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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

Acting Rector visits USA universities
2009-04-17

 
 Prof. Verschoor (second from the left, front) and the delegation during the visit to the Appalachian State University.
Photo: Supplied
The Acting Rector of the University of the Free State (UFS), Prof. Teuns Verschoor, recently returned from an extensive visit to the United States of America (USA). He was accompanied by Prof. Aldo Stroebel, Director International Affairs, and Mr Arthur Johnson, Coordinator at the International Office. An institutional agreement has been signed between the UFS and Appalachian State University (ASU), which will focus on staff and student exchange, within the ambit of service learning initiatives. Prof; Mabel Erasmus, Head of Service Learning at the university’s Centre for Higher Education Studies and Development (CHESD), joined Prof. Verschoor and the delegation for the ASU part of the visit. Proff. Verchoor and Stroebel also interviewed potential Fulbright Senior Specialists to participate in the conceptualisation of the proposed International Institute for Diversity. They had discussions with Mellon Foundation representatives and it is planned that the UFS will participate in a networking and showcasing event to potential international donors later during 2009 at Princeton University under the auspices of Seton Hall University, New York. Discussions took place with several staff at Cornell University, including Prof. Alice Pell, Vice-Provost for International Affairs, and Prof. Muna Ndulo, Director of the Institute for African Development. It has been agreed that an institutional memorandum of agreement will be signed between the UFS and Cornell early in the second semester following the assumption of duty of the Rector and Vice-Chancellor Designate, Prof. Jonathan Jansen. Prof Jansen is an alumnus of Cornell University

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