Health, Science, Environment | St. Louis Public Radio

Health, Science, Environment

Health, science, and environmental news

This interview will be on "St. Louis on the Air" at noon on Monday; this story will be updated after the show. You can listen live.

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh will discuss the history and science behind vaccination.

Joining him for the conversation will be Michael Kinch, author of "Between Hope and Fear: A History of Vaccines and Human Immunity."

Kinch is an associate vice chancellor and professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics at Washington University and director of the Centers for Research Innovation in Biotechnology and Drug Discovery.

Attendees visit an information table at the 2017 African Community Health Fair.
Progressive Emporium & Education Center

A group of St. Louis businesses and nonprofits are joining together Saturday to host the third annual African Community Health Fair.

The event, which promotes self-care and wellness for African-Americans, will offer a range of free health tests, including blood pressure, cholesterol, vision and podiatry screenings. Organizers say the fair provides a vital service, particularly for those who don’t have regular access to health care.

Mosquitoes with the West Nile virus have been found in St. Louis County for the first time this sumemer
(via Flickr/John Tann)

Health officials have detected the West Nile virus in mosquitoes found in St. Louis County.

The West Nile virus can potentially be deadly, but cases in humans are relatively rare. No Missouri residents have contracted the disease so far, this year, according to federal health data.

A deer tick, one of the most common ticks in the Midwest and the carrier of several diseases, such as Lyme Disease.
Pixabay

A small survey of St. Louis-area physicians found doctors greatly overestimate the prevalence of Lyme disease and underestimate the prevalence of other tick-borne illnesses in Missouri.

Scientists at the University of Southern Illinois-Edwardsville sent a survey to 81 St. Louis-area infectious-disease specialists and family physicians. About a fifth of the doctors responded.

According to the results, published earlier this month in the journal Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases, 82 percent of respondents believed Lyme disease was among the most common tick-borne infections in the state. But state health officials say there were only 10 probable or confirmed cases of Lyme in Missouri in 2016.

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

The Environmental Protection Agency has changed its regulations to give states more authority over how utilities should dispose and monitor pollution from toxic waste generated by coal-fired power plants. Environmental advocates in Missouri and Illinois warn that the newly revised rule will not do enough to protect water quality and human health.

The amendments, approved Tuesday by acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler, lowered standards for several chemicals, such as lead, that are found in coal-ash waste. It also extends the deadline for utilities to close its coal-ash ponds and allows state officials to oversee and stop groundwater monitoring at coal-ash waste sites.

When Cody Goodwin, of Independence, Missouri, was 24, he had already been hooked on opioids, including heroin, for years. His sister decided jail was the only way he could be cut off from drugs, so she reported him to the police.

Johnson & Johnson hit with $4.69 billion loss in baby powder-ovarian cancer case

Jul 13, 2018
Quentin Lueninghoener | Fairwarning

The legal assault on Johnson & Johnson and its signature baby powder reached new heights today, when a state court jury in Missouri found the company responsible for the ovarian cancers of 22 women, and ordered the drug and consumer products giant to pay $4.69 billion in compensatory and punitive damages to the cancer victims or their survivors.

The verdict by the jury of six men and six women in St. Louis Circuit Court was by far the largest yet in the mushrooming baby powder litigation.

Left, Caryn Dugan and Dr. James Loomis discussed plant-based diets with host Don Marsh on Thursday’s “St. Louis on the Air.”
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

While in 2014 just 1 percent of U.S. consumers claimed to be vegan, in 2017, about 6 percent made that claim. With a 600 percent increase in just three years, and veg-friendly options becoming more commonplace in St. Louis, it is safe to say that this diet trend is not just a fad – it’s here to stay.

Insurance premiums for plans on healthcare.gov have become more expensive, but most people who buy exchange plans on healthcare.gov receive tax credits to help them offset costs. Those who don’t receive those credits bear the brunt of those higher prices.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

The rising costs of insurance plans available through the federal healthcare.gov website may make them unaffordable for some people in Missouri and Illinois.

Premiums for exchange plans on healthcare.gov have become more expensive, but most people who buy exchange plans on healthcare.gov receive tax credits to help them offset the cost and are insulated from rising costs. But those who don’t receive those credits bear the brunt of those increased prices.

This 1980 scanning electron microscopic image depicts a cluster of spiral-shaped, Treponema pallidum bacteria, which causes syphilis.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The rate of syphilis cases in St. Louis County increased 42 percent between 2016 and 2017, the largest increase in at least five years, according to data released by the county’s health department.

The county saw 202 cases of syphilis last year. That’s up from 142 the year before. Experts attribute the increase to people practicing unsafe sex and not knowing enough about symptoms or treatments for the disease.

