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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

UFS hosts international conference on palynology - tribute to Prof Louis Scott
2014-07-23

 

Prof Louis Scott

Some of the world’s eminent palaeontologists and palynologists gathered at the University of the Free State (UFS) to attend a conference held in the honour of one of our own.

Prof Louis Scott, one of South Africa’s leading palynologists and former chairman of the Department of Plant Sciences at the UFS, recently retired. In recognition of his great contribution to promoting palynology, an international symposium was held from 7 – 11 July 2014 at the Bloemfontein Campus.

Palynology is the study of pollen grains and spores in archaeological findings.

The symposium, ‘From Past to Present – Changing Climates, Ecosystems and Environments of Arid Southern Africa. A Tribute to Louis Scott’, featured the works and findings of researchers from South Africa, USA, UK, Israel and Tanzania.

Prof Francis Thackeray from the Institute of Human Evolution at the University of the Witwatersrand delivered the keynote address. He said South Africa has a rich palaeontological heritage relating to human evolution within the late Pliocene, Pleistocene and Holocene.

Prof Thackeray said that the “identification and quantification of changes in climate and habitat are essential for assessing evolutionary processes associated with hominine species in the genera Australopithecus, Paranthropus and Homo. Attempts have been made to quantify changes in palaeotemperature and moisture using multivariate analysis of pollen spectra from sites such as Wonderkrater.”

Prof Thackeray dedicated his address to Prof Scott.

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