Health, Science, Environment

Health, science, and environmental news

Water had already gathered along the curb of Olive Street outside St. Louis Public Radio by noon on Sat. Dec 26, 2015.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

A three-day forecast of heavy rain and out-of-season thunderstorms has placed the St. Louis area under a flash flood watch through Monday afternoon. The flood watch began Saturday at noon.

“Even though the calendar says December, Mother Nature doesn’t think so,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Ben Miller. “This is a system more typical of fall or actually spring.  There’s going to be some scattered thunderstorms that are going to produce some heavy rain fall.”

Michael Velardo | Flickr

For a long time, Gary Carmack of Waynesville watched his 25-year-old son James battle a heroin addiction.

“He would look at me with these big, sad eyes, and he wanted so bad to get off of it,” Carmack said. “Everyone would be saying, ‘you just have to tell him to quit.’ And of course that’s virtually impossible without the right kind of help.”

As a paramedic, Carmack had seen countless overdoses. The family tried desperately to get James into treatment. But in 2013, his son was one of 258 Missourians who died after using heroin that year.  

Moose Winan, "Rolling Thunder & Hills," Ozark Mountains
Moose Winans | Flickr, Creative Commons | http://bit.ly/1YyPCLb

One word comes to mind when we think about the environmental news that’s been a conversation starter in St. Louis in 2015: landfills. Specifically, what is going on at the Bridgeton and West Lake landfills north St. Louis County. On Wednesday’s “St. Louis on the Air,” St. Louis Public Radio’s science reporter Véronique LaCapra joined the show to discuss the evolution of the landfill situation and other big science, environmental and wildlife news of the year.

Some of the topics we discussed:

Part of the $4.7 million sewer system upgrade involves removing illegal sewer bypasses, like the one pictured here.
Ted Heisel | Missouri Coalition for the Environment

The Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District is spending billions of dollars to keep sewage out of area waterways as part of a court-ordered agreement. But MSD’s plan involves something you might not expect: demolishing vacant buildings.

Right now, big storms can overwhelm the city’s combined stormwater and sewer system, causing raw sewage to overflow into rivers and streams.

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

You may have heard of the local group of nuns who go to Bridgeton to pray for and protest over the West Lake and Bridgeton landfills, which have been the subject of much controversy in recent years.

Connie Lamka holds a candle during a vigil for nine St. Lousians who died while homeless in 2015. Lamka is a case worker for the New Life Evangelistic Center, and knew two women who passed away this year.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Before dusk on the longest night of the year, about 30 people stood at the Centenary United Methodist Church in St. Louis to remember nine people who died while homeless in 2015.

The four women and five men honored during the ceremony had visited St. Louis-area agencies for assistance, but died without a place to call home. Some died young, including one who passed away after a fire swept through his encampment near downtown St. Louis. Some died while estranged from family or friends.

Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

For a long time, physicians at the major trauma centers in St. Louis say they have cared for an alarming number of people with gunshot wounds — including many children.

“Some weeks we’ll operate more on gunshot wounds than we will for simple things like appendicitis,” said Dr. Pamela Choi, a surgery resident at Washington University.

Members and supporters of the Missouri Network for Opiate Reform and Recovery chat outside the network's new outreach center on Fri. Dec. 18, 2015.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

South St. Louis has a new outreach center for people affected by addiction to heroin and prescription painkillers.

The Missouri Network for Opiate Reform and Recovery plans to offer legal help, treatment referrals and education classes out of its Dutchtown office at 4022 South Broadway.

Richard Claston and Jessica Graham pick up ingredients for sweet potato chili inside the retrofitted Metro bus turned into a mobile farmers market in St. Louis' JeffVanderLou neighborhood Sat. Dec. 19, 2015.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

An eye-catching retrofitted bus rolled onto an empty lot in St. Louis’ near north side Saturday to offer up fresh produce and the ingredients for sweet potato chili.

The visit launched the official start of St. Louis MetroMarket, a mobile farmers market with a mission to increase access and interest in healthy food in neighborhoods that don’t have grocery stores.

About 2 percent of children in the U.S. experience at least one episode of depression before reaching puberty.
Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

Depression very early in life can affect the way a child’s brain develops.

A new study by researchers at Washington University is the first to link early childhood depression to physical changes in the developing brain.

