There is an increasing amount of information that details negative health effects in populations where wind farms have been sited. Dr Amanda Harry has produced research showing health effects from the noise of wind turbines – commonly disturbed sleep, extreme tiredness, headaches and anxiety. Other commonly reported effects are depression, hearing problems and tinnitis and migraines. These seem to be related to the distance from the turbines and notes recurring problems within 1 mile and recommends that residential housing should be 1.5 miles away.
She also notes the problems associated with low frequency noise produced by wind turbines. The low frequencies contribute to the overall audible noise but also produce a seismic characteristic which is one of the common complaints from neighbours when they say that not only can they hear the noise but they can also feel it.
Another expert in the field, honorary consultant in sleep medicine Dr C D Hanning, is warning of the “unacceptable levels of sleep disturbance” for people living within 1.5km of wind turbines.
Dr Hanning, a consultant at the University Hospitals of Leicester has over 25 years experience in sleep medicine and is accepted as an expert in these areas by the UK and Canadian courts.
In his latest report Dr Hanning said: “Industrial wind turbines emit a unique impulsive noise pattern, described as thumping, swooshing and rumbling. It contains a large element of low frequency noise which travels further and penetrates buildings more easily than high frequency sound.
“Noise disrupts sleep by preventing the onset of sleep or the return to sleep after a spontaneous awakening. The character of wind turbine noise makes it particularly annoying. The sufferer has no means of controlling the noise and many seek to leave their homes.
“In the short term, loss of sleep leads to sleepiness, fatigue, poor memory and concentration, increased accident risk and low mood. In the longer term, it increases the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, obesity, diabetes and cancer. Neither the short term nor the long term effects are trivial.
“The health effects demonstrated by these studies, and many others, are real and serious. My analysis of all the research leads me to conclude that external turbine noise levels should not exceed 35dBA in any circumstances and not exceed 32dBA in quiet rural areas. Setback distance should be at least 1.5km.
“Public health impact must be considered when assessing renewable and low carbon energy schemes and council’s should have a recommended separation distance for turbines from houses on health grounds of a distance of at least 1.5km.”