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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

SRC President receives Abe Bailey Bursary
2012-08-02

 Richard Chemaly

 He is the president of the Student Representative Council, holds leadership positions of various organisations and is a member of Mensa, an organisation for people with a high IQ. With a list of achievements that keeps on growing, Richard Chemaly seems destined for great things.

This Kovsie student has been named one of 17 students countrywide who received the sought after Abe Bailey Travel Bursary for 2012. He was chosen from hundreds of UFS applicants and will depart for Britain in November, to visit several universities in England and Scotland. He will travel with the other bursary holders.

Richard, a postgraduate LL.B. student, says it is a great honour to follow in the footsteps of previous Abe Bailey bursary holders such as Philip Tobias, Max Price, Tony Frost and Eusebius McKaiser. “It certainly is a stepping stone and one I intend to make the most of.”

He hopes that the experience will broaden his knowledge. “I'll be grateful for whatever I learn as learning is what makes up my human experience.”

Richard says he has not planned much yet for his visit to Britain. “I do, however, intend to go to a quaint book shop in London called Collinge & Clark, which is on my bucket list. It's the store where Dylan Moran - a big influence in my life - filmed his series, Black Books.”

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