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Health, Science, Environment

Health, science, and environmental news

Among the projects available for loans through GreenHELP is installing solar energy panels.
Missouri Solar Energy Industry Association

St. Louis is giving residents an incentive to make energy efficient home improvements: A new, low-interest loan program called GreenHELP.

The program aims to help homeowners make their houses more eco-friendly, which will also provide savings on utility bills. The loans are offered through the office of city of St. Louis Comptroller Darlene Green.

Katie Lefton, who studies neuronal networks, adjusts a yogi's pose in Forest Park during scientists' 'Active for AD' fundraiser on Thursday, June 21, 2018.
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

Thursday was the summer solstice, and the local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association marked the occasion with a 24-hour fundraising blitz.

The organization’s Longest Day fundraiser is a national event that collects money to research the disease as well as support patients and their caregivers. Friends and family conduct sponsored activities such as bike rides, bowling tournaments and even drag shows.

From left, Steph Perkins, Curtis Galloway and Emily Klamer joined Don Marsh for a discussion about LGBTQ mental health.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis on the Air

While LGBTQ Pride Month is typically a time for celebration among the local queer community, mourning has also marked this year’s observance as several St. Louis-area residents have died by suicide and overdose in the wake of national news of celebrity deaths.

“The numbers of suicide attempts and LGBTQ people taking their own lives is something like nine times the rate for trans people and three times the rate of the national average for LGB people, and it’s very much increased by victimization and discrimination that we face every day,” Steph Perkins said on Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air.

One of the first signs drivers see on the way into Unionville, Missouri, is this billboard advertising cardiology at Putnam County Memorial Hospital, a hospital in northern Missouri.
Bram Sable-Smith | Side Effects Public Media

Rural hospitals are more likely to close in states such as Missouri that have not expanded Medicaid.

A recent report from the pro-Affordable Care Act organization Protect Our Care analyzed 84 rural hospital closures since 2010. It found 90 percent of those hospital closures were in states that had not expanded Medicaid coverage. Missouri remains one of the 14 states that hasn’t amended its program to cover people who earn up to 138 percent above the poverty line.

On Tuesday’s show, local experts (from left) Amy Bertschausen, Elizabeth Sergel and Dixie Meyer discussed loneliness and its increasing impact across generations.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

recent survey of more than 20,000 U.S. adults suggests that most Americans struggle with an emotional state of loneliness, and it’s an issue that has serious health implications.

“[It can] have the same health effects as smoking 15 cigarettes a day,” Elizabeth Sergel said on Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air. “There’s significant increase in the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke and dementia and depression, and overall there’s a higher likelihood of death related to loneliness.”

Sharon Wade keeps an eye on Martha Wade, her 86-year-old mother, after serving her an afternoon snack.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

When Martha Wade spells a word, it sounds like a song.

Her daughter, Sharon Wade, sits with her on a plush couch and tries to come up with new words to stump the 86-year-old. As her mother’s full-time caregiver, Wade looks for activities to challenge her physically and mentally.

Sharon Wade’s situation is not unusual. Unlike previous generations, an increasing number of older Americans are choosing to continue living in their own homes, rather than moving to nursing facilities. Meanwhile, the high cost of in-home care means that the burden of caring for elderly adults often falls on family members.


St. Cin Park in Hazelwood. The park is staying open during the clean-up, but the Corps is monitoring the air and water for contamination.
Mike Petersen | U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Louis District

A federal government agency has concluded radioactive contamination in a north St. Louis County creek could cause increased risk of certain types of cancer in residents who live near the north St. Louis County waterway.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s public health assessment, released Monday, states that residents who were exposed to the area around Coldwater Creek had a higher risk of exposure to radioactive contaminants, and thus a higher risk of bone cancer, lung cancer or leukemia. The federal organization is also calling for the public to comment and add to the report through Aug. 31.

Advocates for residents near Coldwater Creek were pleased to hear representatives of a federal agency acknowledge what they have long suspected.

Missouri Department of Conservation

The Ballwin Police Department is urging residents to be cautious after a black bear was spotted Sunday in a St. Louis County neighborhood.

According to a post on Facebook by the police department, a resident saw a large bear running between the Castle Pines Subdivision and Oak Run Lane.

Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

A visitor to the new wing of the Mercy hospital in Festus can likely tell immediately where the old building ends and the new part begins. The atrium still smells of fresh paint, and instead of dark, winding hallways, windows let in natural light.

Builders designed it to be prettier and more user-friendly. But Mercy Hospital Jefferson is safer, too.

Eileen Graessle, right, photographs a honeybee on a milkweed flower at the BeeBlitz in Forest Park on June 16, 2018.
Shahla Farzan | St. Louis Public Radio

Eileen Graessle leaned in close to a patch of milkweed, as she tried to capture a photo of a honeybee in motion.

