Health, Science, Environment | St. Louis Public Radio

Health, Science, Environment

Health, science, and environmental news

An illustration of pollution, 2017
Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Ozone pollution in St. Louis has slightly improved, according to the 2018 State of the Air report released this month by the American Lung Association. Despite the improvements, the metro area is still ranked the 29th most polluted in the nation.

Susannah Fuchs, the director of clean air at the American Lung Association in Missouri, said one of the reasons St. Louis is still on the list is because of stricter clean air standards.

Cincinnati Health Department

The St. Louis Health Department could soon be looking for someone to replace director Melba Moore, who has led the department since 2015.

A Cincinnati board city board voted unanimously Tuesday to hire Moore as that city's next health department commissioner. According to the board’s chairman, the hire could be done as soon as the end of the week.

Students with the Throwing and Growing Foundation take a tour of Good Life Growing in the Vandeventer neighborhood.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Lonza Patrick has lived in the Walnut Park East neighborhood for more than 50 years. He’s seen the area take repeated turns for the worse, as nearby properties became vacant and neglected.

“Oh man, have I had experiences,” Patrick said.

Patrick wants to see the neighborhood improve and it might, with the unrolling of a new initiative to demolish vacant properties to build green spaces. It’s headed by the Green City Coalition, which consists of the Missouri Department of Conservation, the Missouri Botanical Garden and several other St. Louis-based nonprofits.

Maliyah Isadora, 2 months, and her mother, Courtney, at their home in Florissant in this 2015 photo
File photo | Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Regions of the state with combined high poverty rates and concentrated African-American populations have higher percentages of low birth weight babies, according to data from the U.S. Census and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

The Missouri Sierra Club and its supporters gathered in front of Ameren Missouri's headquarters in St. Louis in April 2018 to protest against proposed regulations that could weaken oversight of coal ash waste.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

As environmentalists voiced concerns in Washington about possible changes to the Environmental Protection Agency's rules on disposing coal ash waste, some in Missouri chose to express their opposition by staging a protest at a major utility corporation's doorstep. 

The Missouri chapter of the Sierra Club gathered a small band of supporters Tuesday at Ameren Missouri's headquarters in St. Louis. They held large signs that showed images of Ameren's four power plants in Missouri and listed details about the toxic heavy metals that coal ash contains, such as arsenic.

Ameren Missouri announced recently that it plans to close all of its coal ash ponds by 2022. However, activists want the regulators to address the contamination the ponds have already caused and are unhappy that Ameren has chosen to close its ponds by leaving them in place.

Bill Nye is making a keynote appearance at the St. Louis Climate Summit.
Bill Nye

On this week’s St. Louis on the Air, St. Louis Public Radio science reporter Eli Chen spoke with Bill Nye ahead of his keynote appearance Monday evening as part of the three-day St. Louis Climate Summit at Saint Louis University.

Their conversation touched on how the Science Guy seeks to engage audiences of all ages around topics such as climate change as well as the importance of critical thinking and storytelling.

Beth Maynor Finch

Edward O. Wilson’s long career has been marked by enormous contributions to the field of biology, with an impact on global conservation efforts that is difficult to overstate. All of it grew out of his close attention years ago to something relatively small: the behavior of ants.

Wilson recalled one of his earliest interactions with the insects, a memory from his boyhood in northern Alabama, on Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air in conversation with host Don Marsh.

Theresia Metz will replace interim administrator Stan Smith. Smith was appointed in December by the Missouri Veterans Commission.
Missouri Veterans Commission

The St. Louis Veterans Home has a new administrator.

Theresia Metz will replace Stan Smith, who became interim director in January.

The Missouri Veterans Commission announced Metz’s appointment today, months after residents and their family members accused veterans home officials and staff of mismanagement and neglect. An independent investigation called by Gov. Eric Greitens confirmed those complaints.  

Dr. John Constantino (left) and Steve Houston (right) talked about understanding autism and the latest research in the diagnosis and treatment of it.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

April is National Autism Awareness Month. On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh talked about the prevalence of autism and discussed the latest research in the diagnosis and treatment of autism.

Allan Doctor, professor of pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine, is part of a research team working to develop an artificial blood substitute.
E. Holland Durando | Washington University

Thousands of people in the United States die each year due to severe blood loss, often before they reach an emergency room.

To help reduce the number of trauma deaths, a Washington University research team is working to develop an artificial blood substitute. The freeze-dried red powder, which can be reconstituted with sterile water, is intended to keep patients alive until they’re able to reach a hospital.

Saint Louis University faculty member Cara Wallace offered ideas for why – and how – people can broach important topics related to end-of-life care.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air included the sort of conversation that often doesn’t happen as often or as early as it should among loved ones – the kind about planning for the end of life.

