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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

Romania and UFS work together on diagnostic programme
2009-04-28

 
Here are, from the left: Dr William Rae with Prof. Chirvase and Prof. Caramihai of the Romanian research team during their visit to Bloemfontein.
Photo: Supplied
 
A group of academics of Romania visited the Department of Medical Physics of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of the Free State (UFS) recently. Proff. Mihai Caramihai and Ana Chirvase are senior researchers of the Facultatea de Automatica & Calculatoare, Universitatea Politehnica Bucuresti who are working together with Prof. Charles Herbst and Dr William Rae of the UFS on the project MAmmary Malignancy Modelling using Artificial intelligence, ROmania South Africa, or Mamma Rosa. It is part of a larger local project aimed at implementing a computer-aided diagnosis programme (CAD), designed within the UFS's Department of Medical Physics, and which will take into account some of the South African requirements for computerised diagnostic radiology support. The National Research Foundation (NRF) provided travel funding and Prof. Herbst and Dr Rae visited Bucharest in November 2008 to collaborate with the Romanians. The visiting Romanian researchers were involved in a similar project where they were planning to model the changes in tumours as they grow and as they are treated. Dr Rae says there are many synergies between the two departments. The project has many aspects and there are several possibilities for related sub-projects. As a result the UFS has been able to attract three people to be involved in the project and they will do their Ph.Ds with the UFS. On the visit to Bloemfontein the roles of the researchers in the project were defined and the programme for the three-year collaboration was established. The stimulus created as a result of this collaboration has resulted in projects that will continue for at least the next four years.

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