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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

A hat trick for Kovsie Master’s student
2016-07-28

Description: Candice Thikeson  Tags: Candice Thikeson

Candice Thikeson from the University of the Free State
was the successful recipient of the Abe Bailey
Travel Bursary.
Photo: Johan Roux

Mandela Rhodes Scholar, Bright Young Mind, and now successful candidate of the Abe Bailey Travel Bursary. These accolades now all belong to Candice Thikeson from the University of the Free State (UFS).

To complete the hat trick, she was declared the recipient of the bursary on 20 July 2016. She follows in the footsteps of Stefan van der Westhuizen, who was the UFS Abe Bailey recipient in 2015.

An unexpected breakfast announcement

Thikeson, Gosego Moroka, and Wonga Mfana were the UFS final candidates for the bursary.

Thikeson, who is currently a Master’s student in Art History and Image Studies, said she never expected to be the successful candidate, but is really grateful. “I would like to thank the Vice-Chancellor and Rector, Prof Jonathan Jansen, the Dean of the Faculty of the Humanities, Prof Lucius Botes, and members of the Rectorate, and academic staff who gave me the news in such a special way.”

Promoting South African unity abroad

The objective of the bursary is to broaden the views of young South Africans to effect greater understanding and co-operation among those from various language and cultural backgrounds. Furthermore, it wants to empower those who show exceptional leadership qualities and a strong service ethic, while adopting commitment and effective participation in a common future.

Most importantly, the bursary seeks to promote South African unity. It is awarded each year and consists of a three-week educational tour of England and Scotland. The host in the United Kingdom will be Goodenough College in London.

Thikeson will be overseas from 22 November to 17 December 2016, visiting London, Cambridge, Oxford in the United Kingdom, and Edinburgh in Scotland.

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