The location of wind farms is a frequent topic of public debate in the Netherlands. Some people are concerned about the health implications of having wind turbines placed in the vicinity of their homes. Apart from public nuisance, it is still unclear what those health impacts could be. But there are various ways to investigate this. RIVM has identified the main questions that people have about this topic. For each question, we have looked at the type of research that would be needed to answer it. RIVM has also clarified what research is required to cover gaps in our existing knowledge.
RIVM worked with stakeholders, including residents’ associations, to identify the key questions, such as: can wind turbines have an impact on the health of people living nearby, and if so, what are those impacts? What causes them, and how many people are affected?
For each question, RIVM has described the type of research that would provide an answer, and what the advantages and disadvantages would be. These options have been discussed with the relevant stakeholders. The decision about what type of research to carry out will depend on the specific question being asked, and how soon it needs to be answered. The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy will ultimately decide whether research needs to be done, and if so who will conduct it.
Various options for research
One of the research options is to monitor the health of a large group of people over several years. Another is a retrospective study looking at whether there is an increased incidence of certain health problems in the vicinity of wind turbines. Or a panel comprised of people who live close to a wind turbine could regularly report on any health problems they might have. Finally, any confirmed current health problem (e.g. sleep disturbance) could be studied to see if ta wind turbine is causing them
Based on the existing literature, RIVM has concluded that there is still a lack of clarity regarding the association of certain health effects with living in the vicinity of wind turbines, such as impact on mental health, cognition, vascular diseases or metabolic disorders. It may be that there is no link, that there has not been enough research, that the available research is of poor quality, or that there are conflicting results. See RIVM report.
The number of wind farms in the Netherlands is set to increase over the next few years. Further research among people who live in the vicinity of these wind farms will clarify the issues and provide some context for questions and concerns.
This RIVM study was commissioned by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy.