Healthy Babies Bright Futures for Climate Action

By Kyra Naumoff Shields

One in six American children have a neurological disability spanning from autism to IQ loss to ADHD. Diverse experts agree that before and after birth exposures to toxic chemicals and pollutants significantly increase kids’ risks for developing a neurodevelopmental disorder.

Healthy Babies Bright Futures (HBBF) is an organization working to create and support initiatives that measurably reduce babies’ exposures to neurotoxic chemicals. We provide tools and resources to parents, drive policy change and research, and support municipal leaders committed to improving health.

Approximately 1 billion children worldwide are at an “extremely high risk” of the impacts of the climate crisis. A significant portion of this risk comes from exposure to air pollution.

When you consider the impact of climate change, do you consider its impact on the neurodevelopmental health of the kids in your life? In your city?

There are lots of examples of how small amounts of neurotoxic chemicals can do great but subtle harm. A huge one is air pollution. Air pollution can disrupt brain development in utero, and people of color are 1.5 times more likely to live in areas with poor air quality than white people.  Certain kinds of air pollution are strongly associated with premature birth and low-birth weight, which in turn are linked to childhood respiratory, GI, and neurologic problems, as well as more infections.  We have recently learned that, as adults, these kids have a greater chance of both physical and mental health issues and a higher risk of premature death.

Air pollution and climate change are closely related. The extraction and burning of fossil fuels – the main source of carbon dioxide emissions – both causes climate change and is a major source of air pollutants.

Are you still wondering about the links between neurotoxic chemicals and climate impact?

At the municipal level, leaders have two clear opportunities to score a win-win for climate and neurological health — by leading to reduce air toxics and drive environmentally preferable purchasing.

These points of intersection lead Healthy Babies Bright Futures to partner with EcoAmerica to develop a customized Climate for Health Ambassadors training focusing on the connection between climate and the neurological health of the people in our communities. This four hour training also includes valuable content about the spectrum of solutions, how to speak effectively on the topic, and pragmatic opportunities to act and advocate for climate action.

All health providers, public health practitioners, and municipal leaders interested in neurological health of babies should join this training! You can access the training here using the code HBBFCfHAmbassador22

In addition to this virtual on-demand training, we will have a live virtual debrief event: November 1 at 3pm EST. At this debrief event you will have a chance to share your experiences with other leaders, practice skills learned in the training, and discuss how to make changes locally. Register here for the virtual “RECAP” event on November 1, 2022.

About the Author:

Kyra Naumoff Shields is the Bright Cities Program Director at Healthy Babies Bright Futures and is an environmental health scientist and mother with over a decade of experience in community engagement and exposure assessment. She has led monitoring and intervention projects in communities suffering from chronic air pollution exposure, both nationally and internationally. She’s also advised small businesses on pragmatic strategies to reduce their carbon footprint. Kyra holds a PhD in environmental health sciences from the University of California Berkeley.

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