05/27/2010

A technical working group led by the Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH) released a synopsis of existing scientific evidence on the potential health impact of noise generated by wind turbines.
The results are of interest to the municipal sector because the working group sought to answer questions commonly raised by those concerned with perceived health effects of wind turbines such as:

  • What scientific evidence is available on the potential health impacts of wind turbines?
  • What is the relationship between wind turbine noise and health?
  • What is the relationship between low frequency sound, infrasound and health?
  • How is exposure to wind turbine noise assessed?
  • Are Ontario wind turbine setbacks protective from potential wind turbine health and safety hazards?
  • What consultation process with the community is required before wind farms are constructed?
  • Are there data gaps or research needs?
The review concludes that while some people living near wind turbines report symptoms such as dizziness, headaches, and sleep disturbance, the scientific evidence available to date does not demonstrate a direct causal link between wind turbine noise and adverse health effects. There was no support for claims that the noise, shadow flicker, electromagnetic fields, vibration, ice throw, or low frequency sound associated with wind turbines cause adverse health effects.

In terms of the regulatory environment governing wind turbines, the report found the 550 m setback is adequate but that community engagement deserves “greater attention in future developments”.

Early engagement of the affected community at the outset of planning for wind turbines is important to not only address perceived health concerns about wind farms but also to address issues of fairness and equity, which also may influence attitudes about effects on health.