Caution Backed on Wind Turbine Health Link

Graham Lloyd, Environment editor
The Australian May 31, 2012

A NATIONAL Health and Medical Research Council recommendation for caution when considering wind-farm developments was appropriate pending a thorough investigation of possible adverse effects of turbines on residents, the chairman of a NHMRC review has said.

Bruce Armstrong, professor of public health and medical foundation fellow at the University of Sydney, said his reference group would consider a wide range of research including peer-reviewed and “grey” literature.

If necessary, he said, the review would recommend an update to the NHMRC’s rapid review statement issued in 2010.

The existing NHMRC statement on wind farms and health has been widely quoted as giving the turbines a clean bill of health.

“There is currently no published scientific evidence to positively link wind turbines with adverse health effects,” it says.

“While there is currently no evidence linking these phenomena with adverse health effects, the evidence is limited. Therefore it is recommended that relevant authorities take a precautionary approach and continue to monitor research outcomes.”

Professor Armstrong, appointed this week, said the NHMRC’s full review would go well beyond what had been considered previously.

“The rapid review essentially covered the literature that has been published in the peer reviewed literature,” he said.

“We will cover any new evidence or literature of that kind since the rapid review was done.

“It will also cover all the grey literature we can put our hands on that may contain research findings.”

Professor Armstrong said he had had no involvement in the issue of wind turbines and health up to now.

It was “entirely appropriate to adopt the precautionary principle where it is neither possible to say with any certainty there is a problem nor is it possible to exclude with any certainty the existence of a problem,” he said.

The Australian reported on Monday that Queensland Health’s director of environmental health, David Sellars, recommended a “precautionary approach” be taken to approval of the proposed $500 million Mount Emerald wind farm near Walkamin on the Atherton Tablelands. “Queensland Health recommended wind-farm planning applications be carefully considered, given there is a growing body of evidence to suggest there may be adverse health effects associated with the noise generated by wind farms,” Mr Sellers said in a letter to the Tablelands Regional Council.

Wind-farm opponent and Waubra Foundation spokeswoman Sarah Laurie said this was the first time a health department in Australia had acknowledged the “obvious problems which currently exist”.

Queensland Health said yesterday its advice reflected the NHMRC advice.

“Our letter to the Tablelands Council was to advise council of the NHMRC guidelines and the fact that these guidelines are being reviewed by NHMRC,” a spokesman said.

“Any advice provided by Queensland Health on this issue has been, and will continue to be, guided by the NHMRC.”

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