Health, Science, Environment | St. Louis Public Radio

Health, Science, Environment

Health, science, and environmental news

Tony Bartleson attemps to lure his dog, Murphy, into the water at Kerth Fountain in Forest Park on Thursday, July 5.
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

The National Weather Service in St. Louis issued a heat advisory this week as temperatures soared into the upper 90s.

The hot weather puts vulnerable people at risk for heat stroke, a potentially fatal condition that happens when bodies can’t keep their temperature low. The old, young and chronically ill are most at risk for heat-related illness.

Zoo staff decided to bottle-feed the baby lemur after observing that her mother was unable to nurse her.
Ethan Riepl | St. Louis Zoo

A new, tiny resident will now greet visitors to the St. Louis Zoo Primate House.

Princess Buttercup, a female mongoose lemur, is the first of her species to be born and reared successfully at the zoo. The critically endangered lemur species, which is found only on Madagascar, is the focus of a national cooperative breeding program intended to build a healthy population in captivity.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha talked with Don Marsh about her book, “What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis Resistance and Hope in an American City” at the St. Louis County Library on June 28.
St. Louis

In 2014, the state of Michigan switched the city of Flint’s water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River. After the switch residents began complaining about the water but government officials claimed it was safe to drink.

Taking the government at its word, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician at the city’s public hospital, continued to encourage parents and children to drink the water. However, the water wasn’t safe and it was contaminated with lead, something she discovered totally by accident.

A pond at the Audubon Center at Riverlands.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

The Army Corps of Engineers plans to launch a long-term study this month to study birds and bats near the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.

The Corps of Engineers' biologists want to track the populations of birds and bats that live on islands in the river and study what habitat conditions best support them.

A wide variety of species is a sign of a healthy ecosystem, said Lane Richter, a Corps of Engineers ecologist. Plant and animal life have declined along the Mississippi River due to dams, levees and other manmade structures that degrade wetlands and other crucial habitats. Studies have also shown that climate change has caused many North American bird species to decline.

Barnes Jewish Hospital, as seen from the campus of Saint Louis University Hospital. Both are Level I trauma centers, and treat hundreds of gunshot wounds a year.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis’ most expensive hospitals don’t provide the best quality care, according to a new report from the St. Louis Area Business Health Coalition.

The region’s two academic medical centers, Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Saint Louis University Hospital, offer the most expensive care in the region even though they rate among the lowest for hospital quality, according to the report. But some critics say quality ratings are influenced by factors beyond a hospital’s control and fail to adequately represent a facility's challenges and strengths.

The Bridgeton Landfill, pictured here, sits adjacent to the West Lake Landfill.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The state of Missouri reached a settlement Friday with the owners of the Bridgeton landfill over how they’ve handled an underground smoldering fire.

Former Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster filed suit against the companies in 2013, alleging that the fire under the Bridgeton landfill was harming local residents. The fire is located about 600 feet from World War II-era radioactive waste under the nearby West Lake Landfill.

Under the terms of an agreement approved by St. Louis County Circuit Judge Michael Jamison, Bridgeton Landfill LLC, Allied Services LLC and waste-management company Republic Services must put $12.5 million in a “community project fund” to compensate residents affected by the landfill. The owners agreed to also pay $3.5 million in penalties and damages to the state.

St. Louis County Health Director Faisal Khan, left, and County Executive Steve Stenger declare a public health emergency due to the opioid crisis at a press conference Thursday in Berkley.
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger declared the opioid epidemic in the county a public health emergency and endorsed a plan to have public health officials work with other organizations to combat the addiction crisis.

The declaration Stenger signed Thursday at the Department of Public Health in Berkeley endorsed an action plan that includes county health officials and other organizations, including the county's Justice Services department and the Missouri Hospital Association.

It aims to increase the public’s access to the anti-overdose drug naloxone, boost prevention education and raise access to treatment for high-risk populations such as the uninsured.

North St. Louis County residents Antoinette Ray and Dorlita Adams examine a map of sediment testing near Coldwater Creek at a public meeting in Florissant held by the federal Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry.
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

Residents who live near Coldwater Creek on Wednesday used a meeting with federal officials to voice their worries about the longtime health risks of radioactive waste in the north St. Louis County waterway.

In a meeting at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Florissant, representatives of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry sought to inform residents about the agency's recent report on Coldwater Creek. It concluded that people with prolonged exposure to the creek who may have ingested radioactive soil through water, dust or mud were at a higher risk for bone, lung and other cancers.

Garbage scattered all over a vacant yard in St. Louis' Dutchtown neighborhood.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Mattresses, ripped up furniture, piles of construction debris and scattered auto parts. In some working-class St. Louis neighborhoods, they’re often seen strewn across alleys and the backyards of vacant buildings.

Illegal garbage dumping has been a problem for decades in the Dutchtown and Walnut Park East neighborhoods. Recently, residents and community organizers have been trying to raise awareness of the issue through community workshops and events. Mayor Lyda Krewson’s office also launched the Clean Up St. Louis initiative this year to clean the most littered parts of the city and increase surveillance of illegal dumping.

Coldwater Creek in north St. Louis County has been linked to increased cancer risk, thanks to radioactive waste that contaminated the creek bed.
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

When a federal agency linked radioactive waste in Coldwater Creek to certain kinds of cancers, residents of north St. Louis County were pleased that the federal government had finally made a connection.

