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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 team helps a pupil to hear again
2014-01-24

 

“I was scared at first. I could not remember the sound of my own voice. Being Deaf -it was like living on another planet.”

These are the words of the 18-year-old Andile (Godfrey) Jantjies after he heard sounds and words for the first time in almost 12 months.

Andile, a former pupil at the Albert Moroka School in Thaba Nchu, was the recipient of a cochlear implantation under the Bloemfontein Cochlear Implant Programme (BCIP) run by the Department of Otorhinolaryngology at the University of the Free State.

Andile lost his hearing after contracting bacterial meningitis in June 2013. This resulted in bilateral profound deafness and despite his good academic record, his school refused to have him enrolled for 2014.

The cochlear implant was inserted in October 2013 and was switched on for the first time on Thursday 23 January 2014.

“I want to go back immediately,” Andile said excitedly after gradually becoming comfortable with hearing his own and other voices.

Dr Iain Butler from the Department of Otorhinolaryngology says cases like Andile’s are a medical emergencies due to the fact that meningitis causes the inner ear to become replaced by bone.

“This can occur after as little as four months after the infection and means that the insertion of a cochlear implant becomes impossible.

A cochlear implant system costs approximately R220 000.

It converts sounds/speech into electrical signals that directly stimulate the auditory nerve, bypassing the damaged inner ear. It is indicated for babies with congenital hearing loss, as well as acquired hearing loss in children or adults. It requires intensive rehabilitation in order to learn to hear again, and most recipients develop very good hearing. Andile now has the opportunity to hear again, continue his schooling and become an economically independent member of society, rather than being dependent on others.

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