Leading doctors have called on the Government to reduce the noise levels of wind turbines — which they claim are four times that recommended by World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.
The Irish Doctors’ Environmental Association also said the set-back distance of 500m is not enough, that it should be increased to at least 1,500m.
Visiting Research Professor at Queen’s University, Alun Evans and lead clinical consultant at Waterford Regional Hospital Prof Graham Roberts have both expressed concerns over the current noise levels and distance of turbines from homes.
Environment Minister Alan Kelly is currently reviewing the wind energy planning guidelines and the group is calling for both issues to be examined closely in the interest of public health.
The association has called for the introduction of a maximum noise level of 30 decibels as recommended by the WHO and for the set-back distance from inhabited houses to at least 1,500m from the current 500m.
Prof Evans said the construction of wind turbines in Ireland “is being sanctioned too close to human habitation”.
“Because of its impulsive, intrusive, and sometimes incessant nature, the noise generated by wind turbines is particularly likely to disturb sleep,” he said.
“The young and the elderly are particularly at risk. Children who are sleep-deprived are more likely to become obese, predisposing them to diabetes and heart disease in adulthood. As memory is reinforced during sleep, they also exhibit impaired learning.”
Prof Evans said adults who are sleep-deprived are at risk of a ranges of diseases, particularly “heart attacks, heart failure, and stroke, and to cognitive dysfunction and mental problems”.
Prof Evans, attached to the Centre for Public Health at Queen’s, said the Government should exercise a duty of care towards its citizens and exercise the ‘precautionary principle’ which is enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty.
“It can achieve this by raising turbine set-back to at least 1500m, in accordance with a growing international consensus,” said Prof Evans.
In a statement, the Department of the Environment said that in December 2013 it published draft revisions to the noise, set-back distance, and shadow-flicker aspects of the 2006 Wind Energy Development Guidelines.
These draft revisions proposed: n The setting of a more stringent day and night noise limit of 40 decibels for future wind energy developments; n A mandatory minimum setback of 500m between a wind turbine and the nearest dwelling for amenity considerations; n The complete elimination of shadow flicker between wind turbines and neighbouring dwellings.
A public consultation process was initiated on these proposed revisions to the guidelines, which ran until February 21, 2014.
“The department received submissions from 7,500 organisations and members of the public during this period. In this regard, account has to be taken of the extensive response to the public consultation in framing the final guidelines,” the department said in the statement.
“However, it is the department’s intention that the revisions to the 2006 Wind Energy Development Guidelines will be finalised in the near future and will address many of the issues raised in that bill.”
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