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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 entomologists describe a new spider species
2014-02-19

 

It is about 3mm in size and almost looks like a ladybird, but this new spider is the cause of great excitement at the University of the Free State’s (UFS’s) Department of Zoology and Entomology.

The new species of spider, now known as Rhene amanzi, was recently described for the first time and was ‘introduced’ to other arachnologist at the recent congress of the African Arachnology Society at Amanzi Private Reserve.

Dr Charles Haddad, senior lecturer in the UFS’s Department of Zoology and Entomology, said they already stumbled upon the male spider in 2010 when a student was doing research at the reserve. After a very long process, the spider was described and a couple of weeks ago, whilst at the congress, they also found the female.

“Up to now we only know that the spider lives in trees in the Brandfort area. The range could be wider, but since it was only described recently, other arachnologists will only now be able to identify accurately.”

Dr Haddad says they still have to determine how many eggs the female is able to lay, what the spider’s life cycle looks like and what their habitual preferences are.

“What we do know is that it probably isn’t poisonous and that the spider imitates a ladybird in order to protect itself against predators.”

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