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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

University hosts Mandela Rhodes scholars
2012-10-02

Kovsie Dux student and SRC member Tumelo Moreri (centre), with Danielle Bowler and Unnel-Teddy Ngoumandjoka, two of the Mandela Rhodes Scholars who attended a summit for past and current recipients of the prestigious bursary on the Bloemfontein Campus.
1 October 2012
Photo: Johan Roux

Some of Africa’s top young minds gathered at the University of the Free State to discuss new ways of thinking about education on the continent.

About 50 current and past recipients of the prestigious Mandela Rhodes Scholarship from across the continent gathered on the Bloemfontein Campus to attend the Community of Mandela Rhodes Scholars Summit from 29 September to 1 October 2012. The theme for the summit was Re-Imagining Education in Africa and recipients from South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda attended.

Prof. Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the university, addressed the Mandela Rhodes scholars and told them as Africa’s next generation of leaders they have to be courageous, caring and agents of change. “You cannot re-imagine education unless you have imaginative leaders”, he told them. Referring to leaders like Martin Luther King, Chief Albert Luthuli, Ghandi and Nelson Mandela, Prof. Jansen told them in order to lead, they should have the capacity for caring, contemplation, courage, change,contrition,conciliation and clarity.

Mandela Rhodes Scholar and Convener of the Summit, Andrew Gasnolar, said the insights gained will be utilised by recipients in their spaces. "A consistent element which cropped up was that our privilege requires us to do the right thing. Active citizenry is required in which we all actively take a part in the education situation - from adopting a student to adopting a school to taking up teaching."

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