Health, Science, Environment | St. Louis Public Radio

Health, Science, Environment

Health, science, and environmental news

Montrelle Day of the East St. Louis health outreach organization WPT talks with othet attendees at the St. Louis forum on Aug. 20, 2016.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

The fight to reduce the disproportionate rate of HIV infections among young black men can come down to two solutions: reducing stigma and improving sex education. Those were the issues discussed at a forum in St. Louis over the weekend.

A 2014 documentary called “deepsouth” sparked a lot of the conversation among the public health care providers and HIV advocates who attended the forum.

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.

Updated Aug. 22 with details from the trial — An Environmental Protection Agency lawsuit alleging that Ameren Missouri violated the Clean Air Act goes to trial today in U.S. District Court.

The EPA filed suit against the utility five years ago. Officials with the federal agency allege that, in 2007 and 2010, Ameren illegally installed boiler equipment at two units of its Rush Island Power Plant in Jefferson County without required permits. Under the Clean Air Act, such modifications are considered new sources of air pollution, which are subject to stricter emissions limits.

A black bear revival is coming to Missouri

Aug 21, 2016
A bear cub observes the Conservation Department team from the safety of a tree branch.
Mallory Daily | St. Louis Public Radio intern

Three black bear cubs look down on a team of Missouri conservationists from a tree branch about 60 feet above. They’re scared, but after climbing that distance in a matter of seconds, they’re safe.

They were probably about 4 months old, Mike Woodring, a retired conservation officer, said, in a recent interview. Woodring is involved with the Missouri Department of Conservation’s efforts to track the growing black bear population in Missouri. He’s trapped more than 30 bears during his career, his most recent was on that morning, when this mother of three took the bait.

The John Cochran VA Medical Center in St. Louis.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Veterans Affairs officials say they’re making progress towards shorter wait times at the VA St. Louis Health Care System, but the numbers show that challenges remain. 

At a meeting Friday with the leaders of veteran’s service organizations, Keith Repko, interim medical director, cited the latest report: In St. Louis, patients are waiting an average of five days for mental health appointments, 12 days for primary care and about eight days to see a specialist.

Tim Greaney and Sidney Watson, law professors at Saint Louis University, joined "St. Louis on the Air" to discuss the Aetna pull-out's impact on the Affordable Care Act.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

This week, health care company Aetna (in Missouri: Coventry) announced it would pull out from Missouri’s Affordable Care Act health exchange next year, leaving Missouri residents fewer choices for health insurance. On Friday’s “Behind the Headlines,” St. Louis on the Air will take a look at the background behind this decision, how it impacts people in our region, and the implications for the future of the ACA.

Gabe Weil, in red, on a visit to San Francisco.
provided by Robert Herrera

Careening through the streets of Manhattan, Gabe Weil and Bobby Herrera realized they weren’t sure just how they would park a van and trailer full of medical equipment at rush hour.

“He’s laughing, we’re yelling at people in the street … It felt like this very sitcom, New York City moment,” Herrera recalled. “We’re stopping traffic on 44th Street, and everyone waiting in a taxi is losing their mind, and little old Gabe comes wheeling out of this van.”

Although Weil had muscular dystrophy, that didn't stop him from traveling. But on Monday, his journeys came to an end when he died at his family’s Clayton home. He was 28.

A Nissan Leaf getting charged up in a parking lot.
Nissan

Motorists driving Nissan Leafs or Chevy Volts could travel farther on Interstate 70 next year.

Ameren Missouri filed a proposal to the Missouri Public Service Commission this week to build six "charging islands" on the highway. 

The company is trying to meet a need for power stations linked to a growing demand for electric vehicles, now that the technology has become more affordable. Additional stations would allow cars to travel longer distances, said Ameren official Mark Nealon, who is overseeing the project.

Map of major watersheds in the St. Louis area.
Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District

The "cloud burst" that drenched a mid-section of St. Louis County with nearly four inches of rain early Monday morning is only part of why local streams and creeks swelled their banks, flooding businesses and several busy streets.

Forecasters called it a 25-year rain event, but similar flooding took place just eight months ago and to many county residents it's also reminiscent of flooding in 2008.

During a training for new volunteers, Provident clinician Adrianne Martin (standing) leads an exercise in active listening.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

A St. Louis-based crisis hotline is preparing to receive nearly twice as many calls as usual after being selected to serve as a backup center for the national network.

 

In October, Provident will be one of 10 call centers around the country taking calls from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline when local crisis lines are overwhelmed. They’re expecting 150 to 200 calls a day from all over the country.

