Health, Science, Environment | St. Louis Public Radio

Health, Science, Environment

Health, science, and environmental news

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

A California law firm has released several dozen internal documents that show that Monsanto influenced research on glyphosate, Roundup’s key ingredient.

The lawyers represent farmers who claimed in a lawsuit that exposure to Roundup caused them non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The documents posted Tuesday on the law firm's website include email and memos that contain more evidence that the company had ghostwritten research on the health effects of glyphosate. They build on other evidence a federal judge unsealed in March

Nurse Catherine “Bizz” Grimes moves like her name sounds: at a frenetic pace. She darts across the hall from the prenatal diagnosis clinic at Indiana University Health University Hospital in Indianapolis, sits down at her cubicle, puts on her headset over curly white blonde hair and starts dialing.

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley shares evidence included in a motion to dismiss Backpage's lawsuit against him.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

A two-year federal investigation of Backpage.com, a website that frequently advertises commercial sex, led Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill to introduce legislation Tuesday. The bill, filed with bipartisan support, would make it illegal for websites to "knowingly  facilitate sex trafficking.”

McCaskill said Backpage.com appears to be actively involved in cultivating and publishing ads for minors engaged in commercial sex, a felony. The company's activities are detailed in a growing cadre of evidence released by federal investigators, uncovered in ongoing civil and criminal court cases and published by the Washington Post.

St. Louis Public Radio Science and Environment Reporter Eli Chen.
St. Louis Storytelling Festival

On May 2, St. Louis Public Radio hosted The Story Collider, a national podcast and live storytelling group, for an evening of personal stories about science told on stage under the theme of "Eclipse." The event was sponsored by the St. Louis Storytelling Festival.

Eli Chen, St. Louis Public Radio’s science and environment reporter, shared a story at the event. We heard her story on Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air. Listen here:

Angela Speck, an astrophysicist at University of Missouri-Columbia, tells a story at The Story Collider even at St. Louis Public Radio in May 2017.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Like it or not, science is a part of our lives. It affects our health, our environment and our understanding of who we are and how we fit in the universe. At a time when our knowledge of how the world works is quickly expanding, climate change is altering the planet, and the state of health care hangs in the balance, it’s especially important to share stories about what science means to us personally.

Peter Seay and his child
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

 

 

A group of St. Louis doctors is working to make sure transgender kids get the medical care they need.

When the Washington University and St. Louis Children’s Hospital Transgender Center of Excellence opens today, it will be the first of its kind in a 250-mile radius. The clinic aims to provide transgender children with comprehensive health care including pediatric medicine, endocrinology, and mental health counseling.

A lawsuit alleging the Missouri Department of Corrections systematically denies medical treatment to prisoners with chronic hepatitis C has taken a big leap forward after a judge certified it as a class action.

U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey last week ruled that the lawsuit, which was filed in December, meets all the requirements for class certification, including numerous plaintiffs and common issues of law and fact.

Astrophysicist Angela Speck, pediatrician Ken Haller and science reporter Eli Chen performed at The Story Collider podcast’s debut in St. Louis this past May.
St. Louis Storytelling Festival

Everyone has a personal connection to science.  

Maybe you were  reaching for a Nobel Prize with your high school science fair project until an unforeseeable error caused it to go down in flames. Or, perhaps you’ve been  a researcher on an expedition thousands of miles from home, surrounded by people who don’t understand what you’re doing there. Or, you’ve listened to your doctor diagnose you with a condition that you’ve never heard of before.

A view of the Mississippi River from Dubuque, IA, where government agencies, environmentalists, engineers and residents gathered to discuss flood risks along the upper Mississippi River.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Communities along the upper Mississippi River have seen a major uptick in heavy rains and flooding in the last decade.

Residents, environmentalists, engineers and government agencies agree that they need a coordinated strategy to manage flooding. That could be particularly important in coming years, as scientists predict that climate change will likely bring more heavy rain to the region.

Mizzou researchers studied fossils of clams called Abra segmentum valves that had been infected by trematodes, collected from nothern Italy.
Scientific Reports

Fossil records suggest that there could be another consequence of climate change and rising sea levels: an increase in parasitic worm infections. 

Scientists at the University of Missouri-Columbia and the University of Bologna studied clams collected in northern Italy that date back to the Holocene Epoch, a time when the planet was warming up after the Ice Age. Parasitic worms called trematodes, also known as flukes and flatworms, would attempt to feed on these ancient clams and the clams would respond by developing pits to keep them out.

By looking at the pits, the researchers learned that the presence of trematodes increased during relatively short periods of sea level rise.

Janet Kavandi, a Missouri-born astronaut, will be in Jefferson City with NASA for the Aug. 21 solar eclipse.
Gus Chan | The Plain Dealer

Come Aug. 21, NASA will be in Jefferson City, one of seven cities chosen from which to broadcast a live feed of the total solar eclipse.

