There’s no evidence that noise and flicker from wind turbines directly causes adverse health effects in people living near the machines, according to the findings of a state panel convened last year to look at the issue.
In its 164-page report the panel found that, while it is possible that noise from some turbines could cause annoyance and sleep disruption, there is not enough evidence that the noise is directly causing health problems or disease independent from an effect on annoyance or sleep.
In addition, the report’s authors call into question a claim by opponents of wind energy projects that there is a group of symptoms that is associated with living near the turbines.
“There is no evidence for a set of health effects, from exposure to wind turbines that could be characterized as a ‘Wind Turbine Syndrome,” according to the report.
The passage of wind turbine blades in front of the sun, known as flicker, does not pose a risk for eliciting seizures, according to the report.
The one area where the report finds a clear danger is if ice is flung into the air after accumulating on a turbine’s blades.
“There is sufficient evidence that falling ice is physically harmful and measures should be taken to ensure that the public is not likely to encounter such ice,” according to the report.
The seven-member panel was convened in June by the state Department of Environmental Protection and the state Department of Public Health in response to concerns raised by opponents of locating large turbines near residential neighborhoods, including on Cape Cod where wind energy projects in various towns have sparked contentious debates about the technology.
The epicenter for these debates has been in Falmouth where a turbine at the town’s wastewater treatment facility has been blamed by local residents for a variety of health issues, including anxiety, high blood pressure and nausea.
A public comment period on the report will run through March 19, according to the DEP. There will also be three public meetings to accept comment on the report, including one Feb. 16 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Bourne High School.
The panel accepted public comment on the issue until July 22 and received 25 peer-reviewed articles, 20 government reports, 35 white papers prepared by nonprofit or business organizations as well as hundreds of emails, news reports and blog postings, according to the DEP’s website.
The panel included health professionals and academics from Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston University, the University of Massachusetts and the Harvard School of Public Health.
Its findings were originally expected in the fall but were delayed so panel members could have more time to work, according to the DEP website.
Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration has made wind energy a primary piece of its energy policy, including a goal of 2,000 megawatts of wind energy in the state by 2020.
At the end of 2011 the administration suffered a series of setbacks when several powerful lawmakers who had previously supported legislation to streamline permitting for large wind turbines withdrew their support.
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