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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

Chancellor’s Medal awarded to Tokkie Pretorius for outstanding service to the community
2014-12-12

Tokkie (JL) Pretorius – a qualified attorney who obtained his BProc, LLB and LLM at the University of the Free State (UFS) – was the recipient of the prestigious Chancellor’s Medal on 11 December 2014 during our Summer Graduation Ceremony. This latest honour builds on a path of achievements, being a previous recipient of both a Dean’s Medal as well as the Juta Prize for the best law student at the UFS.

The Chancellor’s Medal is awarded to an individual for outstanding service or achievement at local, national or international level, or for service to the community or the UFS. The academic component of a candidate’s contribution or achievement may be taken into account, but will not be decisive.

Pretorius was General Manager: Legal Services at the Free State Development Corporation (FDC) from 1996 – 2009 and Company Secretary from 2004 – 2009. Since 2009, he has been the CEO of the Anglo-Boer Museum in Bloemfontein.

“It is a great honour for me to receive the Chancellor’s Medal,” said Pretorius – who was nominated for the Bloemfonteiner of the Year competition in 2011.

“The medal is awarded to me at a very relevant time for the museum as well. The museum is at a time where nation-building, diversity and transformation are priority. Therefore, the Chancellor’s Medal award is an indication of the close co-operation between the museum and the UFS, both of whom are focused on the promotion of nation building, diversity and transformation,” Pretorius said.

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