Janet Kavandi, a Missouri-born former NASA astronaut and director of the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, will join the broadcast from Jefferson City. Kavandi has logged more than 33 days in space with 535 earth orbits.

Dr. Shilpa Babbar, an OB-GYN physician for SLUCare in St. Louis County.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio.

Twice as many United States women are dying in childbirth today as in 1990, even though all other wealthy nations have seen declines in maternal mortality rates.

Rising rates of obesity and women having children later in life may help explain the rising number of deaths, said Dr. Shilpa Babbar, who specializes in high-risk pregnancies at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital in St. Louis County.

The Sny Island Levee System in Illinois is one of 10 levee systems that have exceeded their authorized heights, according to a survey conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers' Rock Island District this year.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Nancy Guyton has lived by the Mississippi River her entire life. She and her husband farm in Annada, a small town on the Missouri side of the Mississippi River. She knows that growing crops on the floodplain comes with some risks.

The Guytons’ farm, about 65 miles north of St. Louis, endured major floods along the Mississippi in 1993 and 2008. But since 2008, she’s noticed more flood events.

Protesters push and lift one of the fences surrounding the St. Louis Medium Security Institution. (July 22, 2017)
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated July 24 at 2:15 p.m. information on arrests — Amid continued protests during this week's heat wave, St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson announced Saturday that the city is ordering portable air conditioning units to be installed "as soon as possible" at the Medium Security Institution. Inside the facility, which is also known as the Workhouse, many inmates are live in quarters without air conditioning as temperatures soar above 100 degrees. 

The entryway of Casa de Salud's building at 3200 Choteau Ave. in St. Louis.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio.

How long is the wait for a Spanish-language therapy session in the St. Louis area, if you don’t have health insurance? A year or more, providers say.

Jorge Riopedre, president of St. Louis-based Casa de Salud, which serves uninsured immigrants and refugees at a clinic on Chouteau Avenue, hopes to change that.

John Posey, director of research for the East-West Gateway Council of Governments, has researched what the impacts of climate change could be like in the St. Louis region.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Maybe you've heard it suggested that as the impacts of climate change are felt more keenly in the coming century and sea levels rise, that people living on the coasts will move inward to the Midwest … a place like St. Louis, for example.

A recent New York Times article suggests that prospect may even be a little warmer than initially expected. What can we expect the St. Louis of the future, under the impacts of climate change, will be like?

Eureka resident Sharon Wasson sits in her basement, which still hasn't been completely put back together after the severe flooding that occurred in May.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Two months ago, retired physical education teacher and Eureka resident Sharon Wasson spent four days trying to keep sewer water from entering her basement. An armada of blower fans covered the floor. Members of Eureka High School’s football and wrestling teams packed the place, pumping water out of Wasson’s house.

Two months later, the basement where she once spent most of her time is still a work in progress. Having dealt with the major flooding in May and in December 2015, Wasson is conflicted about staying in Eureka.

The longest time of solar eclipse totality will be viewed in southern Illinois come Aug. 21.
vbloke | Flickr

The Aug. 21 total solar eclipse event creeps ever closer. While the path of totality crosses quite a bit of Missouri, and even part of St. Louis, the longest duration of the eclipse will actually be in southern Illinois. 

In Murphysboro and Makanda, totality will last for a whopping two minutes and 40 seconds. At one point in the Shawnee National Forest, just south of Carbondale, eclipse viewers will see totality for two minutes and 44 seconds. According to eclipse enthusiasts, those seconds make a big difference.

File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 2:30 p.m. July 13 with comment from Monsanto — Farmers can resume using the herbicide dicamba, the Missouri Department of Agriculture announced Thursday.

The new restrictions come less than a week after the department issued a temporary ban on the sale and use of the controversial herbicide. Missouri has received more than 100 complaints this year of drifting herbicide, which had damaged crops.

Lone Star ticks are one of the most common ticks in Missouri. It carries ehrlichiosis, which causes flu-like symptoms, among other diseases.
Provided |U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Amid an increase in tick-borne illnesses this year, Missouri health officials have launched a study to trap and test ticks for diseases. 

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study ticks at Meramec State Park. The research, which began in June, aims to understand how ticks spread rare diseases, such as the Bourbon and Heartland viruses. Last month, a Missouri resident tested positive for the Bourbon virus.

Lacy Seward, social services coordinator for the Monroe City Manor. Medicaid cuts proposed by Senate Republicans could hit hard in this small town, that helped vote them into office.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio.

MONROE CITY, MO. — The closest emergency room is 20 miles east on the highway. That’s why it isn’t unusual for people experiencing heart attacks, blood clots and strokes to show up at Dr. Rodney Yager’s clinic on Main Street in Monroe City.

