NHS report explores health impact of windfarms

Windfarms may cause “annoyance” and “distress” but they are unlikely to have any serious health implications apart from sleep disturbance and symptoms of stress.

That is the conclusion of a report from NHS Shetland, written at the request of Shetland Charitable Trust.

According to the report, written by director of public health Sarah Taylor, problems posed by wind farms can be summarised as flicker, electromagnetic radiation, which is virtually dismissed, and noise including low frequency sound. Other considerations, possibly more easily addressed, are construction and operational safety, the possibility of turbine collapse, the failure and breaking of blades and of ice throw from the turbine blades.

The conclusion of Dr Taylor’s report is: “Current mitigations do not entirely deal with the annoyance caused by wind farms, the results of which are a cause of distress and related ill health for a number of people living in the vicinity.”

The report was not specifically about the proposed Viking Energy wind farm, but nevertheless interested staunch opponent of the proposed development Evelyn Morrison of Weisdale.

Mrs Morrison is particularly concerned about the aspects of flicker and noise, and welcomed the report, even though she would have liked it to have referred to more recent research. She said: “There’s nothing new in it, I’ve been writing to The Shetland Times about these [issues] for years. There are very few recent references, some go back to 2003.”

Regarding flicker, the report states: “Shadows caused by wind turbine blade rotation can cause flickering that contributes to the annoyance perceived by some people. Although shadow flicker can cause epileptic fits in some people with epilepsy, the report states this is unlikely at the normal rotational speed of wind turbines.”

Regarding noise, it states: “It is generally accepted that the primary effect of low frequency noise on people is annoyance. Annoyance is recognised as a critical health effect, and is associated in some people with stress, sleep disturbance, and interference with daily living.”

It was also found that low level noise from wind turbines, in particular the “audible modulation of the aerodynamic noise”, was more likely to cause “annoyance” than similar levels from other sources.

The report says there is, “no reliable evidence to say that infra-sound at the levels produced by wind farms causes either physiological or psychological effects”, although recent theories “might lend support to reports of effects not previously measured or understood.”

One of the fears of people living near wind farms is vibro acoustic disease (VAD), a condition associated with very high exposures to low frequency noise in some occupational settings.

Mrs Morrison said: “I am glad Dr Taylor’s report has highlighted areas which show that there is a significant concern regarding health effects for the people living in and around wind farms. [The report states] shadows caused by the turbines’ blades rotation can cause epileptic fits in some people with epilepsy, but this was based on a study of three turbines – and we’re looking at 103.”

Full story and more reaction  in this week’s Shetland Times.


Add Your Comment
  • James Mackenzie

    • August 1st, 2013 18:37

    Forgive me, but I do not find anywhere in Dr. Taylor’s report the conclusion that wind farms are “not damaging to health”. That would appear to me to be an interpretation put on upon it by this newspaper.

    The headline also contradicts the first paragraph which implies that sleep disturbance and symptoms of stress are “serious health implications” of wind farms.

    It is perhaps also worth pointing out Dr. Taylor is of the opinion that “annoyance” would be better described as “disease” and that “the critical health effect” of it is the World Health Organisation’s definition – also cited in the report.

  • David Spence

    • August 2nd, 2013 0:16

    There is a very, very good documentary about the impact of a proposed Wind Farm in the rural community of Meredith, New York (in Delaware County, New York).

    The documentary is called ‘ Wind Fall ‘ and it exposes the dirty tricks big corporate companies will use to get their own way and how corruption fuels this to the detriment of the community as well as causing division within it.

    I would advise people to watch it, if they can get a link or other sources, to get a greater insight into what exactly is involved in such technology as well as the impact on small communities.

  • Hamish Cumming

    • August 2nd, 2013 0:25

    It appears that the newspaper has a buas towards misinformation trotted out by the wind farm industry.
    If sleep deprivation and stress are recognised as a serious health issues, and are widely recognised in the medical world as being a problem, how come sleep derivation and stress from a wind farm is unlikely to be aproblem according to the Shetland Times!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Also remember stress and sleep deprivation are used as torture techniques in many countries. The peolple living next to wind farms can tell you why such torture techniques are so successful.


    • August 2nd, 2013 1:10

    I would like to enlighten your readers on the “hell” we have been forced to live with since October 2012 when AGL Energy Ltd. began operation of the 140 turbine Macarthur wind factory in south-west Victoria, Australia – monster turbines of 3 megawatts sited all within about 8 kms and many as close as 1.7 kms from our homes. This, at this stage, is the largest in the southern hemisphere.

    To conclude as per the story above that “wind farms are unlikely to have any serious health implications apart from sleep disturbance and symptoms of stress” is nothing short of scandalous.

    But it gets worse!!

    To claim there is “no reliable evidence to say that INFRASOUND at the levels produced by wind farms causes either physiological or psychological effects” is outrageous.

