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No reliable evidence wind farms harm health, peak research body says

Windfarm in Australia

A windfarm near Burra in South Australia. Photograph: Angela Harper/AAP


Powered by article titled “No reliable evidence wind farms harm health, peak research body says” was written by Lenore Taylor, political editor, for on Monday 24th February 2014 09.08 UTC

Australia’s peak health research body has again found there is no reliable evidence that windfarms harm human health, but the Abbott government is promising to commission further “comprehensive” research into possible links.

Prof Warwick Anderson, the chief executive of the National Health and Medical Research Council, said a draft information paper had found there was “no reliable or consistent evidence that windfarms directly cause adverse health effects in humans”.

The information paper had found “some consistent but poor quality evidence that proximity to windfarms is associated with annoyance and, less consistently, with sleep disturbance and poorer quality of life. However, it is unknown whether these effects are caused by the wind turbines themselves, or by other related factors.”

Anderson found the existing body of evidence was “small and of poor quality” and said “further research of the highest standard is warranted”.

The Coalition went to the election promising to commission more comprehensive research, and sources said Monday that promise would be kept.

The Clean Energy Council said the draft information paper was “another tick of approval” for the safety of wind power.

Council policy director Russell Marsh said “the NHMRC draft position statement is in line with advice from the New South Wales and Victorian health departments, which have both stated that noise below the hearing threshold cannot affect people’s health.”

He said it should “give peace of mind to those living near operating or proposed windfarms that their health will not be adversely affected.”

NHMRC is seeking public comment on the draft information paper until Friday, 11 April 2014. Details on how to make a submission are available on the NHMRC public consultation website.

Maurice Newman, the head of Tony Abbott’s business advisory group, is among a group of country landholders who threatened to sue a neighbouring farmer for “substantial damages” if their health or property values are harmed by his agreement to allow wind turbines to built on his property.

In January 2012, Newman wrote in the Spectator that windfarms were “grossly inefficient, extremely expensive, socially inequitable, a danger to human health, environmentally harmful, divisive for communities, a blot on the landscape, and don’t even achieve the purpose for which they were designed – namely the reliable generation of electricity and the reduction of CO2 emissions”.

Professor of public health at Sydney University Simon Chapman found complaints of illness were far more prevalent in communities targeted by anti-windfarm groups. His report concludes that illnesses being blamed on windfarms were more than likely caused by the psychological effect of suggestions that the turbines make people ill, rather than by the turbines themselves.

But many residents have become involved in local anti-windfarm groups around the country because they firmly believe the wind turbines are harming them. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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