Ryan Melaugh | Flickr, Creative Commons | http://bit.ly/1ISisnU

The bustle of office parties, gift-giving and family get-togethers are usually part of the build-up to a joyful holiday season but, for some, the season sometimes brings with it a feeling of sadness. In fact, the holiday blues are not all that uncommon at all.

Tim Bono, assistant dean and lecturer in psychology at Washington University, joined “St. Louis on the Air” on Wednesday to discuss these feelings of depression during the holidays—as well as what to do if you know someone who seems a bit more down during this time of year. 

After a chance meeting, Katie Eisenbeis (right) schedules a future appointment for one of her patients in the mobile health program.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

When the Affordable Care Act went into effect, many health-care economists hoped it would reduce the number of emergency room visits made by uninsured people. The idea was that if more people had health insurance, they would be more likely to have access to a primary care doctor and avoid the emergency room.

Family Care Health Centers is a large, brick building in the Carondalet neighborhood.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

About 20,000 uninsured adults in St. Louis city and county will have access to basic health services for another year, after the federal government approved a one-year grant extension Tuesday. Coverage for 2015 was scheduled to expire on December 31. The measure sends up to $30 million to the Gateway to Better Health Program, which is intended as a stop-gap for people who would have been covered if the state of Missouri had expanded Medicaid. 

Miron Kofman, a Jewish refugee from Ukraine, strikes a pose during a Hannukah celebration at Bilingual International Assistant Services.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

When you hear about refugees in St. Louis, you might first think about the Bosnians who moved here in the 1990’s, or maybe even the most recent arrivals from Syria. But every year, about 600 refugees from all over the world are resettled in St. Louis.  

So, who are they? Where are they from? Answering where they come from is easy: in the past few years, Somalia, Burma, Iraq and Bhutan have accounted for a significant portion of the refugees. Scroll down to see a chart of where they come from and where they settle.  

The drought of 2012 took its toll on agriculture across the Midwest, including this soybean field near Dayton, Indiana.
Tom Campbell | Purdue Agricultural Communications

The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference wrapped up in Paris over the weekend. While talking heads analyze the merits of the plan that came out of the meeting, farmers in the Midwest are thinking about the very real impact climate change is having on them.

Agriculture could be among the sectors hardest hit by a warming global climate, and farmers here already are having to adapt to changing weather patterns.

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

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is ordering those responsible for the West Lake landfill to clear brush and provide fire-proof cover for areas contaminated by radioactive waste.

The order comes after an October brush fire at the entrance to the north St. Louis County landfill raised concerns about the consequences of a surface fire reaching radioactive waste at West Lake.

On Thursday’s “St. Louis on the Air” the President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri had one thing to say about her clinics’ services going forward after a gunman opened fire on a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs on Nov. 27:

"We're going to be here every single day,” said Mary Kogut.  “We're going to continue to have our doors open.”

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

According to Saint Louis University Health Law Policy Center Professor Sidney Watson, there are two big dates you need to take note of for Affordable Care Act coverage:

  1. Dec. 15, 2015: The deadline to enroll in Affordable Care Act health insurance coverage in order for it to be active on January 1, 2016.
  2. Jan. 31, 2016: The deadline for the year to enroll in Affordable Care Act health insurance coverage in order for it to be active on March 1, 2016. Open enrollment won’t be available again until November 2016. 

Jamie Stevens (center) unloads a mirror at the donation center with Ferid Keranovic (top).
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

When St. Louis police chaplain Dzemal Bijedic met a Syrian refugee family struggling to keep basic necessities in their home, he took to Facebook.

This Google map shows the stretch of Coldwater Creek that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently testing for radiation. The area shaded in pink is in Hazelwood, the area in gray is in Florissant.
Google Maps

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has found more radioactive contamination along a north St. Louis County creek.

The latest round of sampling detected radioactive soil at three homes and four businesses near Coldwater Creek. That’s in addition to the contamination found this summer at four homes and the Chez Paree apartment complex near Palm Drive in Hazelwood.

The Corps declined to say where the seven newly-identified properties are located or what kind of businesses are involved, stating it is still verifying that all property owners have been contacted.

Metro riders wait for the Red Line at a station beneath Grand Avenue in Midtown.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Two Metro passes and a flu shot, please.

