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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

Renowned Sign Language expert heads UFS department
2009-11-27

 Mr Philemon Akach

The Department of Afro-asiatic Studies, Sign Language and Language Practice in the Faculty of the Humanities at the University of the Free State recently appointed Mr Philemon Akach as its new chairperson.

Mr Akach, hitherto a senior lecturer in the department, succeeds Prof Annelie Lotriet who left the university earlier this year after having been elected to serve in the national parliament by the Democratic Alliance.

“To head the entire department has never crossed my mind because I think I am discipline oriented,” he said.

He said the confidence that his colleagues have in him gives him the impetus to succeed. “It gives me the opportunity to rethink my position within the department and the university at large,” he said.

However, his Sign Language students will be glad to know that he will not be lost to them as the result of this new responsibility.

“I cannot neglect Sign Language,” he stressed. “I have to teach because the academic side of Sign Language has to be maintained within the university, as well as nationally and internationally. I just have to divide my time between the administration of Sign Language and the teaching and research application in my discipline (Sign Language).”

To ease the load that comes with his new responsibility and the added pressure of being the only Sign Language lecturer, he said they have contracted former students to teach some courses in Sign Language.

“We have to keep in place the disciplines that keep this department’s name going,” he said.

A major challenge facing his department, according to Mr Akach, is getting more students enrolled in the disciplines offered by the department.

“To get students we need to convince them that we are the best, and that is not just a challenge for me but for the department and the lecturers in the department teaching those disciplines.”

He said he will strive for excellence in the department as part of the overall vision of the university.

“We need to get research output while not neglecting the teaching part. It is research that brings in new knowledge and it is through research that scholars expose themselves to the outside world, and by doing that they actually put the name of this university on the international map,” he said.

Mr Akach will serve in this position for the next three years.

Media release
Issued by: Mangaliso Radebe
Assistant Director: Media Liaison
Tel: 051 401 2828
Cell: 078 460 3320
E-mail: radebemt.stg@ufs.ac.za  
26 November 2009
 

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