Environmental impact assessment (EIA) is widely used for predicting the likely environmental and/or health impact of proposed projects or activities, and to a lesser extent of programmes, plans or policies. Health impact assessment and EIA are also emerging as useful academic disciplines.
Environmental health impact in this context refers to the health consequences of exposure to factors present in the environment outside the enterprise premises. Every enterprise, but particularly those emitting pollutants to the ambient environment, has the potential to affect the health of people living in its neighbourhood. Integrated environmental and occupational health impact assessment should be used to assess the effect of an enterprise on the health of society, including the workforce. Every enterprise should develop and implement its own procedures for assessing and minimizing the impact on health of environmental pollution and excessive use of natural resources.
This strategy features in the framework of Agenda 21 as formulated at UNCED (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), now coordinated by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and implemented through national and local authorities.
Agenda 21 recommends support for the development of new methods for quantitative assessment of health benefits and of costs associated with different pollution control strategies. It estimates that establishment and strengthening of health-oriented monitoring systems for air, water and soil in developing countries and of national capacities for dealing with air pollution, indoor air quality, noise, radiation, health impact assessment and research promotion requires about US$ 30 million annually with US$ 15 million coming from international sources, including US$ 2 million for the strengthening of international institutions. In general, reduction of air pollution in urban areas of developing countries requires annual investments on the order of US$ 2,500 million, with a private sector component of about US$ 2,000 million. The public expenditure component of about US$ 500 million would include an international financial contribution of about US$ 50 million annually. Costs for reducing indoor air pollution from household biomass use is estimated at US$ 500 million annually with an international financing component of about US$ 50 million annually.