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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

Kovsies still enjoy successful exchange opportunity
2010-08-25

 
Students Ian Botha, Lize Swart and SW Meintjies with Prof. Izak Groenewald (second from right) at the O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg upon the student’s recent departure to Virginia Tech. Photo: Supplied

More than a decade ago, the then Chairperson of Free State Agriculture, Piet Gous, in collaboration with the then Dean of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at the University of the Free State (UFS), Prof. Piet Wilke, started an exchange initiative which still makes a difference to students’ lives today.

Students at the university get the opportunity to go and study at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) in Blacksburg in the United States of America (USA) during the second semester. During the first semester the UFS then receive American students. Since its inception in 1998, 142 students have already participated in the exchange programme.

“It is not only about six months’ studies at an American university. It is about the expansion of horizons, the creation of new frames of reference and exposure to other cultures and customs in order to attain and experience more life capacity,” says Prof. Izak Groenewald, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development at the UFS. Prof. Groenewald has acted as coordinator of this student exchange programme since 1997.

According to Prof. Groenewald, the secret of the successful programme rests with the fact that Kovsies pay their tuition and accommodation fees at the UFS as if they were studying here. However, they enjoy the privileges at Virginia Tech. Similarly, the American students pay their corresponding fees at Virginia Tech and then enjoy the privileges offered by the UFS. 

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