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Panel Releases Report on Health Effects of Wind Turbines

No evidence found for direct harm caused by noise or shadow flicker from wind turbines – community comment period open now through March 19th

An independent panel of scientists studying whether there is a potential for harm caused by wind turbines has issued its report, “Wind Turbine Health Impact Study: Report of the Independent Expert Panel.” Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) convened the panel composed of physicians and scientists with expertise in areas such as acoustical noise/infrasound, public health, sleep disturbance, mechanical engineering, epidemiology, and neuroscience. There will be three public meetings on the report in February as part of a 60-day comment period.

A Press Release from MassDEP states that, “The independent report was proactively sought to help address questions that have been raised by members of the public about potential human health impacts associated with proximity to wind turbines. The panel was asked to identify any documented or potential human health impacts or risks that may be associated with exposure to wind turbines in order to facilitate discussion of wind turbines and public health based on the best available science. The panel was also asked to offer suggestions relative to best practices.”

"We appreciate the thoroughness of the report made possible by the particular expertise of the panel members," Public Health Commissioner John Auerbach said. "We will continue to work closely with MassDEP as we solicit feedback on the report during the public comment period."

Among key findings of the panel are:

  • There is no evidence for a set of health effects from exposure to wind turbines that could be characterized as a "Wind Turbine Syndrome."
  • Claims that infrasound from wind turbines directly impacts the vestibular system have not been demonstrated scientifically. Available evidence shows that the infrasound levels near wind turbines cannot impact the vestibular system.
  • The weight of the evidence suggests no association between noise from wind turbines and measures of psychological distress or mental health problems.
  • None of the limited epidemiological evidence reviewed suggests an association between noise from wind turbines and pain and stiffness, diabetes, high blood pressure, tinnitus, hearing impairment, cardiovascular disease, and headache/migraine.
  • There is limited epidemiologic evidence suggesting an association between exposure to wind turbines and annoyance. There is insufficient epidemiologic evidence to determine whether there is an association between noise from wind turbines and annoyance independent from the effects of seeing a wind turbine and vice versa.
  • There is limited evidence from epidemiologic studies suggesting an association between noise from wind turbines and sleep disruption. In other words, it is possible that noise from some wind turbines can cause sleep disruption. Whether annoyance from wind turbines leads to sleep issues or stress has not been sufficiently quantified. While not based on evidence from wind turbines, there is evidence that sleep disruption can adversely affect mood, cognitive functioning, and overall sense of health and well-being.
  • Scientific evidence suggests that shadow flicker does not pose a risk for eliciting seizures as a result of photic stimulation. There is limited scientific evidence of an association between annoyance from prolonged shadow flicker (exceeding 30 minutes per day) and potential transitory cognitive and physical health effects.

Due to the high interest level from the community in the panel's findings, the report is being made available to the public at the same time it is being reviewed by the agencies. Access to the report is available here: www.mass.gov/dep/energy/wind/panel.htm

The 60-day public comment period on the report is open now through Monday, March 19 at 5 pm.

Comments may be submitted as follows:

Email: WindTurbineDocket.MassDEP@MassMail.State.MA.US

Written: MassDEP Wind Turbine Docket, One Winter Street Fourth Floor Boston, MA 02108

There will also be three public meetings:

  • Tuesday, February 14, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. - Massachusetts Department of Transportation offices, 10 Park Plaza, second floor conference rooms, Boston.
  • Thursday, February 16, from 5-8 p.m. - Bourne High School, Beth Bourne Auditorium, 75 Waterhouse Road, Bourne.
  • Tuesday, February 28, from 5-8 p.m. - The Lee Middle and High School Auditorium, 300 Greylock Street, Lee. Snow date: February 29th.
Bill Carson February 21, 2013 at 12:26 AM
Kingston Board of Health is holding a public meeting Thursday Feb 21 at 5 PM about wind turbine noise/shadow flicker and complaints from residents. Years ago the local boards worked for the safety of the community now the local boards are afraid of "Big Wind". Local health boards are placing the health of the community over the health of its citizens . Why even have a board of health ? If the members of the Kingston Board of Health are afraid to act to protect the citizens of Kingston they should quit the position and let a more qualified person make the decision - don't back dowm !

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