Inupiat Health and Proposed Alaskan Oil Development: Results of the First Integrated Health Impact Assessment/Environmental Impact Statement for Proposed Oil Development on Alaska’s North Slope
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- Wernham, A. EcoHealth (2007) 4: 500. doi:10.1007/s10393-007-0132-2
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We report on the first Health Impact Assessment (HIA) for proposed oil and gas development in Alaska’s North Slope region. Public health is not generally analyzed in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process in the U.S. We conducted an HIA for proposed oil development within the National Petroleum Reserve - Alaska in response to growing concerns among North Slope Inupiat communities regarding the potential impacts of regional industrial expansion on their health and culture. We employed a qualitative HIA methodology, involving a combination of stakeholder input, literature review, and qualitative analysis, through which we identified potential health effects. The possible health outcomes identified include increases in diabetes and related metabolic conditions as a result of dietary change; rising rates of substance abuse, domestic violence, and suicide; increased injury rates; more frequent asthma exacerbations; and increased exposure to organic pollutant, including carcinogens and endocrine disruptors. There are also potential benefits, including funding for infrastructure and health care; increased employment and income; and continued funding of existing infrastructure. Based on these findings, we recommend a series of public health mitigation measures. This project represents the first formal effort to include a systematic assessment of public health within the U.S. EIS process. The inclusion of public health concerns within an EIS may offer an important and underutilized avenue through which to argue for environmental management strategies that focus on public health, and may offer communities a stronger voice in the EIS process.