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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

Ms Oprah Winfrey receives an honorary doctorate from the UFS
2011-06-24

 

Dr Oprah Winfrey after receiving her honorary doctorate degree.
Photo: Rian Horn 

Our university awarded an honorary doctorate in Education to global media leader and philanthropist Ms Oprah Winfrey on Friday 24 June 2011.

The honorary doctorate is in recognition of Ms Winfrey’s unparalleled dedication to improving the lives and futures of so many by improving education and ensuring that it is accessible to all. Through her award-winning show, The Oprah Winfrey Show (which concluded this year after 25 years of entertainment and service) and the various charity organisations she has established, Ms Winfrey harnessed the power of her iconic stature in the struggle to eradicate poverty and make education accessible to all.

The Callie Human Centre on our Bloemfontein Campus, where the award ceremony took place, was packed with an excited audience consisting of students, staff, members of the public and special guests. After receiving her honorary doctorate, Ms Winfrey addressed the audience and gave students the opportunity to ask her questions. During the ceremony, entertainment was provided by acclaimed musicians such as the internationally lauded award-winning singer Sibongile Khumalo, the Botshabelo String Orchestra, the Bloemfontein Children’s Choir and the choir of the Bartimea School for the Deaf and Blind.

Tickets for this event – attended by 4 500 people – were sold out within hours, confirming the respect and support South Africans have for Ms Winfrey’s work in Africa and internationally. While at our university, Ms Winfrey also visited our International Institution for Studies in Race, Reconciliation and Social Justice. The awarding of Ms Winfrey's well-deserved honorary doctorate is another milestone in our university's proud history.

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