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NHMRC says more research on wind farm noise is needed

By Max Rheese - posted Wednesday, 2 April 2014


The National Health & Medical Research Council has finally published its long awaited Draft Information Paper: Evidence on Wind Farms and Human Health on which the CEO, Professor Warwick Anderson is seeking public comment.

This paper follows years of campaigning for medical and acoustical studies by individuals and groups concerned about health impacts from wind turbine operation. Large multi-national and Australian energy companies, along with global turbine manufacturer Vestas have consistently rubbished claims of adverse health impacts.

Following the release of the Information Paper media reporting almost exclusively concentrated on a statement contained within the paper "There is no reliable or consistent evidence that wind farms directly cause adverse health effects in humans", failing to report comments such as "The body of evidence relating to wind farms and health is small and poor quality".

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Or that, "Further high quality research is needed – particularly exploring relationships between noise at varying distances from wind farms and annoyance, sleep and quality of life – to address concerns that some people have about the possible effects of wind farms on human health."

This last statement reflects the concerns the Australian Environment Foundation has had for some time that current research into health impacts is "insufficient and sub-standard."

This second review has been eagerly awaited by both the wind industry and communities impacted by wind farms since the 2010 Rapid Review of existing literature by the NHMRC made a similar statement seized upon by the wind industry claiming there was no evidence of a direct link between wind turbine noise and adverse health impacts. Like the current review, this finding is entirely unremarkable as there have still been no independent, properly designed medical studies into health impacts, a fact clearly articulated in the current review.

Following the 2010 Rapid Review the NHMRC CEO appeared before a senate committee where he stated under questioning that the NHMRC was not prepared to say there are no health problems caused by wind turbine operations.

Now there is nothing surprising in the wind industry highlighting the fact there has been no direct, conclusive or reliable evidence linking wind turbines with health impacts, but it is disingenuous to claim absolutely there are no health effects when there have been no studies acceptable to the NHMRC to prove or disprove the claim!

The previous NHMRC 2010 Rapid Review, this new paper and the 2011 Senate Inquiry into the Impact of Wind Farms recommendations have been unequivocal in calling for more research into wind farm noise, which no doubt influenced the decision of the Abbott government to recently announce such a study.

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Rather incredibly the Information Paper just released found that

No studies were identified that explicitly considered possible effects on human health of infrasound and low-frequency noise or electromagnetic radiation produced by wind turbines.

A direct connection between wind turbine noise and adverse health impacts is unlikely to be found if it is not explicitly considered.

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About the Author

Max Rheese is the Executive Director of the Australian Environment Foundation.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Max Rheese

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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