Official backing for the involvement of the World Health Organization (WHO) in environmental health impact assessment was sanctioned by Resolution WHO/35.17, approved by the World Health Assembly in May 1982. This resolution recommended that environmental health and health impact assessment studies should be carried out and developed prior to the implementation of all major economic development projects, with special reference at a global level, to water resources development projects. There are geographical variations in priorities with respect to environmental health impact assessment which are dependent upon the relative state of development within a particular region. At the European level, for example, priority is given to hazardous industrial developments with special attention focused on the control of toxic chemicals and on the risk of major technological disasters (see, for example, Gilad 1984). The general framework for WHO involvement in environmental health impact assessment at present is set by the Seventh General Programme of Work covering the period 1984-9 (WHO 1983a). This states that WHO
will pursue the study and analysis of situations in Which ecological changes, particularly those resulting from urban and rural development, might give rise to health hazards. For this purpose, it will promote the study and analysis of, and the collation of information on, types of ecological changes that might create such hazards; research on the prevention of communicable diseases that are spread by deficient sanitation and are associated with rural and urban development as well as on factors that might promote and adversely affect the quality of life that are associated with such developments; and the participation of health experts in the planning of rural and urban programmes to make the control of hazards, due to ecological changes, an integral part of such plans.
(Objective 11.2, para 285)