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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

Qwaqwa Campus: Student off to Germany
2004-04-01

Abey Tau will be traveling to Germany in mid- August to attend an international conference under the auspices of AISEC.
Born and bred in the dusty streets of Riverside in Phuthaditjhaba, an avid reader and student activist, Abey is rapidly ascending to greater heights.

He is presently studying towards completion of his B. Admin degree at the University of the Free State Qwaqwa campus and has also been to Switzerland in the recent past.

Describing the experience, Abey said “being away from home, the influence of culture, tradition, friendship and the local environment opened my eyes to another perspective that I did not know existed before I took a step looked out of my country and at it from another angle”. He believes it will be refreshing to interact with students from across the globe and share thoughts with them.

“Ability is what you are capable of doing, motivation determines what you do and attitude determines how well you do it” Tau said, beaming confidence and enthusiasm. When the opportunity to visit Germany presented itself, he approached the office of the Coordinator of Student Affairs for assistance. Communication with the Office of the Vice Rector, Dr. Ezekiel Moraka led to the realization of Abey’s dream when funds were acquired to assist him. He will become an ambassador for his organization, the university and the country at large. We are therefore proud and wish him well.

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