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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

Three … Two … One … Lift off! Naval Hill Planetarium is blasting the public off into space
2014-02-28

History was made on 1 November 2013 when the first digital planetarium in sub-Saharan Africa was inaugurated – right here in Bloemfontein. Due to the involvement of the University of the Free State, in partnership with a host of sponsors, the public can now visit the outer reaches of our universe from the top of Naval Hill.

A digital dome was fitted into the existing observatory structure, is a 12-metre seamless aluminium screen, complemented by a powerful surround-sound system and multiple data projectors. The result: an immersive journey through space which feels very close to reality.

The response from the community has been overwhelming, with a booming interest in the night sky and galaxies stretching into the unknown. Several exhilarating shows – each lasting about 60 minutes – are scheduled for the next couple of months.

One of these ‘flights of fancy’ includes the show Space Junk to be screened twice a month. Space Junk complements the blockbuster science fiction thriller, Gravity, that showed at the movies during the last few weeks of 2013.

Booking for this show is essential.

Rates:

Adults: R50
Learners: R30
Pensioners: R30

You are welcome to send any enquiries to Yolandie Loots at FickY@ufs.ac.za or contact her directly at 051 401 9751.

Rates and dates for group bookings are available on request.

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