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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

UFS researcher runner-up in 2014 Women in Science Awards
2014-08-18

 

Prof Jeanet Conradie
Photo: Supplied

Prof Jeanet Conradie, professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of the Free State (UFS), was the runner up in the senior category for Distinguished Women Researchers: Physical and Engineering Science in the Department of Science and Technology’s 2014 Women in Science Awards. With this award, female scientists and researchers are encouraged and rewarded, and also profiled as role models for younger women. 
 
Science and research, by which new concepts are discovered, is her great passion. Due to this keen interest in science, Prof Conradie studied a variety of subjects during her undergraduate years, providing her with a vast knowledge and the necessary background for her current main research interest, which is a combination of various scientific fields. Her PhD in Chemistry, as well as her strong background in Physics, Computer Science, Mathematics and Applied Maths, influenced her choice of research interest and expertise to gradually develop in the direction of computational chemistry, which is a beautiful combination of chemistry and physics. 
 
Today, Prof Conradie’s research expertise is in computational chemistry, using the super computer and appropriate software to simulate, understand and predict the behaviour of atoms and molecules in real life. The use of computational chemistry makes it possible to study chemical reactions and phenomena that are impossible or too dangerous to study experimentally. Her research team also performs experimental work in the laboratory to combine and compare with the computational analysis. Based on the results obtained, new materials with specific properties are developed. 
 
“We are very proud of Prof Conradie. This award is the result of 14 years of hard word, a lot of it after hours. We are fortunate to have someone like you as colleague who puts guidance to students and learners first in research, teaching and community service,” said Prof André Roodt, Head of the Department of Chemistry at the UFS. 
 
Prof Corli Witthuhn, Vice-Rector: Research said: “Prof Conradie serves as a role model for younger academic scholars in higher education through her motivation, productivity and drive. She also serves as an example of how female scientist can reach the top of their profession while juggling both professional and family responsibilities. This is well deserved recognition for her outstanding research achievements”

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