Wind Turbines and Health: A Critical Review of the Scientific Literature

McCunney, Robert J. MD, MPH; Mundt, Kenneth A. PhD; Colby, W. David MD; Dobie, Robert MD; Kaliski, Kenneth BE, PE; Blais, Mark PsyD

Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine:
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000000313
Original Articles
Abstract

Objective: This review examines the literature related to health effects of wind turbines.

Methods: We reviewed literature related to sound measurements near turbines, epidemiological and experimental studies, and factors associated with annoyance.

Results: (1) Infrasound sound near wind turbines does not exceed audibility thresholds. (2) Epidemiological studies have shown associations between living near wind turbines and annoyance. (3) Infrasound and low-frequency sound do not present unique health risks. (4) Annoyance seems more strongly related to individual characteristics than noise from turbines.

Discussion: Further areas of inquiry include enhanced noise characterization, analysis of predicted noise values contrasted with measured levels postinstallation, longitudinal assessments of health pre- and postinstallation, experimental studies in which subjects are “blinded” to the presence or absence of infrasound, and enhanced measurement techniques to evaluate annoyance.

Author Information

From the Department of Biological Engineering (Dr McCunney), Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge; Department of Epidemiology (Dr Mundt), Environ International, Amherst, Mass; Travel Immunization Clinic (Dr Colby), Middlesex-London Health Unit, London, Ontario, Canada; Dobie Associates (Dr Dobie), San Antonio, Tex; Environment, Energy and Acoustics (Mr Kaliski), Resource Systems Group, White River Junction, Vt; and Psychological Evaluation and Research Laboratory (Dr Blais), Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.

Address correspondence to: Robert J. McCunney, MD, MPH, Department of Biological Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Ave, 16-771, Cambridge, MA 02139 (mccunney@mit.edu).

The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) funded this project through a grant to the Department of Biological Engineering of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In accordance with MIT guidelines, members of the CanWEA did not take part in editorial decisions or reviews of the manuscript. Drs McCunney, Mundt, Colby, and Dobie and Mr Kaliski have provided testimony in environmental tribunal hearings in Canada and the USA. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology 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 coauthors also reviewed the entire manuscript and provided commentary to the lead author for inclusion in the final version.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

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Copyright © 2014 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine