Health, Science, Environment

Health, science, and environmental news

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

In a press conference this morning, the Danforth Foundation announced that it is closing after 84 years of operation at the end of this fiscal year, May 31, 2011.

The foundation's last act will be a $70 million donation to the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.

The last donation is the largest in foundation's history, which has contributed $226 million to the Plant Science Center over the years.

(via Flickr/jasonippolito)

Monsanto today announced progress on nine of its research projects on genetically-engineered crops.

Speaking on a conference call with reporters, Monsanto's vice president of biotechnology, Steve Padgette, said several collaborations with the Germany-based BASF Plant Science will be moving forward in 2011.

The Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in London have completed the first comprehensive list of world plant species.

This year produced promising medical advances in the battle against Alzheimer's disease. First came word that scientists had come up with a new test for making more precise diagnoses of the disease. That news was followed this month by the announcement of a discovery of a relationship between an abnormal level of a plaque-forming substance in the brain and Alzheimer's.

Both developments are said to be important to long-term efforts to diagnose and treat Alzheimer's with new drugs even before the disease's symptoms become apparent in patients.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: At a time of much talk about health disparities and programs to improve public health, Missouri stands out for what it isn't doing. The state dropped another notch in health rankings this year while some other states improved their showings, according to a report by United Health Foundation, the American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention.

Type 2 diabetes – the kind related to obesity and an unhealthy diet – gets a lot of attention these days. But there’s another, less common, form of the disease – type 1 – that can also lead to life-threatening complications.

St. Louis Public Radio’s Véronique LaCapra takes us behind the scenes at a local hospital, for the transplant operation that got one St. Louis-area woman off dialysis, and made her diabetes-free.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Enisa Muratovic didn't quite know what to make of the charade-like sight of her son's pediatrician looking at her and banging on a lead pipe in the examination room.

The scene turned out to be the doctor's well-meaning but futile attempt to inform Muratovic that her son had an elevated level of lead in his blood. But the incident was bewildering to Muratovic, a Bosnian immigrant who spoke limited English at the time. She left the doctor's office still unsure what was wrong with her baby.

"I felt confused and afraid," she said.

A baby kangaroo has begun poking her head out from her mother's pouch at the Saint Louis Zoo.

The female Matschie's tree kangaroo was born six months ago. Hidden in the pouch, she has grown from the size of a lima bean to the size of a small cat.

(Ameren Missouri website)

ST. LOUIS –

Ameren operates a coal-fired power plant in Labadie, Mo., about 35 miles west of St. Louis, and wants to build a 400-acre landfill near the plant to store coal waste.

Some Franklin County residents are definitely not happy about a possible landfill in the Missouri River floodplain and the effects it might have on drinking water.

Tonight they will once again be voicing their opposition to proposed regulations that would allow Ameren to go ahead with their plan.

This diagram is an excerpt of “figure 1” from Ameren’s “Detailed Site Investigation,” showing the location of the company’s proposed coal ash landfill.
Ameren Missouri

Ameren operates a coal-fired power plant in Labadie, Mo., about 35 miles west of St. Louis, and wants to build a 400-acre landfill near the plant to store coal waste.

Some Franklin County residents are definitely not happy about a possible landfill in the Missouri River floodplain and the effects it might have on drinking water.

Tonight they will once again be voicing their opposition to proposed regulations that would allow Ameren to go ahead with their plan.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Click flash ... click click, flash flash ... clickflashclickflashclickflash ...

The sharp sounds and bursts of light come from a disposable camera in the hands of Carolyn Dickerson. When Healthy Start, a maternal health group, gave cameras to her and other at-risk pregnant or postpartum women, they told the women to show how the world looked through their eyes. The organization might have been a little surprised by some of the results.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: So-called "outreach moms" are among the most important links in the Healthy Start program for pregnant women, infants and families. Their work isn't easy; each of the three moms is expected to be available 24/7 to respond to problems that might crop up among at-risk women.

(Chad Williams, Saint Louis University Medical Center)

ST. LOUIS – St. Louis is joining the National Children's Study, the largest long-term study of child health ever conducted in the United States.

The study will follow 100,000 children nationwide from before birth to age 21.

Chad Williams, Saint Louis University Medical Center

St. Louis is joining the National Children's Study, the largest long-term study of child health ever conducted in the United States.

The study will follow 100,000 children nationwide from before birth to age 21.

Local study leader Louise Flick of Saint Louis University's School of Public Health says more than 4,000 children from St. Louis City, Jefferson County, and southwestern Illinois will be asked to participate.

Judy Schmidt, James Gathany / CDC

Saint Louis County is seeing a surge in cases of pertussis.

More commonly known as “whooping cough,” pertussis is highly contagious, spreading through the air via small droplets when infected people cough, sneeze or talk.

One hundred and eighty-five cases have been reported in the county so far this year – two-thirds of them in the past six weeks.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: With its two-story brick and siding homes, black metal mail boxes on the lawns, and sturdy sidewalks out front, the quiet stretch of St. Ferdinand, west of North Vandeventer, looks more like a slice of suburbia than a piece of north St. Louis. In a part of town where the quiet of some neighborhoods is interrupted by occasional gunfire, this street offers a safe haven for youngsters like Derriyon Hobbs.