But the report didn't connect that increased risk of cancer to individual cancer cases. That has many wondering whether the radioactive waste actually caused their disease.

Missouri Department of Conservation fisheries technician Shane Creasy treats a five-acre lake in Warren County with aquatic herbicide to kill hydrilla on June 8, 2018.
Shahla Farzan | St. Louis Public Radio

Shane Creasy stands on the edge of a lake and casts a plastic beaker full of thick white herbicide into the water.

The herbicide slowly fans out across the surface of the lake, as Creasy, a fisheries technician with the Missouri Department of Conservation, peels off his protective gloves. The target, an invasive aquatic plant known as hydrilla, is a tenacious adversary that takes years to eradicate.


SIUC faculty member Jonathan Remo, who was part of Monday’s “St. Louis on the Air” discussion of water policy, passes a barge while captaining a research vessel near Grand Tower, Illinois.
Jonathan Remo

Rivers have never been static things – least of all the mighty Mississippi. But the major waterway’s recent volatility has taken that natural characteristic to new levels.

“Even Lewis and Clark made measurements on how much the river level changed every day … and their journals are full [of] what those readings are,” Robert Criss, professor of earth and planetary sciences at Washington University, said on Monday’s St. Louis on the Air. “The river [is now] demonstrably more than twice as volatile [as] it was historically.”

Thirty-eight calves, between two and four months old, moo and kick at the dirt floor in a steel barn in Brush, Colo. One by one, a handler leads them from the pen to a narrow chute, where their legs are restrained and they're lifted onto a hydraulic table.

Among the projects available for loans through GreenHELP is installing solar energy panels.
Missouri Solar Energy Industry Association

St. Louis is giving residents an incentive to make energy efficient home improvements: A new, low-interest loan program called GreenHELP.

The program aims to help homeowners make their houses more eco-friendly, which will also provide savings on utility bills. The loans are offered through the office of city of St. Louis Comptroller Darlene Green.

Katie Lefton, who studies neuronal networks, adjusts a yogi's pose in Forest Park during scientists' 'Active for AD' fundraiser on Thursday, June 21, 2018.
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

Thursday was the summer solstice, and the local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association marked the occasion with a 24-hour fundraising blitz.

The organization’s Longest Day fundraiser is a national event that collects money to research the disease as well as support patients and their caregivers. Friends and family conduct sponsored activities such as bike rides, bowling tournaments and even drag shows.

From left, Steph Perkins, Curtis Galloway and Emily Klamer joined Don Marsh for a discussion about LGBTQ mental health.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis on the Air

While LGBTQ Pride Month is typically a time for celebration among the local queer community, mourning has also marked this year’s observance as several St. Louis-area residents have died by suicide and overdose in the wake of national news of celebrity deaths.

“The numbers of suicide attempts and LGBTQ people taking their own lives is something like nine times the rate for trans people and three times the rate of the national average for LGB people, and it’s very much increased by victimization and discrimination that we face every day,” Steph Perkins said on Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air.

One of the first signs drivers see on the way into Unionville, Missouri, is this billboard advertising cardiology at Putnam County Memorial Hospital, a hospital in northern Missouri.
Bram Sable-Smith | Side Effects Public Media

Rural hospitals are more likely to close in states such as Missouri that have not expanded Medicaid.

A recent report from the pro-Affordable Care Act organization Protect Our Care analyzed 84 rural hospital closures since 2010. It found 90 percent of those hospital closures were in states that had not expanded Medicaid coverage. Missouri remains one of the 14 states that hasn’t amended its program to cover people who earn up to 138 percent above the poverty line.

On Tuesday’s show, local experts (from left) Amy Bertschausen, Elizabeth Sergel and Dixie Meyer discussed loneliness and its increasing impact across generations.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

recent survey of more than 20,000 U.S. adults suggests that most Americans struggle with an emotional state of loneliness, and it’s an issue that has serious health implications.

“[It can] have the same health effects as smoking 15 cigarettes a day,” Elizabeth Sergel said on Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air. “There’s significant increase in the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke and dementia and depression, and overall there’s a higher likelihood of death related to loneliness.”

Sharon Wade keeps an eye on Martha Wade, her 86-year-old mother, after serving her an afternoon snack.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

When Martha Wade spells a word, it sounds like a song.

Her daughter, Sharon Wade, sits with her on a plush couch and tries to come up with new words to stump the 86-year-old. As her mother’s full-time caregiver, Wade looks for activities to challenge her physically and mentally.

Sharon Wade’s situation is not unusual. Unlike previous generations, an increasing number of older Americans are choosing to continue living in their own homes, rather than moving to nursing facilities. Meanwhile, the high cost of in-home care means that the burden of caring for elderly adults often falls on family members.


St. Cin Park in Hazelwood. 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

A federal government agency has concluded radioactive contamination in a north St. Louis County creek could cause increased risk of certain types of cancer in residents who live near the north St. Louis County waterway.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s public health assessment, released Monday, states that residents who were exposed to the area around Coldwater Creek had a higher risk of exposure to radioactive contaminants, and thus a higher risk of bone cancer, lung cancer or leukemia. The federal organization is also calling for the public to comment and add to the report through Aug. 31.

Advocates for residents near Coldwater Creek were pleased to hear representatives of a federal agency acknowledge what they have long suspected.

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