Health, Science, Environment

Health, science, and environmental news

LED fixture beside a basic light bulb that has been used in streetlights for decades.s
Wayne Pratt|St. Louis Public Radio

Ameren Missouri says many of its customers could soon be noticing lower bills. The electric utility is upgrading streetlights throughout its system with LED technology.

Sphalerite, or zinc ore, from the Royal Cornwall Museum Collection.
University of Exeter

Updated on April 7, 2016 at 10:45 a.m. with comments from the EPA:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has determined that further actions are required at the Old American Zinc Plant in Fairmont City, as plans for clean-up are in the works.  

Ronel Reyes | Flickr | http://bit.ly/1MOICtA

This weekend, leading researchers in the field of astrobiology will convene on UMSL’s campus to share research and analysis of recent findings. That begs the question: what in the world is astrobiology, anyway?

Funny you should ask. Astrobiology is a branch of biology which is concerned with the study of life on earth and in space. This weekend’s conference will focus on exactly how life originated on Earth and if that is being echoed elsewhere in the universe.

Zika virus, here shown as a digitally-colorized transmission electron micrograph, can be transmitted by mosquitoes or sexually.
Cynthia Goldsmith | Centers for Disease Control

A research team at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis is using genetically modified mice to be able to test possible vaccines and treatments against the Zika virus.

A female Aedes aegypti mosquito feasts on the blood of CDC photographer James Gathany. Aedes aegypti is the type of mosquito most likely to carry Zika and other tropical diseases.
James Gathany | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The breed of mosquito most likely to carry the Zika virus probably won’t make its way to St. Louis this summer, but local public health agencies are still taking precautions.

A worker for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources collects a soil sample as part of testing for radioactive contamination around West Lake Landfill.
Missouri Department of Natural Resources

Updated at 2:45 p.m. on Saturday, April 2, with information from the EPA:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will clean up radioactive contamination confirmed to be found in soil on private property adjacent to the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton. 

Free gun locks will be given out Friday at City Hall in St. Louis
M Glasgow | Flickr

Free gun locks will be given out Friday at City Hall in St. Louis.

The event is part of the “Lock it for Love” program organized by Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice.

Former nuclear weapons workers and their family members wait to file claims for a federal compensation program at the International Union of Operating Engineers Hall in Bridgeton.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Former nuclear weapons workers in the St. Louis area -- whose jobs may have put many of them at a greater risk for cancer, silicosis and other illnesses -- may be eligible to have their medical bills paid and receive lump-sum payments under a federal program.

But many workers and their surviving family members don't know about the program, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, which is why representatives are in Bridgeton this week conducting outreach sessions.

An underground fire has been smoldering in the Bridgeton Landfill for five years, about 1,000 feet away from tons of nuclear waste in the adjacent West Lake Landfill.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

Radioactive contamination at the West Lake Landfill has been detected farther south than previously reported, according to data released Thursday by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The new map shows contamination on the northern edge of the Bridgeton Landfill, a few hundred feet away from an underground smoldering fire that has existed since at least 2010. The contaminated soil, left over from the Manhattan Project, is about 70 to 80 feet underground in the newly discovered area, officials said.

A flu vaccine dose beside several needles.
Daniel Paquet | Flickr

The number of people getting the flu is on the way back down in the St. Louis region. It spiked slightly earlier this month.

The St. Louis County health department confirmed 207 cases of influenza this week, compared to 380 last week, and 295 the week before that. In St. Louis, the number of weekly flu cases peaked earlier this month just below 150.

The windows and the glass on the door of the Planned Parenthood clinic on South Grand Boulevard in St. Louis were shattered by a vandal on Saturday.
Stephanie Lecci | St. Louis Public Radio | File photo

When the Missouri state legislature returns from its recess, the Senate will consider a budget that includes language pulling all state funding to Planned Parenthood affiliates.

“The taxpayers in the state have made it very clear; they do not want their tax dollars going to support abortion services. That’s the purpose of the language,” said Rep. Marsha Haefner, R-Oakville, as she defended the measure before it passed the House earlier this month.

Michael Velardo | Flickr

The country’s broadening crisis of heroin and pain pill overdoses comes at a time when many centers for addiction treatment in the United States are operating at capacity. In the St. Louis region, providers report wait times of three weeks or more. A spike in addictions means more people seeking treatment, but at the same time, providers are constricted in their ability to expand.

Danny Kohl
From Washington University website

For many who have died, the “good family man” description is draped upon them like an embroidered pall, often as much in the interest of being nice and polite than in descriptive accuracy.

Because Daniel Kohl, who died Saturday, March 12, at 87, was generous, he might agree that this person or that one was a good family woman or a good family man.

But as scientist, a biologist, an eminent one at that — he would want proof also.

Graphic of woman on crutches overlooking treacherous landscpe
Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

In this rerun of We Live Here, we examine the concept of toxic stress and learn how managing patients who experience it is challenging for doctors and for the patients themselves.

A high-definition X-ray processes a sample at Saint Louis University.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

It took three years for Dr. Enrico Di Cera and his team to map prothrombin, the protein that causes human blood to form clots. They ran countless samples through a machine, trying to find the conditions that would form a crystal large enough to be seen by a specialized X-ray.

“That’s the part that’s like cooking, not an exact science,” Di Cera said, at his laboratory at Saint Louis University on Thursday.

Marcis Curtis, an artist and co-founder of Citizen Carpentry, organizes sticky notes during a brainstorming session at the Community Reaction Lab.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Two groups of St. Louisans took on a challenge this weekend that many in the region have spent years trying to address: Find a way to reduce gun violence in the community.

