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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

Out of the ordinary lunch with Prof Jansen
2015-08-17

Prof Jansen and the twins pose for pictures after enjoying a laugh and chat at the lunch event.

Numerous sets of twins and a set of triplets were entertained by, and enjoyed lunch with, the Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the university, Prof Jonathan Jansen.  Wednesday 12 August 2015 marked an extraordinary day in the Kovsie history book.

The Reitz Hall in the Centenary complex was filled with echoes of laughter as Prof Jansen told “twin jokes” he had Googled earlier for the occasion. Save for the humour, he said that twins and triplets represent a unique bond.  “After all, we should be striving for a way of being together,” he said, speaking about the quest for national solidarity.

Sitting in groups of six, and after the introductions, the duos and trio were soon engaged in conversation.

Anita and Mikita Miza, who were sharing a table with Marike and Ilna Marais, told stories from their childhood.

“We did not realise that we were twins until we were in grade one,” said Anita, who is studying the same course as her sister. Mikita is in the second year of her BSoc Science degree, while her twin is a year ahead. She had to remain in Mtata, their hometown, for a year while Anita began her first year. “It was the longest year of my life,” said Mikita.

Marike and Ilna are first years in Physiotherapy and Optometry, respectively. When asked by Prof Jansen what they never share, the non-identical twins were quick to reply: “clothes,” although they still share a room. When they were in high school, fellow learners struggled to believe that Marike and Ilna are twins, because of their distinctly different looks.

The lunch united strangers, who have a unique common bond, and acted as a platform to tell interesting stories that are seldom heard.

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