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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 academics to submit proposal on innovative research for smallholder agriculture
2009-08-04

 
Here are, from the left: Dr Bennie Grové, Department of Agricultural Economics; Prof. Schalk Louw, Department of Zoology and Entomology; Prof. Bland; Prof. Swart; and Prof. André Pelser, Department of Sociology.
Photo: Arthur Johnson


Prof. Wijnand Swart, Director of the Strategic Research Cluster (Technologies for sustainable crop industries in semi-arid regions) at the University of the Free State (UFS) recently hosted Prof. William (Bill) Bland, Chairperson of the Department of Soil Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA. Prof. Bland’s visit to the UFS was linked to an initiative by Prof. Swart to forge closer links with this university by signing a Memorandum of Understanding in the near future.

Opportunities for collaborative research were discussed with various academics at the UFS, including Prof. Teuns Verschoor, Vice-Rector: Academic Operations, and Prof. Aldo Stroebel, Director: Internationalisation. A definite outcome of these talks is that six researchers from the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, in collaboration with Prof. Bland and scientists from the Universities of Makerere and Umutara in Uganda and Rwanda respectively, will submit a joint proposal for a research programme, supported by the National Science Foundation of the USA and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The objective of this programme, referred to as the BREAD programme (Basic Research to Enable Agricultural Development), is to support innovative scientific research designed to address constraints to smallholder agriculture in the developing world. Prof. Bland also delivered a lecture in the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences entitled, Holon Agroecology: A Conceptual Framework for a New Agricultural Expertise. The lecture was followed by a multi-disciplinary panel discussion.
 

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