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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 hosts the first Southern African Young Scientists Summer Programme
2012-11-26

The University of the Free State is to host the first Southern African Young Scientists Summer Programme (SA-YSSP) from 1 December 2012 to 28 February 2013. 

This will form part of an annual three-month education, academic training and research capacity-building programme jointly organised by the National Research Foundation (NRF), the Department of Science and Technology (DST), and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), based in Austria.
 
The NRF, as the National Member Organisation (NMO), in collaboration with DST, has developed a novel and innovative initiative with IIASA to establish the SA-YSSP. This programme was officially launched by the Minister of Science and Technology during November 2011.
 
IIASA is an international research organisation that conducts policy-oriented scientific research in the three global problem areas of energy and climate change, food and water and poverty and equity (www.iiasa.ac.at). South Africa’s engagements with IIASA, and specifically with regard to the SA-YSSP, relate primarily to the DST’s Ten-Year Innovation Plan.
 
Aligned with the YSSP model that is presented by IIASA in Austria annually, the SA-YSSP offers scientific seminars covering themes in both the social and natural sciences. These seminars often have policy dimensions and aim to broaden the participants’ perspectives and strengthen their analytical and modelling skills, further enriching a demanding academic and research programme (www.ufs.ac.za/sa-yssp).
 
Keynote lectures are to be delivered by national and international leaders in their respective research fields, partly drawn from IIASA’s widespread network of alumni and collaborators, as well as from the NRF’s extensive international networks of excellence.
 
The programme is to be enhanced with specific field trips and cultural and heritage excursions that will involve networking with locally based research programmes. Supervisory teams of both IIASA and South African experts will guide a cohort of competitively selected South African and international advanced Ph.D candidates.
 
The programme will be opened on 2 December 2012 at the Centenary Complex by the Minister of Science and Technology, Mr Derek Hanekom, the Director/CEO of IIASA, Prof Pavel Kabat and the Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the UFS, Prof Jonathan Jansen. They will be joined by a number of Nobel Prize Laureates and luminaries representing the government, the diplomatic sector and Higher Education.
 
The programme is directed by a multidisciplinary team at the UFS that includes:
Prof Aldo Stroebel and Prof Neil Roos (Co-Directors)
Prof André Roodt (Dean of SA-YSSP)
Prof Martin Ntwaeaborwa and Dr Henriëtte van den Berg (Deputy-Deans of SA-YSSP)
Dr Priscilla Mensah and Dr Sonja Loots (Strategic Managers)

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