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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

Staff experience running in the shoes of students
2014-07-29


Photo: Sonia Small

From having to upload money on a card and buying lunch at Thakaneng Bridge to naming the SRC members, some UFS staff members got to experience life as a full-time student on our Bloemfontein Campus.

During their 2014 Purpose Summit on 22 July, staff from Student Affairs competed against each other in an Amazing Race.

“We got to see how students actually run around on campus each day,” said Elize Rall from Residence Life. “We always hear from parents how their children have to go from one place on campus to the other to get things done … and now we know what they are talking about.”

Staff who attended the summit was divided into teams during the morning’s practical session. Similar to the popular television programme, The Amazing Race, there were quite a few checkpoints – often with some formidable challenges and quizzes.

To make their tasks even more difficult, the participants were forced to take the route students with disabilities would have taken. This means: no stairs could be climbed and no curbs could be jumped – they could only use ramps and elevators.

"The experience was extra-ordinary," said Lerato Masapo from Residence Life. "I learned a lot and I didn't realise how difficult it was for our disabled students to move around the campus.

"What struck me the most was the distance between every building and how far the students had to walk to reach certain places. This made me realise the importance and responsibility on us as staff members to know our environment and assist students accordingly in that regard."

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