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Health, Science, Environment

Health, science, and environmental news

Study evaluates hospital care for kids

Jun 6, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 6, 2008 - For the first time, medical researchers are taking a close look at preventable complications - some fatal - that occur at children's hospitals nationwide. In most cases, the complications do not lead to deaths, but to infections and other maladies.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: June 4, 2008 - Editor's Note: In his column of June 4, George Johnson laid out four environmental problems and the responses to them so far. Now, he uses that groundwork to discuss the role of science in identifying environmental problems, educating the public and finding soutions.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: June 3, 2008  - This week, the Senate began considering legislation to combat global warming. A carbon dioxide emissions “cap-and-trade” system, it seems to have little chance of becoming law. It is, however, a welcome sign that our government is beginning to come to grips with a problem that has the entire world worried. In this week’s column I would like to step back and consider the science behind the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. We as a nation cannot hope to implement the sort of changes necessary to achieve a sustainable world if we as citizens do not clearly understand the nature of the problem we face.

St. Louis' outsized carbon footprint

May 30, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: May 30, 2008 - The St. Louis metropolitan area has an outsized carbon footprint, with each resident spewing over 40 percent more into the atmosphere than the average. In the race to the climate change bottom, that ranks St. Louis seventh worst among the nation's 100 largest metropolitan areas.

Childhood obesity numbers may be leveling off

May 30, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: May 30, 2008 - A glimmer of hope may be appearing in the bleak landscape of our nation's childhood obesity epidemic. The number of children with a high body mass index has shown no increase from 1999 to 2006, according to an article published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association. But experts warn that only cautious optimism is warranted.

The reason for the apparent leveling off is seen as a mystery. It could be sign of progress or, rather, that we have simply bottomed out. Or maybe we just can't get any fatter.

Editor's Weekly: Lessons from the West Lake Landfill

May 30, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: May 30, 2008 - I can't say whether the Environmental Protection Agency has made the right decision in leaving low-level radioactive waste buried in the West Lake landfill not far from the Missouri River. But for personal reasons, the announcement a few days ago made me wonder again about the wisdom of expecting people to keep track of something dangerous over a long period of time.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: May 29, 2008 - The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency has decided to build a "multilayered engineered cover" over a 40-acre section of the West Lake Landfill and then install monitoring wells on the site to protect the public from radioactive waste buried there. Local environmentalists, however, say that leaving radioactive waste in a landfill on a floodplain is not a solution in the public interest.

Can you really eat for healthy eyes?

May 28, 2008
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St. Louis Beacon archives

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: May 28, 2008 During your next eye exam, your doctor may show you a small viewing box connected to a computer and ask if you want to take a test that might predict your risk for developing macular degeneration.

It's probably a good idea given that age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in the elderly. Even if you don't yet count yourself among that group, you should know that the disease can get started much sooner.

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Wikipedia

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: May 27, 2008 - This month a most unusual animal had its genome sequenced by molecular biologists: the platypus. Some of its genes match those of humans, like a cluster of casein genes involved in milk production. This was not unexpected, as both of us are mammals and possess mammary glands. Other genes were very different from ours, more like those found in birds and reptiles. Again, this was not unexpected; after all, the platypus is a very primitive mammal, not far removed from reptiles and birds on the evolutionary ladder.

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St. Louis Beacon archive

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: May 27, 2008 - Health-care officials in Missouri are gearing up for a major campaign this summer to convince uninsured, low-income women to take advantage of free vaccinations to guard against human papillomavirus or HPV, which can cause cervical cancer.

Dr. Joshua Dowling is part of a team positioning a patient to use a Gamma Knife
Provided by the hospitals | St. Louis Beacon archives

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Despite significant medical advances in dealing with many types of cancers over the past decade, aggressive brain tumors remain extremely difficult to treat successfully.

As a result, Sen. Ted Kennedy and patients like him have a only a slight chance of surviving more than a couple of years.

That is the grim assessment of two of the St. Louis area's top experts on brain cancer.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Nowhere has the influence of environment on the expression of genetic traits led to more controversy than in studies of I.Q. scores. I.Q. is a controversial measure of general intelligence based on a written test that many feel to be biased toward white middle-class America. However well or poorly I.Q. scores measure intelligence, a person’s I.Q. score has been believed for some time to be determined largely by his or her genes.

How did science come to that conclusion?

2008 photo of Hope, the polar bear at the St. Louis Zoo. 300 pxls
Michael Abbene | St. Louis Zoo | St. Louis Beacon archives

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Hope, the sole polar bear at the St. Louis Zoo, is set to begin another summer of backstroking, ball-playing and other antics in the protective custody of the zoo’s Bear Bluffs exhibit.

Meanwhile, far to the north, the 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears left in the Arctic wild will continue their precipitous population decline with another year of unusual starvation, drowning and infant mortality – a decline caused by melting sea ice.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Some retailer health clinics showing signs of decline while others flourish

The recent surge in walk-in health clinics at pharmacies, supermarkets and other retailers is showing signs of slowing. Yet many are surviving and even thriving.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Every mile you drive your car releases about a pound of CO2 into the air. How many miles do you drive in a year? Now think about the natural gas that heats your home, the electricity that lights it (mostly generated by the burning of fossil fuels). Your life is pumping an enormous amount of CO2 into earth's atmosphere.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: An international team of scientists has sequenced the genome of a duck-billed platypus. Part bird, part reptile and part mammal, the platypus genome sheds light on the evolution of mammals, including humans, and on the genetics of disease. Led by Richard K. Wilson, director of the Genome Sequencing Center at Washington University School of Medicine, the scientific team found that this mammal's DNA is as unusual as its duck-bill.

