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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

Transforming lives through reading
2014-08-11

 
The UFS Library and Information Services visited Lekhulong Senior Secondary School as one of their community development projects commemorating Mandela Day on 25 June 2014. Situated in the Bloemfontein township of Rocklands, the school’s library was depleted of books and in need of a total revamp. The group of change agents under the guidance and leadership of Marcus Maphile, Assistant Director: Information Services, consisted of seventeen library staff members, library ambassadors and volunteers from Student Life and Leadership.

A total of 450 books were donated to the school. The range of books was made up of mainly dictionaries and encyclopaedias. Fifty of these copies were acquired through the ‘Buy or Donate a Book’ campaign run by the library earlier this year.

In thanking the UFS library, the school’s principal, Mash Mawasha said reading has always been a challenge for his learners and that he is confident that this will be a major turning point for them.

The Director of Library Services, Betsy Eister, expressed the UFS library’s commitment to this project. She pledged regular visits to the school to ensure that Lekhulong library staff are trained on how to run the library and that teachers include library books in their teaching.

“We try to ensure that by the time learners arrive at universities,” Maphile said, “they have exposure to libraries, that they acquire a love for reading books and most importantly have confidence not only to express themselves but to use the library system efficiently.”

The book donation programme has been running successfully for two years and apart from revitalising school libraries in disadvantaged communities, the UFS library staff provides training and support to teacher librarians. Next year, the team plans to extend their project to another community in Bloemfontein – that of Headstart High School.


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