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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

Community workers, activists and scholars to discuss Gender-based violence
2012-10-03

The Gender Studies Programme and Gender Initiative attached to the Dialogue between Science and Society Series at the University of the Free State is holding a one-day symposium titled African Gender Perspectives on 23 October 2012. Activists, scholars and community-based workers will speak at the symposium about their work in the field of gender and gender-based violence.

Keynote speakers include Cheryl Potgieter (University of KwaZulu-Natal), Bette Dickerson (American University, Washington, D.C) and Jennifer Fish (Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia). Dickerson and Fish will be speaking about their participatory action research with the group Grandmothers Against Poverty and Aids (GAPPA) who are based in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. Fish will also talk about her experience of setting up a gender centre in Rwanda.

The women’s support network Sisters for Sisters from Woodstock, Cape Town will give a presentation on their community work with women from various parts of the African continent that have experienced multiple forms of gender-based violence, and they will expand on their experiences of participating in an academic research project.

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