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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

Students help to get the economy back to the rural areas
2009-08-14

 
At the launch of Sanlam’s Creativity for Progress Competition for the Ekn 324 group were, from the left: P.J. Bothma, Mr Frank Louw, National Sponsorship Manager of Sanlam, Dr Karen Thomas, lecturer in Economic Policy at the Department of Economics, Kaylee Wells and Eugene Maseme.
Photo: Lacea Loader


Third-year students in the subject Economic Policy Analysis at the UFS are hard at work to think of ideas on how knowledge and expertise can be taken back to the rural areas of South Africa. This is the theme of Sanlam’s national competition for universities called Creativity for Progress with a total prize money of R900 000. This year's topic is "Rural areas are failing to retain and attract skilled people and graduates, resulting in economic stagnation. How would you remedy this?"

The group of 162 students, which is divided into groups of six, must compile a project that is academically grounded, practical and implementable. They must also approach the project from a community service learning perspective and it counts a quarter of their semester mark. To encourage the students, Prof. Tienie Crous, Dean of the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, has sponsored some prizes for which the groups must compete. Teams of between four and six members will first compete at intra-varsity level to determine a varsity winner. The national panel members will then adjudicate the varsity winners, and invite the semi finalists to the finals. Teams will be assessed on their business proposals as well as the presentation of these proposals to a panel of judges. Last year the group from the UFS ended second in the final round of the competition.

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