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Wind turbine noise is not a health risk, says trade group report

December 15, 2009 | 10:31 am

Turbine The American Wind Energy Assn., the country’s main wind-power trade group, released a report today that said  the sounds generated by wind turbines were not a health risk.

The report argues that the levels and frequencies of the noise are no more significant than those normally present in cities or other urban environments.

A panel of medical doctors, audiologists and acoustical professionals from the U.S., Canada, Denmark and the U.K. brought together by the association and the Canadian Wind Energy Assn. concluded that “annoyance is not a pathological entity.”

For more than 30 years, the “vast majority” of the people living near the more than 50,000 European wind turbines and more than 30,000 North American turbines have had a “positive experience,” according to the report.

“There is no evidence that the sounds, nor the sub-audible vibrations, emitted by wind turbines have any direct physiological effects on humans,” said Dr. Robert J. McCunney, an occupations and environmental medicine physician and research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who co-authored the study.

But critics of wind-turbine sound are adamant that it causes a variety of ills.

According to one fact sheet, about 20% of wind farms tend to generate noise complaints.

In a self-published book, New York pediatrician Dr. Nina Pierpont says “wind turbine syndrome” leads to symptoms including disturbed sleep, headaches, tinnitus, dizziness, vertigo, nausea, blurred vision, rapid heart rate,  irritability, concentration and memory problems and panic episodes.

According to the book, Pierpont interviewed 10 families, or 38 people, living near 1.5- to 3-megawatt wind turbines built since 2004. The symptoms appeared once the turbines began running but would disappear if the subjects left home, according to the book. Eight of the families eventually moved away.

-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo: Turbines near the Altamont Pass, east of San Francisco Bay. Credit: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

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