The National Health and Medical Research Council on Wednesday released its final report on the evidence about whether wind turbines have health effects. “There is currently no consistent evidence that wind farms cause adverse health effects in humans,” the NHMRC said. Since the introduction of the renewable energy act in 2000, the number of wind farms in Australia has grown substantially. At the end of 2013, there were 68 wind farms across the country with more than 1600 turbines.
The study involved a review of over 4000 papers on the health effects of wind farms. Only 13 of these studies were found to be of “sufficient scientific quality” to consider possible links between wind farms and health. The NHMRC said there is “poor quality evidence” to suggest that wind-farm noise or living close to a wind farm may be linked to annoyance and, to a lesser extent, with disturbed sleep and poorer quality of life. The NHMRC will issue a Targeted Call for Research to generate “high quality research” on the turbines and possible health effects, particularly within 1500m from a wind farm.
Anti-wind-farm group the Waubra Foundation argues that turbines can cause health effects out to 10km. Those opposed to the turbines claim they can cause a wide range of health problems, including insomnia, headaches and dizziness. The Clean Energy Council welcomed the NHMRC study, saying it came to the same conclusion “reached by dozens of international and local studies”. “Australia already has some of the world’s strictest regulations for wind farms,” it said. “We know that further scientific research will only reinforce the fact that wind energy is one of the safest and cleanest forms of energy generation in the world.”
Simon Chapman, professor of public health at Sydney University, undertook a study of 129 Australia who had complained about turbines for noise or health reasons. The large majority – 116 of 129 – of complainants made their first complaint after 2009 when anti-wind-farm groups “began to add health concerns to their wider opposition”. “In the preceding years, health or noise complaints were rare despite large- and small-turbine wind farms having operated for many years,” Professor Chapman said in his paper, published in the journal PLOS ONE in 2013.