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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

Prestigious Helgaard Steyn Prize to be awarded to UFS composer
2010-11-08

 Hans Huyssen.

The composer Hans Huyssen, affiliated with the Department of Music at the University of the Free State (UFS), is to be the current recipient of the prestigious 2010 Helgaard Steyn Prize, the prize-winning work being Huyssen’s Proteus Variations (2006).Annually this award is administered and presented to a selected composer, painter, author, or sculptor by the Universities of the Free State and the North-West on a rotating basis. The judges for this year’s prize were Prof. Bertha Spies, Research Fellow, North-West University, and Professor Extraordinary, University of Pretoria, and Mr Noel Stockton, Senior Lecturer at the University of the Free State.

Hans Huyssen’s musical activities encompass the diverse poles of early and contemporary Western and African music, often in an attempt to assimilate the essential qualities from all these fields. His intense focus on contextuality suggests that he approaches music as a profoundly social force which has a particular role to play in our ‘new’ diversified South African society.

The Proteus Variations were commissioned by the Deutsche Welle Radio for the South African National Youth Orchestra 2006, and were premiered at the Beethoven Bonn Festival during 2006. These variations are described by the composer as “a musical representation of South Africa’s manifold Proteaceae”, named for the Greek god Proteus who, at will, was capable of assuming a spectrum of shapes and appearances. As the composer states: “It is worth noticing that a Protea is South Africa’s national flower. What could be more appropriate in providing a key to an opposite perception and understanding of the country’s diverse cultural expressions? In this regard it is my hope that the Proteus Variations may contribute a little to the wide scope of cultural responses necessary to begin to do justice to the extremely rich tapestry of our immediate cultural and natural surroundings”.

The prize of R170 000 will be awarded to Hans Huyssen by a representative of ABSA Trust, who is one of the trustees of the Helgaard Steyn Trust, in Bloemfontein on 8 November 2010.

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