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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

Cultural immersion programme for Rutgers University students
2014-07-29

 

After a community engagement induction, Rutgers University students head out to visit communities.
Photo: Supplied

The International Office and the Department for Community Engagement will host a week-long cultural immersion programme for eight students of Rutgers University from 27 July – 2 August 2014. The Rutgers Graduate School of Education's South Africa Initiative (SAI) bridges cultures, connects educators and provides hope for learners and students from South Africa and the United States.

This interdisciplinary programme provides teachers and students on both sides of the world with the opportunity to exchange information through service learning, training and distance technology. This leads to educational gains for students and educators in both countries.

The Rutgers group of master’s, PhD and undergraduate students will visit two NGOs working with children at risk in the community of Heidedal, namely Tshepo Foundation and Lebone Village. The week-long programme will include lectures on the social, cultural and historical background of pre- and post-apartheid South Africa. Speakers from various departments and faculties of the UFS will feature during this event. These include the Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice, the Postgraduate School, the Department of History, African Languages, as well as Education.

Prof André Keet, Director of the Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice, will share the transformation story of our university with the group. Dr Henriette van den Berg will speak on mentoring postgraduate students to become successful researchers of the future.

This year marks the 12th anniversary of the SAI Cultural Immersion Program and a fruitful partnership with the UFS and other South African universities. Over the years SAI has provided tonnes of school books and supplies which have been shared with more than 2 000 learners in South Africa. Special projects such as the Literacy Through Photography and Brielle Digital Stories Project have been conducted by SAI alumni in schools. These have resulted in thousands of dollars of support given directly to South African schools.


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