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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

Breakfast in aid of hungry students
2011-06-01

Our university again proved that it cares for the welbeing of its students when a sum of money was presented to the No Student Hungry Project during a breakfast function.

The Centre for Health and Wellness at the UFS organised the event, not only to introduce the scheme to staff and individuals and thank those concerned for their contributions, but also to present the project organisers with a donation of R50 000. Mrs Grace Jansen, wife of Prof. Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector and Dr Carin Buys, wife of Mr Rudi Buys, Student Dean, started the project this year after a study found that 20% of students at the UFS have to study on an empty stomach and that this often leads to students leaving the UFS prematurely.

Ms Tanja Malherbe, mistress of ceremonies, said that the project is blessed because it developed from the founder members’ love for the students. The project currently provides 6 000 deserving students with a meal per day.

Prof. Jansen said that although the university encourage academic success, the UFS is also ready to show its mettle on a humanitarian level. “We don’t want students to only study together, but also to eat together.” He added that food can promote a feeling of fellowship, gives comfort and is also a symbol for caring. “It is bad to be hungry, no matter what the colour of your skin. Especially when other people have food and you don’t.”He concluded by saying that we are blessed by giving to other people, and by giving, we also receive.

Ms Tarryn Nell, also from the centre, supported him by comparing caring to candlelight. “It drives the darkness away, involves compassion and gives direction. When two people can get things to change, the rest will follow.” She encouraged the audience to share their warmth, time, knowledge and resources with other people.

During the event, a picture summary also referred to two recent projects the centre hosted. The first was a free medical screening test for staff members and the second a temporary remembrance rose garden, representing the five main causes of deaths in the country. These causes are HIV, ischemic heart disease, stroke, tuberculosis and interpersonal violence.

The proceeds from Prof. Jansen’s book “We need to talk,” will be donated to the project. Persons wishing to make a contribution, can make a payment to the following account: ABSA 157085 0071, reference number 146 674 604, account number 0198, branch code 632 005. Deposit slips can be sent to pelserr@ufs.ac.za. 

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