Give Babies A Fighting Chance

By Charlotte Brody, RN, National Director of Healthy Babies Bright Futures

ecoAmerica’s Let’s Talk Climate: Messages to Motivate Americans encourages us to:

  • Connect climate action to moral responsibility for future generations
  • Focus on family and children
  • Highlight health
  • Project a can-do attitude, and
  • Promote fines and rules for polluters.

The science that shows how the burning of fossil fuels is harming the development of babies’ brains can be used to meet all of those recommendations.

Last year, Healthy Babies Bright Futures and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication published a lay-persons guide of the scientific literature on The Link Between Fossil Fuels and Neurological Harm.  The 29 studies summarized in the document explain how air pollution is damaging neurodevelopment—the growth and functioning of  babies’ brains and nervous systems—both before and after birth. And, a new study recently published in Environmental Health Perspectives further affirms these conclusions by finding that air pollution poses mental health threats for children. The summary document also describes the scientific evidence that suggests that air pollution may also be a factor in neurodegenerative disorders that many older adults experience.

The guide can be used to tell the story of how tiny particles of lead, mercury, black carbon and PAHs from the combustion of oil, gas and coal get trapped in our bodies. Besides the well-known damage that air pollution does to our lungs and heart, we are now learning that prenatal and early life exposures to these pollutants can also add up to development delays, reduced IQ, cognitive deficits and autism spectrum disorder. In adults, exposure to the products of fossil fuel combustion has been linked to higher rates of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Government rules that effectively limit the amount of pollution from vehicles, power plants and other sources give babies a better chance to reach their full intellectual potential. The Trump Administration’s weakening of the Clean Air Act, the revoking of the Federal Highway Administration’s carbon emissions rule and the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards on power plants, and the attack on fuel economy standards will all make it more difficult for children to learn and thrive.  Don’t we all share a moral responsibility to give future generations a fighting chance?


Healthy Babies Bright Futures is a partner of Climate for Health, a coalition of health leaders committed to caring for our climate to care for our health.  Founded by ecoAmerica, Climate for Health offers tools, resources, and communications to demonstrate visible climate leadership, inspiring and empowering health leaders to speak about, act on and advocate for climate solutions. Learn more about our partnership and the resources available to you here.


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