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NHMRC

Wind Farms and human health

NHMRC is responsible for ensuring that Australians receive the best available, evidence-based advice on matters relating to improving health and preventing disease. The NHMRC Strategic Plan 2013-15 includes particular focus on investigating new and emerging health issues, particularly through environmental hazards and changes in the human environment.

Wind farms have been promoted as an alternative to traditional, non-renewable forms of energy production. However, concern about the effects on health from living near a wind farm has been expressed by some members of the community. NHMRC has undertaken an investigation into the evidence on wind farms and human health, due to the ongoing reports of possible health effects and uncertainty around this emerging form of energy production.

Building on the outcomes of a Scientific Forum held in June 2011, NHMRC commissioned a comprehensive assessment of the scientific evidence to examine the possible human health effects of wind farms. The findings of this review informed the development of the NHMRC Statement: Evidence on Wind Farms and Human Health and the NHMRC Information Paper: Evidence on Wind Farms and Human Health released in February 2015.

The NHMRC Wind Farms and Human Health Reference Group (the Reference Group) was convened from 1 February 2012 to 31 January 2015 to oversee the review of evidence. The Reference Group comprised experts in environmental epidemiology, sleep, social psychology, acoustics, sound engineering and consumer issues.

Information about the membership and Terms of Reference of the Wind Farms and Human Health Reference Group.

NHMRC Statement and Information Paper: Evidence on Wind Farms and Human Health

The NHMRC Statement: Evidence on Wind Farms and Human Health was released on Wednesday, 11 February 2015. The Statement was prepared on the advice of the Council of NHMRC with consideration of the comprehensive assessment of the evidence on wind farms and human health. It provides advice to the community and to policy makers on this issue.

After careful consideration and deliberation, NHMRC concludes that there is currently no consistent evidence that wind farms cause adverse health effects in humans. Given the limitations of the existing evidence and continuing concerns expressed by some members of the community, NHMRC considers that further high quality research on the possible health effects of wind farms is required.

The accompanying NHMRC Information Paper: Evidence on Wind Farms and Human Health provides Australians with a summary of the evidence on the possible health effects of wind farms in humans (with a particular focus on noise, shadow flicker and electromagnetic radiation) and explains how NHMRC developed its summary based on the findings of independent reviews of the evidence. NHMRC’s Reference Group guided the development of the Information Paper and provided scientific advice on the interpretation of the evidence.

Before being finalised, a NHMRC Draft Information Paper: Evidence on Wind Farms and Human Health was open for public consultation from Monday, 24 February 2014 until Friday, 11 April 2014. The draft Information Paper was also considered by expert reviewers in the fields of acoustics, engineering, mental health and sleep, epidemiology, and environmental health. The Reference Group gave due regard to all submissions and, over several meetings, carefully considered the issues that were raised.

Details of the key issues that were raised during public consultation and expert review can be found in the Public consultation: Summary of key issues and the Expert review: Summary of key issues. Non-confidential submissions are available on the NHMRC Public Consultations website.

The NHMRC Statement and Information Paper are based on the findings of a Systematic review of the human health effects of wind farms undertaken by independent reviewers under the guidance of the Reference Group. The review considered a wide range of evidence published up to October 2012. The independent review was released by NHMRC in February 2014 as a background document, accompanying the draft Information Paper which was released for public consultation.

To ensure that the Information Paper was informed by all the relevant evidence, a further Review of additional evidence for NHMRC Information Paper: Evidence on Wind Farms and Human Health was conducted by independent reviewers. This review included new evidence published from October 2012 up to May 2014, and also considered the references submitted during public consultation and expert review of the draft Information Paper.

The NHMRC Statement and Information Paper updates NHMRC’s previous work on this issue and replaces the 2010 NHMRC Public Statement: Wind Turbines and Health and supporting evidence Wind Turbines and Health: A rapid review of the evidence.

Further Information

Further details on the development of the NHMRC Statement, Information Paper and background documents can be found in the Administrative Report: NHMRC advice on wind farms and human health.

NHMRC has also addressed Frequently Asked Questions regarding the review on wind farms and human health, which may assist the Australian community in utilising the evidence presented in the NHMRC Statement and Information Paper.

For further information please contact NHMRC at wind.turbines@nhmrc.gov.au.

Page last updated on 11 February 2015