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Health, Science, Environment

Health, science, and environmental news

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Missouri leads the country when it comes to the prevalence of injuries due to falls among older adults. The injuries can cause lost independence and mobility, and result in considerable medical bills.

One in four adults age 65-plus will fall this year. Why this problem is most acute in Missouri is not exactly known.

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh discussed risk factors and how to prevent falls.

Joining him for the discussion were:

Inmates at the Medium Security Institution in St. Louis look out during a protest on July 22, 2017.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Jail inmates at the St. Louis County Justice Center in Clayton stay for an average of 59 days before their cases are tried or dismissed. But 10 miles away, at the Medium Security Institution in the city of St. Louis, the typical prisoner waits for eight months.

The St. Louis jail, which does not have air conditioning in the men’s dorms, drew protests this summer after inmates cried for help during a heat wave. The city installed temporary cooling units at the facility, also known as the Workhouse, and extreme temperatures have since subsided. Inmates and their families say more must be done to improve conditions in the aging facility. But city officials say there isn’t much more they can do.

Sikeston farmer Trey Wilson said he saw substantial damage to his soybean crops this year. On the left is what a healthy soybean plant looks like; on the right is a soybean plant showing signs of dicamba damage.
Trey Wilson

Sikeston, Missouri — In front of several greenhouse scaffolds, Steve Hamra gestured to a metal cart containing trays of seedlings for bell peppers, tomatoes and romaine lettuce. About 150 miles south of St. Louis on a 10-acre site, Hamra is growing produce hydroponically, or in water instead of soil, for about 400 schools, in Missouri and other states.

Two grizzly bear cubs arrived at the Saint Louis Zoo in the summer of 2017.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Visitors to the St. Louis Zoo will be able to watch two grizzly bear cubs from Montana starting Friday.

The male, Huckleberry and female, Finley, are both 2 1/2 years old. They and their mother were found disturbing residences and livestock, posing a risk to public safety. Montana wildlife officials killed the mother and sent the cubs to St. Louis Zoo, because zoo officials already had plans to revamp the grizzly bear exhibit.

airpix | Flickr

The words “Alcoholics Anonymous” are synonymous with addiction treatment, but the people behind an alternative therapy hope that those dealing with addiction know there are other forms of treatment out there.

Arthur Shenker, a St. Louis-based facilitator who was at one time addicted to cocaine, and Dr. Joseph Gerstein, the founder and president of SMART Recovery, joined St. Louis on the Air on Thursday to discuss their program’s approach to treating addiction with cognitive behavioral therapy.

Tahwii Spicer gave birth to her son Reece almost two years ago at home with the help of a midwife. She said almost as soon as he was born, he "army-crawled" up her body to start feeding.

“He was so ravenous!” she said. “He was hungry.


Adrian Percy, head of research and development at Bayer CropScience, delivers the keynote speech  at the 2017 Ag Innovation Showcase at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

As European regulators investigate the potential $66 billion Bayer-Monsanto merger, Bayer's CropScience division is preparing to address challenges in crop technology, especially those tied to Monsanto's products. 

At the annual Ag Innovation Showcase in St. Louis hosted by the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, Adrian Percy, Bayer CropScience's head of research and development, said a priority for the merged companies would be addressing a decline in pollinators and meeting the high demand for herbicides to combat resistant weeds.

Dogs and cats acting strangely? On Tuesday's St. Louis on the Air, an animal behaviorist stepped in to answer your questions about animal behavior.
tohu | Flickr

Dr. Debra Horwitz, DVM, a St. Louis-based veterinary behaviorist and veterinarian joined St. Louis on the Air again on Tuesday to share her pet wisdom and answer listeners’ questions about their dogs and cats. 

Here are some of the most pressing questions posed to Horwitz, of Veterinary Behavior Consultations, during the noon hour along with her answers.

Does tone matter when it comes to addressing dogs and cats?

Planned Parenthood Great Plains plans to offer abortion services at two more clinics in Missouri, the organization announced Monday, bringing to three the number of abortion providers in Missouri.

Planned Parenthood’s midtown Kansas City clinic has received an abortion license and will now offer medication abortion services.

The organization anticipates its Columbia clinic will offer both medication and surgical abortion services in the coming days.

A solar energy project on the roof of Nestle Purina's builidng in downtown St. Louis.
Microgrid Energy

The city of St. Louis could soon commit to an ambitious goal to depend on renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power for its electricity by 2035. 

