The federal government will press ahead with “an independent program” to study the supposed impact on health of wind farms as it emerged a report on the issue has been handed to government but withheld from public release.
Activists, some linked to climate change sceptic groups, say people living near wind farms suffer sleep disturbance and other health effects from low-frequency noise and infrasound, with illnesses dubbed wind turbine syndrome, vibro-acoustic disease and visceral vibratory vestibular disturbance.
Yass Landscape Guardians spokesman Mark Glover said his group, which is opposed to a $700 million wind farm west of Yass, had been more concerned with the impact on land values.
”We are hearing a lot from Victoria that there are health problems, but until someone proves it … it is not an easy thing to pin down, you know.”
Mr Glover said three people travelling in a car without feeling sick may not believe in car sickness, but a fourth passenger feeling unwell while travelling would believe in car sickness.
‘We need to know for certain whether it is a health issue or not,” Mr Glover said. Various international and Australian studies have cast doubt on the sicknesses and the National Health and Medical Research Council began its review of evidence about the effects of wind farms for the government in September 2012.
Its findings have been sent to the ministers of health, industry and environment and will be released publicly “in coming months”, a council spokeswoman said.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said this month that research should be refreshed “from time to time” to consider whether there were “new facts that impact on old judgments”. “It is some years since the NHMRC last looked at this issue. Why not do it again?” he said.
A spokesman for Mr Abbott declined to clarify whether the Prime Minister knew of the council’s latest study when calling for the council to reopen the issue.
A “rapid review” of the evidence by the council in 2010 found “renewable energy generation is associated with few adverse health effects compared with the well-documented health burdens of polluting forms of electricity generation”. About three-quarters of eastern Australia’s power comes from coal.
Simon Chapman, a professor of public health at Sydney University, said Mr Abbott appears to be swayed by a tiny group of anti-wind farm campaigners, such as the Waubra Foundation, in calling for another study even before the survey of scientific literature is released.
“We all need to be concerned about whether he’s being influenced by little more than a cult,” Professor Chapman said, adding that research to date had failed to link wind farms with ill health.
Waubra Foundation chief executive Sarah Laurie supports the extra study.
“Research and data if done properly is what enables proper regulation,” Ms Laurie said.
The wind industry is concerned the prospect of a new study is the latest sign governments are turning against renewable energy.
Mr Abbott, other Coalition figures and his senior business adviser, Maurice Newman, have blamed the Renewable Energy Target for pushing up power prices.
The goal, set at generating 20 per cent of electricity from renewable sources by 2020, will be reviewed this year.
with John Thistleton
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