Are wind turbines dangerous to health?

“There is some evidence that exposure to wind turbine noise is associated with increased odds of annoyance and sleep problems.”

 

Igho Onakpoya

Igho Onakpoya

Wind energy is generally regarded as the cleanest source for sustainable energy generation. The European Commission wants to increase their wind energy 20% by 2020, and the second phase of the world’s biggest offshore wind farm has been approved in the UK. But there is some controversy about whether the noise from wind turbines has adverse effects.

Can noise from wind turbine generators be harmful to your health?

We attempted to answer this question by searching scientific databases to identify studies which examined the relationship between the noise of a wind turbine and annoyance, sleep, or quality of life. Using standardized methods, we assessed the quality of the eight studies and statistically combined their results.

All of the studies assessed were cross-sectional with a total of 2,433 participants. The overall quality of evidence from these studies was fair; we found that participants were likely to become more annoyed if they heard the turbine at a louder volume – an outcome one would expect. We also found that participants were more likely to experience sleep disruption if they had greater exposure to the noise. Although much of this research to date is limited in it’s ability to draw conclusions, our results suggest that “the odds of being annoyed appear significantly increased by wind turbine noise”.

Interestingly, we also found that the way one perceives wind turbines has an influence upon one’s attitude towards them. Participants in one study responded positively because they had a financial incentive due to the close location of the wind turbines to their homes, while another group of residents downplayed the seriousness of any harmful effects because it may reduce their property’s value.

So: can the noise from wind turbine generators harm your health? For now, it depends on how you see it, and, perhaps, what you get from it.

Read the full article here: Onakpoya IJ, O’Sullivan J, Thompson MJ, Heneghan CJ. The effect of wind turbine noise on sleep and quality of life: A systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Environ Int. 2015 Sep;82:1-9.

Further reading: European Commission. Community Research and Development Information Service (CORDIS). The small wind turbines you’ll want in your back garden. http://cordis.europa.eu/news/rcn/133074_en.html

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