Health, Science, Environment

Health, science, and environmental news

(U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

This year’s mild winter and early spring has plants flowering and putting out leaves about three weeks sooner than usual. Ticks and mosquitoes have also been spotted early.

So with all this warm weather, we can expect a particularly bad bug season, right?

Missouri Department of Conservation natural history biologist Mike Arduser says not necessarily. “I hate to use the phrase “old wives’ tale,” but…”

(UPI/Tom Uhlenbrock)

As of Monday, the National Weather Service will be issuing a new kind of tornado warning in Missouri and Kansas.

The new, more forceful and explicit messages are designed to get attention and drive people to take shelter during dangerous storms.

(via Flickr/Jack W. Reid)

March’s average temperature in St. Louis this year is almost 15 degrees above normal. If the forecast holds true tomorrow, St. Louis’s unusually high temperatures will make this the warmest March on record.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Mark Britt says the average temperature this month will be almost 61 degrees.

“The previous record of 1910 was only about 57.5 so that’s a considerable breaking of the record,” he said.  

(Frank Mbago/Missouri Botanical Garden)

Scientists at the Missouri Botanical Garden have confirmed the discovery of two tree species that were thought to be extinct.

Last year botanists from the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania set out to look for the trees. They discovered small populations of both species in a remote forest in southeastern Tanzania, along Africa’s eastern coast.

Missouri Botanical Garden botanist Roy Gereau worked with British scientist Phil Clarke to confirm the identity of the trees.

UPDATE 4:23 p.m.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has denied a call to ban the plastic additive BPA from food packaging. The action comes after government scientists found little reason to think people are being harmed by the chemical.

The FDA was responding to a petition from the Natural Resources Defense Council, which called for the ban on BPA, also known as bisphenol A, from any use where it comes in contact with food.

(via Monsanto)

A coalition of organic farmers and grower organizations has filed an appeal in its lawsuit challenging Monsanto seed patents.

(National Cancer Institute)

More than half of cancer cases in the United States could be prevented.

That’s according to a new article published this week in the journal Science Translational Medicine by researchers at the Siteman Cancer Center and Washington University.

St. Louis Public Radio's Véronique LaCapra spoke with lead author Dr. Graham Colditz about what we know about cancer — and why more isn’t being done to prevent it.

(photo by Rachael Macy/Saint Louis Zoo)

Two newborn lion cubs are being raised by staff at the Saint Louis Zoo more than a month after their birth, but two other cubs in the litter have died.

The African lion cubs were born Feb. 14 to the 6-year-old lioness Cabara. The zoo said Tuesday that two did not survive because Cabara couldn't produce enough milk to feed them. Zoo officials say it is not uncommon for lion mothers in the wild to rear fewer than 50 percent of the cubs born in a litter.

(Dan Kirk/Saint Louis Zoo)

An endangered beetle could be making its way back to Missouri, with some help from the Saint Louis Zoo and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

If all goes well, the zoo plans to reintroduce the American burying beetle to Wah’ kon-tah Prairie in southwestern Missouri in early June.

(CDC/Dr. Ray Butler)

The Illinois Department of Public Health says the state experienced a record low number of new tuberculosis cases last year, but the news isn't all good.

Health officials say Illinois still ranks fifth in the nation when it comes to the number of TB cases. And Health Department Acting Director Arthur Kohrman says many of the new cases are the drug-resistant type, which are harder to overcome.

Officials say 359 cases of active TB were reported in Illinois in 2011. That's a decrease from 372 cases reported in 2010.

(Véronique LaCapra/St. Louis Public Radio)

Forty-three teams of teens from Missouri and four surrounding states be competing in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition regional this weekend at Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis.

(You can see a full feature on last year's FIRST competition here, too).

(Art Chimes)

The Village of Roxana, Ill. filed suit today over contamination from the Wood River Oil Refinery.

The suit against Shell Oil, ConocoPhillips, and WRB Refining alleges damage to village property from chemicals that have spilled or leaked from the refinery.

Derek Brandt is the lead attorney on the case for the Simmons Firm, which has joined Roxana Village Attorney James Schrempf in the suit.

Asha Paudel

The Himalayan mountain range in Asia is one of the highest places in the world, with several peaks rising above 8,000 meters. It’s also one of the most vulnerable to climate change.

Seven years ago, Missouri Botanical Garden senior curator of ethnobotany Jan Salick traveled to the Himalayas to begin a study of how climate change is affecting alpine plants—and the local people who depend on them.

St. Louis Public Radio's Véronique LaCapra sat down with Salick to talk about her research.

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An eastern Missouri lead smelter scheduled to close next year could eventually make way for commercial and industrial uses.

Doe Run Co. operates the smelter in Herculaneum. It will close in 2013 after years of wrangling over environmental concerns.

(via NASA/Goddard SVS)

Updated 4:43 p.m. with comment from Glynnis Collins of the Prairie Rivers Network.

A coalition of environmental groups is taking legal action to push the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to limit nutrient pollution.

(via Saint Louis Zoo)

Updated 4:36 p.m. with comment from Jeffrey Bonner.

The Saint Louis Zoo has announced plans to buy the Forest Park Hospital site on Oakland Avenue, just south of Highway 40. The acquisition would allow the zoo to expand its parking, research, and office space.

