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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

US professor makes the case for public scholarship
2011-08-17

 

The Eatman family from the left: Jasmin Eatman, Prof. Timothy Eatman and Mrs. Lorraine Eatman

The university of the 21st century should not be an ivory tower; rather it should work with communities to co-create things of public value. This was one of the observations made by visiting US Prof. Timothy Eatman. He delivered a public lecture on the topic Public Scholarship and the democratisation of knowledge in the engaged university at the University of the Free State (UFS) on Monday, 15 August 2011. Prof. Eatman challenged people at the lecture to think about richer ways of thinking about engaged public scholarship and said they need to prepare for a new citizenry of academia.

Prof. Eatman, an assistant professor of Higher Education at Syracuse University in the United States, said that knowledge was revealed in diverse ways and advised institutions of higher education to demonstrate an increasing sensitivity to issues of relevance to public good. Prof. Eatman said the present era calls for the development of a more sophisticated understanding of knowledge creation.

Prof. Eatman, who is visiting our country for the first time, brought along his mother, Lorraine, and daughter, Jasmin, who performed a contemporary dance during the event. The family had been in Bloemfontein for the past week or so and Eatman expressed his gratitude to staff and people of Bloemfontein, saying he can deliver personal testimony to the beauty of the Free State.
 

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