Study: Little, if any, scientific basis for claims of health threats from wind turbines

Posted on September 30, 2011. Filed under: Wind |


From an article Ken Paulman on Midwest Energy News:

There’s no denying that wind turbines make noise. A giant rotor blade the size of an aircraft wing swooshing through the air is going to make a noticeable sound, particularly in a quiet, rural setting.

And it’s an often-repeated claim of wind farm opponents that this noise can lead to a whole host of health issues, including headaches, tinnitus, fatigue and sleep disturbances. Health fears, among other objections, have sometimes been cited by local governments as they establish large setbacks, moratoriums or other restrictions on wind farm development.

But a new study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters (PDF) suggests those claims are, at best, conflated. The analysis by four Swedish scientists reviews existing literature and finds that with the exception of some self-reported cases of sleep disturbance, there is no scientific or empirical basis to conclude that wind turbine noise causes health problems.

Among the works examined was Nina Pierpont’s oft-cited book Wind Turbine Syndrome, which relies on anecdotal evidence from 38 individuals living near wind farms, several of whom reported insomnia, tinnitus, nausea, dizziness and other symptoms. Pierpont concludes that the symptoms are a direct result of low-frequency noise from nearby turbines, but the Swedish researchers found the book “has several limitiations” which “make the conclusion unjustified.”

For example, the lack of acoustic measurements, no comparison group of people with no or low wind exposure and no investigation of the subjects prior to the wind turbines were constructed (prior health status was estimated retrospectively). In addition, the results, which are based on a very small sample, are contradicted by results from cross-sectional studies … which included a total of more than 1600 people.

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