Project wants to listen closely to wind turbine noise

Proposed research aims to determine once and for all if persistent humming from windmills makes people sick

Approximately 15,000 people in Denmark are exposed to the noise of wind turbines on a daily basis. A research project has been proposed to determine if the constant sound could cause health problems.

A small group from Kræftens Bekæmpelse, the Danish Cancer Society, is trying to get Danish authorities and international experts interested in providing the funding and developing the scientific framework for the research.

"Denmark is the only country in the world with such an excellent opportunity to do this type of research,” Mette Sørensen, a senior researcher for the cancer society, told Jyllands-Posten newspaper. “We have data going back 50 years.”

Interest in wind energy is growing around the world and many countries could make use of the findings revealed by the research.

Sørensen is involved in major EU research showing the connection between traffic noise and cardiovascular and other diseases and believes that it is logical to take a look at the noise created by wind turbines.

She has only been able to find one other study that looked at turbine noise, and the results were based only on the impressions of people who lived near the structures. Sørensen said that kind of anecdotal data is useless, because people could be reporting illnesses that they believed were caused by windmills that may actually have other causes and that some respondents focused on the nuisance factor rather than real health-related issues.

The new project would look at data form as far back as 1971 and examine the locations of the turbines, wind speeds, the people who live near the mills – and those who moved away – and hospital data showing health issues that occurred during the time that people lived near the windmills. Records of prescription medicines supplied to turbine neighbours will also be examined, with special attention paid to sleeping pills, blood pressure medications and antidepressants.

Sørensen stressed that despite national and international interest, funding for the research project has yet to fall into place.

Factfile | Wind turbine noise
The recommended upper limit for traffic noise is 58 decibels
For wind turbines, the upper limit is 44 decibels
An increase of just three decibels is equivalent to a doubling of the perceived noise

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