Health, Science, Environment

Health, science, and environmental news

The opening bars of Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know” echo through a bustling therapy gym as 13-year-old Courtney Turner practices her physical therapy for the day: lip syncing.

A rare infection attacked Turner’s nervous system last year, leaving her almost completely paralyzed. Her doctors called it “a lightning strike”: Once a bubbly preteen who ran track and cracked jokes with her twin brother, she’s spent the past seven months undergoing intense rehabilitation therapy at Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital. During that time, Turner has slowly started to regain some of her muscle movement and reflexes like swallowing food.  

Kimon Chapman conducts an experiment in a chemistry class at Harris-Stowe's Academy for Science & Mathematics this summer.
Bob Morrison | Harris-Stowe State University

Some incoming freshmen at Harris-Stowe State University are getting their first taste of college life — and a crash course in math and science.

Every summer, the Academy for Science & Mathematics provides up to 25 students with free room and board and a $1000 stipend.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration

A St. Louis neurosurgeon is helping to pioneer a new treatment for severe obsessive compulsive disorder that involves implanting a device sometimes called a “brain pacemaker.”  

At first, deep brain stimulation sounds like something out of an Isaac Asimov novel. Through a hole in the skull the size of a dime, surgeons place electrodes in a patient’s brain. Wires under the skin connect the electrodes to a device similar to a cardiac pacemaker, which is implanted under the patient’s clavicle.

According to the new study, a woman's weight before her first pregnancy may have long-term effects.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases | National Institutes of Health

Women who are an unhealthy weight during their first pregnancy might have a false sense of security if their babies are born with no complications. But a new study out of Saint Louis University suggests complications can still arise when the women get pregnant for a second time — even if, by then, they have reached a healthy weight.

Missouri cattle farmer Greg Fleshman became so concerned about keeping his local hospital open that in 2011 he joined its governing board.

Co-directors Cory Byers (left) and Ashley Seering film additional footage in a nursing lab at SIU-Edwardsville. "The Heroin Project" premieres May 3.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated on July 21 to add information about the film's screening as part of the St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase. The co-directors were guests on "St. Louis on the Air."

When Ashley Seering and Cory Byers started gathering stories about heroin addiction and deaths in southern Illinois, the Edwardsville-based filmmakers didn’t realize it would turn into a feature-length documentary.

This diagram describes how the new wireless device functions. Source: Jeong JW, McCall JG, et al. Wireless optofluidic systems for programmable in vivo pharmacology and optogenetics. Cell, published online July 16, 2015.
Washington University | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign | Cell Press

Scientists at Washington University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed a new tool to study how specific brain cells affect behavior.

The miniature, wireless device can inject drugs into the brains of live mice.

This medical illustration shows a computer-generated image of a group of multidrug resistant Acinetobacter bacteria. The artistic recreation was modeled after images taken using an electron microscope.
Medical illustrator James Archer | U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Researchers at Washington University have found that some multidrug resistant bacteria intentionally get rid of the genes that protect them from antibiotics. That discovery could eventually provide a new way to treat deadly infections.

Alex Heuer

During World War II, a St. Louis-based company took on a project that turned out to be detrimental to the health of its employees.

Mallinckrodt Chemical Company was responsible for refining massive amounts of uranium for the Manhattan Project. As a result, some of Mallinckrodt’s employees succumbed to various illnesses caused by exposure to nuclear waste.

After meeting with female veterans and healthcare providers, Blunt walks to the VA Women's Clinic in St. Louis.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

More than 38,000 veterans who live in Missouri are women, and that number continues to grow rapidly.

That means changes are in store for the Veterans Health Administration, a network of hospitals and clinics that provide care to active duty service members and discharged veterans. Serving more women means expanding the VA’s capacity to offer gynecological exams, services surrounding childbirth, and counseling related to military sexual trauma.  

Ameren's power plant in Labadie is the largest in the state.
Art Chimes

Opponents of Ameren’s plans to build a coal ash landfill in Labadie have reached an agreement with the company, ending years of contentious debate.

The settlement eliminates all pending lawsuits and clears the way for Ameren to start construction.

But it also ensures that the landfill will be built at least five feet above groundwater, and that no coal ash can be brought in from any other power plant — two protections that some Franklin County residents had fought for.

Water levels on the Mississippi River rise to flood stages underneath Eads Bridge.
Sarah Kellogg

On Thursday, “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh led a discussion on the threat of flooding in the St. Louis area due to this year’s rainfall. Joining Marsh were Mark Fuchs, a service hydrologist for the National Weather Service, and Matthew Hunn, chief of emergency management for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in St. Louis.

(via Flickr/Jennifer Boriss)

Financial disclosures aren’t just for political candidates. New data released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services shows that Missouri doctors received at least $71.9 million from medical device and drug companies in 2014 and the latter half of 2013. Illinois doctors pulled in $104 million during that same time period, many of whom hail from the Chicago area.  

Ameren's coal-fired plant in Labadie.
Veronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

The Franklin County Commission has approved a set of regulatory changes that will govern Ameren’s construction of a coal ash landfill in Labadie. The decision follows a heated public comment period in June.  

St. Louis Hospital CEO, Phillip Sowa, will leave his position when when SSM Health closes on a deal to take over ownership of the facility.
Provided by SLU Hospital

The CEO of St. Louis University Hospital is stepping down, less than a month after officials announced the 356-bed facility would soon be taken over by SSM Health. Until then, academic medical center is still under the ownership of Tenet Healthcare Corporation.

health map
Courtesy of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services

For many students summer means freedom from school, but it can also mean hunger.

During the school year, many children receive up to two nutritious meals a day through free or reduced lunch programs. Organizations throughout the St. Louis region are working to make sure low-income children continue to receive those essential meals even when school is out of session.

A farm pond in southern Illinois
Deb Rednour

A new rule from the Environmental Protection Agency that redefines navigable waterways in the United States is being challenged in federal court by Missouri and several other states.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster filed suit on Monday. He says the new definition goes too far because it would classify ponds, streams that only briefly flow during rainstorms and channels that are usually dry as waterways.

An asthma field inspector checks a heating and air conditioning system during a home assessment.
Institute for Environmental Health Assessment and Patient Centered Outcomes

It takes John Kraemer about two hours to finish an asthma home assessment. He interviews the family, checks each room for allergens and records air quality data with a particulate counter. By identifying potential triggers for a patient’s asthma in their home, Kraemer said he keeps patients healthier and away from the emergency room.  

Air pollution from coal-fired power plants, industrial activities, and cars contributes to asthma and other health problems in the St. Louis area.
Syracuse University News Services

Updated 10 a.m. Tuesday with cost information from Ameren.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against the Obama administration, saying the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should have considered costs to industry when it set limits on mercury and other emissions from power plants.

The court's 5-to-4 decision was a victory for industry groups and more than 20 states — including Missouri — that had sued the EPA over its 2011 Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.

Protesters holding sign in front of Supreme Court
LaDawna Howard | Flickr

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court upheld a high-profile challenge to the Affordable Care Act that could have made health insurance unaffordable for more than 5 million people.