Health, Science, Environment

Health, science, and environmental news

Prof. Sarah Gehlert (left) and Dr. Will Ross (right) discussed precision medicine in studio on "St. Louis on the Air."
Áine O'Connor | St. Louis Public Radio

Precision medicine, sometimes called personalized medicine, is a model of health care in which care, treatment, and medicines are customized to the individual—tailored, extraordinarily, to a person’s genetic code.

Precision medicine is lauded by some medical professionals and hopeful patients for its potential to elevate individual health, but some critics ask if precision medicine is being cast, to the cost and detriment of some groups, as a miracle cure.

An excavator with an eight-foot-long claw takes down chunks of the Wilco Building at the Carter Carburetor site on Monday.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

The contaminated buildings of the old Carter Carburetor plant on North Grand Boulevard are finally coming down.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is overseeing the clean-up, which started in April 2014 with the removal of asbestos from the large CBI building. Earlier this year, contractors used dry ice to blast away indoor lead paint.

On Monday, demolition of the two-story Wilco building got underway. The CBI building will follow, with all above-ground work expected to be completed by next April.

Robbin Dailey of Bridgeton, Mary Osckow of Hazelwood and Meagan Beckermann of Bridgeton survey the newly closed St. Cin Park.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

This post has been updated to include information regarding the city of Florissant. 

Hazelwood is closing a popular park along Coldwater Creek as cleanup efforts continue after the discovery of “low-dose” radioactive soil. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is conducting a cleanup on one side of St. Cin Park, and the city had kept the park’s playground open.

Some residents in this part of north St. Louis County believe their health problems are due to exposure to the creek, which is contaminated with decades-old radioactive waste from the Manhattan Project. Tensions in Hazelwood reached a high point last week, when the Army Corps confirmed that they had found radioactive contamination in soil samples from the backyards of three homes on Palm Drive.

Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

About 80 people, clustered around tables, bent their heads and waited for the voices to start.

“Don’t answer,” a woman’s voice warned as a phone rang. “They’ll know who you are.”

Coldwater Creek Facebook group co-administrator Jenell Wright (white jacket) takes notes during a meeting of the Coldwater Creek oversight committee on Thursday.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

More than a hundred people packed into a room at the Hazelwood Civic Center last night to hear about radioactive contamination outside homes near Coldwater Creek.

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 City, 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.

Ameren Missouri's coal fire power plant at Labadie.
(Veronique LaCapra/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 / 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.