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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

National Science Week – today's science, tomorrow's world
2014-07-30

 
For the 2014 National Science Week, the university – in partnership with the Department of Science and Technology – celebrate this country-wide event at our South Campus. For one week each year, universities, schools and science centres across South Africa highlight the role that science plays in everyday life. The theme of this year’s celebration is ‘Today’s Science, Tomorrow’s World.’

Over 4 000 learners, educators, parents and dignitaries converged at the campus on Saturday 2 August 2014 to experience science at work. The day featured an array of exciting science activities, including a sky-viewing opportunity at the nearby Boyden Observatory.

“Every aspect of life is touched by science. And with more vibrancy in the approach to teaching maths and science, great potential can be unlocked among young people – impacting on quality of life in the future,” said Dr Choice Makhetha, the Vice-Rector of the University of the Free State.

The Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, also spoke at the event. "Our success depends on whether our country is ready to harness the advantage of large numbers of young people who are able and willing to work. This is where the provision of education becomes an important resource in ensuring that our young people are well prepared and equipped with knowledge and skills to handle life."

Events such as the National Science Week, Minister Pandor said, were aimed at boosting interest in scientific and technological development and innovation. This, in turn, helps the country transform into a knowledge-based economy. 


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