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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

Number of NRF-rated researchers increases in 2012
2012-10-29

29 October 2012

Three researchers at the University of the Free State received B-ratings for 2013 from the National Research Foundation (NRF). Prof. Johan Henning, Dean of Law, obtained the highest rating in his field of mercantile law in South Africa, a B1.

Prof. Jackie Naudé from Classical and Near Eastern Studies and Prof. Dingie Janse van Rensburg, Professor Extraordinary at the Centre for Health Systems Research and Development, also obtained B3-ratings. Prof. Naudé is the first B-rated researcher in the Faculty of Humanities.
Prof. Helene Strauss obtained the highest rating (Y1) for a UFS young scholar in the Humanities.
In total, the NRF rated researchers at the UFS grew from 95 in 2011 to 109 in 2012, a growth of almost 15 percent.
The NRF ratings committee consist of three reviewers from South Africa and three from abroad. A rating is valid for six years and researchers must reapply for rating before the end of that period.
For a B1-rating all reviewers must be firmly convinced that the applicant enjoys considerable international recognition for the high quality of the researcher’s recent output, with some indicating that the researcher is a leading international scholar in a field. For a B3-rating most of the reviewers must be convinced that the researcher enjoys international recognition for the high quality and impact of the research.
Prof. Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector, said in the UFS Research Report “The UFS now has among the highest number of NRF-rated scientists per size of the academic faculty and we have seen the productivity graph bear witness to a record growth in our funded research outputs; we have won our first-ever NRF/DST Research Chairs. In each of these achievements, the excellence we seek comes with and through the diversity we celebrate.”
More ratings and renewals were expected by the time of Bult went to print.. More than 35 researchers applied for ratings or renewal of ratings.
  • Colleagues who were admitted to the prestigious Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) are Profs. Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Driekie Hay, Heidi Hudson, Lodewyk Kock, Odireleng Ntwaeaborwa, Hugh Patterton, Ian Phimister and Melanie Walker. ASSAf was established in 1996 with the mission of using science for the benefit of society. New members are elected after nomination by four existing members (at least two of whom do so from personal knowledge of the candidate). ASSAf has some 350 members and represents South Africa in the international community of science academies.
  • Dr Marieka Gryzenhout of Plant Sciences became a member of South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS). SAYAS celebrated its first year in 2012. It was launched as a means to enable South Africa’s young scientists to fully participate in locally and internationally relevant research and development agendas. Prof. Aldo Stroebel, Director: Internationalisation, is also a member of SAYAS.

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