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Human & Environmental Assessment

Definition
Overview

How do I develop a health and environmental assessment program?

Definition

Health and environmental assessments are conducted as part of an Air Quality Management program to quantify and monetize: 1) the impact of the existing or current state of emissions and air quality; and 2) the incremental impact of a specific policy or program to reduce emissions and improve the current state of air quality.

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AQM System Flow Chart Highlighting Human and Environmental Assessment
Overview

Determining how various pollutants may impacts human health and the environment requires input from a range of disciplines, such as toxicology, public health, health sciences and epidemiology. The U.S. EPA sets ambient standards and emission standards and develops regulations to help reduce these effects.

Effects directly on human health can include increases in the risk of death (mortality) or increases in the risk of experiencing an adverse health effect (morbidity). Adverse health effects can be divided into acute effects such as headaches or eye irritation which generally last only a few days, and chronic effects such as emphysema or asthma which are generally associated with long-term illness.

Environmental effects, including those causing indirect damages to humans, are quite diverse. Examples range from aesthetic damages, which result from contamination of the physical environment and include increased problems of odor, noise, and poor visibility, to productivity damages, such as reduced productivity of farmland, forests, and commercial fisheries. Environmental effects also encompass intrinsic or non-use damages including losses in the value people associate with preserving, protecting, and improving the quality of ecological resources.

As part of the regulatory development process, EPA conducts health and environmental assessments and applies methodologies for estimating the benefits of air pollution control regulations. Also known as a "economic analysis," this is a critical aspect of U.S. decision making. Another aspect of human and environmental assessment is risk assessment. Risk assessment is the scientific process of evaluating adverse effects and is usually geographically limited, though the defined geography can vary tremendously, for example local, regional and global.

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How do I conduct a Health and Environmental Assessment?

Human Health Effects: The U.S. EPA has a database of human health effects that may result from exposure to various substances found in the environment. This database is called the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) and will help provide information on chemical substances for use in risk assessments, decision-making and regulatory activities. The information in IRIS is intended for those without extensive training in toxicology, but with some knowledge of health sciences.

Risk Assessment: The U.S. EPA has several risk assessment guidelines that set forth recommended principles and procedures to guide scientists in assessing the risks from chemicals or other agents in the environment. For human health assessment, there are guidelines for cancer, chemical mixtures, developmental toxicity, exposure assessment, mutagenicity, neurotoxicity, and reproductive toxicity. For environmental impacts, the EPA has published Guidelines for Ecological Risk Assessment that are meant to be internal guidance for EPA and to inform the public and the regulated community regarding the EPA's approach to ecological risk assessment. In addition, U.S. EPA has prepared two citizen's guides on risk assessment: one on Risk Assessment for Toxic Air Pollutants and one on Evaluating Exposures to Toxic Air Pollutants.

Economic Analysis: The U.S. EPA's Guidelines for Preparing Economic Analyses establish a sound scientific framework for performing economic analyses of environmental regulations and policies. They incorporate recent advances in theoretical and applied work in the field of environmental economics.

Public Participation: It is important to involve the public. As with the other management activities related to the AQM process, it is critical to contact the regulated community and other affected parties, as the public should be consulted as part of the process.

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