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Scientists report on wind turbine effects

Those involved in the burgeoning wind power field will be pleased by the conclusions of a team of medical doct...


An Alberta wind farm.
An Alberta wind farm.

Those involved in the burgeoning wind power field will be pleased by the conclusions of a team of medical doctors, audiologists and acoustical professionals.

The American and Canadian Wind Energy Associations established a scientific advisory panel in 2009 to review the current literature available on the issue of perceived health effects from wind turbines. The panel’s report, issued in December, states unequivocally that “There is no evidence that the audible or sub-audible sounds emitted by wind turbines have any direct adverse physiological effects.”

They also say, “The ground-borne vibrations from wind turbines are too weak to be detected by, or to affect, humans.”

The panel found that there is nothing unique about the sounds or vibrations emitted by the turbines, and that they are in fact “similar to the ambient noise levels in urban environments.”

The panel appreciated that some people do react to sounds that modulate in intensity or frequency, and noted that most complaints about wind turbine sound relate to the swishing sound produced by the blades.

However, basing their conclusions on a “substantial” body of accumulated knowledge about sound and health, the panel decided that the existing evidence indicates that claims of adverse health effects “are merely a subset of annoyance reactions,” and asserts,  “annoyance is not a pathological entity.”

The panel found that the epidemiological evidence for health effects did not exist, since there were no case-control or cohort studies conducted to date. The evidence of vibroacoustic disease (tissue inflammation and fibrosis associated with sound exposure) is “extremely dubious” at the levels of sound associated with wind turbines.

They also concluded that “the number and uncontrolled nature of existing case reports of adverse health effects alleged to be associated with wind turbines are insufficient to advocate for funding further studies.”

Members of the seven-person panel included W. David Colby, M.D., Acting Medical Officer of Health for Chatham-Kent and professors from the Universities of Texas, California, MIT and Western Washington. Mark Bastasch of CH2M Hill was technical advisor to the panel.

To see the report, visit www.canwea.ca/wind-energy/talkingaboutwind_e.php