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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

Young PhD graduate gets international attention
2010-02-22

Dr Nalize Marais
Photo: Supplied


The youngest ever PhD graduate from the Faculty of Education at the University of the Free State (UFS), Dr Nalize Marais, has gained international recognition for her research study.

Her PhD thesis entitled Accountability and liability: an education law perspective on school leadership has been nominated for the Best Dissertation Award by the International Politics of Education Association. She will compete with two other finalists for this prestigious award.

The winner will be announced during the annual meeting and conference of the American Education Research Association (AERA) in Denver, Colorado, in April this year.

Dr Marais’ research study was driven by the principles of democracy founded in the advancement of human rights, equality and dignity. It dealt with issues of training and development in legislative knowledge and interpretation to empower school principals in their roles as accountable officers in a politically transforming environment.

She obtained her PhD at the September graduation ceremony of the UFS in 2009. She was only 27 years old when she submitted her thesis, making her the youngest person to obtain a PhD in Education at the UFS.

She is currently an instructional designer at the Centre for Higher Education Studies and Development (CHESD) at the UFS.

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