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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

Faculty of Law bids farewell to Prof. Andries Raath
2012-11-27

Prof. Andries Raath and some of his colleagues during his farewell held in the Bobbert Room of the CR Swart Building. From the left are: Prof. Loot Pretorius, Dr Ilse Keevy, Prof. Andries Raath, Prof. Johan Henning and Prof. Gerhard Fick.
Photo: Christiaan van der Merwe
27 November 2012


The Faculty of Law had to bid farewell to another stalwart in Prof. Andries Raath last week. Prof. Raath retired after more than 30 years of service to the university.  Prof. Johan Henning, Dean of the Faculty of Law, described it as a day of “great personal sadness” due to the loss of a person who had made such a tremendous impact in the faculty, both at a personal and an academic level.

Prof. Raath was praised for his academic prowess and relationship with students who referred to him as a “real professor”, and doctoral students who often saw him as a father figure. For his part, the avid Anglo-Boer War buff thanked long-time as well as newer colleagues, whom he said had all left an imprint on him in some way or another.  He urged his former colleagues to maintain the “precious academic heritage” of the faculty, in which his personal career also had numerous highlights.

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