Health, Science, Environment | St. Louis Public Radio

Health, Science, Environment

Health, science, and environmental news

Donna Kaucic started the Secret Challenge to collect sanitary pads and tampons for donations to food pantries and homeless shelters in Jefferson and Franklin counties. Feb. 20, 2018
Kae Petrin | St. Louis Public Radio

Imagine that first you can’t afford to keep your water on, or your electricity. You’re already struggling to find or keep a job.

Every month, you have menstrual periods. One or more of your children might, too.

Where do you find room for sanitary pads and tampons in the budget? How do you focus on taking care of yourself, getting a new job or a more stable home? If you’re homeless, how do you find a way to get hygiene products without money?

That’s what Donna Kaucic started wondering as she worked with families at Jefferson Franklin Community Action Corporation, a non-profit agency that offers services to address poverty in Jefferson and Franklin counties.

The 1.5-million-gallon aquarium opened in September 2017, featuring about 800 different species of fish, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds.
Wonders of Wildlife

Marine life probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind as a distinguishing characteristic of Missouri. But a wide variety of both freshwater and saltwater species now have a presence just a few hours southwest of St. Louis.

Shelby Stephenson joined St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh this week to talk about Wonders of Wildlife, a new aquarium adjoined to Bass Pro Shops’ national headquarters in Springfield.

A stormwater drain.
KOMU via Flickr

St. Louis-area residents may see a new fee on their sewer bills at the beginning of 2020. That's because the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District wants to impose a new fee to help fund efforts to resolve flooding and erosion issues in its service area. 

In a proposal MSD submitted to its independent rate commission on Monday, the district estimates the cost of resolving the region's stormwater runoff issues to be $560 million. The plan would charge an average of $2.25 per household per month, or $27 per year. The more surface area a property has that can't absorb water, the higher the fee. According to MSD projections, the new fee would generate $30 million per year for 30 years.

Longtime St. Louis meteorologist Cindy Preszler now runs WeatherSTL.com.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Despite a warming world, there’s little chance of weather becoming unpredictable – or at least less predictable than it already is. That’s according to new research from the University of Missouri’s School of Natural Resources.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh spoke with local meteorologist Cindy Preszler about the findings – along with Anthony Lupo, a professor of atmospheric science who helped lead the study.

More than a hundred showed up to the St. Louis Army Corps of Engineers' annual meeting in February 2018 to update the public on efforts to remediate legacy nuclear waste along Coldwater Creek.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

When the Army Corps of Engineers on Thursday delivered an update on its ongoing work to clean up radioactive waste along Coldwater Creek, it was to a packed room. More than 100 people attended the meeting; some attendees only recently learned about the radioactive waste after watching the HBO documentary, "Atomic Homefront," which began airing last week.

The film documents the struggle of north St. Louis County residents who live near areas illegally dumped with World War II-era nuclear waste, particularly the West Lake Landfill Superfund site. While many attendees in the room had known about the waste for several years, some were stunned to learn about it from the documentary.

A view of Lake Taneycomo in February 2018.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

On a bright, brisk winter day in Branson, Mo., several dedicated fishermen tried to catch trout in Lake Taneycomo, a fast-moving, ribbon-shaped lake that snakes around the city.

The water appeared clear, but the lake has some ongoing issues, said David Casaletto, executive director of Ozarks Water Watch, a water quality group. For example, heavy rains in the summer have caused low levels of dissolved oxygen, which has hurt the trout population.

Under a recently proposed water quality rule from the Environmental Protection Agency, Lake Taneycomo, Mark Twain Lake and Lake of the Ozarks are among 113 lakes and reservoirs in Missouri that would be defined as “impaired” or too polluted for human use.

The St. Louis Veterans Home on Lewis and Clark Boulevard in St. Louis County.
Missouri Veteran's Commission

Veterans who live at the St. Louis Veterans Home say they are receiving much better care following a state investigation into allegations of abuse and neglect at the facility.

Last fall, residents and their relatives complained of mistreatment, including how a veteran with dementia was placed in a scalding hot shower. They said the home was so mismanaged that its poor care amounted to neglect.

Since then, a new administrator has arrived. The home has hired 26 nursing assistants and plans to hire 30 more in coming months.

A Malawian nurse collects a blood sample from a child at Kamuzu Medical Center in Llongwe, Malawi, in 2015, to test for malaria infection.
Indi Trehan

 

When a doctor suspects a patient has malaria, the next step is usually a blood test. Most commonly, a technician smears a drop of blood on a slide and examines it under a microscope for tell-tale signs of the parasite.

But preliminary research from Washington University suggests future malaria testing could be as simple as collecting a breath sample.

The study, published in the February issue of The Journal of Infectious Diseases, reports malaria-infected children in Malawi show a distinct shift in the compounds in their breath compared to healthy children. Based on the abundance of six compounds, the researchers were able to diagnose malaria infection with 83 percent accuracy.

