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industry slams reports of "Wind Turbine Syndrome"

British Wind Energy Association argues there is ample evidence to reject claims from US doctor that wind turbines are responsible for health problems.

The wind energy industry has vigorously rejected new research from the US suggesting some residents living close to wind farms are susceptible to a collection of health risks dubbed "Wind Turbine Syndrome".

The British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) accused the study of being based on an "unscientific" sample and running counter to wider-ranging research that suggests wind turbines do not pose health risks.

According to reports in yesterday's Daily Telegraph, Dr Nina Pierpont, a New York paediatrician, will this autumn publish a book detailing her research into the impact of the noise and vibrations caused by wind turbines on the health of nearby residents.

She told the newspaper there was "no doubt" that her research showed that Wind Turbine Syndrome exists and that the infrasonic to ultrasonic noise and vibrations emitted by wind turbines caused about 12 different symptoms, including abnormal heart beats, sleep disturbance, headaches, tinnitus, nausea, visual blurring, panic attacks and general irritability.

"What I have shown in my research is that many people - not all - who have been living close to a wind turbine running near their homes display a range of illnesses and that when they move away, many of these problems also go away," she said.

However, according to a draft copy of the section of the book intended for non-clinicians that is available on Dr Pierpont's web site, much of the research appears to be based on interviews with just 10 families living near wind turbines ranging in size from 1.5MW to 3MW, resulting in a sample of 38 people.

A spokesman for the BWEA said that the size of the sample group and the methodology for the study "simply does not stack up scientifically". "This is research based on the symptoms of 38 unspecified people in a small number of unspecified locations," he argued, adding that a recent, more extensive study by acousticians at Salford University had concluded that there were no health risks arising from the noise from wind turbines.

He also argued that official government figures similarly suggested that noise from turbines was a "non problem". "The Borough of Westminster had 300,000 complaints about noise last year and there are millions of complaints nationwide," he said. "Of those complaints made in 2007, four were about wind farms, and three of those have been resolved."

The BWEA also pointed out that there was no evidence of the existence of Wind Turbine Syndrome from those countries with the highest density of wind turbines, such as Germany and Denmark. "In Germany, they have deployed 15,000 turbines in the past 20 years, and yet there has been no detectable increase in any of these health symptoms identified as being caused by turbines," said the spokesman for the trade group.

Dr Pierpont told The Telegraph that she expected the wind industry would "try to discredit me and disparage me", adding that such efforts were " not unlike the tobacco industry dismissing health issues from smoking".

But the BWEA rejected the analogy, insisting that unlike the tobacco industry, the wind sector was fully engaged with health concerns and had invested millions in researching noise issues and developing quieter turbines.

Representatives for Dr Pierpont had failed to respond to a request for further comment at the time of going to press.

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