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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 boasts with world class research apparatus
2005-10-20

 

 

At the launch of the diffractometer were from the left Prof Steve Basson (Chairperson:  Department of Chemistry at the UFS), Prof Jannie Swarts (Unit for Physical and Macro-molecular Chemistry at the UFS Department of Chemistry), Mr Pari Antalis (from the provider of the apparatus - Bruker SA), Prof Herman van Schalkwyk (Dean:  Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at the UFS), Prof André Roodt (head of the X-ray diffraction unit at the UFS Department of Chemistry) and Prof Teuns Verschoor (Vice-Rector:  Academic Operations at the UFS).

UFS boasts with world class research apparatus
The most advanced single crystal X-ray diffractometer in Africa has been installed in the Department of Chemistry at the University of the Free State (UFS).

“The diffractometer provides an indispensable technique to investigate compounds for medicinal application for example in breast, prostate and related bone cancer identification and therapy, currently synthesized in the Department of Chemistry.  It also includes the area of homogeneous catalysis where new compounds for industrial application are synthesised and characterised and whereby SASOL and even the international petrochemical industry could benefit, especially in the current climate of increased oil prices,” said Prof Andrè Roodt, head of the X-ray diffraction unit at the UFS Department of Chemistry.

The installation of the Bruker Kappa APEX II single crystal diffractometer is part of an innovative programme of the UFS management to continue its competitive research and extend it further internationally.

“The diffractometer is the first milestone of the research funding programme for the Department of Chemistry and we are proud to be the first university in Africa to boast with such advanced apparatus.  We are not standing back for any other university in the world and have already received requests for research agreements from universities such as the University of Cape Town,” said Prof Herman van Schalkwyk, Dean:  Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at the UFS.

The diffractometer is capable of accurately analysing molecules in crystalline form within a few hours and obtain the precise geometry – that on a sample only the size of a grain of sugar.   It simultaneously gives the exact distance between two atoms, accurate to less than fractions of a billionth of a millimetre.

“It allows us to investigate certain processes in Bloemfontein which has been impossible in the past. We now have a technique locally by which different steps in key chemical reactions can be evaluated much more reliable, even at temperatures as low as minus 170 degrees centigrade,” said Prof Roodt.

A few years ago these analyses would have taken days or even weeks. The Department of Chemistry now has the capability to investigate chemical compounds in Bloemfontein which previously had to be shipped to other, less sophisticate sites in the RSA or overseas (for example Sweden, Russia and Canada) at significant extra costs.

Media release
Issued by:Lacea Loader
Media Representative
Tel:   (051) 401-2584
Cell:  083 645 2454
E-mail:  loaderl.stg@mail.uovs.ac.za
19 October 2005   

 

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