An environmental assessment is a process used by decision-makers to predict, identify, assess and mitigate the potential impacts that a project might have on humans, flora and fauna and the environment. By carrying out an environmental assessment before the project or action commences, irrevocable damage to the environment and to our health can be prevented.
Mining of natural resources, the construction of a highway or the operation of a hydro-electric plant all have the ability to affect and influence our health and well-being. For this reason, it makes sense to carry out an environmental assessment. Since our physical health acts as a major incentive to carry out an environmental assessment, reviewing a projects potential to affect the atmosphere, soil, groundwater, and rivers needs to be examined in an environmental assessment.
Physical health is not the only issue of importance in the environmental assessment. A person's well-being is equally important. For instance, a project can improve employment opportunities for a community and therefore, significantly alter the economy of the community and the happiness/well-being of the people. Likewise, a project can also have negative effects on the happiness of an individual. Native culture and their livelihood can be lost or suffer with the introduction of a project into the community. For this reason, environmental assessment's need to address the positive and negative effects that a project can have on the environment and the people it has the potential to affect.
There are many factors that affect human health. Health Canada has published several publications entitled "It's Your Health" on matters that are also at issue in an environmental assessment (aircraft noise, asbestos, electro-magnetic fields, fluorides, PCB's, etc.).