    It’s about time somebody got out in the field and started researching what is really going on with the new modern turbines, which firstly are absolutely enormous, and secondly have most likely DOUBLE the generating capacity as those turbines about which all these, we are of the opinion, fraudulent reports, are written.

    I will tell you about our days and nights and those of many other most unfortunate neighbours, some out to 5kms from nearest turbines – what we’re now forced to endure after having lived in this district, many up to 60 years, in a very healthy manner, with NO physical problems.

    We suffer very seriously from the impact of INFRASOUND and LOW FREQUENCY NOISE emitted principally when the blade passes the tower, which is about every 3 seconds.

    For those not familiar with infrasound, it is IN-AUDIBLE NOISE as compared to AUDIBLE NOISE which is caused by the “whoosh, whoosh, whoosh” of the turbines as they slice through the air at around 350 km/hour.

    The air pressure fluctuation and ground borne vibration (in the form of infrasound) causes us to experience severe head pressure, headaches, sore ears (sometimes so bad it feels as if you whole head is cooking in a microwave.), pressure in our teeth and jaws. There is a pain in the back of the neck, but we also experience nausea, which comes along with tight chest and heart palpitations.

    THIS IS DAY IN DAY OUT and NIGHT IN NIGHT OUT. Of course this is on top of the horrific audible noise

    If we are able to sleep, it is usually very disturbed and light, and we always wake feeling exhausted. Many people wake in the night with their whole bodies vibrating, a truly frightening experience. We go to bed at night with our heart pounding, our head feeling as if it is in a vice, and we can also feel the vibration through the mattress and the pillow. We can feel the vibration through the floor of the house and also through the couch when trying to relax at night. It’s just HORRIBLE.

    So I say to the authors of all these reports which conclude that “wind farms are unlikely to have any serious health implications, apart from sleep disturbance and symptoms of stress” go back again and do a PROPER study and speak to the literally thousands of even just rural Australians now impacted. You’ll get one hell of a shock with what you learn, and our government is DOING NOTHING ABOUT IT.

    • John Middleton

      • March 7th, 2015 18:31

      Dear Anne Gardner
      My name is John Middleton and i too suffer all you describe, I stay in West Lothian Scotland and have had this horrific noise since May 2013.. Everything you say is true, however here the Government supports the use of these things leaving it very difficult, the NHS dismiss the effects to cause harm but say sleep depravation is a “serious” health issue..? Mad mad world..!!!

  • david mortimer

    • August 2nd, 2013 2:43

    My wife and I are from South Australia and have been living in close proximity to industrial wind turbines for over eight years. We host two on our farm and are paid handsomely for doing so.

    For eight years we suffered most of the symptoms attributed to wind turbines. Early 2012 we discovered that it could be the turbines causing our problems and extensive testing including long term wide band acoustic logging inside our home has convinced us that the problems are directly related to the turbines. We rarely hear the audible noise of the turbines and are unable to see them from our home but the low frequency discordant rumbling sounds make sleep difficult and disturbed and can not be blocked out using ear protectors. In addition, the irregular pulsing inside our head and chest cavity (which is not related to our heart beat) causes earache, headache, head pressure, angina like chest pains, severe dizziness, deep anxiety, just to name a few.

    It is interesting to note that NONE of the symptoms occur when we are away from our home and wind farms no matter the duration of our absence. We are recently retired and the wind farm income is a big part of our retirement funds but we would gladly forfeit it just to be able to sleep soundly in our home again.

    For the record, I am a retired Electrical engineering Officer of the Royal Australian Navy and not given to flights of fancy and am becoming heartily sick of being mocked and derided by people who have never lived anywhere near a wind turbine. In 1997 when we signed the initial lease document, we encouraged all our neighbours to join the wind farm. Now, we wish fervently that we had never heard of wind turbines.

    Don’t accuse us of not being green, we are not connected to the national grid, and generate all our power needs from solar both thermal and photovoltaic. Carbon footprint zero.

  • Linda Tait

    • August 2nd, 2013 7:25

    “sleep disturbance and symptoms of stress” are not damaging to health? Don’t be ridiculous, of course they are. The only mitigation for this is not to site turbines anywhere near people.

  • Johan Adamson

    • August 2nd, 2013 9:33

    It would seem crucial that the report was not based on the VE windfarm, although prepared for SCT, and that it does not use up to date research on new windfarms. What is the effect of windmills being too close to some of the houses? What is the effect of having 103 in the vicinity?

  • Harry Dent

    • August 2nd, 2013 11:09

    Talk about burying bad news!

    It seems to me that the authors of the report and the article both need to research the causes and effects of stress which, despite the whinges of the Daily Express et al, is now widely known to be a killer, so severe can its repercussions be.