The parent company of Metro Transit St. Louis is looking into the possibility of building health clinics at Metro stops, particularly in north St. Louis County. Project manager John Wagner says the concept makes sense; transit stops are easy to get to, there’s parking and they get a lot of foot traffic.

“It would be using existing infrastructure that’s already in place,” Wagner said. “We couldn’t find any negative aspects of it.”

New Life Evangelistic Center is located in downtown St. Louis.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio | file photo

The New Life Evangelistic Center in downtown St. Louis has long been at odds with the city over its ability to safely shelter more than a hundred people every night. But a big part of what keeps the shelter afloat has been left out of the debate: its practice of requiring long-term residents to work full time without pay in exchange for room and board. In addition, residents who receive supplemental social security checks for their disabilities are required to donate 40 percent of their income to the church.

Pills prescription drugs pharmaceuticals
ep_jhu | Flickr

A patient comes into an emergency room, clearly in pain and begging for medication. Is she physically ill or addicted to narcotics? It’s almost impossible to tell. But a new set of guidelines for emergency physicians, primary care providers and dentists may help doctors sort through those questions.

“Every day in the emergency department, I see patients who currently have or have had issues with narcotic medications,” said Dr. Matthew Treaster, an emergency physician for SSM Health.

Federal environmental health scientist Erin Evans speaks to area residents at an open house about Coldwater Creek on Wednesday.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 5:00 p.m., Dec. 3 with information on the county study - Federal scientists were in St. Louis County on Wednesday to talk with area residents about a planned public health assessment related to contamination along Coldwater Creek.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) announced last month that it would be launching the study to evaluate people’s potential exposures to radiation and other hazardous substances in and around the creek.

This sculpture outside St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis was built to honor the Pediatric Cancer Genome Project, a collaboration between St. Jude and Washington University in St. Louis.
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Almost one in every 10 children with cancer was born with an inherited genetic mutation predisposing them to develop the disease, according to a joint study by Washington University and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.

The research suggests that genetic screening could provide an important tool for diagnosing cancers earlier and avoiding ineffective treatments.

Workforce development specialist Darryl Jones teaches a class for the Save Our Sons program in north St. Louis County.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

For two years, Tyrell Stalling sent off job applications to no avail. Sometimes, he was homeless.

“At one point I took all the resumes I did and just threw them away. Because I was like, there’s no help. This world is just unfair,” Stalling said. Stalling is one of 114 men who this year have completed a new job training effort by the Urban League.

Ground venison donated by Missouri hunters is ready to be distributed to Operation Food Search's 250 partner organizations and needy families in the region.
Courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation

Hunters can help their hungry neighbors by donating fresh deer meat through an annual Missouri Department of Conservation program.

An example of a safe sleeping practice for infants, without a crib bumper.
National Institutes for Health

For babies who move around a lot at night, some new parents may purchase a padded bumper that goes around the edge of the crib to keep their little ones from hurting themselves. But according to a new review of product safety data, the products pose a serious suffocation hazard.  

“Parents walk into a store to buy a crib and they see the cribs with bumpers in them and they say,  'Well, if they weren’t safe, they wouldn’t be selling them.' But that’s not correct,” said Dr. Bradley Thach, professor emeritus of Washington University and a longtime researcher for infant safety.  

Using an online survey, the Coldwater Creek Facebook group has been collecting information on illnesses in the communities around the creek. Close to 2,000 cases of cancer have been reported.
Coldwater Creek - Just the Facts Please Facebook group

St. Louis County is teaming up with federal scientists to assess health risks from radioactive contamination in and around Coldwater Creek in north St. Louis County.

According to county public health department director Faisal Khan, the collaboration with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry will give a big boost to local efforts to study those risks, both in terms of financial resources and technical expertise.

Volunteers led by the St. Patrick Center look for homeless people during the Point In Time Count in the city of St. Louis in January 2015.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

New homeless numbers are out and they paint an improving picture for the state of Missouri. 

According to the annual homelessness report released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, homelessness dropped by 11 percent in Missouri this year, but it has not yet returned to pre-recession numbers. Meanwhile, homelessness in the United States dropped by 2 percent this year, continuing a slow but steady decline stretching back to 2007.

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