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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

British Columbia University staff visit the UFS
2010-02-09

Standing, from the left, are: Dr Dewald Steyn (Internal Medicine), Lyndsay O'Hara (UBC), Justin Lo Chang (UBC), Prof. Christo Heunis (Acting Director: Centre for Health Systems Research and Development), Prof. Lucius Botes (Dean: Faculty of Humanities), Dr Katinka de Wet (CHSR&D) and Dr Annie de la Querra (Registrar: Community Medicine).
Photo: Mangaliso Radebe


Representatives from the Centre for International Health at the University of British Columbia (UBC) recently visited the Centre for Health Systems Research and Development (CHSR&D) in the Faculty of the Humanities. The University of the Free State and the UBC are working together on two research projects. The first project, for which funding has been approved, will measure a new Health Information System that is used in hospitals. The Department of Computer Science and Informatics is also part of this project. The second project will be aimed at capacity building in the Free State health-care sector around issues of occupational health. For this project the CHSR&D will work in close cooperation with the Faculty of Medicine, the Department of Computer Science and Informatics, the Free State Department of Health, and various hospitals. Pictured seated, from the left, are: Prof. Jerry Spiegel (Director: Centre for International Health, UBC), Lucky Nophale (Provincial Occupational Health Unit), Dr Kerry Uebel (Free State Department of Health) and Prof. Annalee Yassi (UBC). Standing, from the left, are: Dr Dewald Steyn (Internal Medicine), Lyndsay O'Hara (UBC), Justin Lo Chang (UBC), Prof. Christo Heunis (Acting Director: Centre for Health Systems Research and Development), Prof. Lucius Botes (Dean: Faculty of Humanities), Dr Katinka de Wet (CHSR&D) and Dr Annie de la Querra (Registrar: Community Medicine).
 

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