Queensland Health rebukes The Australian on wind farms

On The Australian's front page today was a report that Queensland Health is rallying against wind farms due to health concerns. It is not – and that is far from the only problem with the article.

Page one of The Australian newspaper runs a report today by Graham Lloyd that suggests the Queensland Government’s Health Department is seeking to constrain the development of wind farms for health reasons. The first sentence states:

 “A “growing body of evidence” that wind farm noise could have health effects has prompted Queensland Health to call for caution when approving wind farm developments.”

Climate Spectator called the Queensland Department of Health to verify this report and was told:

“The Australian report is not correct.”

We were then referred to the National Health and Medical Research Council findings on wind turbine health effects. Their public statement says:

“Reported health concerns primarily relate to infrasound (sound that is generally inaudible to the human ear) generated by wind turbines. The World Health Organization states that: ‘There is no reliable evidence that sounds below the hearing threshold produce physiological or psychological effects’. A recent expert panel review in North America found no evidence that audible or subaudible sounds emitted by wind turbines have any direct adverse physiological effect. The principal human response to perceived infrasound is annoyance.

A study of three UK wind farms also supports this conclusion, finding that sound associated with modern wind turbines is not a source which will result in noise levels which may be injurious to the health of a wind farm neighbour.”

It appears The Australian newspaper obtained a letter written by an individual in the Cairns branch office of Queensland Health with very little, if any, familiarity with research on the health effects of wind turbines. It is a great pity that Graham Lloyd did not go to the simple effort of calling Queensland Health, to confirm their position on this issue.

In addition The Australian newspaper also carried the claim that wind farms could endanger the viability of Australia’s entire banana production. The report cites horticulturalist Steven Lavis, saying that the banana crop “relied on aerial spraying that would not be possible within 5km of wind turbine towers.”

So we called the Civil Aviation and Safety Authority whose media spokesperson told us, “That’s just silly.”

He explained that a wind turbine tower is just like any other obstacle that an agricultural aerial spraying pilot would need to take into account, such as powerlines and trees, and the decision as to where they could safely spray would be their own decision to make.

If anyone has seen aerial spraying of an agricultural crop they’ll realise that these pilots will often fly quite close to a range of obstacles. Why wind turbines would need a 5km buffer, while they appear happy to fly within 100 metres of other dangerous obstacles such as powerlines, appears to defy explanation.

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