718384-doctor

Medical association gives wind energy clean bill of health

718384-doctorAustralia’s peak body for doctors and medical professionals has given wind energy a clean bill of health.

The Australian Medical Association has released a Position Statement outlining their view that there is no evidence wind farms harm human health. 

AMA Vice President and Chair of the AMA Public Health Committee, Professor Geoffrey Dobb, said the available Australian and international evidence does not support the view that wind farms cause adverse health effects. 

“The infrasound and low frequency sound generated by modern wind farms in Australia is well below the level where known health effects occur,” said Professor Dobb, responding to the claims of anti-wind farm activists that inaudible sound harms human health. “There is no accepted physiological mechanism where sub-audible infrasound could cause health effects.”

AMA Vice President alluded to the work of Professor Simon Chapman and Auckland University academic Fiona Crichton regarding the impact of fear campaigning, commenting:

“People living near wind farms who experience adverse health or wellbeing may well do so because of heightened anxiety or negative perceptions about wind farms. The reporting of supposed ‘health scares’ or the spreading of misinformation about wind farm developments may contribute to heightened anxiety.”

“The regulation of wind farm developments should be guided entirely by the evidence regarding their impacts and benefits,” said Professor Dobb. “Community consultation and engagement at the start of the process is important to minimise misinformation, anxiety, and community division.”

Reporting on the wind energy and health often ignore the broader context of electricity generation and the public health impacts of fossil fuels. After the Hazelwood coal mine fire which saw Morwell inundated with noxious smoke for a month, the bigger picture can no longer be ignored. In contrast to anti-wind campaigners who silent on this front, Professor Dobb takes an enlightened view:

“From a public health perspective, it is important to note that electricity generation by wind turbines does not involve the production of greenhouse gases, other pollutant emissions or waste, all of which can have significant direct and indirect health effects.”

MORWELL1-600x400The AMA’s Position Statement comes just weeks after the National Health and Medical Research Council released the findings of its long-awaited review into wind farms and health–the twentieth by a credible health body.

The NHMRC concluded, once again, that wind farms are clean and safe:

In summary, the systematic review indicated that there was no consistent evidence that noise from wind turbines, whether estimated in models or using distance as a proxy, is associated with self-reported human health effects. (p.17)

The evidence considered does not support the conclusion that wind turbines have direct adverse effects on human health, as the criteria for causation have not been fulfilled. Indirect effects of wind farms on human health through sleep disturbance, reduced sleep quality, quality of life and perhaps annoyance are possible. Bias and confounding could, however, be possible explanations for the reported associations upon which this conclusion is based. (p.18)

Will the Australian Medical Association’s statement be the end of the absurd ‘wind farm = health risk’ argument prosecuted by anti-wind farm campaigners? It should, but we’ll have to wait and see. 

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