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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 student's essay nominated for Berlin Roundtables
2010-02-22

Ms Chrismi-Rinda Kotze
Photo: Supplied


An essay by Ms Chrismi-Rinda Kotze, a staff member and student at the University of the Free State's (UFS) Unit for Language Management, has been selected for the 12th Berlin Roundtables on “Cultural Pluralism Revisited: Religious and Linguistic Freedoms”. The focus of this theme is on religious and linguistic minority rights and the challenges of multicultural societies.

Her essay entitled The Linguistic Landscape as Mechanism in Multicultural Societies, focuses on the importance of the written language in the public space as a mechanism with which to regulate and develop a multicultural society as it is a means of access to participation in society.

The Berlin Roundtables on Transnationality are international conferences that consist of workshops and lecture series for 30 to 65 participants selected by an international jury based on essay competitions. It provides a forum for international young academics and journalists to discuss the political and social challenges facing a global civil society.

At the end of each Roundtable, the Irmgard Coninx Foundation will award up to three participants a three-month research grant at the Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB) and the Humboldt University in Berlin.

They are jointly organised by the Irmgard Coninx Foundation, WZB and the Humboldt University Berlin.

The Roundtables will take place from 7–11 April 2010 in Berlin.

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