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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

Kovsies produces another Mandela Rhodes Scholar
2012-10-25

Joanie van der Merwe
Photo: Supplied

25 October 2012

Another Kovsie student has been awarded the prestigious Mandela Rhodes Scholarship. Joanie van der Merwe, a B.A. Honours Communication Science student, has been selected as one of 29 students from across the continent to receive the scholarship for 2013. The scholarship is awarded to young Africans who demonstrate academic and leadership potential.

This is the second successive year that the university has produced a Mandela Rhodes Scholar. Kovsie student Jaco Griessel was one of 23 students who received the bursary in 2011 for studies this year.

Joanie, who also holds a BA Honours Psychology degree, will study for her Master’s degree in Media Theory and Practice at the University of Cape Town next year. During the scholarship, she will be granted access to leadership development programmes. The scholarship covers study and registration costs, study material, accommodation and a living allowance.

Joanie says family urged her to apply for the scholarship. “After coming to terms with what the scholarship entails, I realised that I identify with the values and characteristics to which Mandela Rhodes scholars aspire.”

“I have a dream of forming an integral part of the continent in such a way that I will be able to serve others and empower the community where it is needed most. I want to live in such a way that my trials and mistakes are not wasted. They should be learnt from and be used to inspire and encourage others.”

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