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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

Miss World 2014 is a Kovsie
2014-12-14

Photo: Netwerk 24

The management, staff and students of the University of the Free State (UFS) are delighted with the naming of Rolene Strauss, third-year MB ChB student in the School of Medicine, as Miss World 2014.

Rolene was crowned as Miss World 2014 in London, United Kingdom, earlier this evening. The last time a South African was crowned Miss World was in 1974, when Anneline Kriel walked away with the title. Before her, Penny Coelen was crowned Miss World in 1958.

“Rolene represents the best of South Africa - a deep commitment to education and a profound compassion for human beings. Since the first day I met her as a new first-year medical student, I was aware of somebody special, a young woman from a rural area who carried herself with so much grace and confidence. She is truly without prejudice towards any human being and this has made her one of my allies in building the Human Project of the University of the Free State,” says Prof Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the UFS.

“I was not at all surprised that she chose as her beauty-with-a-purpose project the task of keeping young girls in school; this is who she is, and if you observe her dedication to her medical studies, you see someone for whom studies and service are not the add-on obligations of the Ms World Pageant; it is who she is in real life,” he says.

“Rolene has proven herself to be a dedicated, hard-working and enthusiastic young woman. These are qualities which will make her an equally exceptional Miss World,” says Prof Gert van Zyl, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences.

According to Prof Van Zyl, Rolene interrupted her medical studies when she competed in the Miss South Africa pageant. “We are extremely proud of Rolene and will definitely welcome her back after her year as Miss World. She is an inspiration to us all,” he says.

According to Mosa Leteane, President of the UFS Student Representative Council (SRC), the entire student community is elated about Rolene’s crowning. “We know that she will continue to do great on her new journey. Her passion for people and kind spirit are some of the many beautiful traits that continue to make her an exemplary fellow Kovsie. We would like to congratulate her and wish all the best. She has really made us extremely proud,” says Leteane.

 

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