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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

High-level Texas delegation visits UFS
2010-08-13

Pictured here, from the left, back, are visitors from Texas and UFS management: Ms Stephanie Curs (Director: Office of the Vice President for Global Initiatives), Dr Edwin Price (Associate Vice-Chancellor for International Agriculture and Director of the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture), Dr Mike Greenwald (Professor and Program Director for the International Studies Program, College of Liberal Arts), Prof. Ward Wells (Professor and Associate Head for Professional Programs, College of Architecture, and Director of Academy for Visual and Performing Arts), Dr Glen Mills ( Professor and Head of Department of Architecture), and Dr Alan Sams (Executive Associate Dean, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences); front: Prof. Jonathan Jansen (Rector and Vice-Chancellor, UFS), Mr Eric Bost (former USA Ambassador to South Africa and Vice-President for Global Initiatives), and Prof. Ezekiel Moraka (Vice-Rector: External Relations, UFS). – Photo: Stephen Collett.

A high-level delegation from Texas A&M University in the USA, led by Mr Eric Bost, Vice-President Global Initiatives and previous USA Ambassador to South Africa, visited the University of the Free State (UFS) recently. The objective of the visit was to forge strategic linkages and research partnerships within the ambit of Texas A&M’s expanded Africa strategy.

Texas A&M has 50 000 students, and is internationally renowned and highly rated for its scholarship, academic achievement and excellent research profile. The delegation consisted of representatives from the President's Office, various deans and heads of departments.

The discussions during the visit identified a number of shared interests and common research foci, and colleagues were unanimous in their pursuit to strengthen the relations.

In January 2009 Mr Bost delivered his final official address as US Ambassador to South Africa on the UFS Main Campus. Mr Bost, a close friend of the UFS, has since sparked numerous activities to further the transformation agenda at the UFS, and is very supportive of the work of the International Institute for Race, Reconciliation and Social Justice. A number of Fulbright senior specialists from the US are participating in the further conceptualisation, roll-out and activities of the Institute.
 

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