The State of Oregon has begun an assessment of possible health effects experienced by wind farm neighbors. The state Public Health Division held “listening sessions” in three communities over the past few days, to hear from citizens. ”With any development, you start learning more about potential concerns as more people start experiencing it,” said Sajata Joshi, an epidemiologist for the state. “Our goal now is to hear what people have to say, and see if we can find solutions that work for communities and for the state’s goals.”
While the Health Impact Assessment will “use the best available science to evaluate public health risks,” the Oregon process is also including anecdotal reports from neighbors, such as those received in these listening sessions. A limitation of most previous state and industry-funded health impact reports has been that they considered only “direct, causal” impacts: that is, their focus was narrowed to studying previous research to address the narrow question of whether the sound levels being experienced can directly cause physiological symptoms to appear. It is very likely that many of the reports of health problems, such as headaches, dizziness, and the like are indirect effects of sleep disruption or stress caused by moderate levels of audible wind farm noise at relatively close ranges, and it’s promising that Oregon is taking into account the actual experiences of wind farm neighbors who have been affected.
Jae Douglas, Oregon Public Health’s moderator, said the most frequent wind-farm concern she’s heard is about stress. Her office is charged with writing an assessment of any health impacts from turbines for consideration by the siting council, Oregon Department of Energy and county commissions — agencies that make the decisions on wind-energy projects. A draft will come in March and the final assessment in June. You can stay current on the process at this Oregon DHS website.