    “…they are unlikely to have any serious health implications apart from sleep disturbance and symptoms of stress”

    actually means

    “…they are unlikely to have any serious health implications – apart some really serious health implications”

    and the headline should have been “Wind farms annoying and very damaging to health, NHS report finds”

  • Spence Jamieson

    • August 2nd, 2013 14:05

    Isn’t sleep deprivation a subtle form of torture? It was used at Guantanamo Bay.

  • IvorWard

    • August 2nd, 2013 15:07

    “”they are unlikely to have any serious health implications apart from sleep disturbance and symptoms of stress.””

    As someone has pointed, out sleep deprivation and induced stress are two of the top rated torture techniques. The great thing about them is that they crack the victims will to live and resist without leaving any immediately obvious physical clues. Well done Windies you have achieved what the CIA were trying for years. The common thread with ex victims of this type of torture is that eventually they succumb to mental health problems and suicide. Great way to treat your citizens

  • John Tulloch

    • August 2nd, 2013 17:45

    The accounts from Australia are shocking, especially, the one from the gentleman who happily accepted turbines on his land for the income and then bitterly repented of it.

    Having worked in and near heavy duty noise for most of my working life and suffered many of the effects attributed to such exposure I have formed the opinion that what we shall be hearing a lot more about low frequency noise, which passes straight through walls and travels long distances – it’s been claimed, before ships’ propellors came along, whales could communicate with each other from pole to pole using the low frequency acoustic signals in their “song”.

    The research referred to would need to be based on modern turbines which in recent years have become very much larger, the latest proposals being for 700+ft high. In 2003 turbines were “only” about 150ft so the aerodynamic/vibration characteristics of them were presumably quite different than those now 3+ times the size? Compare “apples with apples”.

    Why NHS Shetland, do they have some particular expertise in this field?

    I can see some arguments for it however without wishing to impugn anyone, it seems to me that with several NHS Shetland Board members acting as trustees of SCT and with NHS Shetland as potentially a main beneficiary of anticipated anticipated income from Viking turbines that the study, which contains plenty of references to serious health risks, may lack credibility in the eyes of opponents due to that long-standing SCT health disorder, perceived “conflict of interest.”

  • James Mackenzie

    • August 2nd, 2013 23:11

    Well, The Shetland Times, you’ve changed your headline, which originally said that wind farms cause annoyance but are not damaging to health.

    It would have been good if you had acknowledged this mistake, instead of now making most of the comments that followed seem meaningless.

    I thought that the press was supposed to be a purveyor of public information, not, as it would appear, a cowardly and unaccountable backtracker.

  • Adam Civico

    • August 3rd, 2013 10:16

    James Mackenzie, it is regrettable but sometimes mistakes are made.

    When that happens The Shetland Times will act to correct them. The fact the headline was amended acknowledges that a mistake was made. Comments and readers’ views regarding the original headline are here to be read by all.

  • James Mackenzie

    • August 3rd, 2013 11:08

    To Adam Civico:

    Thank you for having the courtesy to print my comment (which I must admit I didn’t expect, as it was really unkind) and for your reply. The record has been put straight, I commend you for it, and I would like to withdraw the final remarks of that comment of mine.

    Yours sincerely

  • Robert Sim

    • August 3rd, 2013 12:21

    I am extremely disappointed and surprised by by the revised headline and by the Editor’s response to James’s comment. The Shetland Times has taken a very forthright and praiseworthy lead in speaking out about the housing debt, showing that the Editor has a sense of right and wrong and of what is important to the Shetland community. But now, in acknowledging the “mistake” made by the paper in massively underplaying and indeed one could say distorting (for whatever reason) the very serious health issues highlighted in the report, we are presented with a pusillanimous headline which farcically gives as neutral and purely factual description of the story as it is possible to get. This is journalistic fence-sitting taken to the nth degree.

    Adam, you broke with local-paper tradition (at least here) in campaigning on an issue. Is your campaigning instinct restricted to topics which are “motherhood and apple pie”, ie where no-one could possibly disagree with the rightness of the position you are espousing? What about tackling a more controversial issue for a change, one where all the big guns are ranged one side and where the ordinary citizens are on the other. Have a re-read of the Australian contributions, eloquent, moving and shocking by turns as they are; and then think about the role of the local media.

  • Mike Barnard

    • August 17th, 2013 15:48

    Analysis of the 50 most commonly cited studies, reviews and governmental reports used by both sides finds that the literature used by anti-wind campaigners to claim health impacts is much, much less reliable than the evidence showing no health impacts outside of limited noise annoyance to some. http://barnardonwind.com/2013/08/06/health-studies-reliability/

  • Frank Hay

    • September 15th, 2013 16:30

    I note that this report was discussed by the Charitable Trust at its meeting on Thursday 12th September and so I looked in the Shetland Times for a report on what was said. As far as I could see there was no report. Surely this discussion merited an article for the benefit of the many people who are very worried about the implications of this proposed massive industrialisation of the Central Mainland of Shetland.
    There was a report on the financial position of the Charitable Trust so a reporter was clearly present.


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