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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

Physical Planning lives in recaptured space
2014-06-18

When the Department of Physical Planning decided on a new office premises, the team decided to tackle the project with an overarching theme – recycling.

It is important for Physical Planning to not only dictate to other departments on campus, but to set the example themselves,” says Nico Janse van Rensburg, Director: Physical Planning at the UFS. 

Recaptured space

New office space on campus is simply not available. It was therefore decided to recover space and a store room was identified. “Fortunately, the storage area had ceilings. However, it was dilapidated and was sagging all over. To divert attention from the ceiling, we painted it in a dark colour and the walls white.

“All wiring was also done superficially. It draws the attention away from the uneven surfaces and simplifies work on the wiring. Instead of trying to hide it, we made a focal point of it,” says Janse van Rensburg.

Recycled building materials

Lots of the building material that was used to convert the storage space into offices, was recovered from other building projects on campus. Material that would normally be discarded was utilised creatively to not only serve a practical purpose, but also an aesthetic one.

A laboratory basin was used as wash basin. Remaining parts of granite slabs from other sites were utilised as top for the basin. Existing toilets were also reused. To enhance the atmosphere, new taps in an affordable, but durable range were installed.

Recycled furniture

We rambled through every possible store room to find furniture. Tables were simply sanded and varnished and look better than new. Even the cabinet at the entrance was saved from wind and weather and reused.

Hot and smart

Only one screen wall was built. It was left in raw brick, unplastered and unpainted to contribute to contrasting textures. Existing walls were left painted or unpainted as it was before.

“The environment that was created breaks down several existing perceptions. Such as the perception that everything has to match; everything has to be plastered and painted and many others. This is an example of how different materials can be combined to create a lively environment.

“Staff members have already moved into their new offices and are very satisfied,” says Janse van Rensburg. 

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