It was a difficult task, but one that Graessle relished as a volunteer for the BeeBlitz citizen science project on Saturday in Forest Park. The annual event aims to help researchers determine which species are present in the city and how their populations are changing.

“It helps to study the way that they move,” said Graessle, an amateur beekeeper who lives in Ballwin. “I also take multiple shots and then usually some of those come out exciting and defined.”

Pixabay

The rare Bourbon virus could be in the St. Louis region, state health officials say.

A patient with symptoms matching the virus was bitten by a tick recently in the southwest part of St. Louis County, but has recovered.

The announcement from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services indicates the sometimes-deadly virus could be spreading through the state, experts said.

Plant scientist Thomas Brutnell
Brutnell Lab

This story was updated at 3:10 p.m. — The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center has dismissed one of its researchers on suspicion of sexual misconduct.

The Danforth Center “has ended its relationship” with Thomas Brutnell, according to a statement released today from the Danforth Center’s President Jim Carrington. Brutnell's biography was also removed from the center’s website.

An investigation into Brutnell’s behavior began in May “upon receiving a complaint of inappropriate conduct and comments of a sexual nature” from Brutnell. Danforth officials then placed him on leave. The statement does not elaborate on the allegations against Brutnell.

A federal judge has declined to block a Missouri regulation governing medication abortions, although she found that the restriction “has virtually no benefit.”

Ruling in a case brought by the Planned Parenthood affiliates in Kansas City and St. Louis, U.S. District Judge Beth Phillips said the plaintiffs had not shown that the regulation “is a substantial burden to a large fraction of women seeking a medication abortion.”

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Children who eat poor diets are more likely to be bullies at school, according to research from Saint Louis University.

The study, which used data from a World Health Organization survey of 150,000 children across 40 countries in Europe and North America, examined the relationship between diet and bullying behavior. Students who had poor diets or experienced frequent meal deprivation were more likely to bully their peers.

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

Just before former Gov. Eric Greitens resigned, he signed a bill to regulate coal-ash waste, a toxic byproduct of coal-fired power plants.

Coal ash, also known as coal combustion residuals, contains a number of heavy metals, including lead and arsenic, that are known to cause cancer. While some of the waste does become recycled, Ameren Missouri and other utilities dispose coal ash into landfills and ponds.

Kate Thornton | U.S. Air Force

A new Missouri law orders the state to create guidelines for testing, processing and storing rape kits, which collect DNA evidence from victims of sexual violence.

After a person is sexually assaulted, investigators can submit DNA evidence in the form of a sexual-assault kit, which police run through a database to help find the perpetrator.

The law requires health providers to give that evidence to police within 14 days. Law enforcement must submit evidence to crime labs 14 days after that.

Stephanie Schuermann, center, sets up a future appointment at the People’s Health Centers mobile clinic at the Forest Park-Debaliviere metro stop.  June 5, 2018
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A mobile health unit will be making weekly stops at select Metro Transit stations to provide screenings, insurance help and other health care needs.

The People’s Health Centers, a community health clinic, operates the van, which made its first stop on Tuesday. It’s scheduled to rotate between Grand, Forest Park-Debaliviere, Civic Center and Riverview Transit stations. The city health department and Metro Transit will provide assistance to help operate and staff it.

Ryan Dowis (at left) and Melanie Scheetz joined Tuesday’s “St. Louis on the Air” to discuss current challenges facing the region’s most vulnerable youth and those who care for them.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

For the first time in two decades, a growing number of children in St. Louis and Missouri are in foster care, and the opioid epidemic is a driving factor.

“[The number of children in foster care] had really been declining for many years, and especially in the St. Louis region but all across Missouri we saw fewer and fewer children in the system,” Melanie Scheetz, executive director of the St. Louis-based Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition, said Tuesday on St. Louis on the Air. “Obviously that’s our goal – not to have children in the foster-care system. But unfortunately, when we have parents with substance-abuse issues, especially opioids, we see more kids coming into care.”

DeVonte Jones began to show signs of schizophrenia as a teenager. His first public episode was nine years ago at a ball game at Wavering Park in Quincy, Illinois.

“He snapped out and just went around and started kicking people,” said Jones’ mother Linda Colon, who now lives in Midlothian in the Chicago suburbs.


Ameren's Callaway nuclear power plant produces about 19 percent of the electricity the company generates in Missouri. It is the only nuclear energy facility in the state.
File photo | Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

Ameren Missouri has proposed expanding its energy-efficiency programs to ease the company’s impact on the environment.

In a proposal to the Missouri Public Service Commission on Tuesday, the utility sought approval to invest $550 million in 26 programs that would help customers save energy.

The programs would help people recycle old, inefficient appliances; educate those in low-income communities on how to lower energy use; and promote smart thermostats to reduce electricity costs during the high energy consumption that happens in the summer.

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