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Jury’s still out of long-term effects

Here is a sampling of studies, papers, and articles on the health effects of wind turbines. The bottom line: Many questions remain, and more study is needed.

Infrasound and Low Frequency Noise From Wind Turbines: Exposure and Health Effects (IOP Science, Environmental Research Letters, Vol. 6, No. 3, September 2011)

“It has been argued that infrasound and low frequency noise from wind turbines may cause serious health effects in the form of ‘vibroacoustic disease’, ‘wind turbine syndrome’ or harmful infrasound effects on the inner ear. However, empirical supports for these claims are lacking.”

Health aspects associated with wind turbine noise — Results from three field studies (Noise Control Engineering Journal, December 2010)

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“The impact of wind turbine noise on health and well-being has not yet been well-established and remains under debate. Long-term effects, especially, are not known, because of the short time wind turbines have been operating and the relatively few people who have so far been exposed to wind turbine noise.”

Wind Turbine Noise (John P. Harrison, professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Bulletin of Science Technology & Society, 2011)

“Turbine noise causes annoyance, sleep disturbance and deprivation, and can result in adverse health effects . . . . various health authorities have recommended setbacks in the range 1.5 to 2 kilometers from homes and other sensitive receptors.”

Wind Turbine Health Impact Study: Report of Independent Expert Panel, Prepared for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (January 2012)

The panel reviewed previous studies and literature, and concluded that there was no evidence supporting the condition known as “Wind Turbine Syndrome.”

But iIt added: “It is possible that cognitive and mood complaints and other medical or psychological issues associated with sleep loss can stem from living in immediate proximity to wind turbines, if the turbines disrupt sleep. Existing data, however, on the relationship between wind turbines and sleep are inadequate.”

The panel recommended that a statewide policy be implemented that sets noise limits for new wind turbines.

The report cited a Germangovernment-sponsoredstudy that found that people exposed to shadow flicker in a laboratory did not fare as well on arithmetic and visual search tasks, or cognitive processing. It also found temporary effects on heart rate and blood pressure.

The panel concluded there is no risk of seizure from shadow flicker, but there was not enough documentation to evaluate other healthcomplaints, including migraines, nausea, dizziness, and disorientation.

Emily Sweeney can be reached at esweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.
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