Dozens of people will be exposed to an “inaudible sound” in their bedroom for six months as part of a novel wind farm health study.
Others will be exposed to the infrasound that emanates from turbines, loud traffic noise and silence over three-day periods in a purpose-built laboratory.
Infrasound refers to very-low sound frequency waves that can’t be heard by humans.
The two studies will be led by the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research in Sydney in a bid to discover whether the clean energy source causes health problems.
“This is a hotly debated area, with many residents convinced that their health is suffering and other people sure that it’s all a figment of their imagination,” says chief investigator, respiratory physician Professor Guy Marks.
“There is a genuine scientific question here that needs to be solved definitely so we can inform both the public and public policy.”
Australia has more than 75 wind farms housing about 2000 turbines.
In the first study, 40 people will be exposed to infrasound, silence and traffic noise on different weekends in the institute’s laboratory.
The homes study will involve 120 NSW households, which will have a purpose-built device installed in their bedroom for six months.
The participants won’t know if their device exposes them to infrasound or if they have a sham device that releases no infrasound.
“They will get a box, about the same size as a bedside table,” investigator Associate Professor Nathaniel Marshall said.
An acoustic engineer has recorded the soundwaves emitted from Victoria’s Cape Bridgewater wind farm for use in the studies.
In-room sound levels will be constantly monitored and multiple tests will be run to monitor each person’s sleep quality, blood pressure, heart rate, neurocognitive functioning and other symptoms referred to collectively as wind turbine syndrome (WTS).
Some people who live near wind farms say their WTS is caused by infrasounds generated by wind turbines, while many academics and others claim the illness is purely psychological.
The National Health and Medical Research Council has given the institute $1.94 million over five years to run the trials.