At an EPA-hosted community meeting about the West Lake Landfill Superfund site in mid-2016, Bridgeton Councilwoman Linda Eaker asks for a show of hands regarding support for full excavation of radioactive waste.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Residents and local officials continued to press the Environmental Protection Agency for full removal of radioactive waste at the West Lake Landfill Superfund site in Bridgeton at a meeting on Monday night. 

By December, the federal agency must decide between four possible remedies for handling the radioactive contamination. The EPA could take no action, cap the waste in place, partial remove it or completely do so.

Engineers at Washington University have found a way to make biofuel from e-coli bacteria.
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health

People in much of the country are familiar with ethanol, a type of biofuel made from corn that is added to gasoline.

But many may not know that it is also possible to make biofuel from bacteria like e-coli. That could change, now that engineers at Washington University have found a more cost-effective way to make fuel from bacteria.

Gayle Bentley, a doctoral student in the Department of Energy, Environment and Chemical Engineering  at Wash U, has discovered how to change an enzyme in some types of bacteria so that it produces compounds that act like the ones in petroleum. Bentley recently published her findings in the journal Metabolic Engineering.

Eli Chen

Champ Landfill in Maryland Heights will pay $1.6 million in air quality improvements, under the terms of a settlement it reached with the Environmental Protection Agency Thursday. 

Agency officials inspected the landfill in May and detected methane emissions from the surface that exceed the federal limit. Methane makes up 50 percent of landfill gas. 

A worker installs fiberglass insulation.
Dennis Schroeder, National Renewable Energy Lab

The federal Clean Power Plan to cut carbon pollution could provide tremendous financial savings for property owners in Missouri, according to research from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

While the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan does not explicitly require buildings to adopt certain energy efficient standards, it requires states to develop a plan to cut carbon emissions. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy ranks the Show Me State is 44th in the nation for energy efficiency.

A doctor walks into the operating room in a screenshot from "Abortion: The Stories Women Tell."
provided by HBO

After the Missouri legislature passed a law in 2014 requiring women to wait 72 hours before terminating a pregnancy, a team of filmmakers started collecting their stories.

They interviewed dozens of women over several months, many of whom had crossed the Mississippi River to go to a clinic in Illinois, where the rules governing abortions are more relaxed.

Their stories appear in Abortion: Stories Women Tellwhich opens in limited theaters Friday and will air later on HBO.

Missouri Department of Conservation's wildlife biologist Shelly Colatskie conducting a survey at a gray bat cave on Norman's property.
Provided by Nick Norman

A group of residents in Franklin County want to sue state and local officials for authorizing a gravel mining project that could threaten the gray bat, an endangered species. 

The Citizens for Preservation of the Meramec River on Aug 3., filed a notice to sue the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Franklin County Planning and Zoning Commission and Meramec Aggregates, Inc.  The Great Rivers Environmental Law Center is representing the 25-member group.

Eli Chen

Inside a huge warehouse at Boeing’s headquarters in St. Charles, a table-shaped drone rose from the middle of the floor.

As intern Edwin Mercado-Colon sat at a computer typing commands, the drone began to move around the room and an unmanned vehicle automatically followed.  But Mercado-Colon wasn’t using a controller to direct the drone. Instead, he picked a destination for the drone without telling it how to get there.

“He’s picking a spot in the lab to fly to,” said Mike Abraham, manager of Boeing’s Collaborative Autonomous Systems Laboratory. “That command goes to the vehicle. The vehicle knows where it is because of the motion capture system. It’s determining how to get to the next point, on its own.”

Developing unmanned vehicles that can work together on their own represents the latest in drone technology, a global industry that analysts predict could be worth $127 billion by 2020.

EPA environmental protection agency logo
Wikimedia Commons

As many as 25 homes in Washington, Missouri, about 50 miles from St. Louis, could be affected by groundwater contamination from a Superfund site. 

The site once housed a refrigerator manufacturing plant run by the Sporlan Valve Co., the largest employer in Washington. The facility was demolished in 2011.

Members of "The Palpations," a band started by second-year medical students, try to fix a broken guitar string during practice.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

During her first year of medical school, Katherine Hu struggled with the feeling that she didn’t measure up.

“You end up becoming, actually, pretty cynical. I’d be sitting in class, the professor’s speaking a million miles an hour, and I don’t know what’s going on,” Hu said. “It just becomes heavier and heavier … kind of hopeless sometimes.” 

Fruit and vegetables
U.S. Department of Agriculture | Flickr | http://bit.ly/2avfETu

In the midst of the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, a group of friends in St. Louis started cooking meals in the kitchen of a church. These meals were distributed to seven people they knew who were living with the disease.

