Health, Science, Environment

Health, science, and environmental news

(via Flickr/jglazer75)

Gov. Pat Quinn has signed legislation creating a commission to ensure minorities and the poor aren't disproportionately affected by environmental pollution.

The Environmental Justice Act was sponsored by Democratic Sen. Toi Hutchinson of Chicago Heights and Rep. Will Davis of East Hazel Crest.

(Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio)

The Environmental Protection Agency says testing near the old Carter Carburetor plant in north St. Louis shows offsite contamination is too low to cause health problems.

The EPA tested air, soil, and sediments in a one-block radius around the plant for PCBs, dioxins, and other industrial pollutants.

(Courtesy U.S. Geological Survey)

A new study shows that despite decades of effort to reduce nitrate pollution in the Mississippi River Basin, concentrations remain as high today as they were in the 1980s.

The U.S. Geological Survey conducted the study, which looked at nitrate levels at eight sites on the Mississippi, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, and Ohio rivers.

USGS hydrologist and study lead Lori Sprague said the next step will be to figure out where the pollution is coming from.

(David Cappaert, Michigan State University)

The National Park Service is bracing for the possible loss of more than 900 trees near the Gateway Arch. That’s what could happen if the emerald ash borer makes it to the St. Louis area.

The emerald ash borer has killed millions of ash trees since it was accidentally introduced to the U.S. in the early 1990s.

(Alecia Hoyt Photography - www.aleciahoyt.com)

The text that follows is a condensed version of a longer interview, which you can listen to above.

Science blogger Danielle Lee is on a roll.

The Memphis native recently got her Ph.D. in animal behavior at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

(via Wikimedia Commons/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says a dangerous fungus found in 13 people injured in the Joplin tornado was the first known cluster occurring after a tornado.

(via Flickr/Benimoto)

The Japanese beetle has been striking Missouri and Illinois with full force, eating its way through rose bushes and tomato plants and threatening major crops like corn and soybeans.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the beetle has been an urban problem for years. But now, farmers in both Missouri and Illinois say the bugs are moving into corn and soybean fields - crops vital to both states.

(via flickr/alancleaver_2000)

Saint Louis University is hosting a conference this week on advances in criminal death investigation and forensic science.

Conference organizer and SLU pathologist Dr. Mary Case is the chief medical examiner for St. Charles, Jefferson, and Franklin counties. Case says that this year, the biennial event has drawn about 200 participants from across the country.

(via Flickr/Toehk)

The Saint Louis University School of Public Health is launching a study to look at the effects of urban air pollution on pregnant women in China.

SLU epidemiologist Zhengmin Qian says the research will track the pregnancies of 100,000 women in Wuhan, a city of nine million people in central China.

(Dan Kirk)

Updated 11:52 a.m.

The endangered American burying beetle could be making its way to a southwestern Missouri prairie.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to work with the St. Louis Zoo to reintroduce the colorful beetle to Wah-Kon-Tah Prairie in St. Clair and Cedar counties.

The Zoo has a population of the beetles. Zoo officials say they have not been seen in Missouri in more than two decades.

(You might remember this earlier feature from our own Véronique LaCapra on the about some dedicated supporters in St. Louis joining a nationwide effort to save the insect).

(National Cancer Institute/Bill Branson)

A new project in north St. Louis aims to lower breast cancer death rates for women of color.

Washington University sociologist Sarah Gehlert says even though nationwide white women are more likely to get breast cancer, black women are about 35 percent more likely to die of the disease.

She says in St. Louis that number is closer to 60 percent.

(flickr/U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo by Carlos J. Lazo)

The Missouri River Working Group is holding its first meeting on Wednesday to come up with a policy on flood control.

Missouri Senators Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill launched the group with senators from North Dakota to look for ways to improve flood control along the Missouri River and keep this year’s flooding from happening again.

(EPA.gov website)

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced new limits on air pollution from coal-fired power plants. The rule aims to lower emissions from power plants in 27 states including Missouri and Illinois.

The goal is to reduce soot (fine particulates) and smog (ground-level ozone) and improve air quality downwind. (Check out this map from the EPA, a preview of which is above, to see how the new limits affect your state).

(Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio)

The Board of Commissioners of Franklin County will discuss controversial changes to its zoning ordinance tomorrow.

Up for approval is permit language allowing the utility company AmerenUE to build a coal ash landfill next to its plant in Labadie, Mo.

Patricia Shuban is the Director of the Labadie Environmental Organization, which opposes any rule that would allow Ameren to store toxic substances in the Missouri River floodplain.

(via Flickr/makelessnoise)

Houston now has one fewer problem to worry about.

Moon dust apparently smuggled years ago from Johnson Space Center is now back in Houston - from St. Louis.

(via Flickr/John Tann)

The Saint Louis County Health Department has found the first mosquitoes of the season carrying West Nile Virus.

Mosquitoes testing positive for the virus have been found in St. Louis Co. communities including Clayton, Florissant, Hanley Hills, Lemay, Manchester, Mehlville, Richmond Heights.

No human cases have been reported.

(Screen capture via YouTube/TeamSaintLouis)

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it will release even more water from the Gavins Point Dam this week. But in spite of these record high flows on the Missouri River, the Corps does not expect major flooding in the St. Louis area this summer.

(Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio)

The Illinois EPA held public meetings in Roxana on Tuesday to discuss what Shell Oil is doing to address historic contamination from the Wood River Refinery.

A consultant for Shell has found high levels of cancer-causing benzene and other toxic petroleum products in Roxana’s groundwater.

Chris Cahnovsky of the Illinois EPA says toxic, potentially explosive vapors have also been detected in the soils under several homes.

(National Weather Service map/U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

Above: A National Weather Service map of projected flooding along the lower Missouri River, based on an average amount of summer rain, falling in a concentrated time period. This map assumes a river elevation of 37 feet at St. Charles, three feet below the 1993 record. Flood stage at St. Charles is 25 feet. Click here to see a larger version of the map.

The U.S Army Corps of Engineers says we can expect only minor flooding along the lower Missouri River if we get average rainfall through August - but, a stormy summer could change all that.

(Wikimedia Commons)

The USDA has chosen two new areas in Missouri to participate in a program promoting biomass energy crops.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the program will pay farmers to plant giant miscanthus, a perennial grass that can be used for energy production.

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