The Ministry of Health and Environmental Protection, established in 1972, is responsible for the coordination at the national level of all environmental protection efforts, addressing its efforts toward problems including waste disposal, pollution, noise, sulfur dioxide, and carbon monoxide levels, as well as emissions by the iron, steel, and ceramics industries. A toxic waste law enacted in 1984 established strict regulations for the collection, transport, and disposal of dangerous substances. The Austrian government has imposed strict regulations on gas emissions, which helped to reduce sulphur dioxide by two-thirds over an eight-year period beginning in 1980. In 1992 Austria was among the 50 countries with the highest level of industrial carbon dioxide emissions, producing 56.6 million metric tons of emissions, or 7.29 m tons per capita. In 1996, the level rose to 59.3 million metric tons.
Austrians continue to fight the problem of acid rain which has damaged 25% of the country's forests. In general, environmental legislation is based on the "polluter pays" principle. The water resources fund of the Ministry for Buildings and Technology distributed more than S 20 billion for canalization and wastewater purification plants between 1959 and the early 1980s; the Danube and the Mur have been the special focus of efforts to improve water quality. Endangered species include Freya's damselfly and the dusky large blue butterfly. Of the country's 83 species of mammals, 7 are threatened. Five of Austria's 213 breeding bird species are endangered. There were 6 endangered plant species from a total of 3,000-plus as of 2001. Endangered species include Freya's damselfly, slender-billed curlew, bald ibis, Danube salmon, and the European mink.