Yager, who grew up in the area, can handle the fast pace of a small-town clinic. What worries him more is how federal health care policies being shaped in Washington, D.C., could affect his patients.

Missouri Botanical Garden restoration biologist James Trager standing at one of the naturally-occurring glades in the Shaw Nature Reserve.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

While the Ozarks are known for forests, but visitors to the highland region also will find open, desert-like areas between trees that contain a special combination of rare plants and animals  found in few other places. 

The areas, called glades, are hot and dry places with thin soils. To a visitor, the rocky appearance of glades make them look like an old road that has been overtaken by tall grasses. They're defined by the type of rocks that lie underneath, which in Missouri are largely limestone and dolomite. Glades were once more common in Missouri's Ozarks, but since they need to be burned to exist, the areas have disappeared over the last century as forest managers sought to suppress fires. 

Scientists are conducting controlled fires at the Shaw Nature Reserve to understand how to best conserve them.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois, speaks to reporters on July 10, 2017 about health care legislation following a tour of Chestnut Health Systems in Granite City.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

The Republican effort to repeal and replace the federal Affordable Care Act could devastate drug treatment clinics by making deep cuts to Medicaid, the government-run insurance for low-income Americans, U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth said Monday.

After touring Chestnut Health Systems, an opioid addiction clinic in Granite City, Duckworth told reporters that if Republicans succeed in cutting Medicaid, millions would be hurt, among them those undergoing treatment for opioid addiction. She said Congress needs to protect Medicaid and make sure that medications used to treat addiction are affordable.

For sickle cell patients, opiods are often the only pain relief. But growing rates of addiction among the general public mean emergency room doctors are more cautious than ever in prescribing those powerful medications, causing challenges for sickle cell
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, one of Missouri’s largest insurers, no longer covers emergency room visits that it deems unnecessary.

The policy aims to save costs and direct low-risk patients to primary care physicians and urgent care clinics. But doctors say patients may avoid going to a hospital when they really need it, if they fear a large bill.

Maryville University biologist Kyra Krakos studies flowers at the Shaw Nature Reserve.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Among the many ways rising global temperatures are changing the environment, from shrinking polar ice caps to rising sea levels, research in recent years has shown that climate change also is causing flowering plants and pollinating bugs to fall out of sync.

This summer, Maryville University biologist Kyra Krakos and her students are studying the effects of climate change on flowers and pollinating insects, particularly bumblebees, at the Shaw Nature Reserve about an hour outside St. Louis. Meteorologists have observed more erratic weather patterns over time, such as this year's mild winter, which has caused flowers to bloom at times when they shouldn't.

A view of Elephant Rocks State Park during the fall.
Missouri Division of Tourism | Flickr

It is said Missouri is home to one of the best state park systems in the country. How did it get to be this way? And what hurdles does it face going forward?

“We’ve been in the top four the past few years now, and we’re also considered the number one trail state,” said Steve Nagle, the board president of the Missouri Parks Association, an advocacy group that supports the state parks system. “We’re really proud of that legacy.”

Four years ago, Cait Hogan woke up in her bed on a Sunday morning after a night of drinking in the small college town of Athens, Ohio. Her entire body hurt. Her arms and legs were covered in blood. She realized she’d been raped.

Centene Corp. will step into the breach created by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City’s decision last month to exit the Affordable Care Act marketplace in 2018.

The Clayton, Mo.-based insurer will begin selling health plans next year in all 25 western Missouri counties that Blue KC’s withdrawal would have left “bare” — that is, without any insurer offering health plans in the individual market. 

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Contractors changed the sign for Siteman Cancer Center on June 30.
Bret Berigan | Christian Hospital

Siteman Cancer Center is expanding its reach to north St. Louis County, a move aimed at better serving the region’s African-American population.

Doctors will begin seeing patients at Christian Hospital during the first week of July, where Siteman will replace the hospital’s existing Cancer Care Center. A new building in Florissant is slated to open in 2019, pending regulatory approvals.

Public health advocates say placing a cancer center in an underserved area will improve cancer care for residents in the neighborhood.

Cardinal Ritter Senior Services’ Foster Grandparents program connects seniors with low-income children with special needs.
Cardinal Ritter Senior Services

Low-income Missouri seniors likely will pay more for their medications, after Gov. Eric Greitens signs the state budget.

The Missouri Rx Plan covered half the copay charged to seniors on Medicare with incomes below about $24,000 a year. But budget cuts approved by Missouri legislators will end the benefit on July 1. About 63,000 people kicked out of the program received letters in mid-June notifying them of the change, which sparked criticism from advocates for senior citizens.

“If they don’t get their medications, they’re not going to be able to stay healthy, and they’re going to be able to end up in an emergency room,” said Mary Schaefer, executive director of the Mid-East Area Agency on Aging.

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