Wind turbine syndrome

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Wind turbine syndrome
Pseudomedical diagnosis
RisksNocebo

Wind turbine syndrome and wind farm syndrome are terms for adverse human health effects that have been ascribed to the proximity of wind turbines.[1][2]. Proponents have claimed that these effects include death, cancer and congenital abnormality. The distribution of recorded events, however, correlates with media coverage of wind farm syndrome itself, and not with the presence or absence of wind farms.[3][4] Neither term is recognised by any international disease classification system, nor do they appear in any title or abstract in the United States National Library of Medicine's PubMed database.[5] Wind turbine syndrome has been characterized as pseudoscience.[6]

The Center for Media and Democracy's SourceWatch website has identified at least one Australian fossil fuel industry funded astroturfing group[7] as involved in promoting the idea of wind turbine syndrome. An investigation led to the foundation being stripped of its status as a health promotion charity.[8]

Safety reviews[edit]

Since 2003, 25 reviews have been published of the scientific literature on wind turbines and health. These studies have consistently found no reason to believe that wind turbines are harmful to health.[9][10][11][12][13][14]

Noise and annoyance[edit]

A panel of experts commissioned by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection concluded in 2012 that "there is not an association between noise from wind turbines and measures of psychological distress or mental health problems." [11]

A 2009 Canadian study found that "a small minority of those exposed report annoyance and stress associated with noise perception..." [however] "Annoyance is not a disease." The study group pointed out that similar irritations are produced by local and highway vehicles, as well as from industrial operations and aircraft.[10][15]

A 2011 literature review found that although wind turbines are associated with some health effects, such as sleep disturbance, the health effects reported by those living near wind turbines were probably caused not by the turbines themselves but rather by "physical manifestation from an annoyed state." [12] A 2013 report for the National Health and Medical Research Council (Australia) elaborated: "There is consistent evidence that noise from wind turbines is associated with annoyance, and reasonable consistency that it is associated with sleep disturbance and poorer sleep quality and quality of life. However, it is unclear whether the observed associations are due to wind turbine noise or plausible confounders."[13]

A meta study published in 2014 reported that among the cross-sectional studies of better quality, no clear or consistent association is seen between wind turbine noise and any reported disease or other indicator of harm to human health. Noise from turbines played a minor role in comparison with other factors in leading people to report annoyance in the context of wind turbines.[14]

Policy impact[edit]

In Ontario, Canada, the Ministry of the Environment created noise guidelines to limit wind turbine noise levels 30 metres away from a dwelling or campsite to 40 dB(A).[16] These regulations also set a minimum distance of 550 metres (1,800 ft) for a group of up to five relatively quiet [102 dB(A)] turbines within a 3-kilometre (1.9 mi) radius, rising to 1,500 metres (4,900 ft) for a group of 11 to 25 noisier (106-107 dB(A)) turbines. Larger facilities and noisier turbines would require a noise study.[15][17]

In a 2009 report about rural wind farms, a Standing Committee of the Parliament of New South Wales, Australia, recommended a minimum setback of two kilometres between wind turbines and neighbouring houses (which can be waived by the affected neighbour) as a precautionary approach.[18]

Despite the lack of scientific literature demonstrating any health effects from wind turbines, Australia's Turnbull government appointed a wind farm commissioner in October 2015 to address complaints.[19] The 2016 annual report of the Independent Scientific Committee on Wind Turbines was tabled in the Australian Parliament on 8 August 2017.[20] A website is maintained for the National Wind Farm Commissioner, with information about the role's purpose and links to a variety of publications that address wind turbines and their management, from a range of national and international sources.

Noise mitigation[edit]

Modern wind turbines produce significantly less noise than older designs. Turbine designers work to minimise noise, as noise reflects lost energy and output. Noise levels at nearby residences may be managed through the siting of turbines, the approvals process for wind farms, and operational management of the wind farm.[21]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The "science" of wind turbine syndrome". Popular Science. Retrieved August 4, 2015.
  2. ^ Crighton, F. et. al. (November 2014). "The Link between Health Complaints and Wind Turbines: Support for the Nocebo Expectations Hypothesis". Frontiers in Public Health. 2 (220). doi:10.3389/fpubh.2014.00220. PMC 4227478. PMID 25426482.
  3. ^ "Interview with Simon Chapman". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 20 October 2012.
  4. ^ Rourke, Alison (15 March 2013). "Windfarm sickness spreads by word of mouth, Australian study finds". The Guardian.
  5. ^ Simon Chapman (21 December 2011). "Much angst over wind turbines is just hot air". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  6. ^ Joshi, Ketan (8 November 2012). "The junk science of wind turbine syndrome". Business Spectator. Retrieved 4 July 2018.
  7. ^ "Waubra Foundation". SourceWatch. Retrieved August 4, 2015.
  8. ^ "Waubra Foundation, prominent anti-wind farm lobby, stripped of health promotion charity status". ABC News. December 19, 2014. Retrieved August 4, 2015.
  9. ^ Professor Simon Chapman (10 April 2015). "Summary of main conclusions reached in 25 reviews of the research literature on wind farms and health". Sydney University School of Public Health. Retrieved 4 July 2018.
  10. ^ a b W. David Colby, Robert Dobie, Geoff Leventhall, David M. Lipscomb, Robert J. McCunney, Michael T. Seilo, Bo Søndergaard. (2009). "Wind Turbine Sound and Health Effects: An Expert Panel Review" (PDF). Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA).
  11. ^ a b "Wind Turbine Health Impact Study: Report of Independent Expert Panel". Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. 2012. Retrieved 4 July 2018.
  12. ^ a b Knopper, Loren D; Ollson, Christopher A (2011). "Health effects and wind turbines: A review of the literature". Environmental Health. 10 (1): 78. doi:10.1186/1476-069X-10-78.
  13. ^ a b Merlin, T; Newton, S; Ellery, B; Milverton, J; Farah, C (2013). Systematic review of human health effects of wind farms (PDF) (Report). Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council (Australia). ISBN 978-0-9923968-0-0. Retrieved 4 July 2018.
  14. ^ a b McCunney, Robert J.; Mundt, Kenneth A.; Colby, W. David; Dobie, Robert; Kaliski, Kenneth; Blais, Mark (2014). "Wind Turbines and Health". Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 56 (11): e108–e130. doi:10.1097/JOM.0000000000000313. ISSN 1076-2752.
  15. ^ a b Hamilton, Tyler (15 December 2009). "Wind Gets Clean Bill of Health". Toronto Star. Toronto. pp. B1–B2. Retrieved 16 December 2009.
  16. ^ Ministry of the Environment, Ontario (October 2008) "Noise Guidelines for Wind Farms"
  17. ^ "Wind Turbines – Proposed Requirements and Setbacks". Ministry of the Environment, Ontario. 9 June 2009.
  18. ^ "Final Report, Rural Wind Farms" (PDF). General Purpose Standing Committee No. 5, Parliament of New South Wales. 16 December 2009.
  19. ^ "Turnbull government appoints Australia's first wind farm commissioner". The Sydney Morning Herald. 9 October 2015.
  20. ^ "2016 Annual Report Independent Scientific Committee on Wind Turbines". Department of the Environment and Energy. 2017.
  21. ^ "The wind energy fact sheet" (PDF). New South Wales Government. 1 November 2010.