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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

Together we can make a greener planet
2012-03-02

 

Students are rewarded for their efforts with waste recycling and energy saving on campus.
Seen here is Molete Lerothodi of Kyalami Residence, winner of the recycling and energy saving competition, together with Boipelo Malope, Ms Green South Africa.
2 March 2012
Photo: Johan Roux


Sustainability, to live green, energy saving – call it what you like. This was the focus of the Clean Campus campaign that students on the Bloemfontein Campus of the University of the Free State introduced last year. Apart from it being an opportunity to reward students for their hard work, experts on campus also got the chance to share interesting information with onlookers.

An interesting fact to chew on is that the UFS’s electricity account is to increase by an estimated R38 million rand - from R19 million in 2008 to R57 million in 2012. Another interesting morsel - the university generates 20 tons of waste a day.

Although the university will implement a waste management plan in the near future, experts agree: save water, save electricity and do not squander our precious energy resources.

Madelief Residence was crowned the winner of the Clean Campus campaign. The residence’s reward – a cheque of R1 500. Kestell was second and won a gas braaier.

The competition will be the project of the SRC: Student Development and Environmental Affairs in future.

In the recycling and energy saving competition, which attracted entries from 18 of the 23 residences, Kyalami was placed first, Roosmaryn second and Akasia third.
 

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