Health, Science, Environment | St. Louis Public Radio

Health, Science, Environment

Health, science, and environmental news

Members of Local 1148 meet in Marissa, Illinois. Union president Randy Phelps sits in yellow, in yellow, said that without health insurance, he would "probably make it three months."
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

After Congress extended the deadline for retired union coal workers and their families on the brink of losing their health insurance for four months, the group is again facing the loss of their coverage at the end of April.

In the meantime, a bill to use federal funds to maintain the benefits for about 22,000 former employees of now-bankrupt coal mines has not made it out of the Senate Finance Committee. Increasingly anxious retirees have written letters to their representatives, and are looking for other forms of coverage.  

Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

If House Republicans pass their proposed replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act, state Medicaid programs would face some big changes, including a per-capita cap on spending.

Republicans introduced their plan Monday in the form of two budget reconciliation bills. Though the bills repeal several taxes that helped pay for the Affordable Care Act, they were sent into markup sessions before a cost estimate could be prepared by the Congressional Budget Office.

A magnolia tree in full bloom at Tower Grove Park in March 2017.
Maria Altman | St. Louis Public Radio

The unusually warm winter in and around St. Louis has caused many flowering plants and trees, such as magnolias and peach blossoms, to bloom early this year.

But with temperatures expected to fall below freezing this weekend, experts are concerned it will affect the growing things that already seem to think it's spring.

Dr. Bahar Bastani poses for a portrait at Saint Louis University Hospital on March 2, 2017.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

In 1984, Dr. Bahar Bastani knew he had to leave Iran.

During Iran's cultural revolution, religious leaders closed universities and threatened academics. Bastani, then a professor of medicine in Tehran, realized he had become “unhireable” in that political climate.

“I was religious, I was doing prayers, but I could not tolerate the hardship the government was putting on people,” said Bastani, now a kidney specialist who works at Saint Louis University Hospital.

St. Cin Park in Hazelwood on Wednesday. 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

The Army Corps of Engineers this month is preparing to remove radioactive soils from residential properties along Coldwater Creek for the first time. 

The Corps' St. Louis District found the contamination in yards on Palm Drive in Hazelwood in the summer of 2015. The planned remediation work, which officials expect to complete this fall, will affect five houses, one apartment complex and a Metropolitan Sewer District property. All are located within the 10-year floodplain.

This radiation warning sign is one of many posted on the chain link fence surrounding part of the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton, Mo.
File photo | Sarah Skiold-Hanlin | St. Louis Public Radio

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On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, we spoke with St. Louis Public Radio reporter Eli Chen about her story detailing environmental chronic stress related to the ongoing situation at Westlake Landfill.

Community activist Dawn Chapman speaks to an overflow crowd at the John Calvin Presbyterian Church about problems at the West Lake and Bridgeton landfills.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

On a mild winter evening, about 50 people filed into a room in a community center in Bridgeton. Many live in north St. Louis County and came to hear an update from Environmental Protection Agency officials about ongoing work at the West Lake Landfill Superfund site, where World War II-era radioactive waste sits approximately 600 feet from an underground smoldering fire.

For many residents, learning that they live close to such hazards has been a traumatic experience. 

Tyson Richardet holds his son, Kwinton, 5, while surveying the damage to his auto body shop. (Perryville, March 1, 2017)
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

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Dr. Menzer Pehlivan (pictured front left) is one of the engineers featured in "Dream Big," a new IMAX film premiering at the Saint Louis Science Center.
MacGillivray Freeman

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Carrie Tripp, with the Perry County School District, spent Wednesday helping residents clean their damaged homes. (March, 1, 2017)
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 4 p.m., March 1, 2017 — Residents of Perryville, Mo., are recovering from a tornado that ripped through the town late Tuesday, killing one man and damaging more than 100 homes.

Many homes in the community about 90 miles south of St. Louis were left only with a foundation, Perryville Fire Chief Jeremy Triller said.

Among those who lost their homes to the tornado was Lisa Ervin, who works at the Subway in Marble Hill, Mo. Her A-frame house was destroyed.

“It’s no longer there,” she said. “Our attic is over there in our neighbor’s yard.”

Jamie Young and her daughter Maya, 3, listen to a speaker during a demonstration outside of U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt's office in Clayton. The group delivered petitions in support of Planned Parenthood.  Feb 23 2016
File photo | Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Members of Congress return to Washington on Monday after a week-long work sessions in their home districts.

Like some other around the country, St. Louis-area representatives are catching criticism for not using the break to host town hall meetings to hear from constituents.

There was one exception; Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., held a listening session Friday in Hillsboro regarding pension funds.

So where are your representatives, and why aren’t they holding public meetings? Here’s what they said.

Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, Ill.

