Environmental health

Environmental health is a subfield of public health devoted to the evaluation of the health effects of environmental and risk factors with an either direct or indirect impact on human health as well as to the control and prevention of health risks.

 

Environmental health activities include:

  • Identification of risk factors affecting human health and their characteristic features;
  • evaluation and control of health risks;
  • evaluation of health impacts and control of undesired health impacts;
  • creation of the preconditions for the development of a healthy living environment;
  • increasing awareness of risk factors and the possibilities of controlling and preventing health risks arising from these factors.

 

Human health is affected by numerous environmental factors (view the chart):

  • Physical factors (e.g. ionising and non-ionising radiation, noise, vibration, temperature, air circulation speed, humidity);
  • chemical (e.g. hazardous chemicals, either via direct contact or indirectly via polluted air, contaminated food, water, etc.); and
  • biological (e.g. micro-organisms, parasites via drinking water, food, internal or ambient air, bathing water, soil, etc.).

Just like the entire field of public health, planning and carrying out environmental health activities involves cooperation between different organisations and sectors. At the national level, the responsibility for planning and implementing environmental health policy and the relevant activities is mainly borne by the Ministries of Social affairs, the Environment, Economic Affairs and Communication, Rural Affairs, and Internal Affairs, the National Health Board, the National Environmental Board, the Environmental Inspectorate, the Food and Veterinary Office, and the Technical Regulatory Authority. 

Environmental health issues managed by the Ministry of Social Affairs

Water

Issues related to drinking water are regulated by the Public Health Act and Water Act. Regulation No. 82 of the Minister of Social Affairs (EST) of 31 July 2001 on quality and monitoring standards and methods of analysis for drinking water establishes the procedure for drinking water analyses and the indicators used for the evaluation of the quality of drinking water. The standards established in the regulation have been adopted from the Council Directive 98/83/EC of 3 November 1998 on the quality of water intended for human consumption.

Authorities involved with drinking water safety

  • Ministry of Social Affairs: is responsible for enacting drinking water quality standards and implementing drinking water policy.
  • National Health Board: is responsible for state supervision of drinking water health safety and enforcement.
  • Ministry of the Environment: protection of drinking water supply, regulation of issues related to drinking water use, and funding investment projects.
  • Food and Veterinary Office: evaluation of the quality of drinking water from the perspective of food safety

Natural mineral water is regulated by Directive No. 2009/54/EC of the European Parliament and the Council and Directive No. 2003/40/EC of the European Commission.

Authorities involved with the safety of natural mineral water

  • Ministry of Social Affairs: responsible for enacting standards in this area 
  • National Health Board: the authority responsible for the area of natural mineral water; certifies water extracted or produced in Estonia or water from a non-Community country marketed in Estonia as a natural mineral water and performs state supervision.

Bathing water ja swimming pools

Information can be found under Products and Services.

Air

Ambient air is one of the vital components of the environment. Based on WHO reports ambient air causes premature death to over 3 million people worldwide and to 400 000 people in the European Union. 

When speaking of ambient air, we first and foremost mean the layer of air close to the ground. It has been internationally agreed that all ambient air samples shall be collected at 2 meters above ground level. This enables receiving comparable results. Find additional information on the website of the Ministry of Environment.

Factors influencing ambient air include

  • Various chemical compounds, some of which are damaging to health while others are neutral in respect to people but not the environment (for example, carbon dioxide CO2)
  • Noise
  • Dust
  • Ionising radiation, i.e. radiation having an impact on living tissues
  • Non-ionising radiation, such as ultraviolet radiation
  • Electromagnetic fields
  • Light pollution
  • Odour pollution

Main causes

  • Local sources of pollution, i.e. energy and technological devices, which are the source for a large part of global problems;
  • Transport, especially car transport as one of the main reasons of urban air pollution;
  • Radars, radio stations and solariums as sources of electromagnetic fields and ultraviolet radiation;
  • X-ray and radiation therapy equipment, various radioactive substances used in the industry and science as sources of ionising radiation.

Noise, vibration and radiation

Main physical environmental factors affecting human health are: noise, vibration and ionizing and non-ionizing radiation.

Authorities involved with air and noise

  • Ministry of Social Affairs: chemical safety, enacting standards of health protection for educational and care institutions. Enacting standards for noise, vibration, and non-ionising radiation in the internal environment in living and recreational areas.

  • National Health Board: state supervision of the health safety of internal air in educational and care institutions, as well as noise, vibration and non-ionising radiation.

  • Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communication: development of policy and regulation in the field of construction and housing (including internal climate). 

  • Ministry of the Environment: quality and protection of ambient air, development of radiation safety policy and regulation.

  • National Environmental Board: issuing radiation practice licences, radiation monitoring, emergency information.

  • Environmental Inspectorate: supervision of radiation practice and requirements established in the Ambient Air Protection Act.

