Integrating human health into environmental impact assessment: an unrealized opportunity for environmental health and justice

Integrando a saúde humana na avaliação de impacto ambiental: uma oportunidade não realizada para a saúde e justiça ambiental

Rajiv Bhatia Aaron Wernham About the authors

The National Environmental Policy Act and related state laws require many public agencies to analyze and disclose potentially significant environmental effects of agency actions, including effects on human health. In this paper we review the purpose and procedures of environmental impact assessment (EIA), existing regulatory requirements for health effects analysis, and potential barriers to and opportunities for improving integration of human health concerns within the EIA process. We use statutes, regulations, guidelines, court opinions, and empirical research on EIA along with recent case examples of integrated health impact assessment (HIA)/EIA at both the state and federal level. We extract lessons and recommendations for integrated HIA/EIA practice from both existing practices as well as case studies. The case studies demonstrate the adequacy, scope, and power of existing statutory requirements for health analysis within EIA. The following support the success of integrated HIA/EIA: a proponent recognizing EIA as an available regulatory strategy for public health; the openness of the agency conducting the EIA; involvement of public health institutions; and complementary objectives among community stakeholders and health practitioners. We recommend greater collaboration among institutions responsible for EIA, public health institutions, and affected stakeholders along with guidance, resources, and training for integrated HIA/EIA practice.

Environmental health; Environmental impact assessment; Environmental justice; Health determinants; Health disparities

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