Health, Science, Environment | St. Louis Public Radio

Health, Science, Environment

Health, science, and environmental news

Kids sitting on the floor in a classroom
Phil Roeder | Flickr

Two national child advocacy organizations have filed a federal lawsuit against the Missouri Department of Social Services, alleging that children in the state’s foster care system are over-prescribed psychotropic medications with little oversight.

“They’re prescribed off-label, to control behaviors,” said Bill Grimm, an attorney for the National Center for Youth Law, which filed the lawsuit on Monday. “While many other states have instituted some sort of oversight … Missouri has very little to none of those safeguards in place.”

The suit seeks class action status. State officials declined comment, citing pending litigation.

Dr. Sarada Garg takes measurements with a portable ultrasound machine at Washington University in St. Louis. A pregnant volunteer looks on.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio.

Adly Castanaza, nurse from Jalapa, Guatemala, guides the probe of a portable ultrasound over the belly of a volunteer in St. Louis. It’s the same machine she’ll use back in Guatemala, to measure how pregnant women, their children and the elderly are affected by smoke from cook stoves.  

“I have seen, when I was in the hospital, so many people who come from rural communities that have [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease],” Castanza explained. “We have to know exactly if there’s a relation(ship with air pollution).”

Washington University in St. Louis is training health workers from India, Rwanda, Guatemala and Peru to conduct a massive study on how the smoke from traditional cook stoves affects women and children.

Missouri state Rep. Cora Faith Walker, D-Ferguson, speaks on a panel held by NAHSE-STL. Affinia Healthcare Chief Operating Officer Kendra Holmes, criminologist Dan Isom, and anti-addiction advocate Howard Weissman join her.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio.

Public health experts on a panel in St. Louis Friday admonished Missouri lawmakers for failing to pass a prescription drug monitoring bill during the last legislative session. They also called for more treatment centers.

At least 712 people died after opioid overdoses in the bi-state St. Louis region last year — nearly 200 more than the year before, according to the anti-addiction group NCADA St. Louis. Missouri is the only state without a statewide database.

Pat Potter, a former nurse in St. Louis, is noted in the field for her textbook "Fundamentals of Nursing," which is used to teach new nursing students across the country. She retired earlier this spring.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Patricia Potter is noted in the field of nursing for her textbook “Fundamentals of Nursing,” which is used for new nursing students across the country, as well as her groundbreaking teaching of resiliency in nursing, which helps nurses manage stress by combating “compassion fatigue.”

Earlier this spring, Potter retired after 46 years as a nurse, 41 of those she spent at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. At the time of her retirement, Potter was the hospital’s director of research.

Bombus balteatus, commonly known as the golden-belted bumblebee, pollinates a sky pilot in Colorado.
Candace Galen

A buzzing bee may not sound like much to most people but to bee scientists, there’s a lot to learn from the noises bees make when they fly and pollinate flowers.

On Wednesday, researchers at Webster University, Lincoln University and the University of Missouri-Columbia released a study in the journal PLOS One that concludes that recording bees can help track pollinator activity. That could provide scientists with data to aid conservation of species that have experienced falling populations.

Declines in pollinating species have alarmed scientists, environmentalists and policymakers, since many crops depend on native wild bees.

Archaeologists with the Missouri Department of Transportation work near the Poplar Street Bridge in downtown St. Louis in April.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Archaeologists from the Missouri Department of Transportation believe they have found artifacts and evidence of permanent residences in St. Louis prior to 1764, when the city became a permanent trading post along the Mississippi River.

The discoveries and inferences that archaeologists can derive from them add nuance to the complex story of how St. Louis became an important commerce center in the 18th century – more than a decade prior to United States’ independence and nearly 40 years before the country acquired St. Louis through the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.

For the hundreds of rural hospitals struggling to stay in business, health policy decisions made in Washington D.C. this summer could make survival a lot tougher.

Western harvester ants create tunnels in a gel farm in a laboratory at Webster University.
Provided by Webster University

A study at Webster University has revealed that Monsanto's weed killer Roundup can significantly change ant behavior.

Researchers began two years ago to study how ants are affected by man-made contaminants, including Roundup. The product has become controversial recently due to allegations that its key ingredient, glyphosate, causes cancer in humans.

The ant study hasn't been published yet, but student researchers noted that the herbicide significantly affected western harvester ants.

Washington University graduate student Jarod Roland tries out a device that detects electrical signals in his brain and casues his hand to open and close in response.
Leuthardt Lab at Washington University

A mind-controlled robotic glove under development by Washington University scientists could give hope to those whose hands have become paralyzed due to a stroke. 

In the journal Stroke, researchers reported some success with using the device, called the Ipsihand, to help stroke patients regain the ability to grasp objects. A  group of 10 patients wore the robotic exoskeleton over the hand, wirelessly connected to a cap fastened to the head that reads brain signals that tell the hand to open and close.

