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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 Rector spreads the Kovsie spirit
2010-02-12

Prof. Jonathan Jansen (middle) and UFS students Willien du Preez (far left) and Mbulelo Mpofana (far right) together with learners they met while on their tour of Eastern Cape schools.
Photo: Supplied


Prof. Jonathan Jansen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Free State (UFS), recently joined the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences on a tour of schools in the Eastern Cape Province. Prof. Jansen sees the tour as a staggering success: “It was hard work, but a lot of fun. I can’t wait to visit other provinces and spread the true Kovsie spirit throughout South Africa.”

The tour kicked off at Aliwal North, where 36 students, parents and teachers from schools in Aliwal North were addressed.

In Queenstown they were awaited by more than a hundred people. Hoërskool Hangklip, Queen’s College Boys High, Girls High and Maria Louw Secondary School attended the function.

The evening function was hosted by Hudson Park High School. Representatives from many schools, including George Randell High School, Stirling High School and Claredon Girls High School made up the 174 people in attendance. The next morning motivational speeches were delivered at Grens Hoërskool and Stirling High School. George Randall High School also requested a visit from Prof. Jansen during the previous evening’s function.

The final function was held at Grey High School in Port Elizabeth. Hundred-and-thirty-four people from the top schools in Port Elizabeth attended the function. These included Victoria Park High School, Theodor Herzl School, Hoërskool Andrew Rabie, Alexander Road High School, Ethembeni Enrichment Centre and Nico Malan in Humansdorp.

Sadly, the tour had to end, but at least it ended on a high note. Ethembeni Enrichment Centre and Chapman’s High School were the last schools on the itinerary, but certainly not the least. The schools might not have all the resources at their disposal, but their enthusiasm and unquenchable spirit and pride were incredible.

Willien du Preez and Mbulelo Nkululeko, two students who accompanied the tour, were awed at the experience: “It was not only a privilege, but also proof that the university strives to give students wonderful learning opportunities. It also confirms our Rector’s stand: the university is not just offering students a degree, but also the opportunity to grow as humans. And that is what adds real value to our lives.”

According to Prof. Tienie Crous, Dean: Economic and Management Sciences, the tour achieved its goals, and much more: “We redeemed our university in other provinces while marketing it at the same time.”
 

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