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Study: Wind farms cause annoyance (but not hearing loss)

Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Tuesday, April 14, 2015, 1:25 PM - There's new common ground between foes of wind farms in Canada, and the scientists studying them: Wind farms can be annoying.

But as for some 32 health impacts often alleged to be linked to turbine noise, the Council of Canadian Academies says they can't back that up.

"For most of the identified symptoms, the evidence is inadequate to draw a direct link between wind turbine noise and a negative health effect," members of the Council of Canadian Academies said in a release. "However, there is sufficient evidence of a causal relationship between exposure to such noise and annoyance."

The council is a not-for-profit organization that gathered a multi-disciplinary panel to study the issue. The panelists note they kept their review focussed exclusively on the noise, and don't offer any recommendations.

"Magrath-Wind-Farm-Szmurlo". Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.

The survey looked at 38 different papers on alleged effects linked by critics to the turbines, in a process that included anonymous peer review.

Aside from the annoyance, they found limited evidence of a causal link to sleep disturbance, and lack of evidence turbines contribute to hearing loss.

"For all other health effects considered (fatigue, tinnitus, vertigo, nausea, dizziness, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, etc.), the evidence was inadequate to come to any conclusion about the presence or absence of a causal relationship with exposure to wind turbine noise," the panelists write, adding they recommend more study.

The Pubnico Wind Farm taken from Beach Point, Lower East Pubnico, Nova Scotia
"Beach Point-Lower East Pubnico" by Sharingknowledge - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

"It should be noted that the Panel’s ability to fully assess the prevalence of adverse health effects was limited by a lack of available data," the panelists write. "As a result, the report outlines where more research is required in order to fill knowledge gaps, including for vulnerable populations.

Wind power generation has been increasing by leaps and bounds in Canada since the 1990s. By the end of 2014, total capacity was almost 9,700 MWh, which the Canadian Wind Energy Association says makes up 4 per cent of Canada's total electricity generation.

But the new technology has numerous critics, and health concerns are often cited by groups opposing its expansion. Wind Concerns Ontario, for example, insists the noise does have an impact.

"The simplest explanation (but not the whole explanation) is that the noise and vibration keep people awake at night," the group's website reads. "They do not get restful sleep and in fact are made anxious through the night, and the resultant sleep deprivation in turn causes health problems."

The Council of Canadian Academies studied the issue at the request of Health Canada, which concluded its own survey into health effects of turbine noise in 2014. They also found no evidence of a link.

SOURCES: Council of Canadian Academies | Canadian Wind Energy Association | Wind Concerns OntarioHealth Canada

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