wind turbines

Panel Discounts Hearing Damage from Wind Turbines

Former ACOEM President Dr. Robert McCunney, on a panel assembled by the American Wind Energy Association to review the published literature on possible health effects caused by today's wind turbines, said the experts found no risk at all.

Former ACOEM President Dr. Robert McCunney stated it as clearly as it can be stated: "noise from the wind turbines does not pose a risk of hearing loss or any adverse health affect, from our perspective." Part of a panel assembled by the American Wind Energy Association to review the published literature on possible health effects caused by today's wind turbines, McCunney spoke in a Jan. 20, 2010, webinar, "Wind Turbine Sound and Health Effects," that has been posted online by the U.S. Department of Energy.

McCunney's discussion is highly relevant because nearby residents' health claims based largely on noise generated by the large turbines is stalling wind projects even as installed capacity has soared in much of the United States, according to DOE and the Mass Torts blog, which posted a report on the webinar on Feb. 23. McCunney, who was the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine's president in 1999-2000, joined experts in noise vibration, acoustics, and occupational medicine to examine how turbines generate noise, at what frequencies and volume the noise occurs, and whether the noise could be harmful. Their conclusion: While individuals' ability to detect noise will differ, the opposition to turbines is based on annoyance, not on harmful exposures.

"In short, if people think the wind turbines are a good idea, they're less likely to be annoyed by the noise," he said. "If people are hesitant about the wind turbines for whatever reason they may have, they're more likely to be annoyed, believe it or not, at the same noise levels."

McCunney said later the panel found no link between low-frequency noise from wind turbines and health effects. "There was just nothing in the scientific literature to support a link," he said, adding later, "The noise is simply not high enough to damage human hearing."

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