Sydney Morning Herald | 15 March 2013
There are all sorts of reasons why you might not build a wind farm in a particular location, such as the visual pollution it createsor that it transects the migratory path of the yellow-bellied parrot and might chop them up.
But, happily, recent research shows that injurious effects to health is not likely to be one of them.
A study by Simon Chapman, professor of public health at Sydney University, concludes that “wind turbine sickness” is far more prevalent in communities where anti-wind farm lobbyists have been active and appears to be a psychological phenomenon caused by the suggestion that turbines make people sick.
The study found that 63% of Australia’s 49 wind farms had never been the subject of any health complaint from nearby residents.
It found 68 per cent of the 120 complaints that have been made came from residents living near wind farms heavily targeted by the anti-wind farm lobby, and that ”the advent of anti-wind farm groups beginning to foment concerns about health (from around 2009) was also strongly correlated with actual complaints being made”.
The results suggest that ”wind turbine sickness” is a ”communicated disease” – a sickness spread by the claim that something was likely to make a person sick. This is caused by the ”nocebo effect” – the opposite of the placebo effect – where the belief something would cause an illness created the perception of illness.
Chapman a cites a recent New Zealand study in which some healthy volunteers were exposed to actual ”infrasound” – the sub-audible noise from wind farms claimed to cause health problems – and others to complete silence, which they had been told was ”infrasound”. In both cases the volunteers who had been told about the potential harmful effects of infrasound were more likely to report symptoms.
These findings confirm those of other recent inquiries.
Although some people living close to wind farms report suffering from sleep deprivation, stress and serious long-term health problems, Senate inquiry into the issue found no causal link between the noise from wind farms and symptoms reported by those who lived near them.
After a ”rapid review” in 2010, the National Health and Medical Research Council said there is ”insufficient published scientific evidence” to link wind turbines with adverse health effects.
So’ living near a wind farm might be annoying but is not likely to be sickening.