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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

Madelief Residence bursts into colour
2014-03-12

You’ll be forgiven for thinking that your eyes are deceiving you when turning into the main entrance to the Bloemfontein Campus. Yet, it is still the graceful old lady of a building called Madelief. This 50-year-old female residence has donned a sparkling new ‘dress’, brandishing a trendy new look.

After extensive renovations kicked off during October last year, the long-awaited revamp left residents and Kovsies astonished. The makeover transformed the building into a sparkling gem, glistening in the Free State sun. Luminescent contra-vision windows, a remodelled veranda and a new façade propel this residence into modernity. A unique twist to the use of the façade is that it is reflective during both the day and night. During the daytime, the light reflects towards the residence and during the night it mirrors the entrance of the university. This feature lends an innovative and vibrant impression to the residence’s appearance.

“I’m so happy for my residence. It’s now the hub of attraction – everyone wants to visit and come have a look. Thanks to our Residence Head, the constructors and designers who came up with this concept and Housing and Residence Affairs. We look 50 years younger indeed and more vibrant,” Mamnosi Tshabalala, a senior resident at Madelief, beamed.

In celebration of this new phase of their residence, students plunged into a festival of colour – power paint exploding into rainbows over anyone who came near. Top management that attended the celebration could not escape the excitement. Profs Jansen and Morgan, Dr Wahl, Mr Koetaan and Rudi Buys were swept into the good cheer, snapping photos and making fantastic memories.

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