So-called “wind turbine syndrome” has been rejected by a panel of experts reviewing wind turbine noise and whether it affects peoples’ health.
Honorary Fellow of the UK’s Institute of Acoustics Dr Geoff Leventhall joined independent experts in medicine, public health, audiology and acoustics to examine the scientific validity of reports on the adverse health effects of wind turbine sound.
He is speaking about the syndrome at the IOA’s Wind Turbine Noise meeting in Cardiff on Wednesday January 27.
According to the expert panel, whose findings were published recently in “Wind Turbine Sound and Health Effects”, evidence showed that “wind turbine syndrome” was based on “misinterpretation” of physiological data.
“Allegations of adverse health effects from wind turbines are as yet unproven.”
Features of the “so-called syndrome” (such as headaches, nausea and panic attacks) “were more likely associated with annoyance to low sound levels” said the review, commissioned by the American Wind Energy Association and the Canadian Wind Energy Association.
The symptoms were “not new and have been published previously in the context of ‘annoyance’ to environmental sounds.”
The syndrome, referred to in recent newspaper articles as a health risk associated with noise and vibration from large turbines, was “not a recognised medical diagnosis”, the report said.
It also concluded that:
•There is no evidence that audible or sub-audible sounds emitted by wind turbines have any direct adverse physiological effects;
•Ground-borne vibrations from wind turbines are too weak to be detected by or to affect people;
•Sound from wind turbines does not pose a risk of hearing loss.
However, studies in Europe showed that the fluctuating aerodynamic “swishing” noise some blades made as they disturbed the air was “the cause of most sound complaints regarding wind turbines, as it is harder to become accustomed to fluctuating sound than to sound that does not fluctuate.”
The expert panel’s objective was to provide a reference document for legislators, regulators and others wanting to make sense of conflicting information about wind turbine noise.
Members reviewed potential environmental exposures associated with wind turbine operations, focusing on low frequency sound, infrasound and vibration.
“Wind turbines produce low levels of infrasound and low frequency sound, yet there is no credible scientific evidence that these levels are harmful.”
Source British Institute of Acoustics