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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 staff makes a difference
2010-05-04

 
From the left are: Ms Annemarie Ludick, Senior Officer at the UFS; Mr Gerald and Mrs Luchelle Blaauw of the Ebenhauser Intermediary School in Wepener; and Mr Philemon Bitso, Assistant Officer: Corporate Relations at the UFS.
Photo: Leonie Bolleurs
A group of staff members at the University of the Free State (UFS) made a donation to Mr Gerald Blaauw and his wife, Luchelle, both teachers at the Ebenhauser Intermediary School in Wepener, in reaction to an article that appeared in Volksblad’s Kontrei of 28 April 2010.

The money will be used to buy a stove and pots to prepare food for the 646 learners in this school.

When Mrs Blaauw, who has been at the school for ten years now, got involved in the school’s feeding scheme, she noticed a great need for food amongst the learners. It motivated her to start a vegetable garden. With spinach, cabbage, beetroot, beans, peas and carrots in the garden but no stove or pots to cook the vegetables, Mrs Blaauw was very happy when she learned about the donation from the UFS.

Mrs Blaauw has plans to expand the garden. “We would like to daily give the children a plate of food at 10:00 and a cup of soup again in the afternoon,” she said.

Mr Mickey Gordon, Head: Corporate Relations, Institutional Advancement and Sport at the UFS, said: “It is remarkable that a teacher will go to so much effort for the children. This school is part of our Free State community and we like to help.”

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