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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

Prof Oriel Thekisoe receives prestigious TW Kambule NRF-NSTF Award
2014-07-07

 Prof Oriel Thekisoe
Photo: Sonia Small
Prof Oriel Thekisoe from the UFS was named recipient of the prestigious TW Kambule NRF-NSTF Award. The announcement was made during the 16th Annual NSTF-BHP Billiton 2013/2014 Awards Gala Dinner held in Johannesburg on Thursday 3 July 2014.

Prof Thekisoe is an Associate Professor in the university's Department of Zoology and Entomology at the Qwaqwa Campus.

He has been recognised as an emerging researcher for his outstanding contribution to Science, Engineering and Technology (SET).

"It is a great honour for the university to learn that Prof Thekisoe has won the award of the National Science and Technology Forum. This is a very competitive award and speaks of the quality and depth of talent at the UFS as we prepare the next generation of scientists and scholars,” said Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the UFS, Prof Jonathan Jansen.

"I hope that the award will inspire our current science students to work harder in pursuing the discovery of new methods and techniques which will improve our livelihoods,” Prof Thekisoe said after receiving the award from the Minister of Science and Technology, Ms Naledi Pandor. “I am grateful to the Dean of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, Prof Neil Heideman, for believing in me. I am also grateful to my former lecturers, Profs Peter Mbati, who is now the Rector of the University of Venda, and Noboru Inoue, from Japan’s Obihiro University, for grooming and inspiring the scientist in me.”

"Prof Thekisoe is at the forefront of the research development activities at the Qwaqwa Campus,” said Prof Corli Witthuhn, Vice-Rector: Research at the UFS. “He serves as a mentor to many of the younger scholars on the campus. As one of the Vice-Chancellor's Prestige Scholars at the university, he has the potential to become one of the most prominent researchers in his field in the country."

The Vice-Chancellor’s Prestige Programme (PSP) supports the accelerated scholarship of junior UFS researchers in the first five years after obtaining their PhDs. The prestige scholars participate in an intensive programme of support that includes international placement and intensive mentorship.

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