There are Serious Issues with Noise Exposure Assessment Related to Wind Turbines – WHO Noise Guidelines 2018

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WHO European noise-guidelines-10-10-2018

 WHO Noise Guidelines with significance to wind turbines(Headlines)

New WHO noise guidelines for Europe (press release):

“Compared to previous WHO guidelines on noise, this version contains five significant developments:

  • stronger evidence of the cardiovascular and metabolic effects of environmental noise;
  • inclusion of new noise sources, namely wind turbine noise and leisure noise, in addition to noise from transportation (aircraft, rail and road traffic);
  • use of a standardized approach to assess the evidence;
  • a systematic review of evidence, defining the relationship between noise exposure and risk of adverse health outcomes;
  • use of long-term average noise exposure indicators to better predict adverse health outcomes.”

“These guidelines have been developed based on the growing body of evidence in the field of environmental noise research,” concludes Professor Stephen Stansfeld, Chair of the Guidelines Development Group. “They aim to support public health policy that will protect communities from the adverse effects of noise, as well as stimulate further research into the health effects of different types of noise.”

 WHO European noise-guidelines-10-10-2018.pdf Important and related references to wind turbines

Very important references selected below. All extracts from WHO Environmental Noise Guidelines for the European Region 2018 in italics (Bold and underlined is my emphasis)

Synopsis of WHO Noise Guidelines with reference to wind turbines

References of huge significance (headlines)

Page 85:

Wind turbines can generate infrasound or lower frequencies of sound than traffic sources. However, few studies relating exposure to such noise from wind turbines to health effects are available. It is also unknown whether lower frequencies of sound generated outdoors are audible indoors, particularly when windows are closed.

The noise emitted from wind turbines has other characteristics, including the repetitive nature of the sound of the rotating blades and atmospheric influence leading to a variability of amplitude modulation, which can be a source of above average annoyance (Schäffer et al., 2016). This differentiates it from noise from other sources and has not always been properly characterized. Standard methods of measuring sound, most commonly including A-weighting, may not capture the low-frequency sound and amplitude modulation characteristic of wind turbine noise (Council of Canadian Academies, 2015)

Page 86:

Based on all these factors, it may be concluded that the acoustical description of wind turbine noise by means of Lden or Lnight may be a poor characterization of wind turbine noise and may limit the ability to observe associations between wind turbine noise and health outcomes.

Balance of benefits versus harms and burdens

Further work is required to assess fully the benefits and harms of exposure to environmental noise from wind turbines and to clarify whether the potential benefits associated with reducing exposure to environmental noise for individuals living in the vicinity of wind turbines outweigh the impact on the development of renewable energy policies in the WHO European Region.

Additional considerations or uncertainties                                                                    

There are serious issues with noise exposure assessment related to wind turbines.

Page 100:

4.2 Implications for research on health impacts from wind turbine noise

Further research into the health impacts from wind turbine noise is needed so that better-quality evidence can inform any future public health recommendations properly. For the assessment of health effects from wind turbines, the evidence was either unavailable or rated low/very low quality.

Exposure of interest: Exposure to noise at a wide range of levels and frequencies (including low-frequency noise), with information on noise levels measured outdoors and indoors (particularly relevant for effects on sleep) at the residence is needed. The noise exposure should be measured objectively and common protocols for exposure to wind turbine noise should be established, considering a variety of noise characteristics specific to wind turbine noise.

Page 103:

The studies should use measures of exposure including noise exposure at a wide range of levels and frequencies (including low-frequency noise), with information on noise levels outdoors and indoors (particularly relevant for effects on sleep).

 Page 106:

The fourth principle is to inform and involve communities that may be affected by a change in noise exposure.

Page 110: 5.6 Route to implementation: policy, collaboration and the role of the health sector

promoting the guidelines to health practitioners and physicians, especially at the community level (through associations of physicians, cardiologists and so on as part of the stakeholder group);

Noise is an important public health issue. It has negative impacts on human health and well-being and is a growing concern. The WHO Regional Office for Europe has developed these guidelines, based on the growing understanding of these health impacts of exposure to environmental noise. The main purpose of these guidelines is to provide recommendations for protecting human health from exposure to environmental noise originating from various sources: transportation (road traffic, railway and aircraft) noise, wind turbine noise and leisure noise. They provide robust public health advice underpinned by evidence, which is essential to drive policy action that will protect communities from the adverse effects of noise. The guidelines are published by the WHO Regional Office for Europe. In terms of their health implications, the recommended exposure levels can be considered applicable in other regions and suitable for a global audience.



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