The Saint Louis Zoo Association signed a conditional contract with the site owner, Medline Industries, Inc., on March 8. The price and contract terms were not disclosed.

snebtor | Flickr

Insect scientists say federal regulators need to take action against a growing pest problem in biotech corn.

They say corn rootworm has started to become resistant to Monsanto's Bt corn, which is genetically engineered to resist the damaging and costly pest.

The 22 scientists expressed their concerns in a letter sent to EPA earlier this week. 

University of Illinois insect behaviorist Joseph Spencer was one of them.

(Timothy Mudrovic/BJC HealthCare)

Barnes-Jewish Hospital will open its new outpatient center on Monday.

The 12-story building at the corner of Forest Park Avenue and Euclid will bring together five existing outpatient clinics under one roof. Those include a primary care clinic, along with OB/GYN, psychiatric, surgical, and specialty clinics.

Dr. Melvin Blanchard directs the internal medicine residency program at Barnes.

Speaking at a dedication ceremony for the new center, Blanchard said Barnes' existing clinics provide care to the underinsured and underserved.

(David Cappaert, Michigan State University)

Nearly half of the trees on the grounds of the Gateway Arch will be removed and replaced with a different species.

The National Park Service said Thursday that more than 900 Rosehill ash trees will be taken out over concerns about the threat posed by the Emerald Ash Borer, a beetle that has killed millions of ash trees in 15 states. Officials at the Arch say the ash trees on the grounds are also showing signs of decline from urban factors like air pollution and less than ideal soil.

OK, so this story is about weeds and weedkillers, neither of which is ever the hero of a story, but stay with me for a second: It's also about plants with superpowers.

Unless you grow cotton, corn or soybeans for a living, it's hard to appreciate just how amazing and wonderful it seemed, 15 years ago, when Roundup-tolerant crops hit the market. I've seen crusty farmers turn giddy just talking about it.

(Image courtesy National Institute on Aging)

A new marker for Alzheimer's disease can be used to predict how quickly a patient will develop memory loss and other symptoms of dementia.

Researchers at Washington University measured levels of a marker called visinin-like protein 1 in in the spinal fluid of 60 patients in the early stages of Alzheimer's then tracked their symptoms for three years.

Neurologist Dr. Rawan Tarawneh, now at the University of Jordan, led the study.

Football is one of the leading causes of concussions in student athletes, but they can happen in almost any sport.
(via Flickr/mel_rowling)

Coaches, athletic directors, and school nurses from across Missouri met at Saint Louis University on Thursday for a forum on sports concussions in student athletes.

The Brain Injury Association of Missouri sponsored the conference, which drew about 200 participants.

A New York federal court today dismissed a lawsuit against agribusiness giant Monsanto brought by thousands of certified organic farmers. The farmers hoped the suit would protect them against infringing on the company's crop patents in the future.

The Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association and several other growers and organizations do not use Monsanto seeds. But they were betting that the judge would agree that Monsanto should not be allowed to sue them if pollen from the company's patented crops happened to drift into their fields.

Cheers! Fruit flies drink to their health, literally

Feb 21, 2012

As humans, we sometimes pay a price for drinking alcohol — in hangovers, or worse. But if you happen to be a young fruit fly, it turns out that alcohol can be just what the doctor ordered.

The pesky little fruit flies often show up when apples or bananas are left sitting around for too long on the kitchen counter. Most folks find them annoying, but Todd Schlenke can't get enough of them.

(USGS website)

The U.S. Geological Survey is reporting that, in addition to the 4.0 magnitude earthquake centered near East Prairie, Mo. early this morning, a second, smaller earthquake originated today near the same location in the New Madrid Seismic Zone

The second earthquake happened around 11:05 a.m.

(via Flickr/breahn)

A Missouri trial judge has struck down a state fund designed to offer state incentives to science or technology companies.

During a special legislative session last fall, lawmakers approved the Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act, also often referred to as MOSIRA. The measure contained a clause that the law would not take effect without the passage of a separate measure, which was not approved.

Those challenging the science fund included the Missouri Roundtable for Life and Missouri Right to Life.

(Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio)

The Environmental Protection Agency will hold another community meeting on Tuesday evening, to talk about the cleanup of the former Carter Carburetor plant in north St. Louis.

This is the third community meeting the EPA has held to discuss the cleanup.

(Photo: Jason Wolff/UNC)

New research shows that differences in the brain development of autistic children are already visible in infants as young as 6 months old.

Researchers at four study sites nationwide used a type of MRI scan to look at brain development in the younger siblings of autistic children, who are known to be at higher risk for autism themselves.

Ninety-two children were scanned at 6, 12, and 24 months of age, while the children were sleeping.

(Environment Missouri)

A new report from Environment Missouri presents data on U.S. federally-declared weather disasters from 2006 to 2011, and says climate change will make extreme weather events like droughts and storms more common – and more severe.

State advocate for Environment Missouri, Ted Mathys, says 2011 was a particularly bad year for extreme weather in Missouri and across the country.

(Image courtesy of NIAID)

There is growing evidence that taking antibiotics does not help cure most sinus infections.

A new study out of Washington University compared sinus patients who were given the antibiotic amoxicillin to others who were given a placebo.

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