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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 Expert: Prof Felicity Burt investigates zoonotic and arboviruses
2017-12-13


 Description: Burt read more 2 Tags: Arboviruses, Felicity Burt, Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever, viruses  

Prof Felicity Burt recently received a B-rating from the
National Research
Foundation.
Photo: Sonia Small

Prof Felicity Burt is from the Division of Virology in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of the Free State (UFS), as well as the National Health Laboratory Services (NHLS). She currently holds an NRF-DST South African Research Chair in vector-borne and zoonotic diseases.  Professor Burt and her research group investigate arboviruses and zoonotic viruses. 

Prof Burt’s research primarily focuses on host immune responses to arboviral infections specifically characterising humoral and cellular immune responses in patients with infections such as Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) virus and Sindbis virus; epitope discovery for development of diagnostic tools; development of molecular and serological assays for surveillance purposes; virus discovery; and the development of vaccines.

Raising awareness of these viruses, defining associated diseases, and developing tools for surveillance programmes will contribute to understanding these pathogens as well as the public health implications.

Leads research group in papilloma viruses
Arboviruses cause outbreaks of disease in South Africa annually. Outbreaks are usually associated with heavy rainfall favouring the breeding of mosquitos, but these viruses also have the capacity to spread and become endemic in new areas where competent vectors are present. 
In addition, she is leading a research group that investigates human papilloma viruses (HPV) associated with head and neck cancers and recurrent laryngeal papilloma.

The focus of this research group is to ascertain the genotypes of HPV causing these diseases, identification of novel biomarkers for early detection, and complete genome sequencing for molecular characterisation of HPV isolates.  

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