Health, Science, Environment | St. Louis Public Radio

Health, Science, Environment

Health, science, and environmental news

Workers for the Metropolitan Sewer District begin to demolish a house on Greer Avenue as a part of program to turn vacant properties into green spaces. (March 22, 2017)
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

The Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District has started demolishing abandoned buildings to kick off a $13.5 million project to build green spaces in the city.

The Urban Greening Program is a part of MSD’s $100 million initiative to divert rainwater from entering the city’s sewers and contaminating local waterways. It’s also a key portion of a settlement agreement in 2012 with the Missouri Coalition for the Environment and the Environmental Protection Agency that requires the sewer district to spend $4.7 billion over the next two decades on improvements to sewer systems in St. Louis and St. Louis County, a larger effort called Project Clear.

Advocate and author Christine McDonald, right, listens to U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner of Missouri testify during a public hearing in St. Louis about human trafficking.
File photo | Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Eastern Missouri has four full-time police officers dedicated to investigating human trafficking cases, but convictions are rare.

Law enforcement officials say it's hard to build cases against perpetrators because witnesses are few and victims often are unseen. To improve awareness, Webster University will hold a training session this weekend for law students and the general public. Attendees will hear how people are forced into sex work and other trades, and how to identify warning signs.

Judge Paul Herbert stands in his courtroom after one of the court's weekly sessions.
Andrea Muraskin | Side Effects

Originally published July 7, 2016, by Side Effects Public Media. 

It’s not something you expect to see in a courtroom: 35 women, chatting, laughing, eating lasagna. But brunch before the session is a weekly tradition at an unusual court in Columbus, Ohio.

Once the plates are cleared away and everyone sits down in a semicircle facing the bench, a probation officer steps to the center of the room, with an empty plastic bin and a big smile.

“You know I love you so much, right?” she says, as she collects everyone’s cell phones, to a chorus of groans.

Monsanto's widely-used weed killer Roundup contains glyphosate, a chemical that's been the subject of multiple lawsuits that allege that it's linked to cancer.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Monsanto is facing more pressure to compensate farmers and farm workers who allege that its leading pesticide product caused them to develop cancer. 

A Los Angeles-based law firm on Friday filed 136 new cases against the company in St. Louis County Circuit Court. The lawsuits allege that exposure to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, caused the plaintiffs to develop non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Ali Fields, Aisha Lubinski and David Bachman joined St. Louis on the Air to discuss their eating disorders.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

For the estimated 575,000 Missourians struggling with an eating disorder of some kind, a huge barrier to overcome is having the vocabulary to describe the problem. That was certainly the case for Ali Fields.

“I was an anxious and uncomfortable kid, I had low self-esteem and anxiety,” Fields told St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh. “I did not know that [an eating disorder] was what it was. At age 8, I did not have the language to communicate that something was wrong.”

An adult Eastern massasauga in southwestern Michigan.
Photo provided | Eric T. Hileman

Illinois scientists are studying an endangered species of rattlesnake to find ways to revive its numbers. 

The Eastern massasauga once was widespread in the Midwest, living mainly in the Great Lakes region. Over several decades, its population declined dramatically. The species lives in wetlands, many of which have been drained to to build farms. Northern Illinois University biologist Richard King said it's also the only venomous snake in its range, which has made it a target.

The Missouri Court of Appeals will hear a case brought by a 17-year-old transgender boy from the Kansas City area.
Illustration by Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

On Monday, St. Louis on the Air’s monthly legal roundtable returned to address pressing issues of the law with a panel of local legal experts. This month’s focus? The proposed replacement for the Affordable Care Act.

St. Louis Public Radio’s Durrie Bouscaren has been reporting extensively on this matter and its local impact. Here’s how Missouri fares in cost estimates for the GOP’s health care plan.

File photo | Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

The name of a recently ousted Bel-Ridge police chief will appear on the ballot when the city’s voters elect new aldermen on April 4.

Gordon Brock led the Bel-Ridge Police Department for 16 years before his termination last winter, following accusations of harassment, mismanagement and accepting bribes.

Dorothy Hunter, 109, sits in her apartment at an assisted living facility in Ballwin. Hunter, a retired teacher, has lived in St. Louis her whole life.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

When a listener asked our Curious Louis project to find the oldest person in St. Louis, we were convinced we had found her — 109-year-old Lucy Hamm

But it wasn’t long before we started getting calls and emails about someone else we should meet — Dorothy Hunter of Ballwin.

Van Tyler checks a list of names and addresses while delivering meals in Jennings for the Mid-East Area Agency on Aging in June, 2016.
File photo | Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

States with rapidly aging populations, like Missouri, are seeing increased costs to Medicaid programs that cover low-income residents.

