No reliable evidence exists that wind farms directly cause health problems, a review by the National Health and Medical Research Council has found.
However, the study by the NHMRC – Australia’s peak medical and scientific research body – did link wind farms to a level of annoyance that can cause sleeplessness.
Still, NHMRC chief executive Warwick Anderson stressed that the evidence for this was of poor quality.
“It’s important that it’s recognised as an association and does not prove cause and effect,” he said.
He added: “Our conclusion is that there’s no reliable or consistent evidence that wind farms directly cause adverse health effects in humans, but there’s some less consistent and less-high-quality evidence that it might, they may be associated with annoyance or sleep disturbance and poorer quality of life.”
NHMRC researchers reviewed nearly 3,000 published references and around 500 public submissions addressing noise, shadow flicker and electromagnetic radiation produced by wind farms.
It says that its draft information paper, titled Evidence on Wind Farms and Human Health, builds on previous work on wind farms and a recommendation from a 2011 Senate inquiry into the social and economic impact of rural wind farms.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott last month suggested that the research on wind farms needed to be refreshed “from time to time”.
The Federal Government is expected to press ahead with an “independent review” of wind farms, with the Victorian Government willing to contribute about $100,000 to any new study.
Mr Anderson says the NHMRC will give the public 45 days to respond to the report, including via its website, and take another month to finalise the study. [click here for details]
In the meantime it has recommended that the authorities take a precautionary approach in the regulation of wind farms and for people living close to them to consider the findings detailed in its report.
“I can’t tell people whether they should worry or not… but the evidence at this stage indicates that there really are very unlikely to be direct effects on health from wind farms provided reasonable planning has been undertaken,” he said.
“However, we are aware of many people who are complaining about the annoyance and therefore the effects on their health of that, and that’s an important issue, and I think that does need further consideration and probably further research.”