Health, Science, Environment

Health, science, and environmental news

A sticker opposes St. Elizabeth's relocation on a door in downtown Belleville, on 06/04/15.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

A St. Clair County circuit judge flatly dismissed a lawsuit filed by Belleville city officials who had hoped to keep St. Elizabeth's Hospital from going forward with a planned relocation to O'Fallon, Ill. 

A researcher in a neurology clinic at Washington University in St. Louis.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Researchers at Washington University's McDonnell Genome Institute in St. Louis will expand their work into common illnesses like Type 1 diabetes, stroke and arthritis, thanks to a $60 million federal grant.

Director Desarie Holmes cuts a ribbon to mark the opening of Behavioral Health Services at Touchette Regional Hospital in Centreville.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

As officials at Touchette Regional Hospital cut a bright red ribbon on Tuesday for the opening of a new behavioral health center, another Metro East hospital made preparations to close its own division for the same type of care. 

Pallets full of sandbags that stayed dry during the floods sit in the parking lot of City Hall in Valley Park.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

The record floods that swept through the St. Louis region just after Christmas claimed at least two dozen lives in Missouri and Illinois. In four counties near St. Louis, the water damaged 7,100 homes, businesses and public buildings, according to early estimates. As communities clean up and rebuild, attention is turning to how these disasters can be prevented. But the answers are never simple.

The Fenton Water Treatment Plant was knocked offline due to historic flooding
Bill Greenblatt | UPI

Warnings to avoid contact with flood water. An executive order temporarily waiving Missouri Department of Natural Resources regulations. Periodic updates on the millions of gallons of raw sewage flowing into the Meramec River due to shuttered wastewater treatment plants.

St. Louis Public Radio referenced these announcements as they happened in the course of reporting on the human and economic toll wrought by the record-high waters. But what impact, if any, do those warnings and waivers have on the environment?

file photo | Jess Jaing |St. Louis Public Radio

When people overdose on heroin or prescription painkillers, their heart beat slows and they stop breathing. That means snapping them out of the overdose quickly with a drug that blocks the opiate receptors in the brain can mean the difference between life and death.

Right now most Missourians have to wait for first responders to arrive with the antidote, known as Narcan or naloxone. Under state law the public doesn't have direct access to the drug. But there’s an exception to the rule for veterans:  a prescription from the St. Louis Veterans Affairs Health Care System.

The USGS will collect data on mineral deposits in the St. Francois Mountains using a Piper Navajo airplane with auxiliary wingtip pods and tail stinger magnetometers.
Terraquest Ltd.

The U.S. Geological Survey is searching for commercially important minerals in southeastern Missouri. But the researchers won't be using any shovels or pick-axes: All the data will be collected from a small, low-flying plane.

The aerial survey is part of an on-going project to study the geology of the St. Francois Mountains.

National Guard members stand at a news conference to discuss "Operation Recovery" at the Jefferson Barracks Division in St. Louis.
Caleb Codding for St. Louis Public Radio

Floodwaters in the St. Louis region have receded, leaving behind an estimated 500,000 tons of debris. Now what?

At a news conference Wednesday, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon outlined “Operation Recovery," a cleanup effort that will be coordinated by the National Guard, with Lt. Col. Grace Link, a civil engineer, in charge. Contracted trucks will help clear debris in flood-damaged areas throughout the St. Louis region, Nixon said.

Briana O'Higgins | KCUR 89.3 / KCUR 89.3

You'd be amazed at how often St. Louisans' curiosities are piqued as we explore St. Louis and meet the people in our community. Or maybe you wouldn't be. We bet you're just as curious as we are. Just as curious as your neighbors who've submitted and answered questions to our Curious Louis project.

Public radio station KCUR in Kansas City recently looked into something that we thought made an excellent Curious Louis question. So, here it is: an answer to the question, "Why are there so many Canada geese in Missouri?" What makes these birds stick around instead of migrate further north?

Mia Fernandez, 9, and her brother Mason, 6, help clean up inventory at an ACE Hardware in Eureka with their father, Danny.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Floodwaters are continuing to recede along the Meramec River, and emergency workers are taking stock of the damage. According to early estimates, as many as 1,000 structures had water damage in St. Louis County over the past few days. Personnel from the Department of Public Works, however, cautioned that the number will likely change.  

