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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

Music lecturer’s innovative app is a first in South Africa
2014-07-24

Dr Frelét de Villiers, lecturer at the Odeion School of Music (OSM) at the University of the Free State (UFS), is in the process of developing an innovative interactive mobile music application – Notes&Fun.

Notes&Fun is being designed to assist aspirant pianists. It will support beginners with notation and rhythmic patterns.

The app will display single notes, phrases or rhythmical patterns on the phone or tablet and then apply the built-in microphone to measure the frequency of the notes played on the piano itself. It will indicate whether you’ve played correctly, or if you have made a mistake, the correct note will be displayed. Notes&Fun consists of multiple levels, each with a practise and test mode that gradually increases in difficulty and complexity. As opposed to existing apps, Notes&Fun is conceptualised with immediate pitch detection and is applied with a real (acoustic) piano.

For the pilot phase of this initiative, the developing company Maxxor in Cape Town will create a demo app which can be downloaded for testing purposes and general feedback. Once the developing company and innovator are satisfied with the first phase, the product will be marketed vigorously on social media. The initial app will be free, but subsequent levels will need to be purchased. The developers will start a Facebook page where users of the app can add their latest scores and compete with other users. Initially the app will only be available on the Google Play Store due to the fact that more people own Android devices than Apple products. Once the product has proven to be financially viable, the developers will adapt it for the Mac App Store as well.

“The beauty of this app is that music has a universal language, so it can be marketed internationally and I am privileged to have the institutional support from the UFS Technology Unit regarding the judicial process and developing process of the product,” Dr De Villiers said.

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