In a decision that is already receiving applause from opponents of wind power plants and wind farms, Health Canada will launch a study, led by Ottawa, which will explore the possible negative impacts of wind turbines.
The study will focus on 2,000 households located near 8-12 wind turbine facilities. Canada has roughly 141 wind farms owned by companies like TransAlta (TSE: TA) and Boralex Inc. (TSE: BLX).
“This study is in response to questions from residents living near wind farms about possible health effects of low frequency noise generated by wind turbines,” Leona Aglukkaq, Canada’s health minister, said in a statement.
Opponents of wind farms claim that the turbines produce sub-harmonic vibrations and low-frequency noise, which they believe have caused a variety of health problems including headaches, anxiety, sleep disorders, and even depression.
The study, estimated to cost $1.8 million, will not only look at physical measurements of the participants, but will also involve in-person interviews and noise measurements outside and inside residences.
Sherri Lange of the North American Platform Against Wind Power told CBC:
“The house vibrates, it becomes like a guitar. The noise and the vibration enters the home and it actually increases the effect. People have to go in their basements to sleep or they have to take a pup tent and sleep in the yard. But they can only go on doing that for so long.”
The Canadian Wind Energy Association represented scientific consensus in suggesting that claims of health problems are overblown.
Studies undertaken in other nations have not, so far, pointed to any causative relation between wind farm operations and the health of local residents. At best, there has been evidence that the noise produced by the facilities can negatively affect sleep patterns.
But some recommend a halt on new wind turbine installations in Canada until the results can be reached, though no official decision on this has been made.
Results will be reviewed by a committee, and the outcome of the Canadian study is expected to be announced in 2014.