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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

Kovsies deliver eight Brightest Young Minds
2014-08-15


Front, from the left: Michael van Niekerk, Thabiso Letselebe and William Clayton; Back, from the left: Gopolang Kgaile, Thokozane Mahlanga and Mpho Sefo; Lisa Coetzee and Lehlohonolo Mofokeng were not present during the taking of the photograph.

Eight Kovsies have been selected as part of 100 delegates for the 2014 Brightest Young Minds (BYM) summit.

Thabiso Letselebe (Chief Delegate of the UFS BYM), Michael van Niekerk, William Clayton, Gopolang Kgaile, Thokozane Mahlanga, Mpho Sefo, Lisa Coetzee and Lehlohonolo Mofokeng will attend the BYM summit from 29 August to 2 September 2014 in Johannesburg.
BYM is a youth-driven non-profit organisation that identifies South Africa’s most passionate young people. The organisation equips these young leaders with the skills and networks needed to create positive change.

Each year, 100 participants are invited to a five-day summit, based on criteria of innovation, leadership, civic responsibility and academic accomplishment. Delegates discuss challenges facing the nation with respected leaders and then design start-up like solutions to these challenges.

Post-summit alumni have access to resources for success and BYM continues to encourage social entrepreneurship. BYM has demonstrated success in mobilising young people for nearly fifteen years.

BYM has been the launch pad for several successful business and social endeavours. Some of the ideas developed by BYM alumni include the AIDS Industry Management Standard, Taxi Smart Card System, MiniSass Water Monitoring System, Investec Young Women in Finance conference, Tertiary School in Business Administration, Twenty30 and Women in Engineering.

BYM attracts a diverse group of participants in terms of academic, racial, geographic and socio-economic backgrounds. In a society marred by divides, BYM is proving the power of diversity. The organisation’s participants would not be as successful in moving the nation forward if it were not for the diversity of their experience.

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