Cost of air pollution high

2019-06-19 06:01
Prof. Cathryn Tonne Photo: Supplied

Prof. Cathryn Tonne Photo: Supplied

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Air pollution can affect economic development through several pathways.

This is according to findings by Prof. Cathryn Tonne, who presented a guest lecture on air pollution at the University of the Free State’s (UFS) Business School on 4 June.

Tonne said health remains one of the important aspects negatively affected by air pollution in South Africa.

She said findings revealed that in 2012 high concentrations of air pollution caused 7,4% of all deaths, costing South Africa up to 6% of its gross domestic product.

The findings were also supported by the recent International Growth Centre study conducted by senior researchers of the University of Cape Town, revealing this was a direct consequence of the country’s heavy dependence of fossil fuels, a source of health-damaging air pollution and greenhouse pollutants.

“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. 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 impacts on their income prospects and the economy as a whole,” said Tonne.

According to Tonne, 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 issues also require individuals and communities to play their part to improve air quality,” she said.

She said 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 ambient air pollution.

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