Comprehensive Scientific Literature Review on Wind Turbines and Human Health Now Published

November 26, 2014

Ottawa, Ontario – November 26, 2014 – The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) is pleased to announce the publication of a new report commissioned through the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in early 2014 that provides  a comprehensive and multidisciplinary review of scientific literature on wind turbines and human health. This latest review, entitled “Wind Turbines and Health: A Critical Review of the Scientific Literature”, has been peer reviewed and published online in the Journal of Environmental and Occupational Medicine. It is an open access document, freely available for download.

CanWEA funded this project through a grant to the Department of Biological Engineering of MIT. In accordance with MIT guidelines, CanWEA did not take part in editorial decisions or reviews of the manuscript. MIT conducted an independent review of the final manuscript to ensure academic independence of the commentary and to eliminate any bias in the interpretation of the literature. All six co-authors also reviewed the entire manuscript and provided commentary to the lead author for inclusion in the final version.

The review addresses the following three questions:

  1. Is there sufficient scientific evidence to conclude that wind turbines adversely affect human health? If so, what are the circumstances associated with such effects and how might they be prevented?
  2. Is there sufficient scientific evidence to conclude that psychological stress, annoyance and sleep disturbance can occur as a result of living in proximity to wind turbines? Do these effects lead to adverse health effects? If so, what are the circumstances associated with such effects and how might they be prevented?
  3. Is there evidence to suggest that specific aspects of wind turbine sound such as infrasound and low frequency sound have unique potential health effects not associated with other sources of environmental noise?

The major findings and conclusions of this literature review are consistent with the findings of most of the more robust epidemiological studies in the area of wind and health, including the recently released Health Canada summary.  The MIT review includes the following summary of the authors’ conclusions:

  1. Measurements of low-frequency sound, infrasound, tonal sound emission, and amplitude-modulated sound show that infrasound is emitted by wind turbines. The levels of infrasound at customary distances to homes are typically well below audibility thresholds.
  2. No cohort or case–control studies were located in this updated review of the peer-reviewed literature. Nevertheless, among the cross-sectional studies of better quality, no clear or consistent association is seen between wind turbine noise and any reported disease or other indicator of harm to human health.
  3. Components of wind turbine sound, including infrasound and low frequency sound, have not been shown to present unique health risks to people living near wind turbines.
  4. Annoyance associated with living near wind turbines is a complex phenomenon related to personal factors. Noise from turbines plays a minor role in comparison with other factors in leading people to report annoyance in the context of wind turbines.

The MIT review provides an important contribution to our understanding of wind energy and human health for a number of reasons:

  1. The review included a comprehensive literature review of over 160 references.
  2. The review was prepared by a multidisciplinary team of co-authors with professional expertise in environmental medicine, epidemiology, acoustics, otolaryngology, clinical psychology and public health.
  3. The review is the first comprehensive review of peer-reviewed studies addressing measured levels of noise and its components, including low frequency noise, undertaken in the context of living in proximity to wind turbines.
  4. The review includes an up to date review of measurement techniques for assessing noise from wind turbines in accordance with international standards.
  5. The review includes an up to date analysis of epidemiology studies, including those published in the earlier part of 2014 that have assessed various health end points in the context of measured noise and calculated noise from wind turbines.
  6. The review addresses symptoms associated with the central nervous system, such as dizziness, vertigo and epilepsy, among others, that have been raised in the context of living near wind turbines. In addition, the review includes commentary on human studies that have evaluated effects related to exposures to low frequency sound and infra sound and proposed mechanisms of action.
  7. The review includes a review of individual risk factors, such as noise sensitivity and others that may affect how people respond to living near wind turbines.

“This document is an important new contribution to the scientific literature on wind turbines and human health and captures the advances in our scientific understanding since CanWEA first commissioned such a review five years ago”, says CanWEA president Robert Hornung. “We will continue to monitor scientific research in this area but it remains clear that the balance of scientific evidence to date continues to show that properly sited wind turbines are not harmful to human health and that wind energy remains one of the safest and most environmentally friendly forms of electricity generation.”

For more information, please contact:

Lejla Latifovic
Communications Specialist
Canadian Wind Energy Association
613-234-8716 Ext. 241