And there was a catch. The groups had just 24 hours to create a proposal.

Sunrise, Daylight Saving Time
Matthias Bachmann | Flickr | http://bit.ly/1QM0RMs

Love it or hate it, Daylight Saving Time starts at 2:00 a.m. on March 13. Across the country, people will lose an hour of sleep in exchange for longer days through the summer. Is it worth it?

On one hand, traffic accidents increase for three days following the time change and people become more irritable and groggy upon losing sleep. Absenteeism and heart attacks also increase directly following the time people switch their clocks forward an hour.

An underground fire has been smoldering in the Bridgeton Landfill for five years, about 1,000 feet away from tons of nuclear waste in the adjacent West Lake Landfill.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri’s attorney general is publicly chiding the Environmental Protection Agency for its “repeated missed deadlines" in its oversight of radioactive contamination at the West Lake Landfill in north St. Louis County. An underground chemical reaction, commonly referred to as a fire, has been smoldering in the landfill next door since at least 2010.

In an open letter, Attorney General Chris Koster detailed three instances where EPA has promised information that it failed to deliver:

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

With early March temperatures already in the 60s and 70s, it is time to think about dragging out those pruning shears, pots and gathering mulch. It is spring gardening season! “St. Louis on the Air” gathered two horticulture experts to discuss spring planting and gardening.

June Hutson, a horticulturist, consultant and designer for the Kemper Center for Home Gardening at the Missouri Botanical Garden and Chip Tynan, the garden’s manager of the horticulture answer service, joined Don Marsh to answer your questions.

Adrian Clark | Flickr

Sixteen million dollars. That’s how much the state owes four southern Illinois hospitals, including St. Elizabeth’s in Belleville, according to hospital executive James Dover. He estimates that figure represents 10 to 15 percent of his operating budget over a six month period.

“It’s huge,” said Dover, president and CEO of the Southern Illinois Division of Hospital Sisters Health System, which is headquartered in Springfield. “We’ll never turn away a patient, but what other business would continue to take care of people while the state says ‘Sorry, we’re not going to pay you because we failed to pass a budget?’”

Map of the West Lake Landfill
Provided by the EPA

A federal proposal to remove the Environmental Protection Agency from the helm of remediation efforts at the West Lake Landfill is hitting some opposition in Washington, as an underground, high-temperature chemical reaction (typically referred to as a fire) continues to burn in the adjacent Bridgeton Landfill.

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

For some children in the St. Louis area, traumatic stress is an unavoidable part of growing up. Chronic poverty, racism and discrimination, experienced over time, contribute to children’s stress levels, which have an adverse impact on the way they grow up and contribute to their community.

Before it was banned in 1978, lead paint was commonly used in homes. In St. Louis, which is dominated by older housing stock, lead contamination is still prevalent.
Abby Lanes | Flickr

The lead contamination water crisis in Flint, which has captivated American attention since early this year, has a lot of people asking: Could this happen where I live? On Wednesday’s “St. Louis on the Air,” several guests joined host Don Marsh to discuss the state of lead remediation in St. Louis and if a water crisis of such a magnitude could occur here.

St. Louis County Councilman Sam Page is a strong supporting of a prescription drug monitoring program.
File photo by Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

With a statewide prescription drug monitoring program likely to run into intractable legislative opposition, the St. Louis County Council decided not to wait.

The council gave final approval without opposition to legislation that would set up a database tracking when certain prescription drugs are dispensed. It’s aimed at stopping someone from getting narcotics at multiple pharmacies.

Lisa Hickman, a 2-1-1 Call Center Supervisor, works for the United Way of Greater St. Louis.
provided by United Way

Here are some numbers you wouldn’t have been able to find two years ago.

Last week, 3,428 people from the St. Louis Metro Area called the United Way’s 2-1-1 hotline, asking for help. One in four requested financial assistance to pay a utility bill. Nearly 500 callers asked for rent assistance, a bed in an emergency shelter, or another housing request. Another 114 needed help filing their taxes.

Steven S. | Flickr | http://bit.ly/1Qo19ck

Earlier this year, the work of Dr. Stuart Slavin, a pediatrician and associate dean for curriculum at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, was featured in a New York Times opinion piece on the stress of students today. Slavin found through an anonymous study at a high school in California that 54 percent of students showed moderate to severe symptoms of depression.

A flu vaccine dose beside several needles.
Daniel Paquet | Flickr

A Washington University professor has a possible business solution to a perennial public health problem: flu vaccine shortages.

Olin Business School professor Fuqiang Zhang and his research partners are proposing a combination of existing contract incentives.

Scott Schliebe | Wikimedia Commons

Climate change is causing the Earth to change in drastic ways. Global temperatures are rising, oceans are warming, ice sheets are shrinking and the implications are vast for flora and fauna.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says “scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.”

Dr. Heidi Miller, (left) and breast health navigator Cherese Agard work at Family Care Health Center in the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood of St. Louis.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

In the past six years, staffers at Family Care Health Center in St. Louis have doubled the number of women coming in for regular mammograms.

It’s part of a region-wide push for “breast health navigators”: women who reach out to other women who aren’t getting mammograms and frequently don’t have health insurance. Then, they figure out how to get them in the door.

A view of a lake from the Katy Trail in St. Charles.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

A Missouri environmental group is suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in an effort to try to force the state to set stricter water pollution standards.

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