Health, Science, Environment | St. Louis Public Radio

Health, Science, Environment

Health, science, and environmental news

The endangered running buffalo clover.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Outdoor activities like hiking and camping can help people appreciate nature and encourage public support for conservation, but a new study finds that such recreation can also be harmful to the environment. 

In the most comprehensive survey of threats to rare plants conducted in 20 years, researchers from the Missouri Botanical Garden and the University of Missouri-St. Louis analyzed data on threats to nearly 3,000 rare plants in the United States. As scientists report in the journal Biological Conservation, they discovered that outdoor recreation was the most common threat to plants, above residential development and agriculture.

The chlamydia bacteria, stained and viewed at 500 times.
National Cancer Institute | Dr. Lance Liotta Laboratory

Rates of three common sexually transmitted diseases have risen to a record high level nationwide, and St. Louis continues to rank high among cities, according to federal data released Wednesday.

The St. Louis region recorded 14,961 cases of chlamydia in 2015, the 17th highest per-capita rate in the country. Rates of syphyllis stayed relatively steady at just over 400 cases in the metro area. The city of St. Louis, however, measured the highest rate of both chlamydia and gonorrhea among counties and independent cities. 

“We’ve seen closures of publicly funded STD clinics around the country, and St. Louis is similar in that we have very few options for people to get tested and treated,” said Dr. Brad Stoner, medical director of the St. Louis STD/HIV Prevention Training Center.

An adult female chimpanzee arrives at a termite nest with two fishing probes. She transfers one fishing tool to her offspring, who uses it to fish for termites, while keeping the other tool for her own use.
Screenshot taken from video by the Goualougo Triangle Ape Project.

In 1960, Jane Goodall saw two chimps remove the leaves off of small twigs and used them as tools to fish for termites in the ground, which they ate.

It was the first time a scientist observed chimpanzees turning an object into a tool and using it for a specific purpose. But it was unclear how the chimps learned to do this. More than 50 years later, scientists have for the first time captured videos of chimpanzee mothers teaching their offspring to fish for termites.

The footage, taken in the Republic of Congo by researchers from the Goualougo Triangle Ape Project and Washington University in St. Louis, show several examples of mother chimpanzees handing termite fishing tools to their young.

Provided by The Land Institute

Story updated at 1:18 p.m. Oct. 18 | Originally posted at 7:45 p.m. Oct. 11

Some scientists dream of a future in which people can add sorghum, intermediate wheatgrass and other currently wild perennial plants to their diet.

In St. Louis, researchers at the Missouri Botanical Garden and Saint Louis University are developing a list of wild perennials, which live for many years, to recommend for domestication. Researchers say such plants have the potential to make agriculture more sustainable and feed a growing human population.

A mouse runs on a "rotarod" wearing the implantable device. The experiment is designed to test the mouse's motor skills.
Washington University | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign | Cell Press

A federal initiative to find cures for brain disorders is granting $3.8 million to Washington University researchers and their collaborators.

The group is studying how neurons respond to light by implanting fiber-optic threads the width of a human hair into the brains of lab mice.

“We’re able to get animals to do particular behaviors while this light is dialing up or dialing down particular activities,” said Dr. Michael Bruchas, a Washington University neuroscientist. “We can actually affect how they approach one another, how they interact.”

Oceanographer Sylvia Earle will recieve the World Ecology Award from the University of Missouri-St. Louis’ Whitney R. Harris World Ecology Center on Oct. 16.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

It took hundreds of millions of years to populate oceans with its vast array of wildlife from plankton up to Coral Reefs and blue whales. It only took a few decades for humans to extract 90 percent of the big fish in the ocean and cut the number of Coral Reefs in half, said Dr. Sylvia Earle, a famous oceanographer and National Geographic Explorer-In-Residence.

Toya Williams of St. Louis picked up a gun lock at the National Council of Jewish Women's Back-to-School Store Sunday, July 24, 2016. She said she liked the suggestion to wear the key around her neck.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

A Missouri state representative from St. Louis County is launching a coalition to prevent the shooting deaths of children who find a loaded weapon in the home. The Children’s Firearm Safety Alliance will work with Washington University researchers to build a database tracking accidental shootings nationwide.

“First of all, you need to know what the numbers are. You need to know what the incidents are. We also need to know if adults are charged with anything in their states,” said Rep. Stacey Newman, D-Richmond Heights.

At least 95 children in the United States have been shot and killed accidentally so far this year, according to the database.

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St. Louis author and teacher Roosevelt Mitchell III was born with a disability. Now, his mission is to “make disability cool.”

Mitchell writes and speaks about his own experiences. He has a Master in Education and is a special education teacher who works in Normandy.

Volunteers at a previous cleanup event organized by Dutchtown South Community Corporation with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
Provided by Dutchtown South Community Corporation

Four neighborhoods in south St. Louis could look a lot cleaner in the next couple years, thanks to new local efforts to address illegal dumping.

