Health, Science, Environment

Health, science, and environmental news

(Véronique LaCapra/St. Louis Public Radio)

Updated 4:39 p.m.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced the first-ever national standards for air pollution from power plants.

The rule will require Ameren and other electricity companies to reduce emissions of toxic pollutants like mercury and arsenic, which can cause developmental effects, cancer, asthma, and other serious health problems.

(Via Flickr/USACEPublicAffairs/Jay Woods)

Updated 4:13 p.m.

An independent panel says the US Army Corps of Engineers did what it could to prevent this year's record flooding along the Missouri River but that changes will be needed to manage increasingly frequent extreme weather events.

Hydrologist Bill Lawrence of the National Weather Service participated in the panel review and says Montana's record-breaking rainfall in May contributed to unprecedented runoff downstream.

(Illinois Department of Health)

For the first time, the Illinois Department of Health is making information about surgical infections in Illinois hospitals available to the public.

(Image courtesy of the George Gokel Laboratory)

Nanotechnology is the science of the very small.

Nanoscientists manipulate matter at the scale of atoms and molecules – often ending up with materials that behave very differently than their macroscale counterparts.

(via Facebook/Missouri Solar Energy Industries Association)

Missouri solar energy companies are calling for Congress to extend a federal tax grant for renewable energy.

The 1603 Treasury Program lets solar, wind, and other renewable energy developers take an existing 30 percent tax credit as a cash grant, instead.

The executive director of the Missouri Solar Energy Industries Association, Heidi Schoen, says the tax grant program has driven investment in renewable energy projects nationwide.

(M.L. Fuller, image 137/USGS)

Friday, Dec. 16, marks the 200th anniversary of the first of the New Madrid earthquakes, a series of large tremors centered in northeastern Arkansas and southeastern Missouri.

The earthquakes of 1811 and 1812 were so big, legend has it, they made the Mississippi River run backwards.

Seismologist Susan Hough of the U.S. Geological Survey in Pasadena, Calif., says that’s actually true – at least where the fault crosses underneath the river channel.

(Véronique LaCapra/St. Louis Public Radio)

Updated at 6:10 pm to add Congresswoman Emerson's response.

(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website)

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced that romaine lettuce was the source of the E. coli outbreak that sickened a total of 60 people in ten states earlier this fall.

Thirty-seven of those infected were in Missouri.

On its website, the CDC says the lettuce came from salad bars from a single grocery store chain but did not report the name of the chain. Schnucks management has confirmed that it is the chain in question.

(via Flickr/Nathan Reed)

Tomorrow Mayor Francis Slay will kick off St. Louis' first "Sustainability Summit." The goal of the summit is to get public input on how to boost the economy, improve quality of life, and protect the environment.

St. Louis sustainability director Catherine Werner says the summit will include an invitation-only technical session, but evening sessions will be open to the public.

That includes tomorrow's kick-off and a working session on Wednesday led by environmental justice advocate Majora Carter.

(via Flickr/breahn)

A lawsuit has been filed that challenges the creation of a new fund to offer state incentives to science or technology companies.

The Missouri Roundtable for Life and Missouri Right to Life said Thursday the new fund should be void.

Legislators created the Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act this year during a special legislative session.

For the first time ever, an endangered amphibian found only in a few Missouri and Arkansas counties has been successfully bred in captivity.

Officials with the St. Louis Zoo and Missouri Department of Conservation said Wednesday that 63 Ozark hellbenders have been bred at the zoo. The first hatched on Nov. 15, and an additional 120 eggs are expected to hatch within the next week.

The breeding is the result of a decade-long collaboration of the zoo and the conservation department. 

(via Missouri Department of Conservation/Amy Nold)

Some Missouri deer hunters made unexpected discoveries while hunting this fall. Five female deer have been reported by hunters to the Missouri Department of Conservation sporting fully formed antlers. The antlered deer, analyzed by MDC Resource Scientist Emily Flinn, appear to be externally female. Flinn specializes in deer biology and says this phenomenon all comes down to hormones.

Ameren's coal-fired power plant in Labadie
Véronique LaCapra / St. Louis Public Radio

Seven of Ameren Missouri's 12 coal ash ponds inspected for structural integrity by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have been rated "poor."

(Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio)

A new report released today by Environment Missouri shows power plants in the state produce more airborne mercury than 46 other states.

The report, which uses data from the Environmental Protection Association's toxic inventory release, found that of the nearly 4,000 pounds of mercury that Missouri's 17 coal-fired power plants released in 2010, more than 70 percent came from four plants owned by Ameren Missouri.

(Courtesy of the White House Council on Environmental Quality)

Nancy Sutley is President Obama’s principal environmental advisor and the Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

She was recently in St. Louis to speak with high school students and utility regulators.

St. Louis Public Radio’s Véronique LaCapra caught up with Sutley between speaking engagements to talk about what the Obama Administration is doing to address some of the environmental issues facing our region.

Updated with full data tables at 2:09 p.m. (see below)

Rates of three sexually transmitted diseases are up in the St. Louis area, according to an annual report released today by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

(Photo Courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden)

Joining in with other recent Missouri moves to trade with Chinese entities, the Missouri Botanical Garden has announced that it has established a Missouri-China relationship of its own.

