DEA TO QUANTIFY COST OF AIR POLLUTION FOR FIRST TIME - Annual Air Quality Lekgotla to close with new findings

Durban, KwaZulu Natal, 07 October 2014 – Tomorrow, the Department of Environmental Affairs chaired by National Air Quality Officer Dr. Thuli Mdluli will outline the methodology to undertake a cost-benefit analysis for air quality in South Africa. This will mean that for the first time in South Africa we will begin to understand the costs of air pollution to society and the benefits of bringing heavily polluted areas and industry into compliance. 

In new estimates released in March 2015, the World Health Organisation reports that in 2012 around 7 million people died - one in eight of total global deaths – as a result of air pollution exposure. This finding more than doubles previous estimates and confirms that air pollution is now the world’s single largest environmental health risk. Reducing air pollution could save billions of Rands and millions of lives.

A recent report [1] released by groundWork [2] and partners – including the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance [3] – indicated clearly that the reality of South Africa’s air quality is heavily polluted in industrial hotspots and falls far short of defending the right to clean air, as the DEA’s Air Quality Lekgotla’s [4] theme title says. Rather, air pollution hotspots such as the Vaal Triangle, Highveld and south Durban have ongoing major exceedances above the current weak emission standards, which is having a serious impact on people’s health. Respiratory illnesses and cancer are some of the severe but common illnesses people in these areas are faced with daily.

While South Africa is currently facing an assault by heavy industry such as Eskom and Sasol who are applying to be exempt from air pollution standards the costs and benefits of environmental laws need to be understood. For example, the US experience of implementing their air quality laws shows the ratio of health care cost savings to compliance costs was 25:1 in 2010. For every dollar spent complying with the US Clean Air Act, twenty-five dollars were saved in health care costs due to lower disease burden, including a reduction in premature deaths, and cases of bronchitis, asthma, and myocardial infarction [5].

Tomorrow’s meeting will include two very important presentations by international organisations. The US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) will present the cost benefit analysis methodology they follow in the US and what this means for South Africa.

Secondly, the sources of air pollutants, their impacts on the human body and the importance of policy in facilitating an environment healthy for people will be discussed by Professor Peter Orris from the University of Illinois, Hospital and Health Sources System and Doctor Dong Chun Sun, Chairperson of the World Medical Association Environment Committee.

Wednesday will be open to media. See Footnote [4] for details of venue and times.

groundWork (Friends of the Earth South Africa)
South Durban Community Environmental Alliance


[1] To read the report visit
[2] groundWork is an environmental justice organisation working with community people from around South Africa, and increasingly Southern Africa, on environmental justice and human rights issues focusing on Coal, Climate and Energy Justice, Waste and Environmental Health. groundWork is the South African member of Friends of the Earth International
[3] The South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) is an alliance of 16 organizations concerned with environmental justice and human rights, particularly relating to industrial pollution in south Durban, an area which is home to more than 285 000 people living in settled communities
[4] For more information and the programme visit
[5] US, Environmental Protection Agency Office, 2010.


Megan Lewis
Media and Communications Officer
Mobile: +27 (0) 83 450 5541

Rico Euripidou
Environmental Health Campaigner
Mobile: +27 (0) 83 519 3008

South Durban Community Environmental Alliance:
Desmond D’sa
Mobile: +27 (0) 83 982 6939

Noluthando Mbeje
Programme Officer
Mobile: +27 (0) 78 234 6206