The "So Fresh, So Clean, So Creative Southside St. Louis" project, initiated by the Dutchtown South Community Corporation, recently received a $120,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The two-year grant will fund efforts to educate residents on how to report illegal dumping, which is common in the neighborhoods of Dutchtown, Marine Villa, Gravois Park and Mount Pleasant. DSCC is working with the nonprofit group Brightside St. Louis to help with cleanup and education efforts.

Christine Anyeko, a laborer in Uganda's northern Amuru district, weeds a field of cassava, banana and beans by hand.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

NAMULONGE, Uganda — Before rows of tall, green bushes, Jude Aleu picks a cassava tuber off the ground and cracks it in half.

That shouldn’t be so easy. Healthy cassava tubers — a staple food crop in the region — can grow as thick as your upper arm. But the root in Aleu’s hands is stunted and gnarled because of a plant virus called brown streak disease. When he breaks it open, the flesh is streaked with brown and yellow, a necrosis that will render the harvest inedible.

“It’s corky,” said Aleu, a cassava safety manager for Uganda’s National Crops Resources Research Institute. “This root you cannot eat. Even animals cannot eat it.” 

An induction room at SSM Health's new WISH Center.
Provided | Sarah Savat, SSM Health

SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital in Richmond Heights has a new facility dedicated to caring for pregnant women addicted to heroin and other opioids.

The Women and Infants Substance Help, or WISH Center started two years ago as a half-day weekly clinic. But after referrals and word of mouth built up a three-week waiting list, SSM Health decided to expand.

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

A set of construction standards that lower environmental requirements for new residential buildings could soon be approved by St. Louis County officials. 

The county's Building Code Review Committee has approved a draft ordinance on the building codes. The proposed ordinance, which will be sent to the county's Building Commission, dismisses energy efficiency measures from the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) that would require new homes to reduce air infiltration, install more energy efficient lights and add more increased wall and ceiling insulation.

Students make signs on campus at Washington University before the start of the presidential debate on Sunday.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

It took just a few minutes for the Affordable Care Act to feature in Sunday’s presidential debate between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump as Trump quickly blamed the legislation for the rising cost of health care.

“When I watch what’s happening with some horrible things like Obamacare where your health insurance and health care is going up by numbers that are astronomical,” Trump said, adding that costs have gone up as much as 71 percent.

The Trump campaign has not said where he obtained his figures. But even though premiums are rising, the effect is concentrated on plans sold on the individual market not those that are provided through an employer. 

Holly Yoakam and Laura Halfmann discussed the issue of stalking on "St. Louis on the Air."
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Stalker. The word itself evokes an image of someone hiding in the bushes and peering into your life unbeknownst to you. In reality, that’s far from the most common forms of stalking experienced by over 7.5 million Americans today.

In many cases, people are very aware of a stalker’s behaviors but they may feel they have little recourse.

What questions do you have about Medicare? We'll answer them on Thursday.
Images Money | Flickr

Medicare open enrollment starts Oct. 15 and ends Dec. 7, 2016. 

Ahead of that time, St. Louis on the Air welcomed Julie Brookhart, a public affairs specialist with the Kansas City regional office of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, to highlight changes and answer your questions about Medicare.

"Open enrollment is the one time of year for Medicare beneficiaries who are already in a plan or have a prescription drug plan to look at the options for next year and change their plan," Brookhart said.

Forestry Commissioner Skip Kincaid points out the insecticide injections given to a tree in north St. Louis.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

On a residential street in the Central West End neighborhood, a worker wearing a hard hat and a safety vest used a chainsaw to cut the branches off of an ash tree. The tree and the ones next to it were marked for removal because the emerald ash borer, an invasive species, has come to St. Louis.

The Asian beetle has decimated ash trees across the country since the early 2000s, particularly in the Midwest and the Northeast. In recent years, the emerald ash borer has spread to 28 counties in Missouri, most recently to Franklin County.

Missouri Department of Conservation's lake sturgeon coordinator Travis Moore holds a tracking device above a tagged lake sturgeon.
Provided by the Missouri Deparment of Conservation

Missouri Department of Conservation officials are stocking the Meramec River with lake sturgeon, a species that is endangered in the state, in hopes of raising their population. 

The lake sturgeon, a fish that can grow up to 8 feet and live for over a century, declined sharply in the 19th century due to over harvesting and river projects that removed its habitat. State wildlife officials began stocking the species in the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers and their tributaries in 1984.

Hannah Westerman St. Louis Public Radio

Nearly 200 pounds of narcotics are off the streets of St. Louis today.

The St. Louis division of the Drug Enforcement Administration has announced the results of a year and a half long operation that resulted in 36 arrests and the seizure of 190 pounds of methamphetamine as well as heroin, weapons and cash totaling more than $1 million.