A chubby kid with a ready smile, Hobbs often spent his summer days pedaling his bike up and down St. Ferdinand without the watchful eye of his mother, Sherita Calvin. Both are grateful to have come to a neighborhood where people walk at their leisure rather than at their peril.

graphic about monthly WIC food supplements
Alex Sciuto | St. Louis Beacon 2010

This article first appeared in the St. louis Beacon: The low-rise building at Cass Avenue and 14th Street is now a used-car lot, but many neighborhood residents still remember it as Salama, a corner grocery. It stocked some nutritious foods and infant formula as part of the federal government's WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program to help disadvantaged residents raise healthy young children.

About four years ago, federal officials accused the store and a half dozen other corner markets of mismanaging WIC and removed them from the list of approved vendors.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: He got his education in the streets, and she got hers at the University of Texas School of Public Health. She left a job at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta to join the St. Louis Health Department. He also got a job in the department after he decided to turn his life around and focus on encouraging inner city youngsters to go straight and steer clear of at-risk behavior.

(Flickr Creative Commons User Mindy.Kotaska)

Monsanto's latest lawsuit is no small potatoes - in fact, it's sugar beets.

(Flickr Creative Commons user whiskeyandtears)

A new study has found that over-the-counter children's medications aren't labeled the way they should be.
The research led by the New York University School of Medicine examined two-hundred top-selling liquid medications for children, to see whether they included a dosing device, like a cup, spoon, or syringe.
If they did, the researchers compared the measurement markings on the device to the dosing instructions on the product's label.
Lead author Dr. Shonna Yin says about a quarter of the products had no dosing device at all.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The 12-story building between Powell Symphony Hall and the Third Baptist Church in midtown seemed like an odd place to house the city's main clinic for treating sexually transmitted diseases. Yet, for a long time, some city residents wishing to get help, counseling or advice for an STD had few options besides visiting the public clinic on the second floor of the building at 634 North Grand.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Milton and Leona Scott, both in their late 50s, normally don't spend time at the Four Seasons Hotel adjacent to Lumiere Place Casino in downtown St. Louis. But they were among 250 people who gathered in the hotel's elegant ballroom one Saturday morning last April to learn more about coping with and combating diabetes.

Hosting a free diabetes education program at a 5-diamond hotel may seem unusual, but it's just one of the ways the St. Louis Diabetes Coalition is taking its message out of doctors' offices and to the public. The group also is taking diabetes education to many community-gathering spots, such as churches and coffee shops.

chart showing diabetes mortality
St. Louis Beacon archive 2010

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The genealogy bug first bit Anita Jenkins in the 1970s when she saw the television series "Roots." She takes pride in having traced her family's history at least as far back as antebellum days, and she hopes to turn to DNA to move even further back in time.

In the process of her search, however, she also turned up a family history of diabetes. She mentions this as she stands next to pictures of relatives that line the mantel above the living room fireplace in the family's two-story brick home on the north side. On this day the house is quiet, save for the hum of an air conditioner, on a bright summer afternoon. But she's in a gloomy mood as she introduces the faces in the photographs and talks about how diabetes has affected many of those lives.

graphic of childhood lead poisoning in the st. louis area
Brent Jones | St. Louis Beacon | 2010

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: A St. Louis University scholar thinks it's time for cities to refine the way they address lead hazards.

The attack on lead poisoning often begins with the discovery that a child has an elevated level of lead, usually exceeding 10 micrograms for each deciliter of blood. The next step involves a little detective work to find the source of the lead. It usually turns out to be peeling lead-tainted paint and lead dust in an older home. This approach, some say, amounts to making kids the equivalent of canaries in coal mines.

graphic about monthly WIC food supplements
Alex Sciuto | St. Louis Beacon 2010

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Nothing speaks louder to a mother than a silent child.

When Larry Chavis was about 2, he'd sit in the middle of the floor in a room full of teddy bears, toy cars and trucks, but he didn't seem interested in playing with them. His perplexed mother, Achaia Robinson, sensed something wasn't quite right with her son; she was confused by his dazed look and his tendency to keep to himself.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The lobby of the Winston Churchill Apartments at Cabanne and Belt avenues undoubtedly reminds some visitors of the elegance of a bygone era. It's a massive room with green and beige walls, a fireplace, eight comfortable sofas and lots of chairs, all on a shiny, marbled floor. The soft colors and quiet setting recall the time when the building and surrounding neighborhood were home to upper-middle class St. Louisans.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: There have been times when Tracy Blue's mood was a perfect match for her last name. She was often irritable and occasionally depressed as she coped with Type 2 diabetes and the burden of carrying as much as 254 pounds on her 5'4" frame.

During the past year, however, her health has improved and her weight has dropped, thanks in part to an exercise and counseling program tailored to African Americans like herself. Called BODDY, the program operates out of the Monsanto YMCA in north St. Louis and is run by Washington University's Health and Nutrition Center.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: With plenty of trails for walking and jogging, biking and rollerblading, Forest Park stands out as one of the nation's largest urban green spaces for recreation. It's also safe and well-maintained, factors that explain why people find it an inviting, carefree place for putting their hearts and limbs through robust exercise.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Using his fingers to rake away ankle-high weeds on a plot next to his house, George Banks finally looks up with a smile after spotting something that a visitor doesn't immediately see.

"There," he says as he slowly straightens his stout body. "Watermelon vines. Got some collards coming up, too."

Whenever his arthritis, heart disease and diabetes cooperated last spring and summer, Banks, 63, spent time tending his garden in Old North St. Louis.

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