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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

Prof. Johan Grobbelaar part of history
2010-09-23

Prof. Johan Grobbelaar from the Department of Plant Sciences at the recent 31st Congress of the International Limnological Society (SIL), which was held in Cape Town.
Photo: Supplied

The 31st Congress of the International Limnological Society (SIL) was recently held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC).

Prof. Johan Grobbelaar from the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of the Free State (UFS), who is also the chairperson of the local organising committee (LOC), worked hard for six years to secure the bid to host the congress in South Africa. The LOC consisted of Prof. Grobbelaar, Prof. Brian Allanson, Prof. Jenny Day, Dr Carin van Ginkel and Dr Mike Silberbauer.

SIL was founded in 1922 to further the study and understanding of all aspects of limnology, the science of inland aquatic ecosystems and their management.

Congresses are held every three years and this was the first time that SIL met on the African continent.

Almost 400 delegates from 42 countries attended this congress where the state of the science of limnology was presented with two keynote speakers, six plenary lectures, 230 oral and 76 poster presentations, mostly running in five parallel sessions. Exhibitions displayed some of South Africa’s role players as well as the latest equipment from abroad. Delegates could also join pre- and post-congress excursions and the new SIL journal, Inland Waters, was launched at the congress.

Many of the presentations dealt with water as a limited resource, pollution problems and the impact of climate change. The congress resolved that SIL would play a more prominent role in creating awareness of problems impacting on inland waters and also afforded solutions. The 32nd SIL congress will be held in Budapest, Hungary in 2013.
 

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