Carla has started taking classes, hoping to make her children proud by becoming fluent in English over the next few years. St. Louis Public Radio has changed Carla’s name because she is an unauthorized immigrant. May 2017.
Jenny Simeone-Cases | St. Louis Public Radio

Insurance coverage, transportation, child care and work schedules can all stand in the way of a person’s access to mental health services.

For some St. Louis residents, language is the biggest obstacle, because only a handful of organizations in the region offer services in languages other than English — and demand is growing.

David Mueller, 31, picks up his three-year-old daughter Marjorie from daycare on May 4, 2017. She has a rare form of cystic fibrosis, and Mueller worries the Republican health plan will affect the family's ability to pay for her care.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio.

A Republican proposal to gut the Affordable Care Act narrowly passed the U.S. House of Representatives and now the U.S. Senate is crafting its own bill to reshape the nation’s health care system. Elected officials have held few town halls to hear from constituents in the St. Louis area about what they want in a health care bill, sparking demonstrations outside representatives’ offices.

Forest Park Forever Nature Works field coordinator Billy Haag holds a turtle trap at a manmade waterway in the park.
Courtesy of Forest Park Forever

Scientists have started to take stock of the turtles that live in Forest Park to protect them from upcoming construction projects and improve their habitat.

The project, called the Wildlife Impact Mitigation and Inventory Plan, aims to catalog the different species that live in the park, particularly along a 2.5-mile waterway. 

Southeast Missouri State University graduate student Kathy Hixson prepares to draw blood from a male bluebird at the Madison County Mines Superfund Site in Fredericktown, Missouri
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

In Fredericktown, Missouri, three women walked towards what looked like a Martian landscape.

Barb Fleming of Bel-Nor enrolled in Missouri's high-risk pool after a breast cancer diagnosis in 2008. Today, she pays much less for a plan through the Affordable Care Act.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio.

Barb Fleming had built a small business selling tableware and wedding gifts. But that career nearly came crashing down around her in 2008, when her doctor found a lump in her breast. 

Months later, Fleming, of Bel-Nor, in St. Louis County, would find herself in Missouri's high-risk pool: a pricey, state-managed insurance plan that covered people with pre-existing conditions. The programs were phased out by the Affordable Care Act, but could return in the sweeping health care proposal passed this month by House Republicans.

An illustration of pollution, 2017
Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

The Environmental Protection Agency awarded St. Louis Community College a $200,000 grant last week to support a job training program focused on cleaning up contaminated waste sites.

About 450,000 abandoned and contaminated waste sites exist across the country. Remediation of such sites requires special expertise on handling different types of waste, such as PCBs and lead. Training workers can help empower communities that are most burdened by toxic waste sites, said Stan Walker, the Brownfield and Land Revitalization Branch Director for EPA Region 7.

St. Louis Archbishop Robert J. Carlson answers questions during a news conference following the filing of a lawsuit against the city's so-called abortion sanctuary ordinance.
Wayne Pratt | St. Louis Public Radio

The Archdiocese of St. Louis and the city are in a legal showdown over new provisions in St. Louis' anti-discrimination law regarding women's reproductive decisions. The archdiocese's schools and a private company, O'Brien Industrial Holdings, on Monday in federal court filed a lawsuit challenging a St. Louis ordinance that they say adds abortion rights supporters to a protected class, while discriminating those who are against abortions.

Sue Spencer surveys what remains of her home on County Road 806 in Perryville. A tornado tore through the area in late February, destroying the home she lived in for three decades.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The sirens started a little before 8 p.m. on the last night of February. Residents of Perry County, in southeastern Missouri,  retreated to their basements — many of them not expecting the incoming tornado with a 14-mile-long and half-mile-wide path. Within an hour, the tornado had killed one man, damaged more than 100 homes and leveled dozens more.  

Three months later, there are signs that rebuilding is underway. Structures now stand where fallen trees, busted up car frames, and mangled bits of homes were scattered before. Perryville’s residents are recovering, hiring contractors, negotiating with insurance companies, and even managing the aftermath of severe flooding in April.

This radiation warning sign is one of many posted on the chain link fence surrounding part of the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton, Mo.
File photo | Sarah Skiold-Hanlin | St. Louis Public Radio

The Environmental Protection Agency has found no evidence of radioactive waste from the Manhattan Project in two Bridgeton homes close to the West Lake Landfill Superfund site. 

Federal officials began testing homes in late 2016 in response to a lawsuit filed in November by a married couple in the Spanish Village subdivision against landfill owner Republic Services and 10 other companies.

Members of the United Mine Workers of America protest in Washington, D.C. in September of 2016.
Flickr | AFGE

Retired coal workers are no longer at risk of losing their union health insurance as the latest federal spending bill funded coverage that is no longer being paid for by bankrupt coal companies.

But the deal left another issue untouched: the looming insolvency of the union’s pension fund, which could run out of money as early as 2025.

Psychologist Wes Crenshaw joined St. Louis on the Air to discuss how to talk about gender identity with a new generation and vocabulary in hand.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Kansas-based psychologist Wes Crenshaw works with young adults on a variety of issues, but in the past years he’s been focusing specifically on young people’s evolving attitudes on gender identity.