But the Republicans' health care proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act would create per-capita caps for federal Medicaid funding, potentially shifting increased costs to states. Advocacy groups for seniors warn that the proposal working its way through Congress may not adequately fund their care.

File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The debate over the safety of Monsanto’s weed killer Roundup has become more complicated, as newly released emails suggest the company had ghostwritten scientific research on glyphosate, the pesticide’s key ingredient.

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

The Republican plan to replace major tenets of the Affordable Care Act would reduce the federal deficit by $337 billion over 10 years, according to new numbers from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

In that scenario, 24 million people would lose their health insurance, bringing the uninsured rate back up to nearly what it was before the Affordable Care Act. The White House has disputed these numbers.

Members of Local 1148 meet in Marissa, Illinois. Union president Randy Phelps sits in yellow, in yellow, said that without health insurance, he would "probably make it three months."
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

After Congress extended the deadline for retired union coal workers and their families on the brink of losing their health insurance for four months, the group is again facing the loss of their coverage at the end of April.

In the meantime, a bill to use federal funds to maintain the benefits for about 22,000 former employees of now-bankrupt coal mines has not made it out of the Senate Finance Committee. Increasingly anxious retirees have written letters to their representatives, and are looking for other forms of coverage.  

Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

If House Republicans pass their proposed replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act, state Medicaid programs would face some big changes, including a per-capita cap on spending.

Republicans introduced their plan Monday in the form of two budget reconciliation bills. Though the bills repeal several taxes that helped pay for the Affordable Care Act, they were sent into markup sessions before a cost estimate could be prepared by the Congressional Budget Office.

A magnolia tree in full bloom at Tower Grove Park in March 2017.
Maria Altman | St. Louis Public Radio

The unusually warm winter in and around St. Louis has caused many flowering plants and trees, such as magnolias and peach blossoms, to bloom early this year.

But with temperatures expected to fall below freezing this weekend, experts are concerned it will affect the growing things that already seem to think it's spring.

Dr. Bahar Bastani poses for a portrait at Saint Louis University Hospital on March 2, 2017.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

In 1984, Dr. Bahar Bastani knew he had to leave Iran.

During Iran's cultural revolution, religious leaders closed universities and threatened academics. Bastani, then a professor of medicine in Tehran, realized he had become “unhireable” in that political climate.

“I was religious, I was doing prayers, but I could not tolerate the hardship the government was putting on people,” said Bastani, now a kidney specialist who works at Saint Louis University Hospital.

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 Army Corps of Engineers this month is preparing to remove radioactive soils from residential properties along Coldwater Creek for the first time. 

The Corps' St. Louis District found the contamination in yards on Palm Drive in Hazelwood in the summer of 2015. The planned remediation work, which officials expect to complete this fall, will affect five houses, one apartment complex and a Metropolitan Sewer District property. All are located within the 10-year floodplain.

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

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On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, we spoke with St. Louis Public Radio reporter Eli Chen about her story detailing environmental chronic stress related to the ongoing situation at Westlake Landfill.

Community activist Dawn Chapman speaks to an overflow crowd at the John Calvin Presbyterian Church about problems at the West Lake and Bridgeton landfills.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

On a mild winter evening, about 50 people filed into a room in a community center in Bridgeton. Many live in north St. Louis County and came to hear an update from Environmental Protection Agency officials about ongoing work at the West Lake Landfill Superfund site, where World War II-era radioactive waste sits approximately 600 feet from an underground smoldering fire.

For many residents, learning that they live close to such hazards has been a traumatic experience. 

Tyson Richardet holds his son, Kwinton, 5, while surveying the damage to his auto body shop. (Perryville, March 1, 2017)
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

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Dr. Menzer Pehlivan (pictured front left) is one of the engineers featured in "Dream Big," a new IMAX film premiering at the Saint Louis Science Center.
MacGillivray Freeman

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Carrie Tripp, with the Perry County School District, spent Wednesday helping residents clean their damaged homes. (March, 1, 2017)
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 4 p.m., March 1, 2017 — Residents of Perryville, Mo., are recovering from a tornado that ripped through the town late Tuesday, killing one man and damaging more than 100 homes.

Many homes in the community about 90 miles south of St. Louis were left only with a foundation, Perryville Fire Chief Jeremy Triller said.

Among those who lost their homes to the tornado was Lisa Ervin, who works at the Subway in Marble Hill, Mo. Her A-frame house was destroyed.

“It’s no longer there,” she said. “Our attic is over there in our neighbor’s yard.”

