Health, Science, Environment

Health, science, and environmental news

Michael Moehn (left) and Ajay Arora (right) joined "St. Louis on the Air" in studio.
Áine O'Connor | St. Louis Public Radio

This story was updated on August 20, 2015 with corrections to details of the Clean Power Plan and Integrated Resource Plan.

Coal has continued to fuel arguments over health hazards, hidden costs, and energy efficiency since “St. Louis on the Air” tackled Missouri’s problematic coal dependence in a July show featuring an ex-miner from Appalachia.

St. Cin Park in Hazelwood on Wednesday. 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

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has confirmed that it has found radioactive contamination at residential properties along Coldwater Creek in north St. Louis County.

Mike Petersen, the chief of public affairs for the Corps' St. Louis District, said as of right now, "low-dose" contamination had been found in the soil around "a handful" of homes on Palm Drive in Hazelwood, immediately adjacent to the creek. He was not able to specify the exact number of properties affected.

Washington University in St. Louis

African-American men are more than twice as likely to die from prostate cancer than men of any other racial group, but a group of St. Louis-area physicians say that disparity was not considered when a U.S. health regulator decided no longer to recommend annual screening tests, regardless of race.

The Prostate Specific Antigen test, or PSA, is often criticized for its high rate of false-positive results. But Dr. Lannis Hall, a radiation oncologist for Siteman Cancer Center in St. Peters, credits the tests with helping alleviate the stark disparity in survival rates between African-American men and white men. 

This graph from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources' letter to Republic Services shows gradually rising temperatures in the neck of the Bridgeton Landfill.
Missouri Department of Natural Resources

Missouri environmental officials are ordering the owner of a landfill in Bridgeton do more to prevent a smoldering subsurface fire there from spreading. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources wants to keep the underground reaction from coming into contact with radioactive waste stored nearby.

But Republic Services, the owner, insists the situation at the Bridgeton Landfill is under control.

Zella Jackson Price (right) and her daughter Melanie Gilmore are reunited, nearly 50 years after Price says she was told her daughter died at birth.
Wiley Price | St. Louis American

Federal officials in St. Louis are closing an investigation into claims that the daughter of a local gospel singer was stolen from her at birth. The Department of Justice released hospital records that undermined the mother’s claims during a news conference Friday afternoon.  

For months, Zella Jackson Price had maintained that 50 years ago, a nurse at the Homer G. Phillips Hospital told her that her newborn daughter had died. Instead, the baby was placed in foster care. A DNA test reunited them this year.

A line of police face off with protesters on West Florissant Ave., last Sunday night.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Fearing for your safety or that of your family; witnessing violence; and the repeated, chronic stress of a traumatic event’s aftermath can all leave mental and emotional scars. Mental health professionals caution that last year's events in Ferguson have likely placed people at risk for developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.

With the hopes that they can help people work through their trauma, researchers from the University of Missouri-St. Louis are trying measure the scope of PTSD in the region, triggered by the Ferguson protests.

The St. Louis County Building Commission (Jeff Aboussie, Barry Glantz and John Finder, right) listens to Sierra Club supporters on Wednesday. The model house is covered with the names of 529 area residents who want stricter energy efficiency standards.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri Sierra Club is raising the alarm that new residential building codes under review by St. Louis County would reduce home energy efficiency below existing standards.

But the Home Builders Association of St. Louis and Eastern Missouri (HBA) believes the changes are needed.

Before it was banned in 1978, lead paint was commonly used in homes. In St. Louis, which is dominated by older housing stock, lead contamination is still prevalent.
Abby Lanes | Flickr

Inspectors from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are in St. Louis for the next few months, making sure that contractors are following federal lead paint laws. Businesses with employees that do renovation, repair or painting work must ensure they are federally trained and certified. If they're not, companies could be fined up to $37,500 a day for each violation.

Chardial Samuel, (left) and Rochelle Moore staff the new SPOT clinic at Jennings Senior High.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

As students at Jennings Senior High return for classes, a new school-based health clinic is scheduled to open in the coming weeks. It’s affiliated with “The SPOT,” an existing youth center in St. Louis that offers medical care, counseling and a safe space to stay and do homework.