National Integrated Drought Information System

St. Louis' weather forecast this week is rain, rain and more rain, yet that's good news for a region that's in the midst of a drought. 

National Weather Service meteorologist Jayson Gosselin says a dry weather pattern began last summer. He says that dry pattern continued into the fall — typically the wetter part of the year in Missouri — creating moderate to extreme drought throughout the state. 

"In terms of precipitation deficits since that time, anywhere from 8 to as much as 16 inches below normal, for that six to seven months," Gosselin said.

Nurses for Newborns chief executive officer Melinda Ohlemiller talked about the organization's continued efforts to provide perinatal services to at-risk families.
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

For more than two decades, Nurses for Newborns have stepped in to help more than 100,000 families lacking in resources to care for their newborn babies.

On Friday's St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh talked about services provided by Nurses for Newborns to provide a safety net and improve the outcomes of at-risk infants. Joining him for the discussion was Nurses for Newborns chief executive officer Melinda Ohlemiller.

Listen to the full discussion about the organization’s mission and services:

An active coal-ash pond at the Meramec Energy Center in St. Louis County in February 2018.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Over the next five years, Ameren Missouri plans to close the ponds it uses to dump the byproduct of its coal-fired power plants.

The company has 15 ponds among its four power plants. Ameren closed two out of the nine ponds at the Meramec Energy Center in St. Louis County earlier this year. Coal-fired power plants have traditionally used water to handle coal ash, but recent advances in technology are allowing utilities such as Ameren to use dry systems instead.

via Saint Raphael the Archangel Catholic Church

The mother of a south St. Louis woman believed to have shot her infant, her husband and herself earlier this month says that her daughter suffered from postpartum depression.

“There’s no doubt about it,” Polly Fick told St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh on Thursday when asked if her daughter had postpartum depression. “But because of her background and working as a social worker, I think she was of the opinion that she could handle things.”

Across the country, states desperate to prevent opioid addiction are considering medical cannabis as a solution.

Citing the opioid crisis, lawmakers in several states are looking to initiate or expand their medical marijuana programs including KentuckyNew YorkNew Jersey and Indiana. And in Illinois, where opioids have claimed nearly 11,000 lives over the past decade, the legislature is considering a measure that would allow patients with an opioid prescription to get access to marijuana instead.


The West Lake Landfill, seen from St. Charles Rock Road in Bridgeton.
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated March 5 with new public comments deadline  The Environmental Protection Agency has released the full details of its proposal to remove radioactive waste from the West Lake Landfill. The agency will make a final decision after a public comment period.

This story was originally published February 6. It has been updated as of February 9 at 1 pm.

The Atchison-Holt Ambulance District spans two counties and 1,100 square miles in the far northwest corner of Missouri. The EMTs who drive these ambulances cover nearly 10 times more land area than their counterparts in Omaha, the nearest major city. 

 Heart expert Dr. Andrew Kates explains topics relating to heart health.
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

The heart is a familiar symbol of love, but the diseases of the organ can kill. February is Heart Health Month, and we invited our heart expert Dr. Andrew Kates, professor of medicine and cardiologist with the Washington University Heart Care Institute at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, back on the program to help explain the matters of the heart.

The coral reefs of West Papua, which are more diverse than any other marine ecosystem on Earth.
Shaun MacGillivray | 2018 IMAX Corporation and MacGillivray Freeman Films

Writer, producer and director Mark Krenzien’s 40-year-film career has led him on a long list of adventures. He’s worked on the “Making Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’” documentary, swam alongside humpback whales and often filmed in far-flung locations, including war-torn Iraq, earthquake ravaged Haiti and a giant NASA clean room.

The West Lake Landfill, in the distance, sits adjacent to the Bridgeton Landfill.
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated on March 5 to note new deadline for public comments  — The Environmental Protection Agency has released its plan for cleaning up radioactive waste at West Lake Landfill.

But officials say they still want to hear from community members on all the proposed remedies, not just the one the agency selected.

The EPA asked for feedback on three elements of its plan: Does the EPA’s proposed excavation plan address public concerns regarding the thoroughness of the removal? How should excavation differ between waste areas? And, where should the radioactive material go after it’s removed? Access all the plan’s documents on the EPA’s website.

Residents who live near West Lake Landfill gathered at John Calvin Presbyterian Church in Bridgeton after the EPA announced its remediation plan. (Feb 1, 2018)
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

When the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday announced its plan to remove much of the radioactive waste from the West Lake Landfill, some activists and residents celebrated.

But many residents expressed frustration and disappointment that only some of the waste would be removed before the site is covered. They said they’re still concerned about groundwater contamination, which might not be prevented by a partial removal, and worried that they might not be able to move away if the government doesn’t come up with a buyout plan. Some still don’t trust that the EPA can deliver on its promises.

The West Lake Landfill, in the distance, sits adjacent to the Bridgeton Landfill.
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh went Behind the Headlines to discuss the aftermath of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision on a partial removal of World War II-era radioactive waste at the West Lake Landfill, in northwest St. Louis County.

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