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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 strengthens ties with university in the Netherlands
2010-04-20

 
From the left are: Prof. Neil Heideman, Acting Dean: Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences; Mr Johan van Niekerk, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development; and Mr Herman van de Wal, Dronten University.
Photo: Stephen Collett
 
 The Centre for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (CENSARD) at the University of the Free State hosted a visiting academic and livestock specialist from Dronten University in the Netherlands, Mr Herman van der Wal.

Mr Van der Wal paid visits to Mr Arthur Johnson from the International Office; Proff. Frans Swanepoel, Director of Research Development; Neil Heideman, Acting Dean of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences; and Izak Groenewald, Director of CENSARD.

Collaboration is currently taking place between the centre and Dronten University. Future exchange of students, lecturers and academic and administrative knowledge was discussed. From next year, Dronten University will be offering a distance-learning M.Sc. in Agriculture and for this reason Mr Van der Wal looked into the model that is currently used by the centre.

The visit was very successful and doors were opened for future exchanges, including a planned visit by delegates from the centre to Dronten University later this year.

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