Health, Science, Environment

Health, science, and environmental news

SLU Psychologist Jillon Vander Wal, third from left, gathers for a portrait with the research assistants who work at the Eating and Weight Studies Lab.
provided | Jillon Vander Wal

In 2014 New Jersey college student Clarice Bourland spent most of her energy —and most of her day — deciding how much food she would allow herself to eat.

“The only things I ate were fruits, vegetables and egg whites, and I really limited that. I purged everything I ate. I was exercising, running over 50 miles a week. I was so afraid of food that I would hold my breath when I was going passed places with food because I was afraid that if I breathed in any particles of food I would become fat,” Bourland said.

Dr. Helen Caldicott (right), an anti-nuclear activist and expert on radioactive waste, discusses how exposure to radioactive contamination could have impacted Hazelwood resident Mary Oscko's (left) lung cancer, alongside Just Moms STL's Karen Nickel.
Stephanie Lecci | St. Louis Public Radio.

An internationally recognized anti-nuclear activist and Australian physician said the radioactive contamination in north St. Louis County is "worse than most places" she's investigated.

St. Louis County Police Officer Kathy Poncin practices administering Narcan Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016 while emergency physician David Tan looks on.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio file photo

Until now, when St. Louis County Police Officer Kevin Magnan responded to an opiate overdose call there wasn’t much he could do except wait for the paramedics to arrive.

“You’re seeing a body that’s barely moving.  Sometimes their eyes are open sometimes they’re not. And you’re not really sure what to do,” said Magnan, who works as a patrol officer in Jennings. “We get there and make sure the scene is secured and then let EMS come in. But that window of us just kind of being able to do nothing but trying to position the body right and try to make sure the person at least has room to breathe and the paramedics can come in quickly is the best we could do before now.”

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

A north St. Louis County park is now clean of radioactive material from the nearby contaminated Coldwater Creek, now that remediation by the Army Corps of Engineers is complete. 

Ameren Missouri's coal fire power plant at Labadie.
Veronique LaCapra I St. Louis Public Radio

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to designate the area around Ameren's Labadie coal-fired power plant in Franklin and St. Charles Counties as exceeding federal air quality standards.

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

On Wednesday’s “St. Louis on the Air,” representatives from Great Rivers Greenway joined host Don Marsh to discuss their strategic plan on building, promoting and sustaining greenways, or trails, for the next five years in the St. Louis region.

The group is holding several open houses in the coming weeks to gather more feedback from the community, including an event Wednesday afternoon at the Bridgeton Trails Branch Library at 4 p.m. You can also take a 10-minute survey online at the same link.

The guests:

An illustration of what it feels like to experience schizophrenia.
Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri could be one of the first states in the nation to test a new mental health care program designed to expand access to treatment.

The pilot program was created by the Excellence in Mental Health Care Act, co-sponsored by U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo) and signed into law in 2014 as part of a broader Medicare reform measure. It sets quality standards for community mental health centers in participating states and more fully funds treatment for Medicaid patients.

Steve Patterson

Kyle Reynolds drives by St. Louis’ last surviving mound, Sugar Loaf Mound, located at 4420 Ohio in south St. Louis, all the time yet he didn’t know about its existence until he read about it online. Still baffled by its significance, he turneed to St.

Co-founder of Just Moms STL Karen Nickel (at podium) said her group has the support of Missouri's U.S. Senate representatives in their efforts to meet with the EPA.
Just Moms STL | Facebook

An activist group of St. Louis area moms concerned about underground smoldering at the Bridgeton Landfill plans to picket outside the Environmental Protection Agency's Washington, D.C. offices on Wednesday.

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Imagine you could remember every day of your life in exquisite detail. Would you love it or loathe it? That’s what Jake Hausler, a local 12-year-old with Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory, has been able to do ever since age 8. Now, researchers at Washington University are mapping his brain to discover what makes his memory so powerful and if there are lessons to be learned that impact people with normal memory capabilities.

Flares at the Bridgeton Landfill are used to burn off smelly underground gases.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis County health department said a health survey of residents living near the West Lake and Bridgeton landfills will begin in about two weeks, a year after its initial announcement.

This figure from the USGS West Lake Landfill groundwater report shows levels of radium in groundwater wells under and around the landfill. Red, orange, and yellow dots show radium contamination above the federal safe drinking water standard.
U.S. Geological Survey

In a move that environmental groups say they are “excited” and “pleasantly surprised” about, the Environmental Protection Agency said it plans to create a specific unit to study groundwater contamination at the West Lake Landfill Superfund site.

At a meeting of the West Lake/Bridgeton Landfill Community Advisory Group Monday night, the EPA also said it would conduct more testing to see if any radiological sediment had moved off the site during widespread flooding last year.

Crews contracted by the Environmental Protection Agency pick up flood debris in Pacific, Mo. in January 2016.
FEMA | provided

If you’re a Missouri resident that still has water-logged furniture or other flood-damaged debris in your home, you have one week left to take advantage of curbside pickup.

The debris removal program launched by President Barack Obama’s emergency declaration is ending Monday, Feb. 15.

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. 


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 |

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 |

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. | 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 had 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.