by Rosalind Griffiths

Wind farms may cause “annoyance” and “distress” but they are unlikely to
have any serious health implications apart from sleep disturbance and
symptoms of stress.

That is the conclusion of a report from NHS Shetland, written at the
request of Shetland Charitable Trust.

According to the report, written by director of public health Sarah Taylor,
problems posed by wind farms can be summarised as flicker, electromagnetic
radiation, which is virtually dismissed, and noise including low frequency
sound. Other considerations, possibly more easily addressed, are
construction and operational safety, the possibility of turbine collapse,
the failure and breaking of blades and of ice throw from the turbine blades.

The conclusion of Dr Taylor’s report is: “Current mitigations do not
entirely deal with the annoyance caused by wind farms, the results of which
are a cause of distress and related ill health for a number of people
living in the vicinity.”

The report was not specifically about the proposed Viking Energy wind farm,
but nevertheless interested staunch opponent of the proposed development
Evelyn Morrison of Weisdale.

Mrs Morrison is particularly concerned about the aspects of flicker and
noise, and welcomed the report, even though she would liked it to have
referred to more recent research. She said: “There’s nothing new in it,
I’ve been writing to The Shetland Times about these [issues] for years.
There are very few recent references, some go back to 2003.”

Regarding flicker, the report states: “Shadows caused by wind turbine blade
rotation can cause flickering that contributes to the annoyance perceived
by some people. Although shadow flicker can cause epileptic fits in some
people with epilepsy, the report states this is unlikely at the normal
rotational speed of wind turbines.”

Regarding noise, it states: “It is generally accepted that the primary
effect of low frequency noise on people is annoyance. Annoyance is
recognised as a critical health effect, and is associated in some people
with stress, sleep disturbance, and interference with daily living.”

It was also found that low level noise from wind turbines, in particular
the “audible modulation of the aerodynamic noise”, was more likely to cause
“annoyance” than similar levels from other sources.

The report says there is, “no reliable evidence to say that infra-sound at
the levels produced by wind farms causes either physiological or
psychological effects”, although recent theories “might lend support to
reports of effects not previously measured or understood.”

One of the fears of people living near wind farms is vibro acoustic disease
(VAD), a condition associated with very high exposures to low frequency
noise in some occupational settings.

Mrs Morrison said: “I am glad Dr Taylor’s report has highlighted areas
which show that there is a significant concern regarding health effects for
the people living in and around wind farms. [The report states] shadows
caused by the turbines’ blades rotation can cause epileptic fits in some
people with epilepsy, but this was based on a study of three turbines – and
we’re looking at 103.”

Full story and more reaction in this week’s Shetland Times.

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