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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

Goodwill and unity reigns supreme at official opening
2014-02-07

Video
Transcription: Prof Jonathan Jansen speech

The academic year at the UFS was officially opened by Prof Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector, at a splendid event with staff at the Bloemfontein Campus. “The UFS is no longer the place it was four years ago. When I arrived here, the place was very much divided. The picture is very different today. Staff and students have come together and are spending time together as friends. A new spirit reigns at the university. People are no longer mad at each other; they talk to each other,” Prof Jansen said.

The reason: students know that they are loved and respected. The people responsible for this – the staff.

Prof Jansen particularly emphasised the capacity of staff members to change and to care. “Change at the UFS is possible because of the positive attitude of staff and students. This creates an atmosphere where students can learn to love and forgive.

“We have reached a new consensus where racism, sexism, xenophobia and homophobia are wrong. We also address this bad behaviour immediately.

“Another highlight at the UFS is the changes in the academy. Debate is deeper and more progressive. We have the best intellectual debates at the UFS. We are also proud of our young researchers in the Prestige Scholars Programme. We are excited, because in five years’ time we will reap the fruits from the efforts of young, as well as older researchers who have worked hard so that we can deliver the best researchers.

“There is another shift in the academic culture on campus with our students increasingly looking academically stronger.

“Besides the capacity of staff to change, they also have a capacity for caring. Projects such as the Staff Fund and the No Student Hungry Programme is doing well, with the NSH Programme raising more than R1 million to feed hungry students,” Prof Jansen said.

At this event, Prof Jansen also gave recognition to the team involved with and working very hard at the Schools Change Project, which is largely responsible for the Free State’s good matric results. With the inspiration of the staff involved with this project, a difference is made to schools in the Free State.

“Our staff members do more than is stipulated in their contracts. Our staff members do their jobs from the heart,” Prof Jansen said.

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