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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

UFS Debate Society prepares for three major tournaments
2012-11-20

Preparing for the Berlin Championships are, from the left: Richard Chemaly, Zola Valashiya, Ros Limbo and Nkosi Mangali.
Photo: Linda Fekisi
20 November 2012

The UFS Debate Society will be taking on three major projects during the holidays. The month of December will be filled with activities for the team, with members taking trips to Grahamstown, Pretoria and Berlin, Germany to showcase their debating skills.

Their first project is a coaching session in collaboration with the Free State Schools Debating Board. The team will be coaching the provincial school teams and accompanying them to Grahamstown where they will compete in the National Schools Debating Championships in early December.

At around the same time, members will also attend the Pan African Universities Debating Championships that will be held in Pretoria. The PAN African Championship, which the team won in 2009, has expanded over the years and now also includes participants from Australia and the United States of America.
Towards the end of December, four members of the team will be heading to Berlin, Germany to compete in the World Universities Debating Championships. Ros Limbo, Nkosi Mangali, Richard Chemaly and Zola Valashiya will represent the university.

Zola, who is currently the chairperson of the debating society, has been part of the team since 2008. He describes being part of the teams as, “a growing experience. I have learnt a lot, especially how to be a critical thinker”. He was ranked among the top ten speakers in the English First Language division during the Kgorong 2012 National Universities Debating Championships earlier this year. Zola says the team’s goal is to gain as much experience as possible in order to offer training. They are looking at forming strong relations with various other debate societies across the country.
 

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