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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

Registrar takes leadership role at Golden Key International
2012-03-08

 

Dr Derek Swemmer
8 March 2012

The world’s premier academic honour society, the Golden Key International Honour Society, has recognised academic excellence at our university by appointing Dr Derek Swemmer, Registrar of the UFS, as chairperson of its international board of directors.

Dr Swemmer is the first South African to serve as Chairperson of the governing body of the society. He will take up office in July 2012. Dr Swemmer, who has served as a board member for two terms, was appointed at a recent board meeting of the society in Georgia, Atlanta in the United States.
 
Dr Swemmer's role as Chairperson of the board is to ensure that the society’s values of academic excellence, leadership and service are followed in the more than 375 chapters worldwide. He will serve a three-year term on the board, which oversees the awarding of scholarships worth $1 million to its members annually.
 
Dr Swemmer says he is honoured to serve the UFS and South Africa in this capacity. “The appointment is humbling when you know you have hundreds of volunteers that could have been asked to serve.”
 
Dr Swemmer, who is co-advisor of the UFS Golden Key chapter, says he hopes to help the society to expand its service activities in order to provide an excellent example to the world of how highly skilled academic students render meaningful service to their communities, both at university and to the broader community.
 
He says the Golden Key International Honour Society is a very important part of the UFS’s Academic and Human project.

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