August 2, 2013
Letters, Scotland

Wind farm health risks

Andrew Halcrow - August 2nd, 2013 -

The headline on your website regarding Dr Sarah Taylor’s recent report on health impacts relating to wind farms [1] needs clarifying.

The Shetland Times headline read, “Wind farms annoying but not damaging to health, NHS report finds”. If the person who formed this headline had read Dr Taylor’s report, they would have found that Dr Taylor uses “annoyance” in its medical term.

She states, “Annoyance is recognised as a critical health effect, and is associated in some people with stress, sleep disturbance and interference with daily living.”

She goes on to say, “There is an increasing body of evidence that noise levels associated with wind farms cause annoyance, in a dose-related response.” She says symptoms such as, “…headache, irritability, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, dizziness, anxiety, and sleep disturbance, are often described in relation to annoyance”.

In complete contrast to your headline that wind turbines are not damaging to health, she says in her conclusion of the report, “Wind turbines are known to cause a number of effects that have an impact on health”.

Trustee Drew Ratter appears to already dismiss any action being taken. He is a former Viking Energy director and currently chairman of the trust’s investment committee. He seemingly ignores any potential risk to people forced to live within the Viking wind farm when he says, “If there was going to be a health impact assessment which produced any outcomes it would have needed to be done prior to planning consent being granted”.

The reason this report was commissioned was because Viking Energy initiated their own health impact assessment then promptly halted it before it was completed. It has never been published.

Pressure was put on SCT, not least from Sustainable Shetland, to assess if there was indeed a risk to health from people living too near large wind farms. Dr Taylor has now confirmed that risk exists.

If no action was to be taken why has the SCT spent a lot of time and money spent on this?

Mr Ratter’s comments certainly do not tie in with Dr Jonathan Wills statement at the outset of the report.

When the Shetland Charitable Trust (SCT) commissioned Dr Taylor trustee Dr Jonathan Wills said publicly that if there were any negative issues to be found with regard to health risks affecting people living near wind farms then the SCT would take action to address these problems. I hope he will keep his word and press for action now to be taken on this.

Additionally, in contrast to the report’s findings, Viking Energy project manager, Aaron Priest has said, “We are reassured from our reading of the report that the Viking wind farm will have no negative impact on people’s health.” Obviously, their reading of it was very different from mine.

One important point, which the report neglected, was the distance of industrial wind farms from houses. The closer they are and the greater the number of turbines then the greater the risk is to health.

Quite a lot of the report focused on recent references but many of the references were published ten years or more ago. Turbines have become more powerful since then and recent research papers should have considered this.

Sustainable Shetland invites Dr Taylor to publicly comment on her report and clarify that there are indeed health risks associated with living too near wind farms.

Andrew Halcrow
Chair, Sustainable Shetland
Burra Isle

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[1] recent report on health impacts relating to wind farms: