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Health, Science, Environment

Health, science, and environmental news

Mayor Francis Slay signs the benchmarking ordinance in Feb. 2017 that will require buildings that are at least 50,000 square feet to track and share their energy use.
Photo provided by Office of Mayor Francis Slay

A new ordinance requires owners of St. Louis buildings of at least 50,000 square feet to track their energy use. The practice, called benchmarking, is expected to save local residents and businesses nearly $8 million annually in energy costs by 2025.

It could also address the city's contribution to climate change, removing greenhouse gas pollution that's equal to what 15,000 cars would emit. 

"Seventy seven percent of our [carbon] emissions are coming from buildings," said Catherine Werner, the city's sustainability director. "So why not target those buildings to reduce those emissions?"

St. Louis Public Radio reporter Mary Delach Leonard shares the story behind her reporting on the Dakota Access Pipeline in Patoka, Ill.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

On Friday,  St. Louis on the Air goes "Behind the Headlines” to discuss the top stories of the week with those who can bring a little more in-depth knowledge to them. On this week’s program, we discussed a story about the local connection to the Dakota Access Pipeline that you can find 75 miles east of St. Louis.

Joining the program was St. Louis Public Radio reporter Mary Delach Leonard, who reported on Patoka, Illinois, the city in where the Dakota Access Pipeline ends.

The story:

Longtime St. Louis resident Lucy Hamm celebrates her 109th birthday with her retirement community in Chesterfield. Hamm was born on Jan. 30, 1908.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

It might be harder than you think to find the oldest person in town.

Local governments don’t formally track the data, and voting records are often manually entered, and can contain errors. So when a listener named Sally asked our Curious Louis project to find the oldest person in St. Louis, we started looking.

After calls to county election boards and senior service nonprofits came up short, employees in the office of St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay introduced us to someone who might just be the winner: 109-year-old Lucy Hamm.

The Sierra Club's Andy Knott speaks at a rally in 2013 in front of a 15-foot tall inflatable inhaler in Keiner Plaza
File Photo | Sarah Skiold-Hanlin | St. Louis Public Radio & The Beacon

Story updated Feb. 17 with comment from Ameren Missouri — A federal judge has approved the Sierra Club's request to intervene in a Clean Air Act lawsuit between Ameren Missouri and the Environmental Protection Agency. 

Last month, Chief Judge Rodney Sippel ruled in U.S. District Court that Ameren violated the Clean Air Act when it installed boiler equipment at the Rush Island Power Plant in Festus in the late 2000s without acquiring special permits. The new equipment caused the plant to emit more sulfur dioxide emissions, which at high levels can cause asthma and exacerbate respiratory conditions.

Before Sippel held the first meeting Thursday to determine how Ameren should reduce air pollution, the Sierra Club's lawyers filed a motion to intervene, out of concern that the Trump administration could put the case in jeopardy.

Soumya Chatterjee, a scientist at Saint Louis University, peers into a microscope in his laboratory, where he studies pathogens, such as tuberculosis.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

President Donald Trump's executive order last month reduced the cap of refugees allowed into the United States from 110,000 to 50,000. That means that fewer refugees will be resettled into areas like St. Louis.

But the cap also is curtailing disease research across the country. To understand diseases that are widespread in poor, war-torn countries, scientists study refugees from those nations that are infected with those diseases.

Emma Minx, Logan Chiropractic Paraquad Clinic senior intern, turns on the power plate exercise machine for Paraquad participant Leon Zickrick. The machine vibrates to help break up joint adhesion in his shoulder. (July 25, 2014_
File Photo | Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Nonprofit organizations that serve seniors and people with disabilities say their clients would be harmed by Gov. Eric Greitens' proposed cuts to assistance programs.

How does love work in the brain? That's the question psychologist Sandra Langeslag has studied in her laboratory at UMSL.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Psychologist Sandra Langeslag runs  the Neurocognition of Emotion and Motivation Lab at the University of Missouri-St. Louis . The laboratory's research is dedicated to finding out how love works in the brain. On Tuesday, Valentine’s Day, she joined St. Louis on the Air to discuss the science behind those feelings of love (and heartbreak too).

Related: To an UMSL psychologist, love is just a state of mind

Asian elephants Sri and Jade in their enclosure at the Saint Louis Zoo in 2015.
Robin Winkelman | Saint Louis Zoo

On a normal day at the Saint Louis Zoo, Jade, a 9-year-old Asian elephant, might sleep, eat and play with her roommate Sri. But lately, her enclosure has gotten a little noisier, with sounds of elephants and other animals at the zoo.

 

The Zoo is recording sounds from some of its animals and playing the clips to them. The sounds help zoo employees see how the animals might normally act in the wild, zookeeper Liz Irwin said. In natural settings, the animals would be exposed to much more noise, whether it’s from the same species or different ones that would live close by.

Anti-abortion actvists stand on a street median as Planned Parenthood supporters march past the organization's Central West End clinic February 11, 2017.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Rallies for and against Planned Parenthood took place Saturday in St. Louis and across the country.

Anti-abortion groups coordinated events in cities nationwide to show their support for an effort in Congress that would block the organization from receiving any federal funding.

Abortion rights activists responded by arranging counter-protests.

Adrian Clark | Flickr

Missouri legislators are considering a measure that would allow the state to fold into a proposal that has become a popular GOP refrain: Convert funding for state Medicaid programs into block grants.

The rusty patched bumble bee pollinates a flower.
Christy Stewart | U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

An executive order from the Trump administration has frozen the process that, for the first time, would have given a bee species federal protection. 

The rusty-patched bumblebee would have been officially listed under the Endangered Species Act today. But, according to a notice from the Office of the Federal Register, the temporary freeze has delayed the effective date until March 21.

Kadie Tannehill and Mary Kogut joined St. Louis on the Air to discuss the restrictions placed on abortion in Missouri and the impact some of those restrictions have on St. Louisans.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Even after the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade legalized abortion at a federal level in 1973, states have since reserved the right to place regulations and restriction on the process — and Missouri has several such rules.

When Joe Morris had a heart attack last Easter and had to be rushed to the ER, it was the first time he’d been to the doctor in more than 40 years — since high school.

Back home in the small community of Neosho, Mo., Morris needed follow-up care to manage his heart disease and diabetes, but he didn’t have a doctor — or insurance.


The St. Louis County Building Commission members (Jeff Aboussie, Barry Glantz and John Finder, right) listen to Sierra Club supporters on August 2015. The model house is covered with the names of 529 area residents who want stricter energy efficiency stan
Veronique LaCapra

The St. Louis County Building Commission unanimously approved a set of requirements for constructing homes.

But builders, environmental activists, policy experts and residents disagree on whether the new standards best serve the public interest. 

Dr. Andrew Kates of the Washington University Heart Care Institute at Barnes-Jewish Hospital discusses recent heart health research.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

February is Heart Health Month. As such, we invited Dr. Andrew Kates, professor of medicine and cardiologist with the Washington University Heart Care Institute at Barnes-Jewish Hospital to join St. Louis on the Air to discuss new developments in heart health research and answer questions about the heart.

Heart disease is the largest killer of American men and women, outpacing all types of cancer, COPD and lung disease as a cause of death in the United States. More women die of heart disease than men do each year.

Mya Aaten-White poses for a portrait on Highmont Street in Ferguson, near the spot where she was shot in August 2014.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

There is one thing Mya Aaten-White remembers clearly: laying down on a hardwood floor as blood seeped out of her forehead.

Three days into the protests that erupted in Ferguson after a police officer shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown, someone shot Aaten-White in the head as she walked to her vehicle after a demonstration. She survived, but still has no answers.

“I’m not guaranteed safety on any given day,” Aaten-White said. “I don’t know who shot me, so they could try again.”

Paula Croxson, Wyatt Cenac and Ira Flatow share science-themed stories at a live Story Collider show.
Provided / The Story Collider

The St. Louis Storytelling Festival and St. Louis Public Radio are teaming up to bring The Story Collider to town. The Story Collider, a science-themed, live, storytelling podcast, will feature a show in St. Louis on Tuesday, May 2.

Washington University psychology professor Henry “Roddy” Roediger joined "St. Louis on the Air" to discuss the psychology of making (and keeping) good habits.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Another January 1 has come and gone. Now we’ve entered the doldrums of February. So, how are those New Year’s resolutions going?

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, we discussed how to form habits that actually stick with Henry “Roddy” Roediger, a Washington University psychology professor. Roediger is co-author of “Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning.”

Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a genetic blood disorder that alters red blood cells. A defect in hemoglobin (a protein that helps the cells carry oxygen through the body) causes red blood cells to become rigid and take on a crescent (sickle) shape.
National Institutes of Health

Improved treatments for sickle cell disease are extending the life expectancy of thousands of people in the United States, but many patients still lack adequate care.

A grant from the National Institutes of Health could help. It will fund a six-year study at eight medical centers, including Washington University in St. Louis, to identify the needs of local patients and find ways to meet them.

UMSL neuroscience major Katrina Lynn injects a gel into a brainwave-reading cap worn by subject Kohei Kikuchi in January 2017.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

In the late 1990s, before Sandra Langeslag began attending college, she was dumped. Then a few months later, she fell in love again.

“I was very curious. I had these two experiences that were so opposite,” she said. “Why did I feel the way that I feel?"

She was about to begin her studies as a psychology major. Eventually, her interest in the subject of love led her to search for papers to explain the connection between the brain and the experience of falling in love. As it turns out, there weren’t many.

Ed Ferguson, Karin Caito and Howard Weissman discusses the opioid crisis on "St. Louis on the Air" on Wednesday.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

The past year, 2016, will set a record for the number of drug overdose deaths in the St. Louis region. While still collecting data, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse – St. Louis Area is expecting a total of 630-640 deaths from overdoses in the past year, most of them opioid related and most impacting younger St. Louisans.

Hamishe Bahrani, at the restaurant she created with her husband: Cafe Natasha's. Bahrami sits in front of a wall of infused gins; her specialty.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

The call came in the middle of the night; Hamishe Bahrami’s childhood friend would be unable to visit from Iran.

“Today, she was supposed to arrive in St. Louis,” Bahrami said Monday. “She was so excited to come, visit St. Louis and see my life in person. We don’t know if we’re going to see each other again.”

Fields of sorghum at the University of Arizona's Maricopa Agricultural Center.
Donald Danforth Plant Science Center

A $6.1 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will fund the Danforth Plant Science Center's research on sorghum, a staple food crop in sub-Saharan Africa. 

In several Asian and African countries, grain sorghum is essential to a person's diet. Given worldwide concerns over feeding a growing human population during a time of rising global temperatures, scientists have started paying attention to crops such as sorghum, that are highly resilient to drought and extreme heat.

In Missouri, doctors do not have a database to see how many prescriptions, particularly opioid medications, a patient has filled recently. Without that information, some doctors say they look for certain behaviors to identify if a patient is pill-seeking.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri’s second-most populous county is joining a St. Louis-based effort to monitor opioid prescriptions. The program allows doctors to see how many drug prescriptions someone has filled, so they can flag patients who may be abusing opioids.

Jackson County executive Frank White Jr. signed a contract from his seat in Kansas City, finalizing the agreement to join St. Louis County’s program on Tuesday. According to the resolution passed by the county legislature, Jackson County will pay no more than $28,000 a year to participate.

“It allows a doctor to see if a patient has prescriptions through another doctor, so they can make an informed decision about what to prescribe,” said Susan Whitmore, the president of Kansas City-based FirstCall. “At the pharmacy level, it lets them see if a patient has multiple prescriptions for the same drug.”

Robin, 37, at her home in St. Louis.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

After three years and two rounds of in-vitro fertilization, things were finally looking up.   

Robin, a 37-year-old project manager who lives in St. Louis County, went in for a routine 21-week ultrasound with her husband this past November. The couple had no idea that something was wrong.  

An image of the Rush Island Power Plant in an article about its use of the Powder River Basin coal.
Rush Island Energy Center, Ameren Corp.

A U.S. district court judge has ruled that Ameren Missouri violated the Clean Air Act when it made upgrades to its Rush Island Power Plant in Festus in the late 2000's. 

In 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency filed a lawsuit against Ameren, alleging that the utility illegally installed boiler equipment that raised emissions of sulfur dioxide, a toxic gas that can cause asthma and worsen respiratory conditions. On Monday, Judge Rodney Sippel ruled in favor of the EPA, and wrote that Ameren should have applied for special permits and installed pollution control equipment when plant made the upgrades.

Alycia Wilson with her husband and daughter in Edwardsville, a few days after the election. Wilson, a Trump voter, said she hopes for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
File photo | Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Republicans in Congress and President Donald Trump have their eyes trained on the Affordable Care Act, which they plan to dismantle.

How they do so, and when, may affect health coverage for millions of Americans. A dramatic shift in policy could reverberate through hospitals, insurance markets and the rest of the health-care industry. At this point, say health law experts, the only thing that's certain is more uncertainty.

A forest fire ignited by scientists at Camp Whispering Pines, Louisiana.
C.E. Timothy Paine

Before the end of March, scientists from Washington University in St. Louis plan to burn parts of an Ozark forest about 30 miles outside of St. Louis. 

Research has shown that repeated burning of forests can help increase the variety of plants that live in a forest. That's particularly the case for plants that live under the forest canopy, said Jonathan Myers, a Wash U biology professor and a member of the Tyson Research Center in Eureka. Having more kinds of  wildflowers can attract native insects that pollinate plants that animals eat.

Norris Roberts,  Lonni Schicker and Stephanie Rohlfs-Young discussed Alzheimer's disease and caregiving on "St. Louis on the Air."
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

This segment originally aired on ​St. Louis on the Air on Sept. 8, 2016. It will be rebroadcast at 10 p.m. on Jan. 20, 2017.

Norris Roberts’ mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease nine years before she died. Over that time period, Roberts and his father tried to do everything right.

Every other week, they’d take her to the beauty shop she always went to so she could socialize. They bought her similar-styled clothes when the old ones no longer fit. They even kept up her tradition of Sunday night family dinners.

What are the latest advances in sleep research? On Thursday, "St. Louis on the Air" tackles the subject.
Jon Huss | Flickr

Love it, hate it, don’t get enough of it — we can all agree that a healthy relationship with sleep is integral to a successful life.

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, we discussed the latest in sleep research and answered your questions about sleep with Paul Shaw, an associate professor of neuroscience with Washington University’s School of Medicine.

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