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No Reliable Evidence of Wind Farm Syndrome, Says NHMRC

The National Health and Medical Research Council has concluded that “there is currently no consistent evidence that wind farms cause adverse health effects in humans” after undertaking an independent assessment of direct evidence (possible relationships between wind farm emissions and health outcomes) and parallel evidence (the health effects of similar emissions from other sources).

“There is no direct evidence that exposure to wind farm noise affects physical or mental health,” the NHMRC Statement said. “While exposure to environmental noise is associated with health effects, these effects occur at much higher levels of noise than are likely to be perceived by people living in close proximity to wind farms in Australia. The parallel evidence assessed suggests that there are unlikely to be any significant effects on physical or mental health at distances greater than 1500 m from wind farms.

“There is consistent but poor quality direct evidence that wind farm noise is associated with annoyance. While the parallel evidence suggests that prolonged noise-related annoyance may result in stress, which may be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, annoyance was not consistently defined in the studies and a range of other factors are possible explanations for the association observed.

“There is less consistent, poor quality direct evidence of an association between sleep disturbance and wind farm noise. However, sleep disturbance was not objectively measured in the studies and a range of other factors are possible explanations for the association observed. While chronic sleep disturbance is known to affect health, the parallel evidence suggests that wind farm noise is unlikely to disturb sleep at distances of more than 1500 m from wind farms.

“There is no direct evidence that considered the possible effects on health of infrasound or low frequency noise from wind farms. Exposure to infrasound and low-frequency noise in a laboratory setting has few, if any, effects on body functions. However, this exposure did not replicate all of the characteristics of wind farm noise as it has generally been at much higher levels and of short duration.

“Although individuals may perceive aspects of wind farm noise at greater distances, it is unlikely that it will be disturbing at distances of more than 1,500 m. Noise from wind farms, including its content of low-frequency noise and infrasound, is similar to noise from many other natural and human-made sources.

Nevertheless the NHMRC urged residents to discuss their health concerns with their doctor, and said it will issue a call for further research into wind farms and human health. “Given the poor quality of current direct evidence and the concern expressed by some members of the community, high quality research into possible health effects of wind farms, particularly within 1500 metres, is warranted.