Courtney Berg, of Girls on the Run St. Louis, and Emily Luft, of Alive & Well STL, joined St. Louis on the Air on Thursday to discuss the impact of toxic stress on kids.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

A study published last year by the Centers for Disease Control found a prevalence rate of childhood trauma and toxic stress at nearly 2/3 of the general population. The study, called the Adverse Childhood Experience study, looked at how certain experiences, such as abuse, neglect, and violence impact children with adverse outcomes.

Does that fraction of the population seem high or low to you?

Dr. Nathaniel Murdock, 79, visits the former Homer G. Phillips Hospital. Murdock delivered thousands of babies at the hospital as an OB-GYN in the 1960s and 70s.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

In the first half of the 20th century, segregation touched virtually every part of American life. Black residents of St. Louis weren't just barred from schools, lunch counters and drinking fountains reserved for whites. Even hospitals could refuse to admit black patients.

But the hospitals that were built to serve African-American patients hold a special place in medical history. The facilities employed and trained thousands of black doctors and nurses. In St. Louis, Homer G. Phillips Hospital quickly became a trusted household name. Today marks the 80th anniversary of its dedication ceremony on Feb. 22, 1937.

The location of the Sauget Area 1 Superfund site.
MAPBOX, OPENSTREETMAP

Four chemical companies could have to pay $14.8 million to clean up a federal Superfund site in Sauget.

The settlement, which needs court approval, would address groundwater contamination, cap some of the waste and install a well monitoring system. 

Industrial waste has been dumped in six sites within the Sauget Area 1 Superfund from the 1930s until the 1980s. The Environmental Protection Agency has been investigating the site since the early 1980s.

A sidewalk along Bellefontaine Road in Bellefontaine Neighbors doesn't quite make it to the Metro bus stop.
Joseph Leahy | St. Louis Public Radio

Liane Constantine and her 6-year-old son, Ashton, live about half a mile from where he takes taekwondo classes in a small strip mall in Kirkwood. It would be easy enough to walk there, if only they could safely cross Manchester Road.

“ … I’d have to grab him by the hand and say ‘run when we don’t see any cars’,” she said, standing on the unpaved street corner that doesn’t have a crosswalk. Instead, they’re forced to drive, unnecessary as it seems.

The difficulty in traveling even short distances without a car prompted Constantine to ask our Curious Louis project why sidewalks are often so few and far between in St. Louis County.

Mayor Francis Slay signs the benchmarking ordinance in Feb. 2017 that will require buildings that are at least 50,000 square feet to track and share their energy use.
Photo provided by Office of Mayor Francis Slay

A new ordinance requires owners of St. Louis buildings of at least 50,000 square feet to track their energy use. The practice, called benchmarking, is expected to save local residents and businesses nearly $8 million annually in energy costs by 2025.

It could also address the city's contribution to climate change, removing greenhouse gas pollution that's equal to what 15,000 cars would emit. 

"Seventy seven percent of our [carbon] emissions are coming from buildings," said Catherine Werner, the city's sustainability director. "So why not target those buildings to reduce those emissions?"

St. Louis Public Radio reporter Mary Delach Leonard shares the story behind her reporting on the Dakota Access Pipeline in Patoka, Ill.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

On Friday,  St. Louis on the Air goes "Behind the Headlines” to discuss the top stories of the week with those who can bring a little more in-depth knowledge to them. On this week’s program, we discussed a story about the local connection to the Dakota Access Pipeline that you can find 75 miles east of St. Louis.

Joining the program was St. Louis Public Radio reporter Mary Delach Leonard, who reported on Patoka, Illinois, the city in where the Dakota Access Pipeline ends.

The story:

Longtime St. Louis resident Lucy Hamm celebrates her 109th birthday with her retirement community in Chesterfield. Hamm was born on Jan. 30, 1908.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

It might be harder than you think to find the oldest person in town.

Local governments don’t formally track the data, and voting records are often manually entered, and can contain errors. So when a listener named Sally asked our Curious Louis project to find the oldest person in St. Louis, we started looking.

After calls to county election boards and senior service nonprofits came up short, employees in the office of St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay introduced us to someone who might just be the winner: 109-year-old Lucy Hamm.

The Sierra Club's Andy Knott speaks at a rally in 2013 in front of a 15-foot tall inflatable inhaler in Keiner Plaza
File Photo | Sarah Skiold-Hanlin | St. Louis Public Radio & The Beacon

Story updated Feb. 17 with comment from Ameren Missouri — A federal judge has approved the Sierra Club's request to intervene in a Clean Air Act lawsuit between Ameren Missouri and the Environmental Protection Agency. 

Last month, Chief Judge Rodney Sippel ruled in U.S. District Court that Ameren violated the Clean Air Act when it installed boiler equipment at the Rush Island Power Plant in Festus in the late 2000s without acquiring special permits. The new equipment caused the plant to emit more sulfur dioxide emissions, which at high levels can cause asthma and exacerbate respiratory conditions.