Joining host Don Marsh for the discussion was Cara Wallace, an assistant professor in the School of Social Work at Saint Louis University.

Her research focuses on overcoming barriers to end-of-life care as well as improving quality of life, and she also educates health-care students, professionals and the general public about facing issues surrounding death, illness, loss and grief.

Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

Saint Louis University researchers are one step closer to understanding how to prevent the chronic pain associated with chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy patients often experience burning and tingling in the hands and feet, known as “chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain.” The condition has no known treatment, but new research offers a reason to hope. In a recent study, a team of SLU researchers successfully “turned off” the pain associated with a common chemotherapy drug.

 

The Apollo 11 command module Columbia will be on display at the St. Louis Science Center.
Eric Long | National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution

A treasure trove of invaluable artifacts from the space race will be on display at the St. Louis Science Center.

“Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission,” a traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, opens Saturday in St. Louis.

Geneticist and lead Cancer Genome Atlas scientist Li Ding
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

Scientists at Washington University in St. Louis reached a new milestone in cancer research this month with the completion of a comprehensive analysis of the molecular underpinnings of the causes of the disease.

The National Institutes of Health funded the PanCancer Atlas project, more than a decade in the making. Biologists from more than two dozen institutions analyzed DNA from 11,000 cancer patients with 33 major types of the disease, including breast and pancreatic cancer.

The analysis is part of a larger NIH initiative called the Cancer Genome Atlas.

Writer Michaella Thornton telling a story at The Ready Room in St. Louis for The Story Collider's live taping in March 2018.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

It’s a fact that as humans, we have to deal with the curveballs life throws at us. For example, Emma Young, a Ph.D biology student at University of Missouri-St. Louis, had imagined a career full of adventures in remote places of the world. But she discovered along the way that fieldwork is lonely, frustrating and sometimes prone to moments of panic involving unknown species of spiders.

As for Michaella Thornton, a writer and English instructor at St. Louis Community College, all she wanted was a child with her husband. But it took longer than she imagined to get pregnant, which led to deep feelings of shame and discouragement from her father as she considered in vitro fertilization. 

Merav Gleit, Monsanto's bee health platform lead, with the company's backyard bee hives in summer 2016.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Monsanto and St. Louis-based biotech company RNAgri are collaborating to develop a technology that will help farmers and beekeepers ward off pests. 

The technology uses a naturally occurring process called RNA interference. DNA contains genetic information that RNA transports throughout a cell to allow the cell to produce proteins. The honeybee, for example, produces some types of proteins that attract varroa mites, a parasite that scientists believe to be a cause of colony collapse disorder. RNA interference could stop those proteins from being produced and prevent varroa mites from harming bees. 

A school bus.
Vipal | Flickr

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources proposes spending the $41 million it received from the Volkswagen settlement last year on replacing school buses and other heavy-duty vehicles. 

The German automaker agreed to spend billions of dollars to settle allegations of cheating emissions standards. Missouri is among the states that received some of those funds to address nitrogen dioxide emissions. Nitrogen dioxide is a component of ozone pollution, which can cause respiratory health issues, such as asthma. 

Heavy-duty vehicles are a major contributor to nitrogen dioxide emissions.

A Triceratops skull at the Saint Louis Science Center.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

On a late morning at the St. Louis Science Center, ecology educator Brian Thomas showed two elementary school students a fossil that looked like a very old, mangled piece of rock. It was a partial skull of a young Triceratops. 

"Inside here is where the brain would sit," Thomas told the boys. "And it's not a very big brain." 

The science center has two juvenile Triceratops skulls, dug up from northeast Montana, that a researcher at Washington University School of Medicine is studying to understand how the species developed in its lifetime.

Black River near Annapolis, Mo.
National Weather Service Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service

The Missouri Coalition for the Environment has accused the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of withholding information on mining and other development projects that could damage wetlands. 

The environmental group filed suit against the Corps of Engineers in late March, alleging that the agency denied it access to permits and documents that relate to mining and other types of projects. The suit claims that the Corps of Engineers' St. Louis and Little Rock districts have repeatedly refused to release documents, such as permit applications, using an exemption of the Freedom of Information Act.

Catherine Werner is the director of sustainability in the mayor’s office.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Within a global context of climate change, individual attention to butterfly gardens, light bulbs, recycling and other efforts can sometimes seem rather futile. Catherine Werner is familiar with that notion – and with persuading people that such relatively small things do in fact matter.

“You think, ‘Oh, well, what can I do, and what’s one little light bulb going to do to make a difference?’” Werner said during Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air. “But if you do your whole apartment or your whole home, and then you tell it to your neighbor and they do it next door, it really does add up and can make quite a difference.”

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