Jodi Howard holds her daughter Brooklyn, 3, as they survey flood damage in Pacific.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

The flooding Meramec River crested early Wednesday in Pacific — inundating houses, half of the historic downtown district and sweeping through a mobile home park. Residents evacuated to hotels, friends’ houses and a Red Cross shelter set up in a senior center. Much of the water remained the morning of New Year's Eve and isn’t expected to recede to normal levels until early Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.

A cautionary sign at a fence around the West Lake Landfill Superfund site, which contains World War II-era nuclear waste.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

After two years of delay, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced on Thursday that it will move ahead with plans to build a firebreak at a landfill complex in north St. Louis County.

A fire has been smoldering underground at the Bridgeton Landfill since late 2010, about 1,000 feet away from tons of radioactive waste buried in the adjacent West Lake Landfill.

Provided by Lifting Up Lila event

During the 2016 legislative session, Missouri lawmakers are likely to debate a bill that would bar transgender students from public school restrooms and other facilities designed for the gender with which they identify. If passed and implemented, the measure could potentially violate federal law under Title IX.

Americans buy more than 30 million poinsettias every year.
TANAKA Juuyoh | Flickr Creative Commons

Poinsettias are sold by the millions every year, almost all of them between Thanksgiving and Christmas. As popular as these holiday flowers are, there still may be a few things about them that could surprise you. Here are five fun facts about poinsettias we wanted to share.

Charles stretches.
Mark Glenshaw

On December 29, Mark Glenshaw celebrated his 10th anniversary of monitoring a pair of Great Horned Owls in Forest Park. The amateur naturalist made his first appearance on “St. Louis on the Air” two years ago to introduce listeners to the pair he had dubbed Charles and Sarah. In April of this year he returned to report on the birth of the couple’s offspring, a pair of owlets whom he later named Harold and Grace. At that time he described the parents as the “Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt” of Great Horned Owls.

Mary Edwards

Reporters Durrie Bouscaren and Camille Phillips have covered a wide variety of issues in the region in the last year. They joined host Don Marsh to discuss the most problematic ones and agreed the two most pressing issues are homicides and heroin addiction. To date there have been 187 homicides in St. Louis but few arrests.

Family, friends and volunteers from St. Louis help Arnold, Mo. residents combat area flooding
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Patty Titus, 57, stood at the edge of the Meramec River in Arnold as it ran up the side of her house and poured into her basement. It’s the house she grew up in, and she’s lived there for more than 50 years. As Titus watched the water rise, she listed the family heirlooms she’s lost.

“All my parents stuff, dishes, furniture, lost my freezer, my refrigerator, things that can’t be replaced. A lot of memories and things,” she said.

This photo of Coldwater Creek flooding was taken from the Dunn Road bridge on Monday.
Paul A. Huddleston

Update 2:30 Dec. 29 with guard activated - Floodwater from Coldwater Creek in north St. Louis County is not radioactive, but it could still pose a health risk.

That’s according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is testing and cleaning up contaminated yards and parks along the creek.

Water had already gathered along the curb of Olive Street outside St. Louis Public Radio by noon on Sat. Dec 26, 2015.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

A three-day forecast of heavy rain and out-of-season thunderstorms has placed the St. Louis area under a flash flood watch through Monday afternoon. The flood watch began Saturday at noon.

“Even though the calendar says December, Mother Nature doesn’t think so,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Ben Miller. “This is a system more typical of fall or actually spring.  There’s going to be some scattered thunderstorms that are going to produce some heavy rain fall.”

Michael Velardo | Flickr

For a long time, Gary Carmack of Waynesville watched his 25-year-old son James battle a heroin addiction.

“He would look at me with these big, sad eyes, and he wanted so bad to get off of it,” Carmack said. “Everyone would be saying, ‘you just have to tell him to quit.’ And of course that’s virtually impossible without the right kind of help.”

As a paramedic, Carmack had seen countless overdoses. The family tried desperately to get James into treatment. But in 2013, his son was one of 258 Missourians who died after using heroin that year.  

