Health effects still a worry

THE news this week of a proposal for Australia’s biggest wind farm to be built on the Yorke Peninsula will be cause for alarm for residents located in the vicinity of the 199-turbine facility.

This alarm will be driven by the knowledge that neither the federal nor state government has yet determined the degree of adverse health effects from large, new-generation wind turbines, such as will be used in this project.

This is despite an extensive senate inquiry that tabled recommendations in 2011 calling for urgent medical and acoustical studies.

The Australian Environment Foundation has consistently called for a moratorium on further construction of wind farms until the question of adverse health effects is addressed.

The senate recommendations for health studies were publicly supported by  the Clean Energy Council, environment groups, state governments, the National Health and Medical Research Council and affected residents.

Unsurprisingly, despite rapidly mounting evidence, the wind industry denies there are any ill-effects to people from the audible and inaudible low frequency wind-turbine noise.

Residents in South Australia and Victoria who have abandoned their homes due to chronic sleep deprivation, which in turn led to a range of other debilitating health impacts, beg to differ.

It is acknowledged the degree of health impacts from wind turbine operation is contested and this is the subject of the current NHMRC review. What is not contested is the need for acoustical and health studies to determine the issue.

Also not contested is the fact that wind turbines emit a range of low-frequency noise.

Nor is it contested that  low-frequency noise, whatever its origin, can have an impact on human health and well-being, which is why other industrial noise is well regulated.

The combined effects of the unusual pulsing characteristics of wind turbine noise, their location in quiet rural areas with low background noise levels and the ability of larger modern turbines taller than Sydney Harbour Bridge to emit even lower frequency noise than older wind turbines are poorly understood.

This poor technical understanding of wind turbine noise has led to the adoption of noise guidelines for the industry that have no evidential basis for the protection of human health. Governments and the wind industry are making it up as they go along.

A key principle of good governance when considering action on  any issue is to “do no  harm”.

Policies and wind industry development that drive people to abandon their homes and others to a life of misery for the “greater good”, without the acoustical and medical evidence to establish that state-sanctioned harm is not occurring, is unforgivable.

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