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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

Ahmed Kathrada to launch his book, ‘Triumph of the Human Spirit’ on 18 August 2015 on Bloemfontein Campus
2015-08-17

Ahmed Kathrada, struggle icon and former prisoner at Robben Island, will launch his latest book, Triumph of the Human Spirit, at the Bloemfontein Campus. The book details Kathrada’s 300-odd visits to the island with guests ranging from heads of state and celebrities to school children. The photographs give a sense of the bleakness of the island and how, now a World Heritage Site, it has been transformed into a monument celebrating lives of courage.
 
Details of the event:
Date: 18 August 2015
Time: 12:00
Place: Centenary Complex, Bloemfontein Campus

In Kathrada’s words, “While we will not forget the brutality of apartheid, we will not want Robben Island to be a monument of our hardship and suffering. We would want it to be a triumph of the human spirit against the forces of evil; a triumph of wisdom and largeness of spirit against small minds and pettiness; a triumph of courage and determination over human frailty and weakness; a triumph of the new South Africa over the old.”

Prof André Keet, Director of the Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice, and Dr Lis Lange, Vice-Rector: Academic, will join Kathrada on stage to discuss his book.

As an added bonus, Kathrada’s visit coincides with the art exhibition, 21 Icons: 21 Years of Freedom Collection, in which he also features. The exhibition is hosted by the Johannes Stegmann Art Gallery, situated in the UFS Sasol Library, from 12 August to 18 September 2015.

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