“No health impact from windfarms”. BEAM welcomes NHMRC draft report.

A wind turbine at the Hepburn Community Wind Farm on Lenoards Hil

A wind turbine at the Hepburn Community Wind Farm on Lenoards Hil

Residents of Mitchell Shire will be reassured that the proposed Cherry Tree Range wind farm poses no risks to public health. Whilst this had been confirmed through the VCAT process last year, the draft report “Evidence on Windfarms and Human Health” published by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) this week reaffirmed “there is no reliable or consistent evidence that windfarms directly cause adverse health effects in humans”. It is very clear.

BEAM Mitchel Environment Group welcomes the long awaited NHMRC draft report, and Vice-President Peter Lockyer notes “this report is totally consistent with the South Australian Environment Protection Agency assessment last year, and similar recent assessments by the Victorian Health Department, and its NSW counterpart”. BEAM has campaigned long about the safety of wind farms, and has supported the Planning Permit issued to Infigen for the Cherry Tree Range windfarm. Possible health impacts were the final issue the VCAT commissioners addressed. The concerns have been scientifically “put to bed”. There is no evidence of a causal link to health.

This is not to discount that some people find it difficult to live with wind turbines in their vicinity, (perhaps from the nocebo effect as Professor Simon Chapman of UNSW has repeatedly suggested) but the NHMRC draft study was clear “it is unlikely that substantial windfarm noise would be heard from more than 500-1500m of a windfarm”. The Victorian requirement of a minimum 2km setback would appear very conservative.

In welcoming the draft NHMRC report, BEAM sees the local windfarm development as a positive contribution to renewable energy production, local employment and local action to address climate change. Hostility to green power by the Abbott Government may frustrate renewable energy development, but climate change stares us in the face daily, with record heat waves, longer periods above 40C, and catastrophic bushfires more often than past decades.

Quickly moving away from fossil fuels gives us the best chance of minimising the dramatic changes in climate. Peter Lockyer concludes “There is no option but to act, wind farms are a part of that action and the Cherry Tree Range windfarm appears a valuable contribution to positive action”.

A bit more about the NHMRC report…

Following its 2010 Public Statement on Wind Turbines and Human Health after a rapid review of evidence, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has now undertaken a systematic review of all available international evidence. The process involved the review of 2850 references and 506 public submissions and a background literature review.

Overall, the NHMRC has found that there is no reliable or consistent evidence that wind farms directly cause adverse health effects in humans. Some key points from the evidence summary include:

  • Noise from wind turbines, including its content of low-frequency noise and infrasound, is similar to noise from many other natural and human-made sources. There is no evidence that health or heFlashing lights can trigger seizures among people with a rare form of epilepsy called photosensitive epilepsy. The risk of shadow flicker from wind turbines triggering a seizure among people with this condition is estimated to be very low.
  • Limited evidence suggests that the level of extremely low-frequency electromagnetic radiation close to wind farms is less than average levels measured inside and outside Australian suburban homes.
  • There is no consistent evidence of human health effects from exposure to extremely low-frequency electromagnetic radiation at much higher levels than is present near wind farms.

The report also states that there was some consistent evidence that proximity to wind farms is associated with annoyance, including some sleep disturbance and poorer quality of life. However they point out that this association does not mean that the wind farms cause these effects.

The draft report is open to submission of additional, credible evidence until April 11th. After that point a targeted call for additional, high quality research on wind farms and health will be made, in order to address the gaps in evidence they found while undertaking this review. To download a copy of the draft report or read about the process undertaken, head to the NHMRC website.

Be heard in your community

We encourage all BEAM members and supporters of our campaign around the development of a wind farm on the Cherry Tree Range to share this information with their friends and neighbours. You may also wish to write a letter to your local paper:
Seymour Telegraph: editor@seymourtelegraph.com.au
North Central Review: ncreditorial@newspaperhouse.com.au

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