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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

Facilitation session for Extended Curriculum Project
2009-03-13

The Faculty of Humanities at the University of the Free State (UFS) recently held an academic facilitation session in its Extended Curriculum Project for first-year Sociology students on the Main Campus in Bloemfontein. The purpose of this project is to improve the throughput and pass rates in the B.A. and B.Soc.Sc. extended programmes, as the failure and dropout rates in the faculty are high, especially among first-year students and in the extended programmes themselves. This will be done by establishing a support system for students in their first year of study to help them with and support them in integrating skills with the academic content of the mainstream modules. These extended programmes were introduced in 2005 in an effort to provide students who are not sufficiently prepared for higher education with a better opportunity to be successful in their studies. This year the focus will be on the first-year students in these extended programmes. Pictured are the project facilitators: Ms Melanie Nel (2nd from left), Ms Puleng Maleho (4th from left) and Ms Bianca de Vos (6th from left), with some of the students.
Photo: Mangaliso Radebe

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