Health, Science, Environment

Health, science, and environmental news

A still frame of Avik Som working in a lab, taken from a promotional video shot by Washington University in St. Louis.
provided by Washington University

A Ph.D. student at Washington University’s School of Medicine has published the results of a surprising discovery: Calcium carbonate, the common compound found in antacids like Tums, can be used to stop tumor growth in mice.

Here’s how it works: Cancer tumors need an acidic environment to survive. Calcium carbonate, on the other hand, is a base. In a swimming pool, bases can counteract acidity to neutralize the pH of the water and make it safe to swim. 

NCADA

The attention-grabbing, anti-heroin Super Bowl advertisements that the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse – St. Louis ran last year and will again this year star characters that you may not expect: white, suburban kids. 

Actor's portrayal of a teenage girl undergoing the stress of heroin
NCADA-St. Louis | provided

If you’re watching the Super Bowl in St. Louis this Sunday, you’ll probably see another anti-heroin ad. The St. Louis chapter of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse has purchased local ad space during the big game for the second year in a row.

Compared to last year’s upbeat ukulele music, the music for this year’s Super Bowl ad is a bit less jarring. But the tale it tells is just as stark: a teenage cheerleader tries prescription painkillers at a party and loses everything she cares about as heroin takes over her life.

Given the intricacies of individual insurance plans, co-pays and hospitals' calculations to determine how much to charge for care, it is no simple feat to figure out how much your health care costs. Shopping around for around for the best price in town? Even harder. But a new set of data released Wednesday by the Missouri Hospital Association might make that process a little bit easier.  

Dr. Andrew Kates of 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.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

February is Heart Health Month. As such, we invited Dr. Andrew Kates of 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.

Here are five questions we asked and five things we learned:

1. Heart disease kills more women every year than every other kind of cancer combined. Why?

Children poster
kris krüg | Flickr | http://bit.ly/1PMjjn1

Divorce rates have been declining since the ‘90s and millennials are waiting longer than ever before to tie the knot—statistics that some researchers predict show millennials may be less likely to divorce than their parents’ generation. But that doesn’t mean that divorce isn’t still happening and impacting the children in between the process.

gavin rice | Flickr | http://bit.ly/23yE1Ru

As of Friday, at least 31 people in the U.S. have been infected with the Zika virus. That includes three pregnant women — two in Illinois and one in New York. The virus has been reported across the globe in Africa, South Asia, Polynesia, as well as Central and South America.

Symptoms of the virus include fever, rash and conjunctivitis. It has been associated with microcephaly birth defects, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It spreads to people via mosquito bites.

Christina Popp of Operation Food Search extolls the virtues of turnips and rutabagas on a Cooking Matters in the Store tour at a Ferguson Shop 'n Save. Steve Weisman of St. Louis County looks on.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Christina Popp has a theory about ground beef: It’s more cost effective to purchase a leaner version because most of the fat cooks out.

Carolina Hidalgo I St. Louis Public Radio

Many St. Louis-area residents were still enjoying a long weekend and the end of the Christmas holiday when the flood warnings first went out on Dec. 26. 

Over the next days, the Mississippi, Missouri and Meramec rivers rose to dangerous heights at unprecedented speed in some areas. The water spilled over levees, put water treatment plants out of service, and swamped thousands of homes and businesses in riverside communities.

Adrian Clark | Flickr

Less than a year after purchasing the facility, BJC HealthCare is closing the doors of its former competitor in Farmington.

The 126-bed hospital, which was called the Mineral Area Regional Medical Center before its acquisition by BJC, is scheduled to cease operations at 7 a.m. on Tuesday. The facility will close completely no later than January 31, according to hospital officials in Farmington. 

e-MagineArt.com | Flickr

Deaths caused by heroin and other opiates in the St. Louis region have dropped. But with a spike in deaths in 2014, the decline only represents a return to the region’s previously elevated count.

After jumping up to 445 deaths in 2014, the preliminary 2015 count from the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse is 324. Except for a spike in 2011, the region’s opiate death toll has hovered in the low-to-mid 300s for the past five years.

A sticker opposes St. Elizabeth's relocation on a door in downtown Belleville, on 06/04/15.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

A St. Clair County circuit judge flatly dismissed a lawsuit filed by Belleville city officials who had hoped to keep St. Elizabeth's Hospital from going forward with a planned relocation to O'Fallon, Ill. 

A researcher in a neurology clinic at Washington University in St. Louis.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Researchers at Washington University's McDonnell Genome Institute in St. Louis will expand their work into common illnesses like Type 1 diabetes, stroke and arthritis, thanks to a $60 million federal grant.

Director Desarie Holmes cuts a ribbon to mark the opening of Behavioral Health Services at Touchette Regional Hospital in Centreville.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

As officials at Touchette Regional Hospital cut a bright red ribbon on Tuesday for the opening of a new behavioral health center, another Metro East hospital made preparations to close its own division for the same type of care. 

Pallets full of sandbags that stayed dry during the floods sit in the parking lot of City Hall in Valley Park.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

The record floods that swept through the St. Louis region just after Christmas claimed at least two dozen lives in Missouri and Illinois. In four counties near St. Louis, the water damaged 7,100 homes, businesses and public buildings, according to early estimates. As communities clean up and rebuild, attention is turning to how these disasters can be prevented. But the answers are never simple.

The Fenton Water Treatment Plant has been knocked off line due to historic flooding
Bill Greenblatt | UPI

Warnings to avoid contact with flood water. An executive order temporarily waiving Missouri Department of Natural Resources regulations. Periodic updates on the millions of gallons of raw sewage flowing into the Meramec River due to shuttered wastewater treatment plants.