Moose Winan, "Rolling Thunder & Hills," Ozark Mountains
Moose Winans | Flickr, Creative Commons | http://bit.ly/1YyPCLb

One word comes to mind when we think about the environmental news that’s been a conversation starter in St. Louis in 2015: landfills. Specifically, what is going on at the Bridgeton and West Lake landfills north St. Louis County. On Wednesday’s “St. Louis on the Air,” St. Louis Public Radio’s science reporter Véronique LaCapra joined the show to discuss the evolution of the landfill situation and other big science, environmental and wildlife news of the year.

Some of the topics we discussed:

Part of the $4.7 million sewer system upgrade involves removing illegal sewer bypasses, like the one pictured here.
Ted Heisel | Missouri Coalition for the Environment

The Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District is spending billions of dollars to keep sewage out of area waterways as part of a court-ordered agreement. But MSD’s plan involves something you might not expect: demolishing vacant buildings.

Right now, big storms can overwhelm the city’s combined stormwater and sewer system, causing raw sewage to overflow into rivers and streams.

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

You may have heard of the local group of nuns who go to Bridgeton to pray for and protest over the West Lake and Bridgeton landfills, which have been the subject of much controversy in recent years.

Connie Lamka holds a candle during a vigil for nine St. Lousians who died while homeless in 2015. Lamka is a case worker for the New Life Evangelistic Center, and knew two women who passed away this year.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Before dusk on the longest night of the year, about 30 people stood at the Centenary United Methodist Church in St. Louis to remember nine people who died while homeless in 2015.

The four women and five men honored during the ceremony had visited St. Louis-area agencies for assistance, but died without a place to call home. Some died young, including one who passed away after a fire swept through his encampment near downtown St. Louis. Some died while estranged from family or friends.

Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

For a long time, physicians at the major trauma centers in St. Louis say they have cared for an alarming number of people with gunshot wounds — including many children.

“Some weeks we’ll operate more on gunshot wounds than we will for simple things like appendicitis,” said Dr. Pamela Choi, a surgery resident at Washington University.

Members and supporters of the Missouri Network for Opiate Reform and Recovery chat outside the network's new outreach center on Fri. Dec. 18, 2015.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

South St. Louis has a new outreach center for people affected by addiction to heroin and prescription painkillers.

The Missouri Network for Opiate Reform and Recovery plans to offer legal help, treatment referrals and education classes out of its Dutchtown office at 4022 South Broadway.

Richard Claston and Jessica Graham pick up ingredients for sweet potato chili inside the retrofitted Metro bus turned into a mobile farmers market in St. Louis' JeffVanderLou neighborhood Sat. Dec. 19, 2015.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

An eye-catching retrofitted bus rolled onto an empty lot in St. Louis’ near north side Saturday to offer up fresh produce and the ingredients for sweet potato chili.

The visit launched the official start of St. Louis MetroMarket, a mobile farmers market with a mission to increase access and interest in healthy food in neighborhoods that don’t have grocery stores.

About 2 percent of children in the U.S. experience at least one episode of depression before reaching puberty.
Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

Depression very early in life can affect the way a child’s brain develops.

A new study by researchers at Washington University is the first to link early childhood depression to physical changes in the developing brain.

Ryan Melaugh | Flickr, Creative Commons | http://bit.ly/1ISisnU

The bustle of office parties, gift-giving and family get-togethers are usually part of the build-up to a joyful holiday season but, for some, the season sometimes brings with it a feeling of sadness. In fact, the holiday blues are not all that uncommon at all.

Tim Bono, assistant dean and lecturer in psychology at Washington University, joined “St. Louis on the Air” on Wednesday to discuss these feelings of depression during the holidays—as well as what to do if you know someone who seems a bit more down during this time of year. 

After a chance meeting, Katie Eisenbeis (right) schedules a future appointment for one of her patients in the mobile health program.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

When the Affordable Care Act went into effect, many health-care economists hoped it would reduce the number of emergency room visits made by uninsured people. The idea was that if more people had health insurance, they would be more likely to have access to a primary care doctor and avoid the emergency room.

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