The neurotoxic effects of fossil fuel use and increasing public support for clean energy formed the subject of a recent research at the Centre for Climate Change Communication, George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, USA.
In an article titled: “Fossil fuels are harming our brains: identifying key messages about the health effects of air pollution from fossil fuels” and published in the journal BMC Public Health, the study suggests that a transition away from fossil fuels toward a clean energy economy will dramatically improve public health.
“Experts have long understood that air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels contributes to many serious health problems, like asthma, heart disease and cancer. More recently, research has shown that air pollution harms our brains and our mental abilities too – especially among children (including unborn babies), the elderly, and people living in poverty,” the Centre stated.
In the new article, the researchers sought to identify the specific messages about the health effects of air pollution from fossil fuels that are most concerning to people, and to ascertain whether exposure to such messages would increase public support for a transition to clean energy.
To do this, the institution reportedly surveyed a large, demographically-diverse group of American adults (n=1644) and found that information about the harms to older adults’ brains as well as the more well-established harms associated with asthma, heart disease and cancer were of concern, but participants were most concerned about the potential harm to children’s brains.
Additionally, this general pattern of results was largely consistent across several partisan and demographic subgroups, even among older adults and those living in low-income households.
After the ranking exercise, Republicans, Independents, and Democrats alike exhibited increases in perceived health harm of air pollution and fossil fuels, a desire for more clean energy, and intention to engage in consumer advocacy to support clean energy.
“These findings highlight the importance of organising new efforts to communicate about the harmful effects of burning fossil fuels on our brains, particularly the neuro-developmental impacts on babies and children,” the Centre submitted.