Health, Science, Environment | St. Louis Public Radio

Health, Science, Environment

Health, science, and environmental news

This radiation warning sign is one of many posted on the chain link fence surrounding part of the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton, Mo.
File photo | Sarah Skiold-Hanlin | St. Louis Public Radio

The Environmental Protection Agency plans to conduct further testing for radioactive contamination at the West Lake Landfill Superfund site in Bridgeton. 

Albert Kelly, senior adviser to EPA administrator Scott Pruitt and the head of the agency's Superfund Task Force, made the announcement at a forum late Thursday, where members of the community voiced concerns about the landfill. Kelly said he expects the sampling to occur within the next 90 days in the western part of the site, a portion that agency officials often refer to as "Operating Unit 2."

The announcement came as good news to area residents, who have long worried that that contamination has damaged their health.

Lenita Newberg (L) and Dr. Barbara Milrod joined host Don Marsh to talk about anxiety in children.
Alex Heuer | St. Louis Public Radio

Anxiety disorders affect one in eight children. That’s according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

“Anxiety is ubiquitous but an anxiety disorder is not,” said Dr. Barbara Milrod, a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist and Professor of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.

Milrod joined St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh on Thursday along with Lenita Newberg, director of the Advanced Psychodynamic Psychotherapy Program at the St. Louis Psychoanalytic Institute.

Sidney Watson, the Jane and Bruce Robert Professor at Saint Louis University’s Health Law Policy Center
Alex Heuer | St. Louis Public Radio

It’s difficult to keep track of day-to-day news about what’s happening with the Affordable Care Act.

What do President Donald Trump’s executive actions do? What’s the latest information about efforts in Congress to deal with the ACA?

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh talked about the Affordable Care Act with Sidney Watson, the Jane and Bruce Robert Professor at Saint Louis University’s Health Law Policy Center.

“It’s certainly a time of chaos and daily confusion,” Watson said.

An illustration of prescription drugs.
Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Though Republicans in Congress have not passed a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, President Donald Trump has used a series of executive orders and directives in an attempt to peel back parts of the law.

Last week, the administration announced it would stop paying cost-sharing reductions to insurance companies for individual plans purchased through Healthcare.gov, sparking fears of insurance rate hikes just before enrollment season.  

Official estimates show that losing cost-sharing payments could push some premiums up by 20 percent in states like Missouri. In the meantime, open enrollment for individual plans opens Nov. 1.  

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

In June 2012, Andrew Oberle, an aspiring primate researcher, was brutally attacked by two chimpanzees at a zoo in South Africa. The animals tore his flesh from head to toe and he nearly died.

But after 26 surgeries and extensive therapies at Saint Louis University Hospital, Oberle recovered. His ability to overcome his traumatic experiences led him to want to help others in who've experienced extreme physical injuries. Today, Oberle serves as the director of development for the Oberle Institute, a trauma care program at Saint Louis University that is supported by foudations. He helps raise funds for the institute and also serves as a patient advocate. 

A prairie that contains the common big bluestem grass.
Provided by Kansas State University

Prairies in Missouri and southern Illinois could look shorter by the end of the century, according to a study from the Missouri Botanical Garden and Kansas State University. 

Researchers reported in the journal Global Change Ecology that tall varieties of the big bluestem grass that covers much of Midwestern prairies could be taken over by shorter forms of the plant over the next several decades. That's because climate change could reduce rainfall in many parts of the region, leading to drier conditions.

Faisel Khan, Brad Stoner and Maheen Bokhari
Aaron Doerr | St. Louis Public Radio

There was a hubbub earlier this week when St. Louis, which recently lost its crown for having the highest STD rates in the country to Alabama, was found out to be on top once again due to an accounting error.

Gas extraction wells on the Bridgeton Landfill in summer 2016.
File Photo |Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Residents and environmental activists expressed concerns at a public hearing Wednesday night that the state's pending stormwater permit for the Bridgeton Landfill does not require monitoring for radioactive waste. 

The Bridgeton Landfill sits above an underground smoldering fire, located about 600 feet from the World War II-era radioactive waste that's under the West Lake Landfill Superfund site. Concerns about radioactive contamination in stormwater rose over the summer, when the Missouri Department of Natural Resources released a report showing levels of alpha particles in runoff at Bridgeton Landfill that exceeded drinking water standards after heavy rains in late April. Alpha particles are a type of radiation that does not pierce the skin and must be ingested to damage human health.

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

The National Science Foundation has awarded $3.4 million to researchers at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, the University of Illinois-Champaign-Urbana and the University of California-Davis to study genes that promote high corn yields.

Advances in crop technology have helped boost corn yields by eightfold in the last century. But productivity of the staple crop has plateaued in recent years and that has pushed researchers to take a closer look at genes that can improve production and help feed the world's rising human population.