Jamie Young and her daughter Maya, 3, listen to a speaker during a demonstration outside of U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt's office in Clayton. The group delivered petitions in support of Planned Parenthood.  Feb 23 2016
File photo | Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Members of Congress return to Washington on Monday after a week-long work sessions in their home districts.

Like some other around the country, St. Louis-area representatives are catching criticism for not using the break to host town hall meetings to hear from constituents.

There was one exception; Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., held a listening session Friday in Hillsboro regarding pension funds.

So where are your representatives, and why aren’t they holding public meetings? Here’s what they said.

Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, Ill.

Courtney Berg, of Girls on the Run St. Louis, and Emily Luft, of Alive & Well STL, joined St. Louis on the Air on Thursday to discuss the impact of toxic stress on kids.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

A study published last year by the Centers for Disease Control found a prevalence rate of childhood trauma and toxic stress at nearly 2/3 of the general population. The study, called the Adverse Childhood Experience study, looked at how certain experiences, such as abuse, neglect, and violence impact children with adverse outcomes.

Does that fraction of the population seem high or low to you?

Dr. Nathaniel Murdock, 79, visits the former Homer G. Phillips Hospital. Murdock delivered thousands of babies at the hospital as an OB-GYN in the 1960s and 70s.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

In the first half of the 20th century, segregation touched virtually every part of American life. Black residents of St. Louis weren't just barred from schools, lunch counters and drinking fountains reserved for whites. Even hospitals could refuse to admit black patients.

But the hospitals that were built to serve African-American patients hold a special place in medical history. The facilities employed and trained thousands of black doctors and nurses. In St. Louis, Homer G. Phillips Hospital quickly became a trusted household name. Today marks the 80th anniversary of its dedication ceremony on Feb. 22, 1937.

The location of the Sauget Area 1 Superfund site.
MAPBOX, OPENSTREETMAP

Four chemical companies could have to pay $14.8 million to clean up a federal Superfund site in Sauget.

The settlement, which needs court approval, would address groundwater contamination, cap some of the waste and install a well monitoring system. 

Industrial waste has been dumped in six sites within the Sauget Area 1 Superfund from the 1930s until the 1980s. The Environmental Protection Agency has been investigating the site since the early 1980s.

A sidewalk along Bellefontaine Road in Bellefontaine Neighbors doesn't quite make it to the Metro bus stop.
Joseph Leahy | St. Louis Public Radio

Liane Constantine and her 6-year-old son, Ashton, live about half a mile from where he takes taekwondo classes in a small strip mall in Kirkwood. It would be easy enough to walk there, if only they could safely cross Manchester Road.

“ … I’d have to grab him by the hand and say ‘run when we don’t see any cars’,” she said, standing on the unpaved street corner that doesn’t have a crosswalk. Instead, they’re forced to drive, unnecessary as it seems.

The difficulty in traveling even short distances without a car prompted Constantine to ask our Curious Louis project why sidewalks are often so few and far between in St. Louis County.

Mayor Francis Slay signs the benchmarking ordinance in Feb. 2017 that will require buildings that are at least 50,000 square feet to track and share their energy use.
Photo provided by Office of Mayor Francis Slay

A new ordinance requires owners of St. Louis buildings of at least 50,000 square feet to track their energy use. The practice, called benchmarking, is expected to save local residents and businesses nearly $8 million annually in energy costs by 2025.

It could also address the city's contribution to climate change, removing greenhouse gas pollution that's equal to what 15,000 cars would emit. 

"Seventy seven percent of our [carbon] emissions are coming from buildings," said Catherine Werner, the city's sustainability director. "So why not target those buildings to reduce those emissions?"

St. Louis Public Radio reporter Mary Delach Leonard shares the story behind her reporting on the Dakota Access Pipeline in Patoka, Ill.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

On Friday,  St. Louis on the Air goes "Behind the Headlines” to discuss the top stories of the week with those who can bring a little more in-depth knowledge to them. On this week’s program, we discussed a story about the local connection to the Dakota Access Pipeline that you can find 75 miles east of St. Louis.

Joining the program was St. Louis Public Radio reporter Mary Delach Leonard, who reported on Patoka, Illinois, the city in where the Dakota Access Pipeline ends.

The story:

Longtime St. Louis resident Lucy Hamm celebrates her 109th birthday with her retirement community in Chesterfield. Hamm was born on Jan. 30, 1908.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

It might be harder than you think to find the oldest person in town.

Local governments don’t formally track the data, and voting records are often manually entered, and can contain errors. So when a listener named Sally asked our Curious Louis project to find the oldest person in St. Louis, we started looking.

After calls to county election boards and senior service nonprofits came up short, employees in the office of St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay introduced us to someone who might just be the winner: 109-year-old Lucy Hamm.

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