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Jennifer Roberts - Wind Turbines: Is There A Human Health Risk?


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This presentation will be available to view as a discussion poster at the 7th International Conference on the Science of Exposure Assessment - X2012.
It will be presented on 04 July 2012 from 13.45 – 15.45 followed by a chaired discussion of all posters in this session on Non-Chemical and Environmental Exposure Assessment.
Appointments with the authors are available to book at

Published in: Business, Technology
  • I'd recommend you put your hard-earned money into buying a house near a turbine and experiencing the effects yourself. Hypotheses are sometimes useful, but don't trump actuality.
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Jennifer Roberts - Wind Turbines: Is There A Human Health Risk?

  1. 1. Wind Turbines: Is There A Human Health Risk? Jennifer D. Roberts, DrPH, MPH F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine Uniformed Services University Bethesda, Maryland, USA Email: jennifer.roberts@usuhs.eduAbstract  From 1999 to 2011, the wind power in the United States had increased exponentially from 2,472 to 46,918 megawatts (MW) with 38 states having utility-scale wind installations  “Wind Turbine Syndrome” has been hypothesized to be a multitude of symptoms, such as headache, dizziness, and others, resulting from wind turbines generating low frequency noise that “scrambles” the body’s balance, motion, and position sensors  Yet, there has not been a specific health condition documented in the peer-reviewed, published literature that has demonstrated a direct causal link between sound generated by wind turbine noise and adverse physiological health effects
  2. 2. IntroductionSound and Perception The two components of sound, which allow for its perception and recognition, are  frequency or pitch expressed in Hertz (Hz) and pressure or loudness expressed as a decibel (dB)  Low Frequency Sound (LFS) is approximately between 10-20 Hz and 100-250 Hz and infrasound is generally accepted to be between 0 and 20 Hz  Sound pressures are not all perceived as being equally loud because the human ear does not respond equally to all frequencies and the perception is less sensitive to lower and higher frequency sounds Downwind TurbineWind Turbines Upwind Turbine  The aerodynamic sound is Wind now typically the dominant component of wind turbine sound Wind  The earlier turbines were often horizontal downwind devices with the blades and rotor positioned on the downwind side of the tower and producing 20 to 100 Hz LFS  The new horizontal upwind turbines minimize LFS
  3. 3. “Wind Turbine Syndrome”  “…is the clinical name Dr. Nina Pierpont has given to the constellation of symptoms experienced by many (not all) people who find themselves living near industrial wind turbines.” Symptoms Sleep disturbance Headache Tinnitus Ear pressure Dizziness Vertigo Nausea Visual blurring Tachycardia Irritability Concentration/memory problems Panic episodesMethods  This research reviewed the peer-reviewed literature which examined the human health effects associated with LFS and infrasound generated by wind turbines  The PubMed search engine was the source of this peer- reviewed literature using the following search terms: (1) “Infrasound AND Health Effects” (2) “Low-Frequency Noise AND Health Effects” (3) “Low-Frequency Sound AND Health Effects” (4) “Wind Power AND Noise” (5) “Wind Turbines” (6) “Wind Turbines AND Noise”
  4. 4. ResultsLFS and Health Effects  High levels of LFS, at a frequency of 50 to 80 Hz, have been shown to excite body vibrations (e.g. chest resonance vibration)  Studies have shown changes in the heart rate of subjects who were exposed to LFS  Respiratory effects, such as suspended or reduced respiration, gagging and coughing, have been documented in humans after exposure to LFS, but only with a sound pressure of 150 to 154 dB  A relationship was found between fatigue and tiredness after work and increasing LFS exposure among employees working in offices, laboratories, and industriesWind Turbines and LFS and Health Effects  To date, there have been four epidemiological studies that have specifically examined the effects of sound generated by wind turbines on human health  No correlation between A-weighted sound pressure levels from wind turbines and any health or well-being factors, such as the respondent’s status of chronic disease, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease has been found  The prevalence of diabetes was found to be weakly associated with A-weighted sound pressure levels due to wind turbines (OR=1.13, 95% CI: 1.00-1.27)
  5. 5. Wind Turbines and Annoyance  Noise annoyance was associated with a negative attitude toward the visual impact of wind turbines in The Netherlands (OR=2.8, p<0.001) and Sweden (OR=14.4, 95% CI: 6.37-32.44)  Study respondents were annoyed by the upwind wind turbines, which had a blade passage frequency of 1.4 Hz, at a higher level than other community noises, such as road traffic  Living in a rural area, as opposed to an urban area, increased the risk of perceiving wind turbine noise (OR=1.8, 95% CI: 1.27-2.64) and being annoyed by it (OR=3.8, 95% CI: 1.80-7.83)Conclusions  Although limited, research has demonstrated that LFS can elicit adverse physical health effects, such as vibration or fatigue, as well as, an annoyance or unpleasantness response. And the current research on exposure to wind turbine sound and the mere presence of wind turbines has also demonstrated a significant annoyance response among study participants. But the association and particular pathway between LFS specifically generated from wind turbines, annoyance, and adverse physical health effects have yet to be fully characterized. Hence, additional epidemiological research studies are warranted. For additional information and references, please contact Jennifer Roberts at