Information paper: evidence on wind farms and human health

12 Feb 2015

This Information Paper provides Australians with a summary of the evidence on possible health effects of wind farms in humans and explains how NHMRC developed its summary based on the findings of independent reviews of the evidence. It is intended for use by any person or group interested in wind farms.

Wind farms in Australia

Wind turbines use rotating blades attached to towers to convert wind energy into electricity. A group of wind turbines is known as a wind farm and may be located on land or offshore. Wind turbine design has evolved over the last 20 years to enable better harnessing of wind energy.

Wind farms have been promoted as a viable and sustainable alternative to traditional, non-renewable forms of energy production. Since the introduction of the Renewable Energy Act 2000, the number of wind farms in Australia has grown substantially. At the end of 2013, there were 68 wind farms across the country and more were being constructed or planned.

Why NHMRC is conducting this work

NHMRC is responsible for ensuring that Australians receive the best available, evidence-based advice on matters relating to improving health and to preventing, diagnosing and treating disease. Concern about the effects on health from living near a wind farm has been expressed by some members of the community. Therefore, NHMRC examined the evidence on health effects associated with exposure to specific emissions from wind farms — noise, shadow flicker and electromagnetic radiation.

The current investigation of the potential health effects of wind farms builds upon NHMRC’s previous work in this area. In 2010, NHMRC’s Public statement: Wind turbines and health was published, with supporting evidence from Wind turbines and health: A rapid review of the evidence. The 2010 NHMRC Public Statement concluded that there “is currently no published scientific evidence to positively link wind turbines with adverse health effects”. Due to the limited amount of published scientific literature, NHMRC committed to carrying out a more extensive search for evidence.

This Information Paper provides an update to NHMRC’s previous work in this area. It is based on a comprehensive review of the available scientific evidence following well-established systematic review principles, which provide the most rigorous process for identifying and critically appraising evidence.

In Australia, responsibility for regulating the planning, development and operation of wind farms lies with state, territory and local governments. The outcomes of NHMRC’s review may assist these organisations to make decisions about the regulation of wind farms.

NHMRC’s review of the evidence will enable well-designed and targeted research to be undertaken in areas that have been identified as gaps in the evidence base.

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