In the new space at Jennings Senior High, coordinator Chardial Samuel walks through the nearly-finished rooms with a sense of excitement.

National Institutes of Health

Audrey Collins’ two daughters were diagnosed with asthma as infants. When they had trouble breathing, she would use a nebulizer machine with a tiny attachment for their faces.

“And if it didn’t get better, I’d take her to the emergency room. And we were in there a lot,” Collins said, during a recent visit with her daughters to a mobile asthma clinic parked outside their pediatrician’s office in north St. Louis.

Ernst Zinner
Provided by the family

Ernst K. Zinner, an astrophysicist who spent a distinguished and game-changing career at Washington University -- who, in fact, discovered fossils older than the solar system -- died Thursday, July 30, of complications of mantle cell lymphoma. He was 78 and lived in University City.

Mr. Zinner's interests, his career, the objects of his research, along with his stunning accomplishments, were infinite, as deep and profound as space, aspects of which he knew so well. Although personally modest, his dedication to science was renowned. Colleagues held him in esteem as a brilliant scientist and a nurturing mentor, and as a warm and generous friend.

Ameren Missouri's coal fire power plant at Labadie.
Veronique LaCapra I St. Louis Public Radio

Environmental advocates are praising the new Clean Power Plan announced Monday by President Barack Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency. Business groups are critical.

The new rule is designed to cut emissions by 32 percent by the year 2030, based on levels recorded in 2005, and it will use state-by-state targets to implement the emissions cuts, with states having flexibility in how to reach the goals. In a statement that included its outline of the plan's components, the White House said, "The Clean Power Plan establishes the first-ever national standards to limit carbon pollution from power plants."

Dr. Anupam Agarwal, (with microphone), responds to a patient advocate during a roundtable discussion in St. Louis. She serves as acting chief of staff for the St. Louis VA health system.
Sarah Kellogg | St. Louis Public Radio

Regional officials from the health and benefits system that serves veterans crowed over the gains they’ve made in the past few years. On the other side of a room at Soldier's Memorial Monday, members of veteran’s organizations brought up their clients’ latest challenges, but said the conditions have noticeably improved.

The discussion was part of a roundtable meeting that touched on issues related to each of the three branches of the Veterans Administration: the Veterans Health Administration, the Veterans Benefits Administration and the Cemetery Administration.  

Adrian Clark | Flickr

Large rate increases for health insurance may be in the works for some Missourians this year, but we won’t know the final prices for a few months.  

(via Flickr)

The controversy over coal use hits close to home.

It’s not only that coal-burning companies Ameren Missouri, Peabody Energy, and Arch Coal are headquartered in St. Louis, or that statewide battles have been waged over coal burning and the storing of ash.

Little boy trying spinach.
Veronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

A single school is like an entire community.

You've got the mayor, or principal. There is the general population, the students and their parents. There's a grocery store in the form of a cafeteria. And the teachers are kind of like doctors and police officers rolled into one. Within that batch of characters, there are gossips and scofflaws; actors and judges; even engineers and critics.

The opening bars of Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know” echo through a bustling therapy gym as 13-year-old Courtney Turner practices her physical therapy for the day: lip syncing.

A rare infection attacked Turner’s nervous system last year, leaving her almost completely paralyzed. Her doctors called it “a lightning strike”: Once a bubbly preteen who ran track and cracked jokes with her twin brother, she’s spent the past seven months undergoing intense rehabilitation therapy at Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital. During that time, Turner has slowly started to regain some of her muscle movement and reflexes like swallowing food.  

Kimon Chapman conducts an experiment in a chemistry class at Harris-Stowe's Academy for Science & Mathematics this summer.
Bob Morrison | Harris-Stowe State University

Some incoming freshmen at Harris-Stowe State University are getting their first taste of college life — and a crash course in math and science.

Every summer, the Academy for Science & Mathematics provides up to 25 students with free room and board and a $1000 stipend.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration

A St. Louis neurosurgeon is helping to pioneer a new treatment for severe obsessive compulsive disorder that involves implanting a device sometimes called a “brain pacemaker.”  

