Wind Farms and Health

This paper by Alun Evans, Professor Emeritus Belfast University provides an easy to read synopsis of our current understanding of wind turbine noise and its impact on human health. An excerpt of the paper is provided below. The full paper can be accessed by clicking the link(s) on this page.


The problem of infrasound and low frequency noise was well-recognised in a report by Casella Stanger [17], commissioned by DEFRA in 2001, and since ignored: “For people inside buildings with windows closed, this effect is exacerbated by the sound insulation properties of the building envelope. Again mid and high frequencies are attenuated to a much greater extent than low frequencies.” It continued: “As the A-weighting network attenuates low frequencies by a large amount, any measurements made of the noise should be with the instrumentation set to linear.” It drew heavily upon the DOE’s Batho Report of 1990 [18]. In fact, these problems had already been elucidated and the measurement issues addressed in a trio of papers by Kelley (et al) in the 1980s [19-21]. This research again has been ignored or forgotten so the problem continues to be seriously underestimated. When measured using a tool which can detect it, levels of infrasound and low frequency noise are disturbingly high, with ‘sound pressure levels’ greater than previously thought possible [22].

There are a number of other adverse effects associated with sleep deprivation. Tired individuals are more likely to have road traffic accidents and injure themselves while operating machinery. In addition, wind turbines can, and do, cause accidents by collapsing, blade snap, ice throw, and even going on fire. They induce stress and psychological disorder from blade flicker, which also has implications for certain types of epilepsy and autism. Even the current planning process, with its virtual absence of consultation, is stress inducing, as is the confrontation between land owners, who wish to profit from erecting turbines, and their neighbours who dread the effects. Finally, wind turbines considerably reduce the value of dwellings nearby and this has a negative long term effect on their owners’ and their families’ health [23]. On top of this, increasing numbers of families will be driven into fuel poverty by spiralling electricity costs which are subsidising wind energy. It is galling that SSE’s current, seductive advertising campaign is being supported from these sources.

‘Wind Turbine Noise’ was reviewed in an editorial in the British Medical Journal in 2012 [24]. The authors concluded that “A large body of evidence now exists to suggest that wind turbines disturb sleep and impair health at distances and noise levels that are permitted in most jurisdictions.” This remains the case today. The Public Health Agency has dismissed this editorial as falling short of a ‘systematic review,’ which is fair enough, given the constraints of the format, yet ignores at least one, excellent, recent systematic review [23]. Interestingly, that review records the fact that in 1978 the British Government was found guilty in a case taken to Europe by the Irish Government of applying five techniques, including subjection to noise and deprivation of sleep. These were used in Ulster to ‘encourage’ admissions and to elicit information from prisoners and detainees. They amounted to humiliating and degrading treatment, ie torture [23].

The Public Health Agencies in the UK are now relying on a document published in April 2013 [25]. It was written by a group of acousticians at the University of Salford, which begs the question as to why such a group was selected to give advice on health issues. Since acousticians derive a significant proportion of their income from the wind industry, their scientific objectivity might be open to question. Similarly, if a profession, which worked closely with the tobacco industry, was asked to report on health, questions would be asked.

The wind industry has at times acted in a way that is reminiscent of the tobacco industry in the past. Recently a Vestas Powerpoint presentation from 2004 has surfaced [26] demonstrating that Vestas knew a decade ago that safer buffers were required to protect neighbours from wind turbine noise. They knew their pre-construction noise models were inaccurate and that “we know that noise from wind turbines sometimes annoys people even if the noise is below noise limits.” Some of this is due to the methods they use to measure noise. Presenting mean amplitude data means that 50% of the peak noise is disguised. In 2011 the CEO of Vestas wrote [27] to the Danish Minister of Environment admitting that it was not technically possible to produce wind turbines which produced less noise. Simiarly, we are repeatedly told that modern turbines are quieter and produce less ILFN which in reality is the reverse of the case [28].

The Salford Report concludes that there is “some evidence for sleep disturbance which has found fairly wide, though not universal, acceptance.” The increasing weight of evidence of sleep deprivation’s association with several chronic diseases is totally ignored. The authors of the report are at pains to deny any ‘direct’ health effects. In terms of prevention any differentiation between ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’ is irrelevant: the introduction of iodine supplementation in milking cattle to improve their “reproductive performance” during the 1960s indirectly led to a reduction in endemic goitre in humans. This was thanks to the unforeseen spillover of iodine into milk and dairy products [29].

Evans Wind Farms Health

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Source: http://www.principia-scient...

APR 3 2014
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