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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

Prof Beatri Kruger conducts research on modern-day slavery
2014-12-12

 

Representatives of the US Embassy in South Africa and other stakeholders gathered in Bloemfontein in November 2014.
From the left are: San Reddy and Chad Wessen from the US Embassy, Prof Beatri Kruger, and Palesa Mafisa, Chairperson of the Kovsie National Freedom Network.

Human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar ‘business’ with daunting challenges because of the uniqueness and complexities involved in the crime, says Prof Beatri Kruger, ex-prosecutor and lecturer in Criminal Law in the Faculty of Law.

Prof Kruger’s on-going research concentrates on whether South Africa’s legal efforts to combat human trafficking complies with international standards set out in the United Nations Trafficking Protocol of 2000 and other relevant international treaties.

Since the completion of her studies, the Prevention and Combatting of Trafficking in Persons Act of 2013 was passed in Parliament, but needs to be promulgated. This means South Africa is still a long way from complying with the UN protocol. A delegation of the US Embassy in South Africa recently visited the Faculty of Law on the Bloemfontein Campus. The purpose of their visit was to gain information for the US Department of State’s comprehensive 2015 report on trafficking in persons.

Prof Kruger’s current research focuses on the new legislation in collaboration with other national and international stakeholders. One of the focus areas is how traffickers control their victims. This research enhances the understanding of why victims often do not seek help, do not want to be ‘rescued’ and why they return to the very traffickers who have brutally exploited them.

The recently released Global Slavery Index 2014 estimates that 36 million people are living as slaves worldwide and that 106 000 of them are in South Africa. This report states that ‘modern slavery’ includes human trafficking, forced labour, forced marriage, debt bondage and the sale of children. The International Labour Organization estimates the illicit profits of forced labour to be US $150 billion a year.

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