Crenshaw is a psychologist, author and certified sex therapist with Family Psychological Services, LCC.

He’s about to finish a book, “Consent-Based Sex Education: Parenting Teens in the Internet Age,” which deals specifically with how to talk to kids about gender identity when the kids seem better versed in the subject matter than parents do.

The welcome sign for the Spanish Village neighborhood in Bridgeton May 2017
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Residents of a Bridgeton neighborhood were denied the chance to move away from the West Lake Landfill Superfund site after Missouri lawmakers last week rejected a bill that would have paid for a state agency to buy their homes.

The measure, sponsored by Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, would have allowed 91 families in Spanish Village, the closest neighborhood to the landfill, to sell their properties to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. The Senate overwhelmingly passed the bill last month, but when the bill moved to a conference committee, lawmakers cut funding for the bill from $12.5 million to $1 million. The measure failed in the House, 79-65. 

Dr. John Morley discussed the health issues older adults should keep an eye out for, as well as a new screening tool to identify them.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Dr. John Morley, a SLUCare geriatrician and director of geriatrics at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine, joined St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh to discuss health issues faced by older adults and what doctors should know to look for in their older patients. 

"Physicians are not well trained in care of older people," Morley said. "They tend to treat older people as though they are 50-year-olds and that's not a good thing."

Jennifer Morrow | Flickr

Missouri is poised to strip additional providers from a state-run program that provides family planning services for uninsured women.

The budget lawmakers are sending to Gov. Eric Greitens contains a provision that prohibits hospitals and clinics from participating in the Missouri Women's State-Funded Health Services Program if the organization also provides abortion services, as defined by a state law for sexual education in schools.

The budget also cuts the program’s funding by $4.6 million.

Neil deGrasse Tyson will speak at Peabody Opera House on Thursday, May 18, 2017.
Peabody Opera House

Acclaimed astrophysicist, science communicator and Twitter personality Neil deGrasse Tyson makes his way to St. Louis this Thursday to speak to a crowd at Peabody Opera House about his new book “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry.”

Patients entering the Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis are often greeted by a line of protesters.
File photo | Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis aldermen have reintroduced a bill to create a buffer zone outside Planned Parenthood's building in the Central West End, the state's only operating abortion clinic. A previous attempt stalled earlier this year.

Protesters generally gather near the building's driveway entrance at 4251 Forest Park Ave., asking women not to enter. The new proposal would require protesters to stay eight feet away from the driveway area of a health care facility.

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley appeals a judge's ruling to block two abortion restrictions in the state.
WP PAARZ | FLICKR

 

As expected, Missouri has appealed a federal judge’s ruling blocking two abortion restrictions enacted by the Legislature in 2007.

Attorney General Josh Hawley had said he would appeal the preliminary injunction entered by U.S District Judge Howard Sachs last week.

The injunction blocks Missouri’s laws requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and abortion clinics to be outfitted like ambulatory surgical centers.

Engineers at Washington University used locusts to test a nasal spray that could be used to treat brain cancer and other diseases.
Washington University

Washington University researchers are developing a device that could vastly improve how doctors treat cancer and other diseases in the brain. 

Delivering drugs to the brain is complicated because the three-pound organ is shielded by a complex network of blood vessels, called the blood-brain barrier, that keeps out foreign substances. However, the fortress of vessels works so well that it's challenging to provide medication through a pill or an injection.

The Wash U device could change everything. It would deliver tiny particles by nasal spray.

Kaci Dalton, 16, helps residents fill sandbags on Starling Airport Road in Arnold. “My other house used to flood so I know how it feels,” she said. “So I’m just trying to help out.”
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis-area residents who are recovering from flooding can get help with cleaning up, filing insurance claims and finding counseling all in one place in the coming days.

Local, state and federal disaster specialists still are assessing the size and scope of damage throughout Missouri from the flooding and storms. Gov. Eric Greitens said Wednesday it's part of the state's application seeking a federal disaster declaration.

Dr. Stuart Slavin, associate dean for curriculum at Saint Louis University's School of Medicine, in his office.
File photo | Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Saint Louis University’s School of Medicine is removing an administrator who drew national attention for his work to prevent student depression and suicide. The decision comes as the school faces probation by the accrediting body for U.S. medical schools, which gave SLU two years to make recommended changes.

Administrators notified students and staff this week that Dr. Stuart Slavin, the associate dean of curriculum, would be placed on sabbatical “so that he can transition to the next phase of his career.”

The St. Louis Zoo's David Powell and Anne Tieber discussed parenting in the animal kingdom on St. Louis on the Air on Wednesday.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Sunday marks Mother’s Day in the United States. In honor of the holiday, we’re talking about motherhood from a slightly different perspective: parenting in the animal kingdom.

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh was joined by David Powell, director of research at the St. Louis Zoo, and Anne Tieber, curator of birds at the St. Louis Zoo, to talk about animal parenting styles.

“One of things we can learn is the diversity of the parenting styles, how each one is suited to the animal’s situation – each knows what is best,” Powell said.

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