An international team of scientists has sequenced the genome of a duck-billed platypus. Part bird, part reptile and part mammal, the platypus genome sheds light on the evolution of mammals, including humans, and on the genetics of disease. Led by Richard K. Wilson, director of the Genome Sequencing Center at Washington University School of Medicine, the scientific team found that this mammal's DNA is as unusual as its duck-bill.

Mixed-up Mammal

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: As always, doctors this spring will see an increase in overuse injuries that come from the golf course, tennis court and our beloved baseball diamond. But now they are also treating patients injured from playing these sports in their family rooms.

Nintendo, specifically Wii, and other computer games, such as Guitar Hero, have spawned a spate of injuries familiar to many athletes -- tendonitis, bursitis, sprains and strains. Shoulders, elbows, wrists and hands can all feel the pain, just like the real deal. Well, maybe not just like ... but close.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Just weeks from the start of another summer travel season, St. Louisans are taking a hard look at whether escalating gasoline costs have priced them out of their dream vacations.

Michael Right, vice president for public affairs for the AAA Auto Club of Missouri, notes that the average price of a gallon of self-service regular unleaded averaged $1.39 in the month of May just five years ago.

A dilophosaurus model
Provided by the St. Louis Zoo | St. Louis Beacon archives

It was a beautiful Sunday morning, the air full of spring, a perfect time for my wife and me to go to the Zoo and check out the new dinosaur exhibit. Set up in an enclosed area within The River's Edge, the temporary exhibit presents a dozen dynamic dinosaur models, scaled down to child size, that bend their necks and make interesting noises. Each model comes with a brief description of just what critter is being seen, and how big it really was when it was alive and lumbering about. Even at 9:30 a.m., the exhibit was alive with children, and it was a joy to watch them relate to these mini-dinos with such immediacy and glee.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Studies presented at a recent meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology and published online April 27 in the New England Journal of Medicine are supporting further research into gene therapy to treat a rare genetic eye disorder.

The disorder, called Leber's congenital amaurosis (LCA), attacks the retina and can lead to severe vision loss and blindness. LCA is a rare genetic condition affecting 1 in 50,000 to 1 in 100,000 of babies born each year. Eyesight begins to fail in early childhood, progressing to total blindness by the time the patient reaches his or her late 20s or 30s.

On Science : No easy way to lose weight

Apr 29, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: In my mind, I will always weigh 165 pounds, as I did the day I married. The bathroom scale tells a different story, somehow finding another 30 pounds. I did not ask for that weight, do not want it, and am constantly looking for a way to get rid of it. I have not found this to be a lonely search — it seems like everyone I know past the flush of youth is trying to lose weight, too. And, like many, I have been seduced by fad diets, investing hope only to harvest frustration.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The Missouri House Education Committee is considering this session an outrageous bill that attacks Missouri education while claiming to improve it. Submitted by Republican Rep. Wayne Cooper of Camdenton as the "Missouri Science Education Act," HB 2554 purports to improve science teaching in Missouri by helping students develop critical thinking skills. Teachers would have to clearly identify what is "verified empirical data" and distinguish it from what is "theory, hypothesis, conjecture, speculation" and the like.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Plenty of concern for God's creation comes from folks in the pews."

Used to be that when a young family considered joining the church, they'd ask about its nursery and check the bathrooms," the Rev. David Mason, pastor of Green Valley Baptist Church in St. Joseph, Mo., said. "Now they ask if we have gone green. People care."

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Green choices often begin at home. When David A. Mollerus, a Southern Baptist, completes his commute from work, he tosses aside his car keys and runs, or walks, to do his errands. His home in New Town of St. Charles is a short walk to a dry cleaner, a grocery, a gym, a farmer's market and a beautiful lake. He bought a home in the densely planned "New Urbanism" community two years ago, in part, to lessen his carbon footprint. 

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Twenty million Americans celebrated the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. That massive outpouring of activism forced politicians to pay attention to the environment and resulted in the founding of the Environmental Protection Agency and the passing or strengthening of laws regulating clean air, clean water and endangered species. In just a few years, this grassroots, democratic action made the United States a world leader in environmental protection.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The Fisher House Foundation plans to break ground in late summer or fall for a 21-bedroom facility at Jefferson Barracks that will provide free lodging for veterans who must travel great distances for medical treatment at the St. Louis VA Medical Center, said foundation spokesman Jim Weiskopf.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Across the country, evangelical Christians are going green. To be sure, many are still leery about jumping onto a bandwagon already filled with — in their view — ultraliberal, even "unwashed," activists. Yet, in recent months, several national evangelical leaders have urged their fellow believers to protect the environment.

Copyright George Johnson | St. Louis Beacon archives

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: 50 million Americans smoke cigarettes. Although smoking has decreased in recent years, 24 percent of Missourians still light up.

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