The methamphetamine alone carries a street value of more than $3 million.

provided by the CDC

Federal officials have tied eight cases of salmonella over the summer to a family-run egg company an hour south of St. Louis.

The Good Earth Egg Company in Bonne Terre, Missouri has been identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the likely source of the infections, although investigations are ongoing. The company has recalled all of its shell eggs with sell-by dates before Oct. 8, 2016.

Missouri Senator Jill Schupp.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, we heard from Missouri Senator Jill Schupp about a health-care fair in the 24th Missouri Senate district. There was a strong bipartisan effort behind the fair.

The fair will be held at the Overland Community Center.

"Yes, certainly, it is to serve the underserved but really this is for access of all different kinds of needs and ages," Schupp said. 

Coldwater Creek turned a milky white over the first weekend of October.
Julie Hartwell via Facebook

Updated Oct. 4 with details on the contamination source — The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has identified a paving company as the source of the white contamination that appeared in Coldwater Creek over the weekend. 

In a statement released Tuesday, the state agency said an accident caused a truck carrying a chemical called Modifier A/NA, an additive used to make concrete, to spill the product into the creek. The St. Peters-based Pavement Solutions was responsible for transporting the chemical.

The concrete additive has low toxicity to humans and aquatic life, according to a Materials Safety Data Sheet for the product.

Mississippi River, dredging, Eads
Rachel Heidenry | 2008 file photo

A $9 billion bill in Congress that could improve waterway navigation and water systems in Missouri is a step closer to being signed into law.

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 399-25 to approve the Water Resources Development Act — in a rare show of bipartisan support. The Senate passed its version of the bill earlier last month. 

The Water Resources Development Act, authorized every two years, gives the green light to the Army Corps of Engineers to improve navigation, water quality and work on other water projects.

Monarchs are starting their annual migration through the region. This butterfly was spotted at Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park on Sept. 24, 2016.
Robert Peterson | St. Louis Public Radio

The next two weeks will offer Missourians peak opportunities to see monarch butterflies as they make their way through the state on their annual migration, even though reports indicate a shrinking population.

Bob Gale speaks into a radio Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016 at the St. Louis County Emergency Operations Center. He's been involved with ham radio for 40 years.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

If a major disaster were to strike the St. Louis area, odds are the St. Louis County Emergency Operations Center near Ballwin would be swarming with personnel.

On Saturday, a handful of ham radio operators reported to the center to practice their role in an emergency: getting the word out.

A Ugandan farmer holds a cassava root for sale in his stall
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

At the Gulu Main Market in northern Uganda, there’s an entire aisle devoted to cassava vendors.

For Ugandans, the starchy tuber is more than a staple food crop. It helped people survive many years of war. A project led by the Danforth Plant Science Center in Creve Coeur to develop genetically modified cassava is undergoing field trials in East Africa.

Dr. Hakeem Oluseyi
Florida Institute of Technology

Dr. Hakeem Oluseyi is an astrophysicist with so many credentials it would take a page and a half to list them all. Here’s a sample: He has a Ph.D. in physics from Stanford University, was a 2012 TED Global Fellow, was a visiting scholar at MIT, was a U.S. State Department speaker and specialist to Algeria in 2012 and he co-hosts television shows on the Science Channel, National Geographic Channel and Discovery Channel.

South Sudanese refugees wait to receive food rations in northen Uganda.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 3 p.m., Sept. 28 with Durrie Bouscaren's interview on St. Louis on the Air from Uganda.

Heavy fighting in South Sudan has pushed about 150,000 refugees across the border into Uganda over the past two months. In July, the World Food Programme cut food rations in half for residents of settlement camps who have been in the country for more than a year. 

The toll of the conflict is clear in refugee camps in the Adjumani District, near Uganda's northern border.

Wyss Institute at Harvard University

Washington University in St. Louis has been awarded a nearly $24 million grant from the National Science Foundation to open a research center that could develop solutions in medicine and agriculture. 

The Science and Technology Center for Engineering MechanoBiology involves eight faculty members from Wash U. They will be joined by faculty from University of Pennsylvania, Boston University and other institutions.

Provided by St. Louis Area Diaper Bank

As the St. Louis Area Diaper Bank approaches one year in operation this weekend, the organization is running a week-long drive to collect 100,000 diapers. 

According to the National Diaper Bank Network, one out of three families in the United States cannot afford diapers. The cost of diapers can total  about $1,000 a year per child and for some low-income families, buying them can take up to 15 percent of the parents' take-home pay.

FDA | file photo

Updated Sept. 27, 1 p.m. to include county council approval - St. Charles County Council is the most recent local government to move forward with a prescription drug database.

Members Monday night unanimously voted in favor of an ordinance to establish the program, which would share information with similar initiatives in St. Louis County and the city of St. Louis.

Officials hope the program will be operational by Jan. 1.

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