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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

Scientists discover a water reservoir beneath the Free State
2009-12-09

Dr Holger Sommer

The Mantle Research Group Bloemfontein (MRGB), under the leadership of Dr Holger Sommer, a senior lecturer in the Department of Geology at the University of the Free State (UFS), has discovered an enormous water reservoir 160 km beneath the Free State.

This discovery, according to Dr Sommer, is the first of its kind in South Africa after he had previously made a similar finding in Colorado, USA.

However, this water cannot be used for human consumption. “It is not frozen water; it is not molecular water; it is not fresh water; it is not salty water; it is OH – water which is sitting in the crystal lattice,” he said.

He said the reservoir was comparable in size to Lake Victoria in Tanzania.
The researchers collected eclogites from the Roberts Victor (Rovic) Mine close to the town of Boshof, south-west of the Free State, for their study.

“The Rovic eclogites are rocks which represent former oceanic crust transported into the earth’s interior by complex plate tectonic processes about 2.0 billion years ago,” explained Dr Sommer.

“These rocks were finally carried back to the earth’s surface by volcanic (kimberlite) eruptions around 130 million years ago. Eclogitic rocks are therefore a window into the Earth’s interior.”

The question from the beginning for all MRGB scientists was: Is there water inside these rocks in such depth, and if so, where is it located?

To answer this question, Dr Sommer and his research fellows separated single mineral grains from eclogite samples and prepared about 100 micrometer (0,1 mm) thick rock sections. Afterwards, specific particle accelerator (Synchrotron) measurements were carried out in the city of Karlsruhe in Germany.

“And indeed, the MRGB found water inside the studied rocks from the Roberts Victor Mine,” he said. “The water was located in defect structures in crystal lattices and along boundaries between single mineral grains.”

“The occurrence of water at such depth would give first evidence that all water of the oceans could be stored five to ten times in the earth’s mantle.”
The study was conducted about a year ago.
 

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
4 December 2009

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