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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

Short course in Applied Conservation Genetics developed at UFS
2014-08-22

 

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

During discussions with stakeholders in Kenya in 2013, a need was identified for training in conservation genetics with an African emphasis. In answer, Prof Paul Grobler from the Department of Genetics developed a short course in Applied Conservation Genetics.

Some of the phenomena studied in this field include:
• hybridisation between species such as blue wildebeest and black wildebeest,
• wildlife poaching and
• potential inbreeding in small game-farm populations.

From the onset, the course has been developed as an international venture. To this end, Dr Frank Zachos from the Natural History Museum in Vienna, Austria, committed himself to the project. Dr Jamie Roberts from the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation at Virginia Tech University in the USA also came on board. Both pledged their time and expertise to the course – without any financial gain.

Subsequently, our Department of Genetics presented this short course at the National Zoological Gardens (NZG) in Pretoria earlier this year. The team of presenters included Prof Grobler, Dr Zachos and Dr Roberts. They were joined by Dr Desire Dalton from the Research Division of the NZG, who added valuable practical experience to the presentations.

The course assumes a degree of prior knowledge of population and molecular genetics. A strong emphasis is placed on practical applications. The programme includes a strong component of statistics and hands-on training in the many approaches and software used in population genetics.

The group that attended the course included a contingent from the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Dutch postgraduate students currently working at the University of Johannesburg and delegates from across South Africa.

This successful meeting followed an experimental first round of the course presented in Nairobi during 2013, attended by representatives from Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Mexico and Belgium.


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