Lee Ann Stuart still wears her nursing scrubs, even though the only work she’s been doing since Twin Rivers Regional Medical Center closed June 11 is to pack boxes of medical supplies to be hauled away.

“It’s strange walking those halls, and they’re empty and the lights are down,” Stuart says. She’s been a nurse at the hospital in rural Kennett, Missouri, for 22 years.

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Soybean growers in the Midwest are caught in the middle of an escalating trade war between the U.S. and China.

China retaliated against the Trump administration’s tariffs on Chinese products Friday by imposing $34 billion in tariffs on hundreds of American goods, including soybeans. Analysts say the added expense of China’s 25 percent tariff on U.S. soybeans will effectively block the product from entering the Chinese market.

Angie Wang | NPR

For breast cancer patients, race and geography can mean the difference between surviving and succumbing.

Washington University researchers have identified distinct hot spots in the U.S. where women are more likely to die from breast cancer. For African-American women and Latinas, these hot spots are predominantly clustered in specific regions across the southern U.S.

Tony Bartleson attemps to lure his dog, Murphy, into the water at Kerth Fountain in Forest Park on Thursday, July 5.
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

The National Weather Service in St. Louis issued a heat advisory this week as temperatures soared into the upper 90s.

The hot weather puts vulnerable people at risk for heat stroke, a potentially fatal condition that happens when bodies can’t keep their temperature low. The old, young and chronically ill are most at risk for heat-related illness.

Zoo staff decided to bottle-feed the baby lemur after observing that her mother was unable to nurse her.
Ethan Riepl | St. Louis Zoo

A new, tiny resident will now greet visitors to the St. Louis Zoo Primate House.

Princess Buttercup, a female mongoose lemur, is the first of her species to be born and reared successfully at the zoo. The critically endangered lemur species, which is found only on Madagascar, is the focus of a national cooperative breeding program intended to build a healthy population in captivity.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha talked with Don Marsh about her book, “What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis Resistance and Hope in an American City” at the St. Louis County Library on June 28.
St. Louis

In 2014, the state of Michigan switched the city of Flint’s water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River. After the switch residents began complaining about the water but government officials claimed it was safe to drink.

Taking the government at its word, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician at the city’s public hospital, continued to encourage parents and children to drink the water. However, the water wasn’t safe and it was contaminated with lead, something she discovered totally by accident.

A pond at the Audubon Center at Riverlands.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

The Army Corps of Engineers plans to launch a long-term study this month to study birds and bats near the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.

The Corps of Engineers' biologists want to track the populations of birds and bats that live on islands in the river and study what habitat conditions best support them.

A wide variety of species is a sign of a healthy ecosystem, said Lane Richter, a Corps of Engineers ecologist. Plant and animal life have declined along the Mississippi River due to dams, levees and other manmade structures that degrade wetlands and other crucial habitats. Studies have also shown that climate change has caused many North American bird species to decline.

Barnes Jewish Hospital, as seen from the campus of Saint Louis University Hospital. Both are Level I trauma centers, and treat hundreds of gunshot wounds a year.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis’ most expensive hospitals don’t provide the best quality care, according to a new report from the St. Louis Area Business Health Coalition.

The region’s two academic medical centers, Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Saint Louis University Hospital, offer the most expensive care in the region even though they rate among the lowest for hospital quality, according to the report. But some critics say quality ratings are influenced by factors beyond a hospital’s control and fail to adequately represent a facility's challenges and strengths.

The Bridgeton Landfill, pictured here, sits adjacent to the West Lake Landfill.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The state of Missouri reached a settlement Friday with the owners of the Bridgeton landfill over how they’ve handled an underground smoldering fire.

Former Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster filed suit against the companies in 2013, alleging that the fire under the Bridgeton landfill was harming local residents. The fire is located about 600 feet from World War II-era radioactive waste under the nearby West Lake Landfill.

Under the terms of an agreement approved by St. Louis County Circuit Judge Michael Jamison, Bridgeton Landfill LLC, Allied Services LLC and waste-management company Republic Services must put $12.5 million in a “community project fund” to compensate residents affected by the landfill. The owners agreed to also pay $3.5 million in penalties and damages to the state.

St. Louis County Health Director Faisal Khan, left, and County Executive Steve Stenger declare a public health emergency due to the opioid crisis at a press conference Thursday in Berkley.
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger declared the opioid epidemic in the county a public health emergency and endorsed a plan to have public health officials work with other organizations to combat the addiction crisis.

The declaration Stenger signed Thursday at the Department of Public Health in Berkeley endorsed an action plan that includes county health officials and other organizations, including the county's Justice Services department and the Missouri Hospital Association.

It aims to increase the public’s access to the anti-overdose drug naloxone, boost prevention education and raise access to treatment for high-risk populations such as the uninsured.

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