Stepping up research into possible health effects in operation and expansion of wind turbines

European Platform Against Windfarms

Important information from Mauri Johansson, MD (Specialist in Community & Occupational Health. Master in Humanities and Health studies, MHH) – Prevention & Health Promotion (Denmark) EPAW Spokesman for Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway and Sweden) plus Finland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia

The Australian | May 21, 2015 12:00AM

Graham Lloyd | Environment Editor, Sydney

German doctors want more research into the health effects of wind turbines. Source: AP

The “parliament” of Germany’s medical profession has called on its leaders to support a halt to further wind farm developments near housing until more research has been undertaken into the possible health impacts of low-frequency noise from wind turbines.

The issue was debated at the German Medical Assembly in Frankfurt on Friday and transferred to the executive board of the German Medical Association.

Association policy adviser Adrian Alexander Jakel confirmed a motion calling for ­research had been forwarded to the board “for further action”.

Germany is considered a world leader in adopting renewable ener­gy and the minutes of the Medical Assembly meeting said that, with the phase-out of nuclear power, more wind energy would be used in future. But it said the entir­e life cycle of renewable technologies, from the initial raw mater­ial supply to disposal and the planning and risk considerations, should be considered in advance.

The Medical Assembly motion said this required “scientifically sound findings of potential health effects, and a deliberate balance between benefit and validity to be able to make conscious weightings between the benefits and of the disadvantages and risks”.

“In particular regarding emissions in the low frequency and infra­sound range there are no reliab­le independent studies that investigate field measurement methodology suitable for this sound field below the threshold of hearing,” they said.

The assembly called for the federal government to close the gaps in knowledge about the health effec­ts of infrasound and low-frequenc­y sound from wind turbines through scientific research.

It said research should clarify open questions concerning meas­urement methods and, where approp­riate, adjust regulations to “allow the expansion and the operation of wind turbines wisely, carefully, with integrated expertise, sustainability and overall societal responsibility”.

 It said the health effects of infra­sound (below 20 Hz) and low-frequency sound (below 100 Hz) in relation to emissions from wind turbines were “still open questions’’, as were “the effects of noise below the hearing threshold or lower frequencies with increasing exposure duration”. The assembly said the erection of more turbines close to settlements should be stopped until there was reliable data to exclude a safety hazard.”

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118th German Medical Assembly, Frankfurt, 12.05 -15/05/2015

Activity report of the German Medical Association

Executive Transfer 

The motion of Dr. Bernd Lücke (printed matter VI- 106) will be transferred for further consideration to the Executive Board of the German Medical Association.

The wind energy as a renewable form of energy will be used more in future. There is now a societal consensus after the decision in summer 2011 about nuclear phase-out. The abandonment of nuclear energy shows that problematic aspects of utilization have been moved in the future. To date, the issue of final disposal of the fuel rods is not really solved.

With regard to renewable forms of energy the entire life cycle of these technologies from the initial raw material supply to disposal in the planning and risk considerations should be incorporated in advance. This requires scientifically sound findings of potential health effects, and a deliberate balance between benefit and validity to be able to make conscious weightings between the benefits and of the disadvantages and risks.

In particular regarding emissions in the low frequency and infrasound range there are no reliable independent studies that investigate field measurement methodology suitable for this sound field  below the threshold of hearing. Thus, a wholesomeness of noise pollution at present has not been established.

The 118th German Medical Assembly in 2015 therefore calls for the federal government to close the gaps in knowledge about the health effects of infrasound and low frequency sound from wind turbines (WEA = Windenergianlagen = wt’s, MJ) through scientific research and to clarify open questions in the field of measurement methods and, where appropriate, adjust regulations to allow the expansion and the operation of wind turbines wisely, carefully, with integrated expertise, sustainability and overall societal responsibility.

Justifications:

Particularly the health effects of infrasound (<20 Hz) and low-frequency sound (<100 Hz) are in relation to emissions and immissions from wind turbines still open questions. So are the effects of noise below the hearing threshold or lower frequencies with increasing exposure duration. Furthermore, a need for adjustment in measuring methods and regulations should be checked for. As on the portability of noise radiation sources and propagation models from smaller wind turbines to large turbines as well as binding rules for measurement and assessment of low frequencies (0.1 to 20 Hz).

Core objectives:

● systematic, transparent, open-ended, empirical exploration of low frequency range that are able to penetrate the human organism
● networking with research groups abroad that have long been exploring these problems
● Continuous publication of the results and the survey methodology
● Stop the erection of more wind turbines close to settlements, until there is sufficiently reliable data, which exclude a hazard safely.
● To be considered are also the distance problems, the noise effects and the shadow flicker in addition to the turbine height as well as the wind turbine positions relative to the settlement, depending on the topographical conditions, the main wind directions and sun rays. If there for example is a wind turbine park on the wind side and the sun in front of a settlement, so sound propagation and shadows for the settlement will be more annoying than if the wind farm is behind this settlement.
● A need of reform of the technical guidance on Noise (German TA-Lärm), which protects only insufficiently, cannot continue to be used as a protective provision.
●The resulting sound research initiated plays at all levels of sound exposure a health protective role, not only in wind turbines.
● Also important is the study of structure-borne sound (= low-frequency vibrations in solids from 100 Hz to 0.1 Hz), which emanate, equally dangerous, from the modern wind turbines.
● Structure-borne noise also arises already when the rotors of wind turbines are not yet running, but due to the bending/shaking vibrations of the extremely high wind turbine towers. It is transferred over the foundations in the ground environment. Depending on the topological and geomorphic situation (soil layers) at the location of such facilities, the structure-borne sound can spread readily up to 10 km and be registered as immission inside exposed houses. Here only to view the infrasound (the airborne one) only investigate just it, is thus not sufficient to bring explainable and useful findings.
● Therefore, it would be within the scope of measurements to assess the future health risks, always, in addition to the external measurements to carry out internal measurements (instead of the usual practice in acoustics to use calculations).
● The interactions of structure-borne noise and air infrasound can lower the detection threshold of affected people significantly. Health problems of these individuals may therefore occur even at very low infra energy/vibration levels.

Translation MJ+Google, 19.5.2015

 

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