May 27, 2015
Australia, General News

Wind-farm workers suffer poor sleep, international studies find

Turbines 'terrible for shut-eye' | Graham Lloyd, Environment Editor | The Australian | 28 May 2015 |

Two international studies have linked sleep disturbance and health effects of wind-farm workers to low-frequency noise and infrasound from wind turbines.

A study of 45 people in three groups by Tehran University researchers said: “Despite all the good benefits of wind turbines … this technology has health risks for all those exposed to its sound.”

The study paper said it was the first to examine the effect of wind turbine noise on sleep disorders in workers who are closer to turbines and exposed to higher levels of noise. The Manjil wind farm was examined because it had more staff and turbines than other farms in Iran.

“The results showed that there was a positive and significant relationship between age, workers’ experience, equivalent sound level, and the level of sleep disorder,” the paper said.

The paper, published in next month’s Fluctuation and Noise Letters journal, said more research was needed to confirm the results.

In another study, researchers at Ibaraki University in Japan measured the brainwaves of 15 wind-farm workers listening to recordings of low-frequency and infrasound from wind turbines.

In a paper published in the International Journal of Environmental Science and Technology, the researchers said brain function measured by EEG tests showed the turbine sounds were “considered to be an annoyance to the technicians who work in close proximity to a modern large-scale wind turbine”.

Brain measurements showed test subjects could not stay relaxed after hearing the sound stimulus at the frequency band of 20 hertz. Brainwaves indicating a “strain state” were noted.

Possible health effects from low-frequency noise and infrasound is controversial worldwide.

Clean Energy Council policy director Russell Marsh said Australia’s leading health research body, the National Health and Medical Research Council, had held several reviews of the relationship between wind turbines and health and found “no consistent evidence” wind farms caused adverse health effects in humans.

“Leading national organisations such as the Australian Medical Association and the Australian Association of Acoustical Consultants have said there is not enough infrasound produced by wind farms to have a negative effect on humans living near wind farms,” he said.

Australia already had some of the strictest regulations for wind farms, and the council believed further research would reinforce that wind energy was one of the safest and cleanest forms of energy generation.

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