Chemical safety

Directly applicable community-wide regulations have been developed for the implementation of EU chemical policy.

Kemikaaliohutusega seotud asutusted

Biocides

Biocides are regulated by Regulation (EU) No. 528/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the making available on the market and use of biocidal products.

In addition to this legal act, biocides are also regulated in Estonia by the Biocides Act, the main focus of which is on specifying the use of biocides (pest control) and the availability of biocides in Estonia.

Additional information

Detergents

Detergents made available on the market and handling thereof is regulated by the Regulation (EC) No. 648/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 31 March 2004 concerning detergents.

Additional information

Export/import of hazardous chemicals

The prior informed consent procedure for certain hazardous chemicals and pesticides in international trade is regulated by the Rotterdam Convention. Estonia joined the convention on 13 June 2006.

For the implementation of the convention, the EU has passed the Regulation (EU) No. 649/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the export and import of hazardous chemicals (the PIC Regulation).

The competent authority carrying out the administrative tasks enacted by the convention is the National Health Board. More information about the implementation of the Rotterdam Convention and the PIC Regulation can be found on the website of the National Health Board.​

Good Laboratory Practice (GLP)

Based on the administration agreement between the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Estonian Accreditation Centre (EAK), the EAK is tasked with carrying out GLP inspections and programme supervision in Estonia.

Additional information:

Products and services

 

The general principle is that all products and services must be safe to the health of the consumer as well as to the surrounding environment and property when used as intended.

Product safety and conformity is regulated by the Product Conformity Act.

Regulation (EC) No. 765/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council setting out the requirements for accreditation and market surveillance relating to the marketing of products.

Only safe products are allowed to be marketed and used. A product is considered safe when it guarantees the protection of the safety and health of individuals and does not endanger the surrounding environment when used in the intended conditions, taking into account the service life of the product and following its commissioning, installation, and maintenance requirements.

It is important to ensure that the product is used only for the purpose and in the manner intended by the manufacturer.

Cosmetic products

All cosmetic products must be safe to humans in any ordinary or reasonably foreseeable conditions of use.

In order to ensure the health safety of cosmetic products and the free movement of products in the EU internal market, relevant standards have been established for cosmetic products and their ingredients and availability in the Regulation (EC) No. 1223/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council. Additional more detailed requirements for making cosmetic products available are presented in Section 12 of the Public Health Act.

All marketed cosmetic products, including so-called natural cosmetics, pharmacy cosmetics, etc. must correspond to the standards established in the regulation and in the said act.


Additional information

On the website of the EU Directorate general »

Servcies

Similar to products, the services provided to consumers must also be safe. Requirements for services provided are found in the Regulation No. 2006/123/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on services in the internal market (OJ L 376, 27.12.2006, pp 36–68), adopted into the Estonian judicial area by the General Part of the Economic Activities Code Act.

Health protection requirements for childcare and social work institutions

The Minister of Social Affairs has enacted health protection requirements for various childcare and social work institutions, as well as the services provided by these institutions. The purpose of the health protection requirements is to facilitate the creation of a healthier teaching, educational, and living environment

Authorities involved

  • Ministry of Social Affairs: enacting health protection requirements for childcare and social work institutions
  • National Health Board: performs state supervision at childcare and social work institutions

Additional information

Beauty and personal services

Beauty and personal services within the meaning of Regulation No. 86 of the Minister of Social affairs (EST) of 20 December 2000 on health protection requirements for beauty and personal services include hairdresser’s, manicure, pedicure, cosmetics, solarium, and sauna services. Undertakings providing such services must meet the standards established in the regulation.

Bathing water

Requirements for bathing areas, bathing sites, and bathing water are established by the Regulation No. 74 of the Government of the Republic (EST) of 3 April 2008 on requirements for bathing water and bathing areas. This regulation establishes standards for the quality, monitoring, classification and evaluation of bathing water, compilation of bathing water profiles, and informing residents.

Authorities involved with bathing water safety

  • Ministry of Social Affairs: responsible for enacting bathing water quality standards

  • National Health Board: competent authority in the area of bathing water safety; performs state supervision of the health safety of bathing water and enforcement functions

Legal acts regulating the area

Additional information

Swimming pools

Requirements for swimming pools, pool water, and spas are enacted in the Regulation No. 80 of the Government of the Republic (EST) 15 March 2007 concerning health protection requirements for swimming pools, pool water, and spas. The Regulation establishes standards for pool water quality, cleaning, and disinfecting water and pools, and the maintenance of facilities.

Authorities involved with the area

  • Ministry of Social Affairs: responsible for enacting standards in this area

  • National Health Board: performs state supervision of pool water, pool facilities, safety thereof and the provision of services, as well as enforcement functions.

Additional information

Last updated: 7 November 2017