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Health Division Validates Some Concerns About Wind Farm Noise

Upset neighbor of a wind farm in Union County, Oregon. Photo by Tom Banse
Upset neighbor of a wind farm in Union County, Oregon. Photo by Tom Banse

In a draft report, Oregon's Public Health Division acknowledges that noise from wind turbine blades may cause health problems among nearby homeowners. But the agency does not intend to take action against the burgeoning wind power industry.

Complaints from sleep-deprived neighbors and uncertainty among government officials prompted the re-examination of wind energy. A team of investigators from the Oregon Public Health Division reviewed case studies and held field hearings near some major wind farms.

Principal investigator Jae Douglas says while the evidence isn't exactly "rock solid," the team found reason to take complaints about health impacts from turbine noise seriously.

"There could be a problem," says Douglas. "At certain levels, certain equipment could be producing levels (of noise) that are troubling and difficult for people."

Douglas says the investigators also assessed whether "shadow flicker" from spinning blades is a problem. They conclude that's unlikely to have an adverse impact.

The Oregon wind energy assessment has been published in draft form for public comment through the end of March. Before the draft came out, a pro-wind industry group issued a statement portraying wind turbines as "benign" to human health.

On the Web:

Oregon Division of Public Health draft study:

Previous coverage: "Oregon County Tells Wind Farm To Quiet Down"

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network

Tom Banse covers national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reports from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events are unfolding. Tom's stories can be found online and heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

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