St. Louis Public Radio referenced these announcements as they happened in the course of reporting on the human and economic toll wrought by the record-high waters. But what impact, if any, do those warnings and waivers have on the environment?

file photo | Jess Jaing |St. Louis Public Radio

When people overdose on heroin or prescription painkillers, their heart beat slows and they stop breathing. That means snapping them out of the overdose quickly with a drug that blocks the opiate receptors in the brain can mean the difference between life and death.

Right now most Missourians have to wait for first responders to arrive with the antidote, known as Narcan or naloxone. Under state law the public doesn't have direct access to the drug. But there’s an exception to the rule for veterans:  a prescription from the St. Louis Veterans Affairs Health Care System.

The USGS will collect data on mineral deposits in the St. Francois Mountains using a Piper Navajo airplane with auxiliary wingtip pods and tail stinger magnetometers.
Terraquest Ltd.

The U.S. Geological Survey is searching for commercially important minerals in southeastern Missouri. But the researchers won't be using any shovels or pick-axes: All the data will be collected from a small, low-flying plane.

The aerial survey is part of an on-going project to study the geology of the St. Francois Mountains.

National Guard members stand at a news conference to discuss "Operation Recovery" at the Jefferson Barracks Division in St. Louis.
Caleb Codding for St. Louis Public Radio

Floodwaters in the St. Louis region have receded, leaving behind an estimated 500,000 tons of debris. Now what?

At a news conference Wednesday, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon outlined “Operation Recovery," a cleanup effort that will be coordinated by the National Guard, with Lt. Col. Grace Link, a civil engineer, in charge. Contracted trucks will help clear debris in flood-damaged areas throughout the St. Louis region, Nixon said.

Briana O'Higgins | KCUR 89.3 / KCUR 89.3

You'd be amazed at how often St. Louisans' curiosities are piqued as we explore St. Louis and meet the people in our community. Or maybe you wouldn't be. We bet you're just as curious as we are. Just as curious as your neighbors who've submitted and answered questions to our Curious Louis project.

Public radio station KCUR in Kansas City recently looked into something that we thought made an excellent Curious Louis question. So, here it is: an answer to the question, "Why are there so many Canada geese in Missouri?" What makes these birds stick around instead of migrate further north?

Mia Fernandez, 9, and her brother Mason, 6, help clean up inventory at an ACE Hardware in Eureka with their father, Danny.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Floodwaters are continuing to recede along the Meramec River, and emergency workers are taking stock of the damage. According to early estimates, as many as 1,000 structures had water damage in St. Louis County over the past few days. Personnel from the Department of Public Works, however, cautioned that the number will likely change.  

Jodi Howard holds her daughter Brooklyn, 3, as they survey flood damage in Pacific.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

The flooding Meramec River crested early Wednesday in Pacific — inundating houses, half of the historic downtown district and sweeping through a mobile home park. Residents evacuated to hotels, friends’ houses and a Red Cross shelter set up in a senior center. Much of the water remained the morning of New Year's Eve and isn’t expected to recede to normal levels until early Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.

Legacy nuclear waste at the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton was thought to be contained behind this fence, but a new study has detected radiation in trees offsite.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

After two years of delay, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced on Thursday that it will move ahead with plans to build a firebreak at a landfill complex in north St. Louis County.

A fire has been smoldering underground at the Bridgeton Landfill since late 2010, about 1,000 feet away from tons of radioactive waste buried in the adjacent West Lake Landfill.

Provided by Lifting Up Lila event

During the 2016 legislative session, Missouri lawmakers are likely to debate a bill that would bar transgender students from public school restrooms and other facilities designed for the gender with which they identify. If passed and implemented, the measure could potentially violate federal law under Title IX.

Americans buy more than 30 million poinsettias every year.
TANAKA Juuyoh | Flickr Creative Commons

Poinsettias are sold by the millions every year, almost all of them between Thanksgiving and Christmas. As popular as these holiday flowers are, there still may be a few things about them that could surprise you. Here are five fun facts about poinsettias we wanted to share.

Charles stretches.
Mark Glenshaw

On December 29, Mark Glenshaw celebrated his 10th anniversary of monitoring a pair of Great Horned Owls in Forest Park. The amateur naturalist made his first appearance on “St. Louis on the Air” two years ago to introduce listeners to the pair he had dubbed Charles and Sarah. In April of this year he returned to report on the birth of the couple’s offspring, a pair of owlets whom he later named Harold and Grace. At that time he described the parents as the “Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt” of Great Horned Owls.

Mary Edwards

Reporters Durrie Bouscaren and Camille Phillips have covered a wide variety of issues in the region in the last year. They joined host Don Marsh to discuss the most problematic ones and agreed the two most pressing issues are homicides and heroin addiction. To date there have been 187 homicides in St. Louis but few arrests.

Family, friends and volunteers from St. Louis help Arnold, Mo. residents combat area flooding
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Patty Titus, 57, stood at the edge of the Meramec River in Arnold as it ran up the side of her house and poured into her basement. It’s the house she grew up in, and she’s lived there for more than 50 years. As Titus watched the water rise, she listed the family heirlooms she’s lost.

“All my parents stuff, dishes, furniture, lost my freezer, my refrigerator, things that can’t be replaced. A lot of memories and things,” she said.

This photo of Coldwater Creek flooding was taken from the Dunn Road bridge on Monday.
Paul A. Huddleston

Update 2:30 Dec. 29 with guard activated - Floodwater from Coldwater Creek in north St. Louis County is not radioactive, but it could still pose a health risk.

That’s according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is testing and cleaning up contaminated yards and parks along the creek.

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.”

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