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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

Prestigious awards, membership and two A-ratings from the NRF indicate a boom in research
2014-12-04

Several UFS researchers were honoured with awards this year. This includes, from the left: Prof Jeanet Conradie from the Department of Chemistry, Dr Aliza le Roux from the Department of Zoology and Entomology on the Qwaqwa Campus of the UFS, Profs Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the UFS.
Photo: Hannes Pieterse

The University of the Free State (UFS) had several highlights in the field of research this year. This includes two A-ratings, which were awarded by the National Research Foundation (NRF) to Prof Maxim Finkelstein from the Department of Mathematics and Actuarial Science, and Prof Melanie Walker, Senior Research Professor and Director of the Centre for Research on Higher Education and Development (CRHED) and DST/NRF Chair in Higher Education and Human Development.

Prof Finkelstein’s A2-rating makes him the only A-rated researcher in ‘Probability and Statistics’ regarding Mathematical Sciences in the country. Prof Walker was evaluated in the division for Research, Innovation Support and Advancement and received an A1-rating.

Prof Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the UFS, considers these ratings as one of the clearest signs that the standard for research across the institution has increased significantly.

Prof Jansen was honoured with the Academy of Science of South Africa’s (ASSAf’s) Science-for-Society Gold Medal for his outstanding achievement in scientific thinking to the benefit of society.

"An award such as this recognises the power of science and scholarship to improve the human condition," Prof Jansen said.

A further highlight at ASSAf’s prestigious annual awards ceremony was the induction of Prof Jeanet Conradie from the Department of Chemistry and Dr Aliza le Roux from the Department of Zoology and Entomology on the UFS’s Qwaqwa Campus as new members of ASSAf.

Prof Conradie was also this year’s first 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.

Prof Corli Witthuhn: Vice-Rector: Research, describes Prof Conradie as a highly productive researcher who publishes in high-impact journals.

“Not only is she the first female professor in the Department of Chemistry, but she also has extensive international networks and collaboration which elevates the impact of her work even further,” Prof Witthuhn said.

Dr Le Roux is one of ten young researchers inaugurated as members of the South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS). She was also elected to serve on the executive committee of SAYAS. According to Prof Witthuhn, Dr Le Roux is an outstanding young scientist.

“I am very excited about the young researchers on our Qwaqwa Campus, with Aliza as one of the leaders, and I am looking forward to what they will achieve in the next five years,” she said.

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