Health, Science, Environment

Health, science, and environmental news

(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:

(Jill Utrup, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has listed the Ozark hellbender as a federally endangered species that cannot be harmed, killed, or bought and sold as a pet.

The Ozark hellbender is found only in the streams of the White River system in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas.

Ozark hellbender populations have dropped by 75 percent since the 1980s, with fewer than 600 remaining in the wild.

(U.S. Army Corps of Engineers St. Louis District)

The Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary is opening a new information center overlooking the Mississippi River in West Alton.

Riverlands program manager Charlie Deutsch of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the 3,700-acre sanctuary attracts tens of thousands of migratory birds every year.

(via Flickr/News21-usa)

Missouri health officials say the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed two more illnesses in Missouri that are linked to tainted cantaloupe.

The state Department of Health and Senior Services said Thursday that Missouri now has had three cases of listeria that are tied to contaminated fruit grown on a farm in Colorado.

(Terry Suhre, director, UMSL Gallery 210)

There’s an unusual art exhibition going on right now on the campus of the University of Missouri–St. Louis.

The exhibition showcases three artists from the St. Louis region whose work blurs the lines between art and science.

St. Louis Public Radio’s Véronique LaCapra talked with the artists and the show’s curator, and produced this sound portrait of the exhibition.

(Via Wikimedia Commons user Nephron)

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine have shown a relationship between daily sleep patterns and a protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers found that levels of the beta amyloid protein in spinal fluid increased during waking hours and decreased during sleep.

Wash U neurologist Randall Bateman says that pattern was strongest in young, healthy test subjects. It lessened in people over sixty, and disappeared altogether in Alzheimer’s patients.

(Photo courtesy of Becky Heisler/Saint Louis Zoo)

The Asian elephant calf Kenzi is making her public debut this morning at the Saint Louis Zoo.

The three-month-old calf will be on view at the "River's Edge" habitat from 10 a.m. to noon and then again from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. today through Sunday.

A new report released today by the advocacy group Environment Missouri ranks St. Louis as the 10th smoggiest metropolitan area in the country.

(Photo courtesy of Illinois EPA)

Demolition of the former Chemetco copper smelter took another step forward on Tuesday. The demolition is the start of a long clean-up process for the hazardous Metro East eyesore.

The Illinois EPA is overseeing the dismantling of the smelter buildings, which began last year.

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, more than 50,000 rescue and recovery workers converged at the World Trade Center. Among them were the 62 members of Missouri’s FEMA Urban Search and Rescue task force.

The experience at ground zero made many workers sick, with health problems ranging from asthma to post-traumatic stress disorder.

St. Louis Public Radio’s Véronique LaCapra has this report about how the members of Missouri’s rescue team are doing.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Time has turned out to be the best therapy for many who were traumatized by the sight of jetliners crashing into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York during a terrorist attack a decade ago, mental health experts say.

While post-traumatic stress disorder was common among eyewitnesses in New York's Manhattan to the horrors of Sept. 11, 2011, many experts say there has been no long-term emotional effect on those who watched the events unfold on television.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Kyle Steckler)

Soon after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, letters laced with anthrax started appearing in the U.S. mail, killing five people and sickening 17 others.

The incidents triggered a surge in research dedicated to preventing future bioterrorism attacks.

St. Louis Public Radio’s Véronique LaCapra spoke with Washington University virologist David Wang about his research on emerging infectious diseases, and how his work is helping to combat bioterrorism.

(via Flickr/Daniel Paquet)

Missouri is doing a better job of getting toddlers vaccinated for childhood diseases.

Results of the CDC’s National Immunization Survey show Missouri rose from last in the rankings in 2009 up to 39th last year.

(via Flickr/Dani Lurie)

Washington University's Center for Obesity Prevention and Policy Research and the Missouri Foundation for Health have launched a "first-of-its-kind" website with information on obesity-related policy for organizations across the state.

The site, named "Policy Lift" has a variety of different functions, as an announcement about the site describes:

(Image courtesy of the Environmental Protection Agency)

The Environmental Protection Agency is fining Washington University for failing to tell tenants about lead paint hazards in some of its married student housing units. The violation will cost the university close to $28,000.

The civil settlement involves three rental apartments northeast of Washington University’s Danforth campus.

The consent agreement says that between 2008 and 2010, the university failed to tell student tenants about previous citations for lead paint violations from the City of St. Louis Health Department.

(Courtesy Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School)

A St. Louis County private school has received a $21.5 million donation from the James S. McDonnell family.

Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School, or MICDS, will use the money to build a new, 52,000 square-foot science and math facility.

MICDS head of school, Lisa Lyle, says the goal is to involve students in the process of scientific research.

(Courtesy the Missouri Foundation for Health)

The Missouri Foundation for Health has named a new president and CEO.

Robert Hughes will assume his new post on Nov. 1, taking over from founding president James Kimmey who is retiring at the end of this year.

Hughes is an Illinois native but has spent the past 20 years in New Jersey. There, he worked for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the largest health philanthropy in the U.S.

(via Flickr/shnnn)

Reporting from KCUR's Elana Gordon used in this report.

A decade ago, more than one in four Missourians smoked. Now, only about one in five smoke, and those who do smoke are doing so less often.

(via Flickr/James Jordan)

Two men in Illinois are the first human cases of West Nile virus in the state.

The Illinois Department of Public Health says a Cook County man in his 80s got sick earlier this month. A 30-year-old from south-central Illinois became ill in July. In 2010, the first human case was reported on Aug. 31 - 61 people eventually tested positive.

(via Flickr/pasa47)

The EPA today issued its decision on Missouri's water quality standards, approving how the state categorized 244 streams, rivers and lakes.

That decision means water bodies newly designated for high contact uses like swimming will need more protection.

Some sewage treatment plants, municipalities and others will need to start treating their wastewater discharges.

A flu vaccine gets placed inside a needle.
Daniel Paquet | Flickr

A new study out of Saint Louis University suggests that a child’s first doses of flu vaccine can be given as either two shots or two nasal sprays, but that giving one shot and one nasal spray may be most protective.

Lead researcher Dr. Dan Hoft says the nasal spray – which is a live vaccine – can cause wheezing. But it’s more effective than an inactivated vaccine, which is injected.

Hoft says this initial study suggests giving children one injection and one nasal spray may provide better protection against the flu, without the respiratory side effects.

(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 -

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.