The prestigious British Medical Journal has just published an editorial dealing with the health impacts of wind farms, implicitly criticising the authorised noise levels in the UK as too high, and calling for further research. The piece is entitled “Wind Turbine noise seems to affect health adversely and an independent review of the evidence is needed” As a very brief summary, it says that “The evidence for adequate sleep as a prerequisite for human health is overwhelming. Shortly after wind turbines began to be erected close to housing, complaints emerged of adverse effects on health. Sleep disturbance was the main complaint. A large body of evidence now exists to suggest that wind turbines disturb sleep and impair health at distances and external noise levels that are permitted in most jurisdictions. When seeking to generate renewable energy through wind, governments must ensure that the public will not suffer harm from additional ambient noise.” Amen to that.
Sadly the whole paper cannot be accessed via the BMJ web-site with subscribing to the magazine, and copyright prevents me from publishing it here in full. But it strongly supports the arguments made by wind farm objectors (and ignored by government Inspectors) for years: that the health impacts of wind farms on local communities are real, and a matter for concern, and that the effects may extend beyond even the 2km range that has been adopted by some local authorities in planning guidance. It also argues that the noise limits in current UK legislation, and especially the government’s ETSU-R-97, may be set too high. It calls, quite rightly, for an independent review of the evidence so that the public can be reassured, and so that planners and legislators have data they can rely on.
I am delighted that a publication as authoritative as the BMJ has made this point. It would not publish such comments lightly. I am doubly pleased that a co-author of the paper was my friend and neighbour Dr. Chris Hanning, a highly reputed specialist in sleep disorders who worked for years at the Leicester General Hospital. Dr. Hanning advised the local wind farm protest group.
There is a serious issue here, which affects the lives of more and more families and communities as wind farm planning applications break out like a rash over England’s green and pleasant land (and over the moors of Scotland). There are powerful technical and economic arguments against wind farms, but it’s also time for the government to look seriously at the health impacts.