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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

Public lecture and book launch by Prof Adam Habib
2014-07-29

The Department of Philosophy in association with Wits University Press and The Southern African Trust invites you to a public lecture and book launch on Wednesday 30 July at 15:00 in the Albert Wessels Auditorium by one of South Africa’s leading political commentators, Prof Adam Habib (see biography below). Prof Habib will discuss questions such as whether the ANC has betrayed the ideals of the struggle, and whether social democracy offers an alternative for South Africa’s future.

After the lecture the English, Afrikaans, Sesotho and isiZulu editions of his latest book, South Africa’s Suspended Revolution: Hopes and Prospects, will be for sale and light refreshments will be offered.

Translation services into Afrikaans and Sesotho will be available during his lecture and question time.

RSVP to Dirnel Casaleggio, casaleggiod@ufs.ac.za  

Short biography:
Prof Adam Habib is Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Witwatersrand (Wits). He has held leadership and academic appointments at the University of Durban-Westville, the University of KwaZulu-Natal (where he was founding director of the Centre for Civil Society), the University of Johannesburg and the Human Sciences Research Council. Habib is widely recognised as one of the authoritative commentators on South Africa’s democracy and its prospects for inclusive development and social democracy. His latest book, South Africa’s Suspended Revolution: Hopes and Prospects has already made huge waves both locally and internationally. The book focuses on South Africa’s transition into democracy and its prospects for inclusive development.

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