Malta’s principal environmental health challenges relate to respiratory diseases, which may be related to air pollution. Indeed, the latter is a major factor in environmental health, and arises from sources such as road transport, thermal power stations, waste incineration plants not meeting the required standards, landfills, construction sites, quarrying and mining. Very young children, and even unborn babies, are particularly sensitive to air pollutants. The WHO reports that the following are among the major diseases and conditions associated with airborne environmental determinants: gastrointestinal diseases; cancers; cardiovascular diseases; respiratory diseases; overweight and obesity; injuries; and, developmental disorders.
The principal air pollutants in Malta are particulate matter (PM), ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and benzene. Malta's most significant air pollutants however, are particulates, the concentrations of which exceed EU standards in certain areas, and ozone, which originates principally from transboundary sources but also from traffic and power generation emissions. Various measures have already taken to address air pollution. The next step necessary for further improvements in air quality is the introduction of more environmentally-friendly transport measures and the use of cleaner and alternative energy sources.
Noise is also an area of potentially significant environmental health impact, although there is as yet little public awareness of its effects on human health. The principal cause of environmental noise in Malta is traffic.