Plant diversity is the focus of the Garden's Memorandum of Understanding with three Chinese botanical institutions: Nanjing Botanical Garden, Lushan Botanical Garden and Guangxi Institute of Botany.

(Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio)

The Environmental Protection Agency is following through on its commitment to fence off the former Carter Carburetor manufacturing plant in north St. Louis.

The 10-acre property is contaminated with asbestos, PCBs, and other industrial pollutants.

(Business Journal Photo by Johnny Quirin via Saint Louis Science Center Press Release)

A former executive at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago has been named president and CEO of the Saint Louis Science Center.

The St. Louis Business Journal reports that Bert Vescolani will replace Doug King, who left almost a year ago to head the Museum of Flight in Seattle.

(via Wikimedia Commons)

The FDA has approved the first heart valve replacement procedure that does not involve open heart surgery.

Instead of opening the patient's chest, the doctor inserts the new heart valve by threading a catheter through a vein in the patient's leg. Here's a video of how that works :

(Via Wikimedia Commons/Eric Erbe, digital colorization by Christopher Pooley, both of USDA, ARS, EMU)

Updated 4:35 p.m. with new information

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services says there is no confirmed link between produce from Schnucks grocery stores and the current E. coli outbreak in Missouri.

In a written statement, the state health department said that only 17 of the 26 people sickened reported having eaten anything from a Schnucks salad bar. The other nine did not.

On Wednesday, St. Louis will get a progress report on local participation in the National Children’s Study.

The study – which is currently in a pilot phase – will examine how environmental factors affect the health and development of more than a 100,000 children nationwide, by tracking them from before birth to age 21.

(Via Wikimedia Commons/Eric Erbe, digital colorization by Christopher Pooley, both of USDA, ARS, EMU)

Updated October 28, 1:50 p.m. to update information related to St. Louis City. Updated October 28, 12:30 p.m. to add information about the U.S. CDC team.

An E. coli outbreak has sickened at least 21 people in the St. Louis area.

Confirmed cases include 16 in St. Louis County, two in St. Charles County, two in Jefferson County, and one in St. Clair County in Illinois. The Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services is investigating three suspected cases in St. Louis City. At least nine people in St. Louis County have been hospitalized.

The director of the Saint Louis County Department of Health, Dr. Delores Gunn, confirms that the toxic strain of E. coli is being spread through contaminated food, but says her department is still investigating its origin.

(University of Missouri-Saint Louis)

The University of Missouri-Saint Louis kicks off its 17th annual "What is a City?" conference on tomorrow. This year’s two-day conference is all about the relationship between cities and science.

Topics range from how to develop science-based public policy to how to think about a city as an artificial life form.

Franklin County residents hold up signs to show their opposition to Ameren's landfill plans at a meeting of the county commission in 2011, just before the commission voted to change its zoning regulations to allow coal ash landfills.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 4:43 p.m.

The Franklin County Board of Commissioners has approved its controversial landfill zoning regulations, opening the door for Ameren to build a coal ash landfill in Labadie, Mo.

(Photo by Mark Christmas courtesy of National Geographic)

Naturalist Michael Fay spent part of his early career in St. Louis, going to graduate school at Washington University and working with the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Peter Raven.

Since then, Fay has worked for the Wildlife Conservation Society and National Geographic.

He’s probably best known for his large-scale surveys of plants and wildlife. In 1997, he set out on the MegaTransect, a survey that would take him more than 2,000 miles on foot across the forests of the Congo Basin in Central Africa.

Fay is back in St. Louis this week for some speaking engagements. St. Louis Public Radio’s Véronique LaCapra talked with him about his African journey, and what it did for international conservation efforts.

Revolutionary oil skimmer nets $1 million X Prize

Oct 19, 2011

A breakthrough in oil cleanup technology allows crews to skim spilled oil off the water's surface at a much faster rate. The new device wasn't developed by Exxon, BP or any of the major oil companies — it's the work of Elastec/American Marine, based in Illinois. And the design won the company a rich award from the X Prize Foundation.

Oil is attracted to plastic. And water is not. That, in essence, is the basis of Elastec's new skimmer.

(via Flickr/Drongowski)

A higher percentage of Missouri's workers are exposed to secondhand cigarette smoke than in any other state.

A 2007 telephone survey funded by the Missouri Foundation for Health looked at the tobacco use, health, and demographics of close to 24,000 indoor Missouri workers.  About 12 percent were exposed to secondhand smoke, compared to about 7 percent of workers nationwide.

(Michael Abbene/Saint Louis Zoo)

Cute alert!

St. Louis has a new resident - at the St. Louis Zoo's Emerson Children's Zoo.

"Nina," a miniature burro, was born Tuesday, Oct. 4 in front of staff and visitors. Her mother, "Miss Barney," came to the St. Louis Zoo this summer.

The little foal weighs 31 pounds and stands 23 inches tall. The Zoo says ancestors of the mini burro, or miniature donkey, come from the island of Sicily near the Mediterranean Sea.

(Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio)

Update: 9:45 a.m. Oct 6:

Projected schedule for the Franklin County landfill zoning regulation:

Pages