January 18, 2012

Panel says wind turbines not health hazard

By Amanda Korman, Berkshire Eagle Staff, www.berkshireeagle.com 18 January 2012

Wind turbines do not create significant health problems for nearby neighbors, according to an expert panel commissioned by the state, although there are indications that the noise they produce could disrupt sleep.

A study released Tuesday suggests that claims of turbines causing inner ear and balance problems, “Wind Turbine Syndrome” or psychological distress are unfounded.

Convened by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and Department of Environmental Protection, the seven independent physicians and scientists were charged to bring “sound science” to concerns about wind energy, the use of which the state wants to increase from 40 megawatts to 2,000 megawatts by 2020.

In a review of epidemiological studies addressing noise, infrasound, vibrations and shadow flickering, the experts concluded that, aside from being annoying or affecting sleep, wind turbines do not directly cause health problems or disease. Nonetheless, they urged continued research into the sleep issue and suggested guidelines like those in Germany and Denmark to minimize the negative effects of turbine noise.

There will be a public meeting to discuss the findings from 5 to 8 p.m. Feb. 28 at Lee Middle and High School.

“I do hope that getting a report from a well-credentialed scientific panel is something that will affect people’s attitudes about wind energy,” DEP Commissioner Ken Kimmell told The Eagle. “I think there’s a lot of people
whose minds are not made up about wind farms and wind energy, and this report will be helpful to those people.”

Potential health impacts have been a tough topic to grasp in local wind power debates, according to Nathaniel Karns, executive director of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, which prepares model wind turbine laws for municipalities.

“This was the area that we felt the technical information we could find on it was the most unsettled, and you didn’t know what the answer was,” Karns said. “We’ll all be very interested in looking at [this study] closely and seeing if it helps.”

Several hours after the report’s release, the coalition Windwise Massachusetts called the state’s work a failure, asking for an “immediate” epidemiological study by a “truly” independent team of experts.

In a press release, outspoken wind opponent Eleanor Tillinghast of Great Barrington blasted the study as a “whitewash.”

“We knew from the beginning that DEP’s report would be politically motivated with a predetermined outcome,” she said.

Kimmell of the DEP flatly denied Tillinghast’s claim.

“The people we selected are independent; they’re not affiliated with the wind industry or folks who oppose it,” he said. “We had no editorial control over their conclusions; the report is their own.”

The full report is available at: http://www.mass.gov/dep/

URL to article:  https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2012/01/18/panel-says-wind-turbines-not-health-hazard/