At first, deep brain stimulation sounds like something out of an Isaac Asimov novel. Through a hole in the skull the size of a dime, surgeons place electrodes in a patient’s brain. Wires under the skin connect the electrodes to a device similar to a cardiac pacemaker, which is implanted under the patient’s clavicle.

According to the new study, a woman's weight before her first pregnancy may have long-term effects.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases | National Institutes of Health

Women who are an unhealthy weight during their first pregnancy might have a false sense of security if their babies are born with no complications. But a new study out of Saint Louis University suggests complications can still arise when the women get pregnant for a second time — even if, by then, they have reached a healthy weight.

Missouri cattle farmer Greg Fleshman became so concerned about keeping his local hospital open that in 2011 he joined its governing board.

Co-directors Cory Byers (left) and Ashley Seering film additional footage in a nursing lab at SIU-Edwardsville. "The Heroin Project" premieres May 3.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated on July 21 to add information about the film's screening as part of the St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase. The co-directors were guests on "St. Louis on the Air."

When Ashley Seering and Cory Byers started gathering stories about heroin addiction and deaths in southern Illinois, the Edwardsville-based filmmakers didn’t realize it would turn into a feature-length documentary.

This diagram describes how the new wireless device functions. Source: Jeong JW, McCall JG, et al. Wireless optofluidic systems for programmable in vivo pharmacology and optogenetics. Cell, published online July 16, 2015.
Washington University | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign | Cell Press

Scientists at Washington University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed a new tool to study how specific brain cells affect behavior.

The miniature, wireless device can inject drugs into the brains of live mice.

This medical illustration shows a computer-generated image of a group of multidrug resistant Acinetobacter bacteria. The artistic recreation was modeled after images taken using an electron microscope.
Medical illustrator James Archer | U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Researchers at Washington University have found that some multidrug resistant bacteria intentionally get rid of the genes that protect them from antibiotics. That discovery could eventually provide a new way to treat deadly infections.

Alex Heuer

During World War II, a St. Louis-based company took on a project that turned out to be detrimental to the health of its employees.

Mallinckrodt Chemical Company was responsible for refining massive amounts of uranium for the Manhattan Project. As a result, some of Mallinckrodt’s employees succumbed to various illnesses caused by exposure to nuclear waste.

After meeting with female veterans and healthcare providers, Blunt walks to the VA Women's Clinic in St. Louis.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

More than 38,000 veterans who live in Missouri are women, and that number continues to grow rapidly.

That means changes are in store for the Veterans Health Administration, a network of hospitals and clinics that provide care to active duty service members and discharged veterans. Serving more women means expanding the VA’s capacity to offer gynecological exams, services surrounding childbirth, and counseling related to military sexual trauma.  

Ameren's power plant in Labadie is the largest in the state.
Art Chimes

Opponents of Ameren’s plans to build a coal ash landfill in Labadie have reached an agreement with the company, ending years of contentious debate.

The settlement eliminates all pending lawsuits and clears the way for Ameren to start construction.

But it also ensures that the landfill will be built at least five feet above groundwater, and that no coal ash can be brought in from any other power plant — two protections that some Franklin County residents had fought for.

Water levels on the Mississippi River rise to flood stages underneath Eads Bridge.
Sarah Kellogg

On Thursday, “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh led a discussion on the threat of flooding in the St. Louis area due to this year’s rainfall. Joining Marsh were Mark Fuchs, a service hydrologist for the National Weather Service, and Matthew Hunn, chief of emergency management for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in St. Louis.

(via Flickr/Jennifer Boriss)

Financial disclosures aren’t just for political candidates. New data released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services shows that Missouri doctors received at least $71.9 million from medical device and drug companies in 2014 and the latter half of 2013. Illinois doctors pulled in $104 million during that same time period, many of whom hail from the Chicago area.  

Ameren's coal-fired plant in Labadie.
Veronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

The Franklin County Commission has approved a set of regulatory changes that will govern Ameren’s construction of a coal ash landfill in Labadie. The decision follows a heated public comment period in June.  

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