Sound: wind energy and human health
Hundreds of thousands of people around the world live near and work at operating wind turbines without health effects.
Wind energy enjoys considerable public support, but wind energy detractors have publicized their concerns that the sounds emitted from wind turbines cause adverse health effects. These allegations of health-related impacts are not supported by science.
Studies show no evidence for direct human health effects from wind turbines
The credible peer-reviewed scientific data and various government reports in the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom refute the claim that wind farms cause negative health impacts.
In their own independent reviews of available evidence, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council found that sound from wind turbines does not cause negative health impacts.
Additionally, the Massachusetts Departments of Environmental Protection and of Public Health recently commissioned a panel of experts with backgrounds in public health, epidemiology, toxicology, neurology and sleep medicine, neuroscience, and mechanical engineering to analyze “the biological plausibility or basis for health effects of turbines (noise, vibration, and flicker).” The review of existing studies included both peer-reviewed and non-peer reviewed literature.
Among the key findings of the panel were:
- There is no evidence for a set of health effects from exposure to wind turbines that can be characterized as “Wind Turbine Syndrome.”
- Claims that infrasound from wind turbines directly impacts the vestibular system have not been demonstrated scientifically. Available evidence shows that the infrasound levels near wind turbines cannot impact the vestibular system.
- The strongest epidemiological study suggests that there is not an association between noise from wind turbines and measures of psychological distress or mental health.
- None of the limited epidemiological evidence reviewed suggests an association between noise from wind turbines and pain and stiffness, diabetes, high blood pressure, tinnitus, hearing impairment, cardiovascular disease, and headache/migraine.
Further, as part of the wind industry’s commitment to examining this issue, the American and Canadian Wind Energy Associations (AWEA and CanWEA) established a scientific advisory panel in early 2009 to conduct a review of current literature available on the issue of perceived health effects of wind turbines. This panel reached the same conclusion that sound from wind turbines does not cause negative health impacts.
Positive effects of wind energy
Consideration of any potential health effects related to wind turbine sound should always include the benefits of wind energy for the environment and public health. Wind energy is an inexhaustible resource that generates no pollution or hazardous waste, does not deplete fresh water resources, and requires no mining, transportation, or refining of a feedstock or fuel. Further, electricity produced by wind farms displaces electricity from other sources, usually the oldest, dirtiest, and least efficient power plants on the utility system. Wind power thus has a direct and immediate benefit to health impacts associated with air pollution, such as asthma.
More on sound, health and wind energy
For members only: view a summary of main conclusions reached in 17 reviews of the research literature on wind farms and health.