environment Ministry, local governments nationwide received 236 complaints regarding the sound waves in fiscal 2008, about five times the number 10 years ago. Furthermore, eight petitions concerning pollution were submitted to the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry's Environmental Dispute Coordination Commission in fiscal 2009, up from zero the previous year. Since about 2000, complaints of problems such as loss of sleep and headaches have increased, the ministry said.

At present, low-frequency sound waves are not regulated. As no correlation between the sound waves and health problems has been discovered, the disputes are difficult to settle. The low-frequency waves can be generated by home appliances, air conditioners and electric substations.

Healthy humans can hear sound waves between 20 hertz and 20,000 hertz. Low-frequency sound waves are less than 100 hertz.

In Higashi-Izucho in Shizuoka Prefecture, 11 residents living near a wind power facility filed petitions with the dispute commission in July and November 2009 to determine if there is a causal correlation between health damage and low-frequency sound waves. They claim to have experienced difficulty breathing and nosebleeds because of the waves emitted by the facility.

The power company has opposed the complaint, saying: "There's no causal correlation [between illness and the sound waves]. We'll fight the petition. We even dispute that the facility is generating low-frequency sound waves."

A 79-year-old petitioner said, "If we file [a complaint] with the court, we have to research correlations ourselves and submit [the findings] as evidence. But with the dispute commission, the government examines the case based on expert knowledge."

A case brought to the commission in Arakawa Ward, Tokyo, was settled in November 2005 by removing an outside air conditioner. However, so far the commission has not established a link with health damage, or required compensation to be paid.

Ken Okada, an expert on low-frequency sound waves and part-time lecturer at Seikei University, said: "The government should increase the number of researchers who study the impact low-frequency sound waves have on humans. In the meantime, companies should improve facilities to reduce emissions."



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