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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

Crossing borders, merging boundaries
2014-02-25


Photo: Johan Roux

Senior and first-year international students recently experienced the warm embrace of the university. The Office for International Affairs and the SRC International Affairs hosted a welcoming gala dinner for their students.

SRC member: International Student Council, Brian Hlongwane, emphasised why this group is so important to the university – helping to ensure the international students feel that they are an integral part of our three campuses.

Rudi Buys, Dean of Student Affairs, encouraged these students to immerse themselves in campus life in order to help build bridges between cultures. “Own your space, engage in and facilitate conversations around issues at this university. Do not hold back and become a spectator, know that you have the same responsibilities as any registered student at the UFS,” Buys said.

Dineo Gaofhiwe-Ingram, Head of the Office for International Affairs, spoke about the complexities of the country that international students now face. She urged students to find their role in the student community across the three campuses. In addition, they need to know their rights as well as their responsibilities. “You all deserve to be treated, and taken well care of, like any other registered student on this campus. Nothing should set you apart from the rest,” Gaofhiwe-Ingram stressed.

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