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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 awards its innovative thinkers
2009-11-18

Here are, from the left: Prof. Van Wyk with first-prize winners Precious Setlaba and Themba Motsoeneng and Prof. Muriel Meiring, the students’ promoter.
Photo: Stephen Collett


The University of the Free State (UFS) recently announced the winners of the Innovation Fund Competition. This national competition, which is organised by the Department of Science and Technology aims to promote entrepreneurship through the commercialisation of the innovative ideas of young entrepreneurs.

Every participating educational institution first has an in-house competition in which a total prize money of R100 000 is at stake. At the UFS 14 business plans from students were received and evaluated by six external adjudicators. The three winners now have to take part in Phase II of the competition where 60 competitors from 20 universities will compete. The winners of the National Competition will receive prizes of up to R300 000. This money must be used for the development of the innovative idea with which the prize was won.

The first prize in the UFS’s Innovation Fund Competition of R50 000 was won by Themba Motsoeneng and Precious Setlaba from the Department of Haematology for the development of low-cost diagnostic assays for thrombotic diseases and bleeding disorders with the aim of supplying these test assays at a much lower cost to pathology laboratories all over the country. “This exciting idea appealed to many of the judges, especially because it can contribute to low cost health care in the country,” says Prof. Gerrit van Wyk, organiser of the Innovation Fund Competition at the UFS. The second prize of R30 000 was won by Charl Jaftha, MSc student in Physics. He has developed a low-cost hearing aid the size of a cigarette box. It contains a microphone and electronics to amplify the sound. The third prize of R20 000 was won by Adriaan Taylor and Jaco Brink, both MBA students. They designed a two-in-one lawnmower that would enable the average gardener with a bulky garden to shred the garden refuse and recycle it through composting or disposal through the normal disposal system. “One judge called this a novel use of existing technology,” says Prof. Van Wyk.
 

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