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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

Students attend prestigious National Astrophysics and Space Science Programme
2014-08-22


From the left are: Thokozane Ngcongwane with Mbali Xaba and Thabo Kumalo (both third-year Physics and Chemistry students).

Three students from our Qwaqwa Campus – Thokozane Ngcongwane, Mbali Xaba and Thabo Kumalo – were recently selected to attend the prestigious National Astrophysics and Space Science Programme (NASSP). The programme – in partnership with the National Research Foundation (NRF) – ran for two weeks at the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) in Cape Town.

The project targets students from formerly disadvantaged institutions of higher learning, where astronomy and astrophysics are not offered.

Students are invited to apply for the programme, with emphasis placed on students majoring in mathematics and physics. Students from other fields are also invited to apply, though. The programme allows for the development of black astronomers and astrophysicists, which are in demand in the ever-growing environment of astronomy in South Africa.

“Topics such as gravitational lenses, black holes, stellar evolution and the mysteries of cosmology were presented and students were invited to engage with the speakers during and after the presentations,” said Ngcongwane, a third-year Zoology and Entomology student.

The programme challenged them to work on basic astrophysical concepts in groups while individual written assignments were part of the learning process as well.

“Given the lack of information about the complexities of astronomy the students had, this was the most ideal time to learn about all matters astronomy and astrophysics as lectures offered a lot to young and excited minds,” Ngcongwane said.

 

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