Canada Finalizes Plan to Study Wind Turbines' Health Impacts

Health Canada and Statistics Canada are collaborating on the study and expect to complete it in 2014. Initially they'll survey adult inhabitants in 2,000 residences near up to a dozen turbines.

Canadian authorities have completed the design of a study to determine whether wind turbines' noise causes negative health impacts for people living near them. Health Canada and Statistics Canada are collaborating on the study and expect to finish it in 2014, Minister of Health Leona Aglukkaq announced.

Wind turbine noise -– generated either mechanically (from the turbine's motor or gearbox) or aerodynamically (movement of the blades) -– is mainly low-frequency noise, which tends to be associated with more noise complaints, according to the design document. The study aims to determine whether areas with higher calculated noise levels are associated with:

  • Impairments in sleep, as measured with actimetry
  • Over-activated stress system, as measured by both cortisol concentrations in hair samples and elevated average diastolic and systolic blood pressure and heart rate
  • Elevated indoor and outdoor annoyance evaluated using self-report
  • Impairments in perceived stress, quality of life, and self-reported sleep quality

The study also aims to assess wind turbine sound characteristics for the presence of low frequencies, tones, and amplitude modulations and the impact they may have.

The initial sample will be adult inhabitants of 2,000 residences near as many as a dozen turbines, with online and face-to-face interviews and physical measurements of participants, including blood pressure readings, and noise measurements inside and outside their homes. The study partners intend to include occupants of every residence that is located within 600 meters of any of the selected turbines.

An expert panel revised the initial study design based on more than 950 public comments.

"Our government is committed to protecting the health and safety of Canadian families, and this study is in response to questions from residents living near wind farms about possible health effects of low-frequency noise generated by wind turbines," Aglukkaq said. "The expert committee has carefully reviewed and evaluated the feedback received during the public consultation and has taken it into consideration when developing the revised research design."

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