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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

Two of our academics contribute to a fascinating book
2012-08-11

Prof. Jo van As earlier this year with proofs of the book The Story of Life & the Environment: An African Perspective.
Photo: Leatitia Pienaar
10 August 2012

The planet has more species than ever before, but humans are responsible for the biggest mass extinction of all times. This is according to Prof. Jo van As, Head of the Department of Zoology and Entomology. He was speaking at the launch of the book The Story of Life & the Environment: An African Perspective.

The book was published by Random House Struik in July 2012 and is a sister publication of The Story of Earth & Life by Prof. Bruce Rubidge, which was published in 2005.

The Story of Life & the Environment: An African Perspective took five years to complete. Prof. Van As was the compiling author, with Prof. Johann du Preez, Head of Plant Sciences at our university, Prof. Leslie Brown of Unisa and Prof. Nico Smit of the North-West University as co-writers.

Prof. Van As said, “No other species has destroyed the earth as we have done. Biological diversity disappears at the rate of mass extinction. The effects of human activities on the biological diversity is bigger that the extinction of the dinosaurs.”

He, however, added that The Story of Life & the Environment: An African Perspective does not sketch a doomsday scenario. It has also a message of hope. Prof. Van As said it was good to see progress in conservation and care for the environment. Trans-frontier parks the size of some countries are a good example of work in this regard.

Mr Stephen Johnson, chairperson of the board of Random House Struik, said at the launch that the publishing house was proud to be associated with the impressive book. The publication will be a touchstone for thoughtful readers for a long time. It will also remain a general book for the public and learners on the topic. The content and design was done in such a way that the publication will be relevant to all audiences.

The Afrikaans version of the book, Die Verhaal van Lewe en die Omgewing, will be published soon.
 

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