Residents living close to two wind farms in the US had less sleep, more mental health problems and were more likely to take sleeping drugs than those living further away, according to a peer-reviewed study.
The impact from wind turbines was worse than noise from road traffic or aeroplane noise, possibly due to the high level of low-frequency sound.
The study, published in the scientific journal Noise and Health, found symptoms worsened the closer the residents were located to the wind turbines.
The report has been seized on by groups worldwide that claim residents near existing wind farms are getting sick.
Authorities have said there is no published research linking wind turbines with ill health.
The study said further research was needed to determine at what distances risks became negligible, as well as to better estimate the portion of the population suffering from adverse effects at a given distance.
“The levels of sleep disruption and the daytime consequences of increased sleepiness, together with the impairment of mental health, strongly suggest that the noise from industrial wind turbines results in similar health impacts as other causes of excessive environmental noise” it says.
The degree of effect on sleep and health from wind turbine noise seemed to be greater than that of other sources of environmental noise, such as road, rail and aircraft noise.
The noise was impulsive in nature and variously described as “swooshing” or “thumping”.
“The character, volume, and frequency of the noise vary with changes in wind speed and direction,” the report says. “Industrial wind turbine noise is more annoying than road, rail and aircraft noise, for the same sound pressure, presumably due to its impulsive character. This has led to an underestimation of the potential for adverse health effects of industrial wind turbines.”
It said there was good evidence that road, rail and aircraft noise damaged sleep and led to daytime consequence. There was no reason to suppose that industrial wind turbine noise would not have a similar effect.
“Low frequency noise, and in particular impulsive LFN, has been shown to be contributory to the symptoms of ‘sick building syndrome’, which has similarities with those reported here.”
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