After 20 years of selling and using meth, 38-year-old Andy Moss turned his life around. He got off drugs and got a good job. Next step: he wanted to fix his teeth, which had disintegrated, leaving nerves exposed.


Puerto Rico National Guard members distributed water to the communities of Utuado, Puerto Rico, in late September.
Puerto Rico National Gaurd

Two weeks after Hurricane Maria’s 155 mph winds pummeled the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, many residents remain without easy access to electricity, food or running water. Cell phone service is limited, and mail service has not been fully restored.

Dr. Andrea Hagemann (L) and Susan Robben (R) joined St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh to talk about ovarian cancer.
Alex Heuer | St. Louis Public Radio

October marks ovarian cancer awareness month. According to the American Cancer Society, ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women.

In the United States, each year 22,000 women are diagnosed with the disease and 15,000 die from it.  

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh discussed early warning signs of ovarian cancer, resources for those in treatment and ongoing efforts to increase survivorship with two guests:

The same day a federal appeals court overruled itself and voted to block two Missouri abortion restrictions, the state advised Missouri abortion providers that they will have to abide by a new restriction.

A memo dated Oct. 2 from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) says the agency will file emergency rules on Oct. 24 establishing standards for “complication plans” for medication-induced abortions.

An alligator snapping turtle, one of several wild turtle species that live in Missouri.
File Photo | United States Fish and Wildlife Service

Wild turtles in Missouri may soon be protected from trappers, as the Missouri Department of Conservation proposed a ban this week on the commercial harvest of turtles in the state. 

Many wild turtles that are captured and exported from the United States are sold as exotic pets or processed into food and traditional Chinese medicine. Missouri is one of a few states in the country that doesn't impose a limit on how many wild turtles that trappers can collect.

At an experimental mine at the Missouri University of S&T in Rolla, scientists are setting off explosives around lab mice and cell cultures to study how exposure to blasts in combat damage the brains of military personnel.

Neuroscientists at the University of Missouri-Columbia and Stanford University are leading the research, funded by the U.S. Department of Defense. The study is focused on mild traumatic brain injury, the most common type of brain injury affecting military personnel. However, the condition is difficult to diagnose and not well studied.

 

Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

At a free drop-in clinic for sexually transmitted disease screening in Pine Lawn, just north of St. Louis, people wait outside the door before the doors open at 8 a.m. That’s because the spots usually fill up in about an hour.

“I’d be more concerned if it didn’t fill up,” said Dr. Fred Echols, director of communicable disease for the St. Louis Department of Public Health.  “I definitely think we’re moving the needle.”

An Amtrak train approaches the Kirkwood train station as officers hand out railway safety information on Sept. 26, 2017.
Chelsea Hoye | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

Local, state, and federal transportation departments have teamed up with local police, Amtrak and the nonprofit organization Operation Lifesaver in a week-long campaign to warn against trespassing on railroad tracks.

This project’s goal is to reduce the number of deaths by train across the United States. Police enforcement is stationed across the nation in places where high numbers of vehicle or trespassing deaths have taken place.

According to the new study, a woman's weight before her first pregnancy may have long-term effects.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases | National Institutes of Health

Intense stress faced by new moms can also affect the emotional development of their baby. That's a good reason to expand Medicaid coverage to low-income mothers, a St. Louis child psychiatrist argued Tuesday.

“If you want to have healthy infants, you have to have healthy caregivers,” Dr. Cynthia Rogers told an assembly of physicians at Washington University. “And the preterm brain is particularly vulnerable.”

A wind turbine.
Provided by Ameren Missouri

Missouri's largest utility company announced plans today that could dramatically reduce its impact on the environment. 

Ameren Missouri released multiple goals it hopes to achieve, which include adding 700 megawatts of wind power generation by 2020, along with 100 megawatts of solar power by 2027. Company leaders are speaking to developers about a potential wind farm project and hope to provide more details by the end of this year.

A sunset at the Great Rivers National Wildlife Refuge in Annada, Mo.
Carmen Cortelyou | U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The Great River National Wildlife Refuge in Annada, Missouri,  is acquiring two islands on the Mississippi River to protect wildlife and provide more areas for outdoor recreation. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has given $677,500 to the refuge in northeast Missouri, a portion of $21.9 million the U.S. Department of the Interior dedicated to conserving public lands in 16 states. A family near the river used to farm on the 702-acre property, called Slim and Haps Islands, but stopped as flooding increased along the Mississippi River.

Carla has started taking classes, hoping to make her children proud by becoming fluent in English over the next few years. St. Louis Public Radio has changed Carla’s name because she is an unauthorized immigrant. May 2017.
Jenny Simeone-Cases | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Republicans have jumped behind the latest proposal in Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

A Senate bill would gut protections for people with pre-existing conditions and redistribute health care spending in the form of block grants to states. States like Missouri, which did not expand Medicaid coverage to low-income people under the 2010 health law, would see a boost in funding; states like Illinois could lose hundreds of million dollars a year.

Flickr

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.

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