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Infrasound/low-frequency noise and wind turbines  

Author:  | Health, Noise

Typically, regulating authorities have not required the measurement of infrasound (sound below 20 Hz in frequency) and low frequency (LFN) (generally sound from 200 Hz to 20 Hz) inside homes adjacent to wind turbines as a condition of their installation and operational monitoring. The health risk of infrasound from wind turbines has been dismissed by the wind industry as insignificant. It has maintained that since the typical loudness and frequency of wind turbine sound within a home is not audible, it cannot have any effect on human health.

Noise measurements for most studies and environmental assessments have been limited to the measurement of audible sound outside homes– using dBA weighted monitoring which is insensitive to infrasound frequencies. Some studies and environmental assessments have even relied on projected audible sound averages from computer produced models.

Such observations and projections fail to take appropriate account of the distinguishing signature of the sound from a wind turbine. Unlike the more random naturally occurring sounds (such as wind or lake waves which may themselves have an infrasound component), the sound from wind turbines displays characteristics that produce a pattern that the ear and audio processing in the brain recognize. Our hearing is strongly influenced by pattern recognition. (This is why we can pick out the sound of a familiar voice even in a crowded room with many people speaking).

One recognizable wind turbine pattern is a tonal signal of sharply rising and falling pulses in the infrasound range, (typically about 0.75 Hz, 1.5 Hz, 2.25 Hz, 3.0 Hz, and so on). It is produced by the blade passing the tower. At this frequency these pulses may be “felt or sensed” more than “heard” by the ears. Research by Dr. Alec Salt and others has demonstrated that subaudible infrasound does result in a physiological response from various systems within the body.

The second recognizable pattern is the amplitude modulation. This is the typical “swoosh” rising and falling that is audible.

A third recognizable pattern of sound from wind turbines results from the equipment in the nacelle (such as the gearbox if the turbine has one) and ventilating fans. Although in some cases this third sound source may become predominant, it is usually of lesser effect that the first two.

We now know that subaudible pulsating infrasound can be detected inside homes near operating wind turbines. It can also be identified up to 10 kilometres distant. We know also that very low levels of infrasound and LFN are registered by the nervous system and affect the body even though they cannot be heard. The research cited in this report implicates these infrasonic pulsations as the cause of some of the most commonly reported “sensations” experienced by many people living close to wind turbines including chronic sleep disturbance, dizziness, tinnitus, heart palpitations, vibrations and pressure sensations in the head and chest etc.

Similarly, there is medical research (also cited below) which demonstrates that pulsating infrasound can be a direct cause of sleep disturbance. In clinical medicine, chronic sleep interruption and deprivation is acknowledged as a trigger of serious health problems.

Download original document: “Infrasound/low-frequency noise and wind turbines

This article is the work of the author(s) indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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