Board of Alderman President Lewis Reed introduced a resolution Friday that would completely transition the city away from using fossil fuels. The St. Louis region currently receives less than 5 percent of its electricity from wind, solar and other renewable sources.

Microgrid installed two solar arrays at Busch Stadium.
Microgrid Energy

Nearly 600,000 people in the Midwest are working in the clean energy sector and that number likely will continue to rise, according to advocates for the industry. 

The nonprofit groups Clean Energy Trust and Environmental Entrepreneurs released a report Thursday that demonstrated a significant increase in the past year in the number of people who work in fields such as wind and solar power and energy auditing. Illinois led the region's clean energy sector growth by adding nearly 120,000 jobs, largely in the area of energy efficiency. Missouri showed growth in multiple areas, including renewable energy, which saw jobs grow by 14.5 percent in the last year.

Tia Hosler woke up at 7:35 a.m. on a friend’s couch next to her newborn son’s crib after an overnight babysitting gig.

The 26-year-old had slept through her alarm and was late for the bus, her ride to group therapy in Fort Wayne, Indiana. And now she had to scramble. She tied her Kool-Aid-red hair into a tight bun and kissed her 2-month-old, Marsean. 


Danielle Lee, visiting assistant professor at SIUE and advocate on access in STEM fields, joined host Don Marsh to discuss diversity in the sciences.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

While there’s a rising growth in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) jobs in the United States, there’s a dwindling number of Americans interested in and qualified for pursuing such careers. Animal behavioral scientist and Southern Illinois State University-Edwardsville visiting professor Danielle Lee wants to change that, particularly with populations traditionally underrepresented in those fields – women and minorities.

A Washington University researcher holds a piece of paper coated with tiny gold particles that can be used to test blood for Zika virus.
Provided | Washington University School of Medicine

St. Louis researchers have used a strain of the Zika virus to shrink highly lethal brain tumors in mice. 

The study, run by Washington University and the University of California San Diego, used 33 lab mice with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. Mice injected with a strain of the Zika virus lived longer and were measured to have smaller tumors than the control group, which was injected with saltwater.

The SuperTIGER detects cosmic rays, high-energy radiation that's produced from supernovas. Researchers at Washington University and NASA will launch the 6,000 pound device over Antarctica in November.
Bob Binns

In November, a team of scientists from Washington University and NASA will head to Antarctica to launch a device that will help them study space radiation. 

When massive stars die, they create explosions known as supernovas. Researchers theorize that the shocks from these events strip particles of their electrons and send them through space close to the speed of light. These high energy particles are called cosmic rays and studying them could help physicists understand the universe outside of our solar system.

Amid recent and ongoing destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey, the recovery effort will take center stage.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh talked with Suzanna Long, professor and department chair of engineering management and systems engineering at Missouri S&T in Rolla.

They addressed what a comprehensive recovery plan looks like and assess the potential for disasters in Missouri.

A rendering of the St. Louis Ice Center at Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park.
St. Louis Economic Development Partnership

The National Park Service has ordered the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to stop construction work for a proposed ice recreation facility in Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park. 

In a letter to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources last Friday, the federal agency expressed its concerns about the St. Louis Ice Center.

"We are concerned that the Ice Center would act as a stand-alone attraction and would not encourage further outdoor recreation at the rest of the site," wrote Carol Edmondson, an outdoor recreation planner at the National Park Service.

Derek Olson via Flickr

When should parents give children their first cellphone or smartphone? What factors should be considered? How do maturity, development and sleep considerations play into it all? 

St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh talked about the issues with two doctors:

First-year Washington University medical school students board a school bus after a stop on a trip around St. Louis in August.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Every year, for the past 15 years, first year students at Washington University’s School of Medicine have climbed on board three yellow school buses and headed north. They take a route that passes through the city’s poorest neighborhoods, in a bid to introduce medical students to the lives of their future patients.

It’s a trip the school hopes will make them better doctors.

An illustration of pollution, 2017
Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has requested the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency upgrade Jefferson County's air quality status, now that levels of sulfur dioxide have dropped below the federal limit. 

In 2013, the EPA designated Jefferson County as "nonattainment," or not meeting the federal standard for sulfur dioxide, a gas that produces toxic odors and causes respiratory problems. A monitor near the Doe Run lead smelter in Herculaneum detected sulfur dioxide levels above 200 parts per billion, said Kyra Moore, director of the state's air quality control program. After the smelter closed in 2013, levels have dropped well below the 75 parts per billion limit. 

