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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

Monkey research attracts international attention
2016-07-11

Description: Monkey research attracts international attention  Tags: Monkey research attracts international attention

Prof Trudy Turner from the University of
Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Prof Paul Grobler
from the Department of Genetics at the
University of the Free State, together with one
of the students researching monkey genes.
Photo: Siobhan Canavan

For this year’s Summer School programme, Prof Paul Grobler, from the University of the Free State Department of Genetics focuses on research about the conflict between monkeys and humans in areas where monkeys are regarded as problem animals.

Global expert part of research

This year, Prof Grobler is hosting a group of students and lecturers from the United States of America (USA). The group includes Prof Trudy Turner from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM), a global expert on vervet monkeys. She has been working with the Department of Genetics at the UFS for the past fifteen years, and has also been appointed as an Affiliated Professor in the department.

“The Summer School programme is an opportunity for the American Primatology students to gain practical experience in Africa,” says Prof Grobler.

International interest in Summer School

This year’s Summer School programme involves four lecturers and nine students. The lecturers are from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM), the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Boston University, and Central Washington University.

“We use the genetic information to determine
how monkeys historically infiltrated the
different areas in South Africa.”

This year’s focus is on the genetic structure of the monkeys in South Africa, and research that is being done on the differences and similarities in monkeys from different areas. “We use the genetic information to determine how monkeys historically infiltrated the different areas in South Africa,” says Prof Grobler.

Local nature reserve acting as host

The group will perform field work, including observing monkeys in the Soetdoring Nature Reserve, as well as laboratory work in the department, where they will be assisted by two laboratory technicians.

Two years ago, Prof Grobler and his department tested this idea on a smaller scale, and now they hope to make this a regular event. 

 

 

 

 

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