Is the ‘silent sound’ from wind farms harmless or does it cause health problems?
The Woolcock Institute of Medical Research will investigate whether the sound that emanates from wind farms causes nausea, dizziness or irritation as some people believe.
The institute is looking for residents in the Campbelltown, Camden, Cobbitty, Douglas Park, Picton, Tahmoor, The Oaks, Thirlmere and Narellan areas to participate in the new research.
Scientists have built a customised sound system that simulates the turbines’ infrasound and are now calling for locals to put it to the test.
Leader of the study group Professor Guy Marks said the system was the first of its kind.
“This will be the very first time infrasound has been measured in peoples’ homes as part of a rigorous scientific study,” he said.
“We’re hopeful our unique approach will reveal whether this clean energy source impacts health.”
The study comes as authorities investigate complaints from residents living near Australia’s 75 wind farms.
Some local residents say they experience headaches, dizziness and sleep disturbances, as well as nausea, tinnitus and irritability, which they attribute to the turbines.
The symptoms are referred to collectively as wind turbine syndrome (WTS).
However, other residents living near wind farms experience none of these symptoms.
“There’s currently no proof that WTS actually exists, as the available research has limitations,” Professor Marks said.
“Some experts are convinced it’s real, while others firmly believe the symptoms are the result of a ‘nocebo effect’, where a person becomes convinced something harmless is making them ill. The sooner we can offer up a firm answer the better.”
The study will involve two groups of Macarthur residents who will be randomly chosen. Some will be exposed to the infrasound, other will not.
Both groups will have a customised sound system installed in their bedrooms during the six-month trial.
The participants as well as the researchers visiting their homes will not know which exposure they are receiving.
“As infrasound is inaudible, they won’t know which they have been exposed to,” Professor Marks said.
“Obviously going into peoples’ homes poses some challenges but collecting evidence in an environment residents are comfortable in is invaluable.”
The research teams will run multiple tests on participants to confirm their sleep quality, blood pressure, heart rate, memory and thinking tasks, brain functioning and symptoms related to WTS.
Their levels of stress-related hormones will also be measured using blood and hair samples.
The two comprehensive trials are funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council over five years.
Results will be publicly released so that they can be used to inform public health policy and manage future growth of this clean energy source.
Volunteers will be compensated for their time and need to be over 18 years of age, speak fluent English and get regular sleep (no shift-workers).
Researchers will have a stall at Cobbitty Markets from 7.30am on Saturday, May 5 for people interested in finding out more.
To enquire or register, visit: windfarmstudy.com.