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Health, Science, Environment

Health, science, and environmental news

This story was updated at 1:47 p.m. to include the response of a spokesman for the VA region in question.  

Almost 1,000 veterans in Missouri, Kansas and Illinois were denied care at non-VA facilities because their wait times were incorrectly reported, an audit released last week concludes. 

An ancient Egyptian mummy named Pet Menekh is placed in a CT scanner at the Washington University School of Medicine.
Washington University School of Medicine

In a dark room on the third floor of the Saint Louis Art Museum, nearly a dozen grade school boys encircled a tour guide, who was dispensing facts about Egyptian mummies. But instead of crowding around three mummies lying nearby in glass cases, they stood in front of a recently added feature to the exhibit: a touchscreen that displays images of what the mummies look like inside.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 30, 2012 - Some doctors are beginning to discover a downside to electronic health records. Call it EHR overload. It refers to instances when physicians have so much medical data at their finger tips that they are overwhelmed and have trouble finding what they need to make quick decisions about treating patients.

A cornfield
File Photo | Adam Allington | St. Louis Public Radio

A bill in the Missouri House would bring back a ban on foreign ownership of Missouri farmland.

The ban was lifted by the Missouri General Assembly in 2013, allowing foreign ownership of up to one percent of farmland in the state. But Stephen Webber, the chair of the Missouri Democratic Party, said lifting the ban has given foreign corporations too much control in Missouri’s agriculture industry.

“They’ve got the ability to bully small family farmers [and] to manipulate prices and policies,” Webber said.

Roger Ideker's farm in St. Joseph, Mo. during the 2011 Missouri River flood. Ideker is the lead plaintiff in the suit against the corps.
Ideker Farms

The U.S. Court of Federal Claims has found the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers responsible for extensive property damage caused as a result of recurring floods along the Missouri River. 

A group of 372 farmers, landowners and business owners in several Midwestern states filed suit against the Corps of Engineers in March 2014, alleging that the federal agency's actions contributed to five floods along the Missouri River since 2007. Senior Judge Nancy Firestone ruled on Tuesday that the Corps of Engineers was liable for damages caused by recurring floods.

Tree plantings on a former lead mining site in Fredericktown, Missouri, located about 90 miles south of St. Louis.
Amy Poos | Missouri Department of Natural Resources

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources are restoring a portion of Missouri's Old Lead Belt back into a forest. 

It's the first effort that federal and state officials have made to restore a part of the Madison County Mines Superfund Site, part of the Southeast Missouri Lead District. In the 19th century, lead mining heavily contaminated the area, which was listed on the Environmental Protection Agency's National Priorities List in 2003.

Tuesday’s conversation touched on the now (in)famous concrete spheres that line Compton Avenue as well as other traffic-calming efforts in the region.
Kae Petrin | St. Louis Public Radio

Kea Wilson has heard her share of complaints about the so-called “Ingrassia balls” recently installed in her south city neighborhood along Compton Avenue.

Some people worry about the concrete spheres being hit by vehicles and rolling down the street, as several in fact have. But Wilson, director of community engagement for the organization Strong Towns, said on Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air that there’s a more serious issue at stake.

Sunrise, Daylight Saving Time
Matthias Bachmann | Flickr |

Updated 3/12/18, originally broadcast 3/10/16

Love it or hate it, Daylight Saving Time began over the weekend. Across the country, people lost an hour of sleep in exchange for longer days through the summer. Is it worth it?

The Untold Story Of How Eggs Make Your Bacon

Mar 12, 2018

When a man places 40 dozen eggs on the conveyor in the check-out line at the grocery store, it begs the question: What’s he going to do with all of them?

This happened to Kim Becker in Ames, Iowa. The man’s answer left her so gobsmacked, she posted it on Facebook:

An active coal ash pond at the Meramec Energy Center in St. Louis County in February 2018.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Environmentalists plan to raise concerns at a public hearing tonight about water-quality issues caused by Ameren Missouri's Rush Island Energy Center in Festus. 

Allison Miller and Jason Clay joined St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Over the past few years the world is producing 17 percent more food, yet one billion people go hungry.

That’s a conundrum that is the focus of a panel discussion Thursday night at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center titled, “The Future of Food in a Wealthier, Warmer World."

