Two members of a Senate inquiry into the health effects of wind farms – including a Coalition backbencher – have called for a moratorium on building new turbines until two separate medical studies conclude.
On Tuesday, the National Health and Medical Research Council announced that it would allocate $3.3m for two university studies on whether noise emitted from wind turbines, known as infrasound, affected health, sleep and mood.
The independent senator John Madigan on Wednesday called for all projects to be put on hold as a “precaution”.
“We have a new industry operating infrastructure that some people say is making them sick,” he said. “There is insufficient research of the type needed to determine the validity of these claims.”
A Coalition senator, Chris Back, was part of a Senate inquiry into the effects of wind turbines. He supported Madigan’s call for a moratorium.
“This research is very important as the only scientific pilot study conducted in Australia measuring the effects of vibration, low-frequency noise and infrasound has indicated that there are health problems that requires further investigation,” he said.
“This important research will provide the affected communities with information regarding health and safety of living nearby to industrial size wind turbines. It is well known that industrial noise effects health.”
Putting money into investigating possible health effects of infrasound was consistent with previous National Health and Medical Research Council recommendations, said the environment minister, Greg Hunt.
“Their preliminary finding was they had no evidence of health effects but they also recommended there should be further study and investigations,” Hunt said. “So we are following the advice of the National Health and Medical Research Council.”
The issue was “of concern to a lot of people”, Malcolm Turnbull said.
“A reasonable exercise for the government is to … investigate the matter,” the prime minister told reporters.
When asked if he was putting money to a syndrome that had already been disproved, Turnbull answered: “If the conclusion is as you suspect it will be, that will serve to allay lot of anxiety and that’s a very important thing to do.”
A Senate inquiry into turbines handed down its report in August. It recommended national standards on the amount of noise emitted be put into place and that the government put a five-year cap on renewable energy certificates.
Labor said the recommendations were “reckless, ridiculous and irresponsible”.
Turnbull and Hunt on Wednesday announced the formation of a $1bn clean energy fund aimed at creating innovative renewables and then commercialising the new technology.
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