Before Sippel held the first meeting Thursday to determine how Ameren should reduce air pollution, the Sierra Club's lawyers filed a motion to intervene, out of concern that the Trump administration could put the case in jeopardy.

Soumya Chatterjee, a scientist at Saint Louis University, peers into a microscope in his laboratory, where he studies pathogens, such as tuberculosis.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

President Donald Trump's executive order last month reduced the cap of refugees allowed into the United States from 110,000 to 50,000. That means that fewer refugees will be resettled into areas like St. Louis.

But the cap also is curtailing disease research across the country. To understand diseases that are widespread in poor, war-torn countries, scientists study refugees from those nations that are infected with those diseases.

Emma Minx, Logan Chiropractic Paraquad Clinic senior intern, turns on the power plate exercise machine for Paraquad participant Leon Zickrick. The machine vibrates to help break up joint adhesion in his shoulder. (July 25, 2014_
File Photo | Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Nonprofit organizations that serve seniors and people with disabilities say their clients would be harmed by Gov. Eric Greitens' proposed cuts to assistance programs.

How does love work in the brain? That's the question psychologist Sandra Langeslag has studied in her laboratory at UMSL.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Psychologist Sandra Langeslag runs  the Neurocognition of Emotion and Motivation Lab at the University of Missouri-St. Louis . The laboratory's research is dedicated to finding out how love works in the brain. On Tuesday, Valentine’s Day, she joined St. Louis on the Air to discuss the science behind those feelings of love (and heartbreak too).

Related: To an UMSL psychologist, love is just a state of mind

Asian elephants Sri and Jade in their enclosure at the Saint Louis Zoo in 2015.
Robin Winkelman | Saint Louis Zoo

On a normal day at the Saint Louis Zoo, Jade, a 9-year-old Asian elephant, might sleep, eat and play with her roommate Sri. But lately, her enclosure has gotten a little noisier, with sounds of elephants and other animals at the zoo.

 

The Zoo is recording sounds from some of its animals and playing the clips to them. The sounds help zoo employees see how the animals might normally act in the wild, zookeeper Liz Irwin said. In natural settings, the animals would be exposed to much more noise, whether it’s from the same species or different ones that would live close by.

Anti-abortion actvists stand on a street median as Planned Parenthood supporters march past the organization's Central West End clinic February 11, 2017.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Rallies for and against Planned Parenthood took place Saturday in St. Louis and across the country.

Anti-abortion groups coordinated events in cities nationwide to show their support for an effort in Congress that would block the organization from receiving any federal funding.

Abortion rights activists responded by arranging counter-protests.

Adrian Clark | Flickr

Missouri legislators are considering a measure that would allow the state to fold into a proposal that has become a popular GOP refrain: Convert funding for state Medicaid programs into block grants.

The rusty patched bumble bee pollinates a flower.
Christy Stewart | U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

An executive order from the Trump administration has frozen the process that, for the first time, would have given a bee species federal protection. 

The rusty-patched bumblebee would have been officially listed under the Endangered Species Act today. But, according to a notice from the Office of the Federal Register, the temporary freeze has delayed the effective date until March 21.

Kadie Tannehill and Mary Kogut joined St. Louis on the Air to discuss the restrictions placed on abortion in Missouri and the impact some of those restrictions have on St. Louisans.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Even after the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade legalized abortion at a federal level in 1973, states have since reserved the right to place regulations and restriction on the process — and Missouri has several such rules.

When Joe Morris had a heart attack last Easter and had to be rushed to the ER, it was the first time he’d been to the doctor in more than 40 years — since high school.

Back home in the small community of Neosho, Mo., Morris needed follow-up care to manage his heart disease and diabetes, but he didn’t have a doctor — or insurance.


The St. Louis County Building Commission members (Jeff Aboussie, Barry Glantz and John Finder, right) listen to Sierra Club supporters on August 2015. The model house is covered with the names of 529 area residents who want stricter energy efficiency stan
Veronique LaCapra

The St. Louis County Building Commission unanimously approved a set of requirements for constructing homes.

But builders, environmental activists, policy experts and residents disagree on whether the new standards best serve the public interest. 

Dr. Andrew Kates of the Washington University Heart Care Institute at Barnes-Jewish Hospital discusses recent heart health research.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

February is Heart Health Month. As such, we invited Dr. Andrew Kates, professor of medicine and cardiologist with the Washington University Heart Care Institute at Barnes-Jewish Hospital to join St. Louis on the Air to discuss new developments in heart health research and answer questions about the heart.

Heart disease is the largest killer of American men and women, outpacing all types of cancer, COPD and lung disease as a cause of death in the United States. More women die of heart disease than men do each year.

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