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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

Golden Key recognises top achievers
2012-08-29

A jam packed audience listens to the keynote address at the UFS Golden Key Annual new members’ ceremony.
Photo: Stephen Collett
29 August 2012

Recognising academic excellence at the University of the Free State (UFS), the world’s biggest academic honour society, Golden Key International Honour Society, selected a record number of Kovsie students as new members this year.

More than 700 top achievers have been invited to join the prestige academic society – the biggest crop of students thus far.

New members, the top 15% of academic students at Kovsies, were welcomed to the society’s UFS Chapter at an induction ceremony held on Saturday 25 August 2012. The ceremony also saw Justice Ian van der Merwe, Chairperson of the UFS Council, Mr Billyboy Ramahlele, Director Community Engagement, and Prof. Hendrik Swart, Senior Professor in Physics at the UFS being recognised as honorary members of the society. The event, held at the Kovsie Church, drew a large crowd with the venue packed to capacity.

Sibusiso Tshabalala, a third-year BCom Law student, and recently selected as one of ten Google Young Minds for 2012, delivered the keynote address. Structuring his talk around dreams, fears and music, Sibusiso told students they had joined a global community of students who valued academic achievement, leadership and service. “In a country where rhetoric triumphs over logic and mediocrity rules supreme, while excellence is fast becoming taboo, we need the thinkers to do the leading.”

Dr Derek Swemmer, Registrar and co-advisor of the UFS Chapter, told the students they had demonstrated the ability and now had to fulfil their potential. He was appointed as Chairperson of the society’s governing body in March this year.

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