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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

Faculty of Health Sciences celebrates various successes
2015-01-12

The Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of the Free State achieved a number of successes in the course of 2014. This included awards, presentations and keynote addresses at conferences, as well as publications in various journals.

Some of the highlights are:

• Dr Madelein Koning from the Department of Internal Medicine received the Vice-Chancellor’s award for Excellence in Teaching and Learning during November. Prof Alan St Claire Gibson said the award is richly deserved, given Dr Koning’s many years of high-quality teaching and input to particularly the fifth-year MB ChB students.

• Prof Schalk Wentzel, Head of the Department of Urology, was elected President of the South African College of Urology, and Prof Alicia Sherriff from the Department of Oncology was elected President of the South African College of Oncology.  Prof William Rae was appointed to the College of Radiologists. These are the highest and most prestigious offices an academic clinician can hold or be elected to in the specialty of their choice. Prof Rae also published an article in the Journal of Infectious Diseases. 

• Prof Nats Mofolo, Head of the Department of Family Medicine, gave a keynote address at the Free State Health Indaba hosted by the Free State Department of Health.

• Dr Holtzhausen from the Department of Sports and Exercise Medicine chaired and delivered a presentation at the 6th Clinical Sport and Exercise Medicine Conference of SA held in Cape Town from 22 to 24 October 2014. He was also the convener of the conference. His presentation was titled ‘Safer exercise in apparently healthy individuals and those with possible risk factors for chronic disease and injury’.

 

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