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Donegal wind farm controversy: Local GP warns of health dangers

In the fields of medical research and evidence based medicine there are three journals widely accepted throughout the world –

1. The New England Journal of Medicine

2. The Lancet

3. The British Medical Journal (BMJ)

The editorial panels of these journals have experts who carefully screen whatever they publish. In the British Medical Journal of 8th March 2012 an editorial was published on wind turbine noise. In summary it states:

Q. 1

Is wind turbine noise harmful to health?

A.

The aerodynamic noise generated by wind turbines has a large low frequency and infrasound component which is harmful to health – it can cause nausea, headaches, disturbed sleep and cognitive and psychological impairment. Sleep disturbance may be a particular problem in children.

Q. 2

Are the ETSU – R-97 U.K. Guidelines (published in 1997 and not reviewed since) which allows set-back distances of 350 – 500 metres from human habitation safe for today’s wind farms?

A.

The article states that a large body of evidence now exists to suggest that wind turbines at these distances disturb sleep and impair health.

This has a huge significance for Irish planning. The DEHLG Guidelines on Wind Energy 2006 (Page 30 of the guidelines state, ‘that in general noise is unlikely to be a significant problem where the distance from the nearest turbine to any sensitive property is more than 500 metres’. This totally contradicts modern evidence.

The fact that the IWEA on the 30th March 2012 want to maintain the 2006 guidelines shows that they are irresponsible and negligent in relation to the health of local people.

Question 3

What are safe distances?

In 2010 Chris Hanning, one of the authors of the BMJ article, looked at recommendations for set-back of residential properties from industrial wind turbines – on an international level. The consensus appears to be 2 km. In summary it is obvious that the present set-back distances in the Irish guidelines would result in sleep disturbance and health impairments. “Experts contend that the quantity, consistency and ubiquity of the complaints constitute epidemiological evidence of a strong links between wind turbine noise, ill health and disruption of sleep”- (BMJ Editorial March 2012.)

Thus, it is a disgrace, and immoral, that Donegal people are treated as second class citizens.

The fact is that the wind farm developers and their lobbyists are canvassing the Donegal County Council at the moment.

It is time that the council stepped up to the plate and truly represented the interests of the ordinary Donegal citizen. The fact is that of 173 submissions that were received in respect of all aspects of the proposed County Development Plan the vast majority were from people concerned with two aspects of wind development in the County.

Essentially the people spoke in favour of setting a one km setback of turbines from houses; ie supporting MA76 (except with the express consent of the householder) and many expressed a wish against the massive designation of 2300 townlands as ‘preferred for windfarms’

The County Manager in suggesting to councillors that they should reject MA76 ought to be mindful of the BMJ conclusion: ”‘When seeking to generate renewable energy through wind, governments must ensure that the public will not suffer harm from additional ambient noise”.

We have a right to expect the Donegal Council Council and planners to put the health of the ordinary Donegal citizen before the profits of the windfarm industry

Dr. Micheal Cooke, BCH, BAO, MRCGP, MIGP,DCH(Lond, DOBG, DIH

Glenties Medical Centre

Glenties