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04 June 2019 | Story Valentino Ndaba | Photo Charl Devenish
Prof Cathryn Tonne
Air pollution not only costs lives, it costs money too. Pictured is Prof Cathryn Tonne presenting a guest lecture on air pollution at the Bloemfontein Campus.

Health effects associated with ambient air pollution (AAP) have been well documented. Subsequently, the relationship between pollution and financial outcomes have also become a focus for case studies globally. An Environmental Research journal article revealed that “low and middle-income countries are disproportionately affected by the global burden of adverse health effects caused by AAP”. 

A high price to pay

In 2012, high concentrations of air pollution caused 7.4% of all deaths, costing South Africa up to 6% of its Gross Domestic Product. According to the recent International Growth Centre study conducted by senior University of Cape Town researchers, this is a direct consequence of the country’s heavy dependence of fossil fuels, a source of health-damaging air pollution and greenhouse pollutants.

Stunted human and economic growth

These South African statistics are attested to by Prof Cathryn Tonne who recently presented a guest lecture on air pollution which was hosted by the University of the Free State (UFS) Business School.

“Air pollution can affect economic development through several pathways, and health is an important one. Air pollution is linked to shorter life expectancy, chronic disease, asthma exacerbation and many other health outcomes that result in absenteeism from work and school. These have large direct costs to the health system.” 

Prof Tonne says that air pollution exposure in children is linked to reduced cognitive development, with important impacts on human capital. As a result, children are not reaching their full potential in terms of neurodevelopment, which has an effect on their income prospects and the economy as a whole. 

Resolving a looming disaster

Technology may be employed to radically clean the air. Cities need to lead in the reduction of air pollution by promoting renewable energy, using active transport such as walking or cycling, and investing in infrastructure to make this safe and attractive. 

With researchers playing a major role in strengthening the case for aggressive air pollution control, the government needs to implement policies in order to control sources of air pollution. This global health and economic issue also requires individuals and communities to play their part to improve air quality.

News Archive

UFS researchers receive awards from the NSTF
2008-06-04

The recipients of the two awards are, from the left: Prof. Jan van der Westhuizen, UFS Department of Chemistry, Dr Susan Bonnet, UFS Department of Chemistry, Prof. Thinus van der Merwe, FARMOVS-PAREXEL, Prof. Maryke Labuschagne, UFS Department of Plant Sciences, and Prof. Ken Swart, FARMOVS-PAREXEL.
Photo: Lacea Loader

  

UFS researchers receive awards from the NSTF   

The University of the Free State (UFS) last week received two prestigious awards from the National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF) during its tenth gala-awards ceremony held in Kempton Park.

Prof. Maryke Labuschagne from the Department of Plant Sciences at the UFS was the female recipient of the research capacity-development award over the last ten years. She received the award for her successful mentoring of black researchers and students. The award, sponsored by Eskom, includes a prize of R100 000 which will be used for research purposes.  

A team consisting of Prof. Jan van der Westhuizen and Dr Susan Bonnet from the Department of Chemistry at the UFS and Prof. Kenneth Swart and Prof. Thinus van der Merwe from FARMOVS–PAREXEL received the innovation award for an outstanding contribution to science, engineering and technology from either an individual or a team over the last ten years.
 
Prof. Labuschagne, an expert in the field of plant breeding and food security in Africa, received the award for her contribution to the training and development of black students and researchers in this field. Various black students successfully completed their postgraduate studies under her guidance at the UFS during the past ten years, with positive results.

Research by her South African students has led to a firmly entrenched research relationship between the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) and the UFS, while research by her local and international students has culminated in no less than 82 publications over the last decade.

It has also led to the establishment of collaboration agreements with universities and research institutes in Malawi, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania – among others with the University of Malawi where Prof. Labuschagne and her students are involved in the International Programme in the Chemical Sciences (IPICS) of the Uppsala University in Sweden. The project focuses on the study of genetics and chemistry of tropical roots and tuber crops in Malawi. This has led to collaboration with international research organisations and has generated overseas funding.

The combined team from FARMOVS–PAREXEL and the UFS won an award for the synthesis of drug analogues used as reference products during the analysis of the drug concentration in blood, from existing and new drugs registered nationally and internationally.

The project resulted in capacity building in synthetic organic chemistry, mass spectrometry and chromatography: Five master’s degrees were completed, seven are in progress, and six postgraduate students commenced with Ph.D.’s.

The skills transferred during this project are already being applied to examine the properties of indigenous medicinal plants as part of the recently established UFS novel drugs and bioactive compound cluster.

Applied Biosystems, the Canadian manufacturer of mass spectrometers, donated equipment to the value of more than R10 million for this project. As a result the UFS is one of the few universities in the world that can offer postgraduate training in bioanalytical chemistry.

Prof. Hendrik Swart, head of the Department of Physics at the UFS, and Dr Martin Ntwaeaborwa, senior lecturer at the Department of Physics were finalist in the research- capacity developer and black-researcher categories respectively.
The NSTF awards gives recognition to the outstanding contributions of individuals and groups to science, engineering and technology. This includes all practising scientists, engineers and technologists across the system of innovation, including, for example, teachers and students in mathematics, science and technology. The NSTF represents government, science councils, professional bodies, higher education, business and civil society.

Altogether nine individuals and three organisations were presented with the NSTF Awards trophy by the Minister of Science and Technology, Mr Mosibudi Mangena.

Media Release
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Assistant Director: Media Liaison
Tel:  051 401 2584
Cell:  083 645 2454
E-mail:  loaderl.stg@ufs.ac.za
4 June 2008

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