Matt Ridings | Flickr

 

Tower Grove Park in south St. Louis will see some renovations and improvements over the next few years. Park officials are unveiling a 20-year master plan on Wednesday.

The park’s new master plan includes expanding and enhancing some of the more popular areas of the park, including the farmer’s market.

The park’s executive director, Bill Reininger, said more than 200 people attended an open house in January and over 1,200 people have made suggestions for the park’s renovations through an online survey.

On a cold morning last winter, Christopher Hinds says he woke up early, sick from withdrawal. He called a friend and they trekked across a highway, walking for more than two miles through the snow on a street without sidewalks to buy heroin. 

“You don’t think about nothing but getting it when you’re sick like that,” he says. 

Jamie Sentnor (L) and Deborah Phelps (R) joined host Don Marsh to talk about caring for seriously ill relatives and for the people who provide care.
Alex Heuer | St. Louis Public Radio

“The supply of family caregivers will not keep pace with the future demand as our population ages and people live with multiple complex chronic conditions,” argued the authors of a recent academic article in Generations: Journal of American Society on Aging.

This point highlights an impending shortage of caregivers but also of concern is how the people who take care of our older population are cared for themselves.

Carol Van Strum has been in legal battles with the federal government and chemical industries since the 1970s. She amassed a trove of government documents, which are now being published for the first time.
Risa Scott | RF Scott Imagery

Bending a rusted, gnarled piece of wire gate just above her head, Carol Van Strum ducked into the old, dark shed where she kept some old, dark secrets.

“This was my bear deterrent,” she said of the makeshift gate.

She shined a lantern past a stack of hay bales, lighting up a row of decaying cardboard boxes that housed what’s left of her document trove.

“This is where the worst of them were,” she said. “This whole, it was just filled. And you can see the state of them. This is what they all looked like.”

After gathering dust, rust and rat poop for decades in the Siuslaw National Forest, Van Strum’s piles of documents about the chemical industry are poised to become evidence in lawsuits with billions of dollars at stake.  

For five years now, the Missouri legislature has considered legislation to create a prescription drug monitoring database that would allow pharmacists and physicians to look at their patient's prescription history for signs of misuse of narcotics. And for five years, Missouri pharmacists like Erica Hopkins have watched those efforts fail with disappointment.


This treehopper in a greenhouse at Saint Louis University would not normally have a purple horn or "pronotum." It was painted that color for identification purposes.
File photo | Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

Researchers are studying countless plants and animals to understand how climate change could threaten populations. At Saint Louis University, scientists want to know if changes in temperature could affect the mating songs of insects.  

Biologists at SLU have received $480,000 from the National Science Foundation to study how temperature affects treehopper mating songs, which could provide clues as to how climate change could affect insect survival. The loss of insect species could adversely affect agriculture and many ecosystems that depend on them.

Mazy Gilleylen bounces on a trampoline outside her home in Overland. Summer 2017.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Mazy Gilleylen of Overland is looking forward to her 12th birthday in September. But she’s dreading what comes next.

Approaching puberty is alarming for transgender kids like Mazy. To them, the changes can feel like like a betrayal of who they really are. Doctors can prescribe puberty-blocking drugs to prevent unwanted prevent breast growth or a deepening voice. But the cost is out of reach for many families.

Joyetta White looks up at the partial eclipse with classmates at Long International Middle School in St. Louis.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

People gathered at schools, a rural airport and downtown St. Louis on Monday seeking a good view of the total eclipse. The celestial event reached totality (when the moon completely covered the sun) at about 1:15 p.m. St. Louis time, darkening the skies except for what looked like a very bright headlight overhead.

Eclipse glasses for sale at Acee's gas station and market in Goreville, Illinois.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

It is indeed dark during the day as a total solar eclipse makes its way from Oregon to South Carolina. Eleven states are in the path of total darkness.

Follow the astronomical phenomenon's journey across America along with NPR journalists and others experiencing the eclipse.

Saint Louis University Robert Pasken and his graduate student Melissa Mainhart perform a test run of a weather balloon that they plan to launch during the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Historically, total solar eclipses have been used to make important scientific discoveries. One in 1919 validated Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity. Another in 1868 led to the discovery of helium, the second most common element on the planet.

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