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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

Students aim to make a difference
2012-08-12

 
Besides their work with the learners, Legendary Bethulie also wants to expose them to the rich history of Bethulie and showcase the beauty of the small town. The town had the largest concentration camp during the Anglo Boer war and it boasts the longest bridge in South Africa – the DH Steyn Bridge, a 1,2 km rail and road bridge.

A group of students has taken the initiative to educate high school learners about different careers. They travelled 180 km to Bethulie, a small town in the southern Free State, to motivate, inspire and expose learners from the Wongalethu Senior Secondary School to different career paths. This event will take place in Bethulie again at the end of the first term next year.

The event was organised by the Legendary Bethulie group, which is campaigning for a child development programme, community centre and also to develop further the annual Bethulie career exhibition. The group intends to equip children from Bethulie and nearby towns with the necessary skills to be successful in life, irrespective of their home backgrounds. The group also wants to expose them to different career paths as well as offer tutoring opportunities. It also aims to minimise the number of learners who become victims of drug abuse and HIV.

The organisation is still growing and would like to access funding from different institutions and companies as it is currently financed by the community.

Students who wish to take part in next year’s event can contact Luyanda Lunga Noto at luyanda.noto@gmail.com.
- Luyanda Noto
 

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