Health, Science, Environment

Health, science, and environmental news

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.”

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.

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