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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

UFS attracts excellent and diverse students
2015-08-20


Matshediso Mokoena and Thato Monkoe.
Photo: Thabo Kessah

When Thato Monkoe and Matshediso Mokoena sat for their final matric examinations in 2014, all they had on their minds was not just passing, but passing well. Little did they know at that time that passing well would place so much responsibility on their shoulders.

 

Both Thato and Matshediso come from rural and disadvantaged backgrounds. They are first-year students at the Qwaqwa Campus of the University of the Free State, and are the first in their respective families to study at a university.

 

Thato describes his situation as “sad and good at the same time”.

 

“It is good, because I am the first one at home to have completed my matric and to have gone on to study at a tertiary institution. At the same time, it is sad as I feel sorry for my siblings who, for various reasons, did not have similar opportunities when they opted out of school”, said Thato, a BEd student.

 

”Now my sister and brother, as well as the entire family, perceive me as the one with brains, and this makes me uncomfortable. However, I am up for the challenge to be the first one to graduate with a degree in my family”.

 

Matshediso Mokoena, a BSc student, who obtained distinctions in Mathematics, Physical Sciences, and Life Sciences last year, concurs with Thato.

 

”As much as my family is supportive, there is always pressure as they expect the best from me,” she said.

 

“The pressure does not only come from my family. My entire community looks up to me, and they can’t stop talking about my achievements”, Matshediso revealed.

 

Both Thato and Matshediso are, however, happy that the dark cloud of doubt about academic achievement in their families has finally disappeared.

 

“At least someone in my family is hard at work carving her future, and willing to set a good example. That person is me”, said Matshediso, who aspires to be a medical doctor, and has a younger sister in Grade 8.

 

Thato and Matshediso are just two of hundreds of students making good use of the University of the Free State’s commitment to attract excellent and diverse students at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, as reflected in the Strategic Plan 2015-2020.


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