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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

Official opening: UFS earmarks R10-million to support national priorities
2006-02-06

 

The University of the Free State (UFS) is to align key areas of its academic and research efforts with national priorities through the introduction of five strategic clusters which would be funded by seedmoney of R10-million in 2006.

Speaking at the Official Opening of the UFS on Friday (3 February 2006), the Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Frederick Fourie, said the academic and research work that will be done in the five strategic clusters would contribute to the development of Mangaung, the Free State, South Africa and Africa.

 “It makes sense to concentrate the university’s human resources, our infrastructure, financial resources and intellectual expertise to ensure that the UFS makes a contribution to the country and the African continent,” Prof Fourie said.

“Strategic clusters will be organised on the basis that these areas of knowledge could become in the short term the flagships of the UFS, meaning those areas where the university currently has or in the very near future is likely to have some competitive advantage,” Prof Fourie said.

According to Prof Fourie, this strategic-cluster approach will be in line with the approach being designed by the National Research Foundation (NRF) to take national priorities into account and would enhance the quality of scholarship at the UFS.

The five strategic areas in which research and academic investment at the UFS will be clustered are the following:

Enabling technologies / Technology for the future;
Food production, quality and food security for Africa;
Development;
Social transformation;
Water resource and ecosystem management;

“Such strategic clusters are understood not only as research areas but as areas that also encompass strong undergraduate and particularly postgraduate teaching and a potentially solid scientific basis for service learning and community service research,” Prof Fourie said.

Within each of these clusters specific niche areas will be identified. Clusters could focus on one or more aspects of a particular discipline or could involve more than one discipline in researching a particular issue.

He said not all academic work and research being done at the UFS would be clustered in this way. Sufficient resources and support have been put in place for general research excellence in the past five years.

“Some of the spin-offs can have an important impact on industrial development, for example in the chemicals industry and may also create a basis for cooperation with provincial, national and international partners,” he said. 

Media release
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Media Representative
Tel:   (051) 401-2584
Cell:  083 645 2454
E-mail:  loaderl.stg@mail.uovs.ac.za
5 February 2006

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