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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

Dr Henry Jordaan’s research to establish benchmarks for sustainable freshwater use in agri-food industries
2014-08-22

 

 Photo: en.wikipedia.org

Dr Henry Jordaan, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Agricultural Economics, is working on a multi-disciplinary research project for the Water Research Commission. The project assesses the water footprints of selected agri-food products that are derived from field and forage crops produced under irrigation in South Africa. These foods include animal products, such as meat and dairy, and crop products such as bread and maize meal.

“The water footprint of a food product is the total volume of freshwater that is used to produce the product, measured from the farm to the actual consumption of the food product. Thus, the water footprint is a good indicator of the impact that the consumption of a product has on our scarce freshwater resource. The agri-food sector is a major user of freshwater in South Africa with a relatively large water footprint,” says Dr Jordaan.

However, the agri-food sector also has an important role in economic development in South Africa. It generates income and employment opportunities along the value chains of the food products.

The challenge is to maximise the economic and social benefits from using freshwater in an environment where freshwater gets increasingly scarce.

Through his research, Dr Jordaan aims to establish benchmarks for sustainable freshwater use in selected agri-food industries – from an environmental, economic and social perspective. These benchmarks will inform water users on the acceptable volumes of freshwater to use to produce food products. It will also inform users of the economic and social benefits that they are being expected to generate through their actions so that their water use behaviour could be considered sustainable.


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