That small group of friends quickly grew into a non-profit organization called Food Outreach.  

Today, 28 years after it was founded, Food Outreach provides nutritional counseling and meals to low-income individuals with HIV/AIDS or cancer.

The World Bird Sanctuary is home to over 200 animals.
Kim Oswalt | St. Louis Public Radio

From the moment Katrina (“Trina”) Whitener met “Lonesome George” – the last tortoise of his kind - in kindergarten, she knew she wanted to dedicate her life to making sure no animal had to experience what George experienced ever again.

Legal Services of Eastern Missouri attorney Lauren Hamvas, left, chats with project director Amanda Schneider at Family Care Health Centers in the Carondelet neighborhood of St. Louis.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Your doctor can refer you to a specialist … but what if she could refer you to free legal help, too?

In St. Louis, attorneys for Legal Services of Eastern Missouri are making the rounds at community health clinics to help patients whose health issues may need a legal remedy.

Virginia Commonwealth University mapped severe health disparities in north St. Louis County by comparing census tract-level data for life expectancy.
provided by Virginia Commonwealth University

People who live in different parts of north St. Louis County may have a 12-year difference in how long they can expect to live, according to an analysis of census tracts by Virginia Commonwealth University.

The school’s Center on Society and Health has released two dozen maps of life expectancy gaps in selected metro areas over the past three years. The findings in St. Louis closely mirror the results of the For the Sake of All study in 2014, which used zip code-level data to reach its conclusions.

Missouri must pay more than $156,000 in attorneys’ fees after losing a court battle against Planned Parenthood over the revocation of its abortion license in Columbia, Missouri, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey on Monday awarded Planned Parenthood Great Plains (formerly Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri) all but $157.50 of the legal fees and expenses it sought after it prevailed in the case.

Dr. Joan Luby and Stephen Zwolak discussed how to help a child dealing with mental health issues.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, we discussed the mental health issues facing young children and how to address them. Joining the program were Joan Luby, a doctor and professor of child psychiatry with the Washington University School of Medicine and Stephen Zwolak, the executive director the University City Children’s Center.

Provided by the Sierra Club

A St. Louis pastor heads to Chicago on this week to tell Environmental Protection Agency policymakers that a program under the Obama administration's clean energy plan should consider the needs of low-income communities. 

At the New Northside Missionary Baptist Church in north St. Louis, many people in the congregation struggle to pay their utility bills, the Rev. Rodrick Burton said. Most live in the 27th Ward, which Burton described as an economically depressed area where many folks are on fixed incomes. 

Sign post for blood drive.
Shizzyo | Flickr

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced recently it is re-evaluating its ban against accepting blood donations from gay men. 

The FDA is now seeking ways to assess a potential donor's individual HIV risk as opposed to a general ban on a population. The agency is currently seeking public comment on the policy.  

ozone air pollution St. Louis
Missouri Department of Natural Resources

The St. Louis metro area has one of the worst smog levels in the country. In recent years, ozone levels have declined, but the region must  comply with stronger federal air quality standards set last year. 

Under the 2008 standard, St. Charles, St. Louis, Franklin and Jefferson counties had exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency's ozone limit at 75 parts per billion. After 2013, ozone levels in the area dropped and state officials say the counties comply with the 2008 standard. However, a new EPA rule last year lowered the standard to 70 parts per billion. State officials are now asking the EPA to indicate that the region meets the old ozone regulations, but not the new. 

Provided by Washington University in St. Louis

The future of clean water may depend on developing technologies that aim to clean dirty water. With that in mind, engineers at Washington University are using nanotechnology, the manipulation of materials on a molecular level, to develop a foam that can remove salt and contaminants from water.

The FDA must first approve updates to donor history questionnaires and donor education materials before blood centers can start taking donations from gay and bisexual men.
Canadian Blood Services | Flickr

Blood supplies are low again this year, and the American Red Cross is extending an urgent call for donations that began two weeks ago.

Shortages are common in the summer. Many potential donors are on vacation, and blood drives at high schools have to be put on hold. But this year, blood suppliers are feeling the crunch several weeks earlier than expected.

The United Soybean Board | Flickr

Missouri agriculture officials are looking into widespread misuse of pesticides in in the Bootheel region.

Judy Grundler is division director for plant industries within the state's Department of Agriculture. She told a state House committee on Thursday that there have been 115 complaints in four counties of pollution caused by pesticides in the past month alone.

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