Air, water, and land pollution rank among Estonia's most significant environmental challenges. The combination of 300,000 tons of dust from the burning of oil shale by power plants in the northeast part of the country and airborne pollutants from industrial centers in Poland and Germany poses a significant hazard to Estonia's air quality.
Estonia's water resources have been affected by agricultural and industrial pollutants, including petroleum products, which have also contaminated the nation's soil. Some rivers and lakes within the country have been found to contain toxic sediments in excess of 10 times the accepted level for safety.
The nation's land pollution problems are aggravated by the 15 million tons of pollutants that are added yearly to the existing 250 million tons of pollutants. In 1994, 24,000 acres of the country's total land area were affected. Radiation levels from the nuclear accident at Chernobyl exceed currently accepted safety levels.
As of 2001, 11% of the total land area was protected, including 10 Wetlands of International importance. According to UN sources, 14 types of plants and 38 forms of lichens are extinct. As of 2001, the list of threatened species included four types of mammals, two types of birds, and one type of freshwater fish. The European mink and the Atlantic sturgeon are among those listed as endangered.