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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

Private screening of Soft Vengeance: Albie Sachs and the New South Africa by Abby Ginzberg
2014-03-26

Soft Vengeance: Albie Sachs and the New South Africa, a film by Abby Ginzberg, was recently screened at the Odeion. The film is based on the life of Albie Sachs as lawyer, political activist, writer and art lover. 

Judge Sachs’ career in human rights activism started while studying law at the University of Cape Town. In 1955 he attended the Congress of the People at Kliptown where the Freedom Charter was adopted. At age 23 he started to practice as an advocate at the Cape Town Bar and defended people charged under the racial statutes and security laws of apartheid.

The film captures his tough life experiences, ranging from political imprisonment and torture, life in exile, to being a judge in the Constitutional Court and his ability to communicate human dimensions about legal matters. This same quality is highlighted in his judicial opinions on topics such as capital punishment, the rights of homeless people and same-sex marriages.

The screening of the film was hosted by the Vice-Chancellor and Rector, Prof Jonathan Jansen, with the Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice and the Archive for Contemporary Affairs.

Judge Albie Sachs attended the screening and was be available to answer questions afterwards.

For more information, contact the Archive for Contemporary Affairs: Mrs Huibre Lombaard huibre@ufs.ac.za or Mrs Ernene Verster ernene@ufs.ac.za.

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