Can wind turbine noise damage your health?

To date, no reliable “scientific” (peer-reviewed) evidence has been produced to substantiate some of the claims that have been made about adverse health effects from wind turbines.

The so-called Wind Turbine Syndrome that Dr. Pierpont from the USA has recently claimed to identify, for example,  has been discredited by the NHS. According to Dr. Pierpont, the syndrome’s symptoms include sleep disturbance, headache, tinnitus, other ear and hearing sensations, balance and equilibrium disturbances, anxiety, nausea, irritability, energy loss, motivation loss, memory and concentration disturbances, and visceral vibratory vestibular disturbance.

Reviewing Dr. Pierpont’s study, the NHS concluded that the research was flawed, not least because it only involved 38 people who were already unfavourably disposed towards wind farms.

Many of the other claims about health effects have relied on anecdotal evidence which, when examined closely, haven’t been substantiated. In one case, the noise that was being complained about turned out to have been coming from a foghorn and was therefore totally unrelated to wind turbines.

Following allegations in the National Press that Low Frequency Noise (LFN) from wind turbines was responsible for health effects at certain wind farms, the Dti commissioned research by the Hayes Mackenzie partnership, a leading acoustic consultancy. The report reached several key conclusions.

Firstly, it found that Infrasound (noise with a frequency below 20Hz) was inaudible to the human ear and could only be detected by the most sensitive measuring equipment. Quoting the World Health Organisation’s findings about inaudible infrasound, the ruled out the possibility of physiological or psychological harm.

Secondly, it found that although LFN was possibly audible by those with sensitive hearing in some locations, it was well within the guidance limits established by Defra and there was no evidence to suggest it could cause ill health.

Thirdly, it suggested that LFN was possibly being mistaken for a phenomenon known as Aerodynamic Modulation and that the phenomenon should be investigated further. Whilst this further research was taking place, the DTI issued a report that the existing ETSU guidelines for measuring wind farm noise were still considered to be perfectly sound and should continue to be used (click here)

The research into the effects of AM was conducted by scientists at the University of Salford and published as Research into Aerodynamic Modulation of Wind Turbine Noise. The research found that complaints about AM were extremely low in incidence. Once investigated properly, AM was found to only be a factor at four sites. At these sites, the meteorological conditions for the AM phenomenon to occur were only present for between 7 percent to 15 percent of the time. By the time the research had been concluded, and certain remedial work had been undertaken at one of the sites, the report observed that there was only oneremaining site where complaints were still being received.

The final recommendation of the report, therefore, was that AM was not a phenomenon that merited further investigation.