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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 supports SAASTA in science initiative
2010-08-27

Romeo Motsie, Michelle Baadjies, Puleng Phalole and Thato Ntsebeng from the winning school, Unicom Primary School (Tweespruit) with Susan Usher, their teacher.

The National Astronomy Quiz for Grade 7 learners was recently hosted at the Boyden Science Centre, which is managed by the University of the Free State’s (UFS) Department of Physics. It was also Boyden and the UFS’s Department of Physics that coordinated the Free State leg of the competition. The Free State Department of Education was also on board to ensure smooth arrangements for the preliminary, as well as the first two official rounds of the competition.

The competition is hosted by the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA), an agency of the National Research Foundation (NRF).

Ninety schools from all over the Free State took part in the first official round. Eighteen schools qualified for the second round, once again with a balanced geographic coverage of the province.

During the second round, eight schools made it to the third round. Two of these schools were from Bloemfontein and the other six from other towns and rural areas in the Free State.

The third round and provincial finals took place at the Boyden Science Centre. The schools qualifying for the final round were Hennenman Primary School, Unicom Primary School (Tweespruit), Voorwaarts Primary School (Kroonstad) and Fichardt Park Primary School (Bloemfontein).

As a pleasant surprise, Unicom Primary School, a less well-known school from a smaller town, won the Free State finals. It was the first time this had happened since the inception of the competition.
 

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