Background: Risk of harm associated with wind turbines is debated globally. Some people living or working in proximity to wind turbines report adverse health effects such as sleep disturbance, noise annoyance, and diminished quality of life. Due to public concern, Health Canada announced its wind turbine noise and health study which included subjective and objective measurements. Findings were published between 2014 and 2016. In 2018, Health Canada published clarifications regarding the design and interpretation of study conclusions.
Methods: Methods and subjective/objective findings were reviewed. Peer reviewed publications, conference presentations, judicial proceedings, government documents, and other sources were evaluated and considered in context with advanced methods for investigating reports of adverse health effects.
Objectives: To review and explore some of the research challenges, methods, strengths and limitations of findings and conclusions. To participate in scientific dialogue and contribute towards an understanding of reported health risks associated with wind turbine noise.
Results: Wind turbine human health research is challenged by numerous variables. Knowledge gaps and individual human and wind turbine variables are identified. Strengths and advisories of limitations are considered and acknowledged. Health Canada’s advisories that its study design does not permit any conclusions about causality and results may not be generalized beyond the sample taken in Canada are supported. Enhanced methods for investigating health outcomes are proposed including establishing referral resources within medical facilities for physicians. It is proposed staffing of the resource center include multidisciplinary teams of physicians, epidemiologists, acousticians and other specialists to investigate suspected wind turbine adverse health effects.
Discussion: A review and appraisal of some of the research challenges associated with wind turbine human health research are presented. Given the identified methods, research/knowledge gaps, and limitations and cautionary advisories, Health Canada’s results should be carefully considered when predicting or protecting from health risks of wind turbine noise.
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