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Acoustic trauma: How wind farms make you sick

It's an ill wind ...

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People living near wind farms – and near can be quite a long way away – find the reality far different to Renewable UK's pastoral idyll.

Dr Michael M Nissenbaum, a radiologist at Northern Maine Medical Center, has new work imminent on the study. He says "significant risk of adverse health effects is likely to occur in a significant subset of people out to at least 2,000 meters away from an industrial wind turbine installation. These health concerns include: sleep disturbance and psychological stress."

He continues: "Our current knowledge indicates that there are substantial health risks from the existing exposure, and we do not know how to reduce those risks other than by keeping turbines several kilometers away from homes."

Consultant Mike Stigwood, who has testified before public enquiries, points out that since ETSU-R-97 was published, the World Health Organization has twice lowered its recommended limits for night-time noise.

Currently there's no solution other than to site the wind turbines further away. But how far?

The Planning Policy Statement on Renewable Energy (PPS22) is often cited here, obliging local planning authorities to "ensure that renewable energy developments have been located and designed in such a way to minimise increases in ambient noise levels." It doesn't specify a distance, though.

Hanning notes that: "Proposals that site wind turbines within 1.5km of habitation will not keep wind turbine noise to an acceptable level and are therefore in contravention of PPS22."

Even at 2km, there are noticeable health consequences.

But there are signs the mood has shifted from one of acquiescence to Big Eco-business – with local authorities judging that they're accountable to the communities they're supposed to serve. In June, Highland Council temporarily shut down a 23-turbine installation in Sutherland after persistent complaints by residents. The operator, SSE, had failed to test noise levels at properties 2km away and failed to produce a noise mitigation plan. The stop notice has since been lifted. More are planned nearby. ®

Related Link

Properly Interpreting the Epidemiologic Evidence About the Health Effects of Industrial Wind Turbines on Nearby Residents – Carl Phillips (43-page PDF/1.2MB)

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