Global health authorities have finally recognised what residents living near wind farms have been saying for years; the noise they emit is more than an inconvenience, it is a risk to health.
New guidelines for Europe published by the World Health Organisation put new limits on the amount of noise that wind turbines can emit.
WHO Europe chief Zsuzsanna Jakab said “more than a nuisance, excessive noise is a health risk — contributing to cardiovascular diseases, for example.”
This is exactly what multiple researchers have been saying about wind turbines but to date they have been routinely ridiculed or ignored.
This is the first time WHO has made recommendations regarding wind turbines.
The Organisation highlighted that a lack of quality research had made the task more difficult.
But for average noise exposure, the WHO conditionally recommended “reducing noise levels produced by wind turbines below 45 dB , as wind turbine noise above this level is associated with adverse health effects.”
No recommendation was made for average night noise exposure because the quality of evidence of night-time exposure to wind turbine noise was too low to allow a recommendation.
To reduce health effects, the WHO conditionally recommends that policy-makers implement suitable measures to reduce noise exposure from wind turbines in the population exposed to levels above the guideline values for average noise exposure.
Although the WHO recommendations were drawn up for Europe, they are relevant for the rest of the world because they are based on data from various continents, the WHO said.
The WHO findings add to difficulties already faced by the wind industry regarding noise impact on nearby residents.
An immediate concern is the finding of an independent review the Bald Hills wind farm in South Gippsland was causing harm to some neighbours.
Regardless of what happens next the finding of nuisance under the Public Health and Welfare Act has already spurred threats of a class-action suit.
With recognition by the World Health Organisation of potential health impacts, the outlook for wind farm developers is looking increasingly fraught.
Noise from wind turbines has been labelled a potential health hazard by researchers at the UN.
The power-generating blades were included in a comprehensive assessment of the harm noise causes to humans.
The report by the UN’s World Health Organisation found that noise cost a million healthy years of life across western Europe annually – with road traffic the biggest culprit. Onshore wind turbines have been championed by politicians as a cleaner alternative to fossil fuels. Jeremy Corbyn told the Labour conference last month that he would hugely increase wind power in a ‘green jobs revolution’.
Experts at WHO looked at five sources of noise: road traffic, railways, aviation, wind turbines and leisure, from headphones and live music. The report warned of health effects including lack of sleep, hearing loss, tinnitus and stress as well as worse heart health and blood pressure.
Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO’s regional director for Europe, said: ‘Noise pollution in our towns and cities is increasing, blighting the lives of many European citizens. More than a nuisance, excessive noise is a health risk – contributing to cardiovascular diseases, for example.
‘We need to act on the many sources of noise pollution – from motorised vehicles to loud nightclubs and concerts – to protect our health. The new WHO guidelines define exposure levels to noise that should not be exceeded to minimise adverse health effects and we urge European policymakers to make good use of this guidance for the benefit of all Europeans.’