“It’s an interesting conundrum,” said Allison Miller, associate professor of biology at Saint Louis University. “We have a major challenge with feeding people but also conserving vibrant, healthy ecosystems.”

A monarch butterfly feeding on a milkweed plant.
Tom Koerner | U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Scientists are concerned that monarch butterflies could be facing a new threat: pesticides that contain dicamba. 

A report released last week from the Center for Biological Diversity showed that monarch butterflies migrate through areas of the southern and Midwestern United States where dicamba is heavily used. The chemical can interrupt the growth of milkweed and other plants that the species feeds on. Monarch populations are critical pollinators of wildflowers and other plants, but the species has declined more than 80 percent in the last two decades

Andrew Oberle, a chimp attack survivor who helped create a holistic trauma program at Saint Louis University, shared his story at a live taping of The Story Collider in October 2017.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Even as a young boy, Andrew Oberle knew exactly what he wanted to do for a living: work with chimpanzees. He was living his dream six years ago at an animal sanctuary in South Africa when tragedy struck.

Oberle recounted his survival of a near-fatal attack by chimpanzees, along with his experience along the road to recovery, during a Story Collider event this past fall. The piece also aired on Monday’s St. Louis on the Air.

Tim Bono is the author of “When Likes Aren’t Enough: A Crash Course in the Science of Happiness.” He says he is not on Instagram.  He does admit to operating a Twitter account – but only because his book publisher insisted.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Are we as happy as we appear to be on social media?

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh explored that question and others in conversation with Tim Bono, a faculty member at Washington University. The psychologist’s new book “When Likes Aren’t Enough: A Crash Course in the Science of Happiness” draws on scores of happiness-related studies conducted with college students and other adults throughout the world.

Chris Begley, an associate professor of anthropology at Transylvania University in Kentucky, discusses what real archaeologists think of the beloved fictional adventurer.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

In his 25 years as a terrestrial and underwater archaeologist, Chris Begley has explored everything from prehistoric caves in Missouri to the legend of a lost civilization in Honduras. Along the way, he’s earned not just a Ph.D. but a reputation as “a real-life Indiana Jones.”

But on Friday, Begley downplayed the more daring aspects of his own adventures during a conversation with St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh. He said his field work in relatively uninhabited areas of Central America as well as other places around the world doesn’t quite live up to what’s typically portrayed on the big screen.

This post was updated following the March 5 show.

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh talked with Tim Bono, a psychologist and faculty member at Washington University, about his new book “When Likes Aren’t Enough: A Crash Course in the Science of Happiness.”

Listen to and read about the full conversation here.

Arnold residents pile sandbags over a manhole to try to prevent sewage from mixing with floodwater. May 2017
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

More people in Missouri are at risk of experiencing damage from heavy rainfall and river flooding, according to a study released Wednesday.

Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri’s suicide rate ranks 13th in the nation.

In 2016, there were roughly 10 suicides per 100,000 residents, and more than half were gun-related. Yet despite the statistics, only about half of emergency-room doctors in the U.S. ask patients at risk of suicide if they have access to guns at home.

A new Washington University program aims to tackle this issue directly by working with patients at risk of suicide before they’re discharged from the hospital. The Counseling on Access to Lethal Means (C.A.L.M.) program helps patients temporarily store dangerous items they may have at home, including guns and prescription medication.


Pastor Gwenndolyn Lee of Spirit of Love Church wants to change the negative stigma surrounding HIV in the black community. Her younger brother died from AIDS nearly 14 years ago.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

More than 50 percent of HIV cases in the St. Louis region are in the African-American community. That’s according to a 2016 report from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. But the stigma surrounding the virus in the black community makes it a challenge to address.

Local organizations like Faith Communities United have been working to break the stigma down by partnering with several faith communities throughout the region, including Spirit of Love Church in St. Louis, lead by Pastor Gwenndolyn Lee. For Lee, the fear of discussing HIV in the black community, and especially in the black church, is a personal one.

Documentary filmmaker Carl Gierstorfer and science journalist Jon Cohen talk about their work on HIV, AIDS and Ebola.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, producer Alex Heuer talked with science journalist Jon Cohen, a staff writer for Science Magazine, and documentary filmmaker Carl Gierstorfer about their work on HIV, AIDS and Ebola.

Both have received support from the Pulitzer Center for their reporting projects. Their work takes a look at the causes of diseases, the factors that allow them to spread and the stories of those impacted.