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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 Doctors make History in South Africa
2011-07-14

 

New aortic valve

Three members of our Faculty of Health Sciences made history by being the first to implant a special new aortic valve in South Africa. 
 
In a combined effort, the Departments of Cardiology, Pediatric Cardiology and Cardiothoracic Surgery did the first Medtronic CoreValve implant in South Africa on a patient in Universitas Academic Hospital. 
 
With the support of hospital management and the Medtronic company, Prof. Hennie Theron, Prof. Stephen Brown and Dr JP Theron of the Faculty of Health Sciences, with the assistance of Dr Jean-Claude Laborde, performed the operation early on Wednesday morning, 06 July 2011.
 
The advantage of this new valve is that it can be implanted percutaneously through a catheter from the groin. This eliminates the need for invasive surgery.
 
The valve is made from porcine pericardium (tissue derived from pigs) and is mounted on an expandable stent, which is threaded along an artery, until it reaches its desired position. Prof. Theron says the valve is especially useful in older patients who suffer from aortic valve disease and pose a high surgical risk. Furthermore, the use of this valve greatly reduces hospitalisation time, in comparison to traditional surgery.
 
“One patient already received an implant this morning and we hope to finish 2 more today,” Prof. Brown said, emphasizing the swiftness and efficiency of the new valve implanting process.
 
“It is a complex procedure, but this service can in future be offered to all patients in the public and private sectors of the Free State. It is heartwarming that the academic complex can take the lead in this modern, high-tech therapy.”
 
For more information on the procedure, please contact Prof. Theron at 051 4053428.
 

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