Lazzaro,K. ABC The World Today Residents Reject Wind Farm Health Findings

Campaigners against wind farms have rejected a report finding no scientific evidence to link wind turbines to health problems.

ABC NEWS – The World Today

The World Today
Kellie Lazzaro

5 Jul 2010

Campaigners against wind farms have rejected a report finding no scientific evidence to link wind turbines to health problems.

The National Health and Medical Research Council, which advises the Federal Government, found that there was no evidence that the turbines’ low frequency noise or shadow flicker made people sick.

But residents of Waubra in Victoria’s south-west who live near the state’s largest wind farm, say they are sick and are convinced that wind turbines are to blame.

Noel Dean has a farm at Waubra but he and his family moved out 13 months ago when their headaches worsened.

“Sore ears, pain in and around the eyes, pain on top of the head, pain in the back of the head, behind the ears and early this year, we started to get throbbing pain at the back of the head and tinnitus,” he said.

“We couldn’t stay there another night – it was that bad.”

Mr Dean first complained to the Waubra wind farm operator Acciona in May last year, but the company refused to give him access to the outcome of its investigation.

He then commissioned an independent report into noise levels at his property at a cost of more than $40,000.

He has just received that report by Noise Measurement Services and says it confirms there is a link between the low frequency noise from wind farms and adverse health effects.

“Anything from 1 to 20 hertz can cause adverse health effects and that is what we have found in a pulsing motion. It is a pulsing motion that makes the effects just a lot worse,” he said.

But in a rapid review of existing studies, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has found there is no published evidence of direct pathological effects from wind farms.

The director of the council’s evidence and advice branch, Professor John McCallum, says they have brought together opinion and evidence from all around the world.

“Shadow flicker is the flicking on and off of wind turbine shadows as the blades rotate. It is the glint off the surface of the blades and those are now minimised by treatment of the blades that prevents reflective glint as well, and they are the kind of four main areas that people talk about health effects from,” he said.

He says World Health Organisation (WHO) studies have found no reliable evidence that sound below the hearing threshold will produce physiological or psychological effects.

The NHMRC report refers to a study of three wind farms in the UK that found if people are worried about their health, they may become anxious and suffer stress-related illnesses.

For this reason Professor John McCallum says people who believe they are experiencing health problems should consult a GP, but he says the report commissioned by Noel Dean about noise levels on his farm would need to be further tested.

Donald Thomas also lives at Waubra and was a big supporter of the wind farm, until he too started getting headaches, heart palpitations and high blood pressure.

“We’ve invited the Health Minister and top health officials to actually come out to Waubra to talk to us and see what the problem is first hand, but none of them have bothered to do that. They just look at overseas studies and pick the ones that suit them,” he said.

The National Health and Medical Research Council acknowledges the health effects of renewable energy generation have not been assessed to the same extent as those from traditional sources and recommends authorities continue to monitor research.

The National Environment Protection and Heritage Council has met in Darwin today to consider national wind farm development guidelines.

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