Guidance for Evaluating Human Health Impacts in Environmental Assessment: Human Health Risk Assessment

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Organization: Health Canada

Published: 2019-06-25

This document provides generic guidance on the need for conducting a human health risk assessment (HHRA) in federal assessments of proposed major resource and infrastructure projects (such as mines, dams, pipelines and other projects) in Canada. It presents the principles, current practices and basic information Health Canada looks for when it reviews the impact statement or other reports submitted by project proponents as part of the assessment process.

The guidance is presented for the benefit of proponents and their consultants and to support an efficient and transparent project review process. The foundational information described here should be supplemented appropriately with additional information relevant to specific projects.

The guidance may also help responsible authorities, review panels and affected communities better understand how to conduct health assessments for proposed major resource projects. As part of its review, Health Canada may suggest that a responsible authority, review panel or others collect information not specifically described here in order to assess the health effects of specific projects. As the guidance provided here is generic and designed to support EA under multiple jurisdictions, the scope of the review will also necessarily be amended according to specific jurisdictional requirements.

This document concerns the assessment of a human health risk assessment. It describes, in Health Canada's opinion, best practices and approaches to HHRA. Still, as each project and its assessment are unique, not every best practice and approach described here may apply in every case. Human health risk assessments linked to proposed projects differ from other HHRAs by their predictive nature and the necessity to characterize potential future effects that may occur as a result of those projects.

Appendix A provides a glossary of specific terms used throughout.

Appendix B contains a checklist that can be used to record the completion of the main components of an HHRA and to show where this information can be found within an assessment document.

Appendix C provides additional information about screening contaminants of potential concern (COPCs).

Appendix D shows a graphic illustration of a conceptual site model.

Appendix E lists useful equations for estimating exposure and characterizing risk.

Appendix F presents human receptor characteristics.

Appendix G highlights the fundamentals of Health Canada's current approach regarding the evaluation of cancer and non-cancer health risks from exposure to chemicals, where health effects in an assessment are predicted to be related to chronic (or lifetime) and/or less-than-chronic (short-duration) exposures.

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