Health, Science, Environment

Health, science, and environmental news

Ph.D. Biomedical Engineering student Suman Mondal demonstrates "cancer goggles" at Washington University's Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology. 1/14/15
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

One year after "cancer goggles" were first used in a successful breast cancer operation, Dr. Samuel Achilefu is still getting emails from surgeons all over the world, hoping for a chance to use them.  

“We’ve been inundated,” he said from his desk in Washington University’s Mallinckrodt Institute, hours before receiving the 2014 St. Louis Award for his invention.

Old North
Emanuele Berry | St. Louis Public Radio

Torn up nets, fading court lines, unkempt baseball fields, smashed slides, broken pavement, crumbling swing sets and a clogged sprinkler filled with trash and dead animals … these are just some of the problems facing a pair of parks in the Old North neighborhood of St. Louis. Problems area children are campaigning to fix. 

The Youth Council of Old North held a meeting Tuesday evening to campaign for the city to fix Strodtman and Jackson parks. The council, which is made up of young men from the neighborhood, was established this fall.

A Level I Trauma Center at St. Louis University Hospital.
Provided by Saint Louis University Hospital

Get in a car crash, take a gunshot, or survive a farm machinery accident in rural Illinois or parts of the Metro East, and you’ll likely be taken to St. Louis University Hospital, across the river.   

“The quicker you get somebody here, the better they’re going to do,” said Helen Sandkuhl, who directs the Emergency Department. More than half of the hospital’s trauma patients come from Illinois, and the trip can be a long one. Broad swaths of the state do not have certified trauma centers within 50 miles, creating "trauma deserts" in southern and central Illinois.

Dr. Michael Rettig, research technician Stephanie Meier, Dr. Daniel Link, and Dr. Todd Fehniger, in the lab at Barnes Jewish Hospital.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Researchers at Washington University are conducting some of their first human trials for a new cancer drug that would treat one of the most lethal forms of adult leukemia. While standard leukemia treatments involve months of intense chemotherapy, this drug uses a specialized antibody to help the body’s own immune system learn how to fight back.

These photos show the two-page order related to the Bridgeton Landfill, filed Friday in St. Louis County Circuit Court.
Provided by Republic Services and the Missouri Attorney General's Office

Updated Jan. 9 to add Republic Services' filings and Circuit Court order

Following a long afternoon of negotiations, Bridgeton Landfill owner Republic Services has agreed to install two temperature monitoring probes in the landfill's north quarry, near radioactive waste at the adjacent West Lake Landfill.

Some residents of Town and Country are protesting the city's approach to deer overpopulation in the suburb.
Alvin Trusty, via Flickr

Some residents of Town and Country plan to hold a vigil for deer Thursday night in an unusual protest against what they call the city's costly and ineffective approach to managing the animal population. 

Adam, 37, Michaela, 3, and Kristy Frederick, 37, on a family hike in Colorado. The family moved to the state in 2013, in the hopes of treating Michaela's frequent seizures with an oil made from medical cannabis.
Frederick Family

 The state of Illinois has already missed a self-imposed deadline to license medical marijuana cultivators and dispensaries by the end of 2014.

The law allows people suffering from one of about 40 conditions to use medical marijuana with a doctor’s approval. It passed the Illinois legislature more than a year ago, but with a Republican governor soon to take office, it’s unclear exactly when state regulators will issue permits to the future suppliers.

In the meantime, patients continue to wait.

In Denver, One Family Delays a Homecoming

Rosmary via Flickr

Missourians are getting older, but their access to health care is not keeping up.

In October, a Missouri Foundation for Health report found a need for more geriatric specialists in the state. In 2011, Missouri had 139 geriatric doctors. The report predicted that the state would need 558 by 2030.

Washington University's Lihong Wang led the research team that invented a camera that can take up to 100 billion frames per second. Their work made the cover of the Dec. 4, 2014, issue of the journal Nature, where this image appeared.
Lihong Wang | Washington University

What if we could design a camera that could take a hundred billion pictures in a second ― enough to record the fastest phenomena in the universe.

Sounds like science fiction, right?

But it’s not: a new ultrafast imaging system developed at Washington University can do just that.

Ameren’s 2,400-megawatt plant near Labadie, Missouri, is the state’s largest coal-fired power plant. It produces an average of 550,000 tons of coal ash each year.
Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio

State regulators have given Ameren the go-ahead to build a new coal ash landfill next to its power plant in Franklin County.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources approved Ameren’s Labadie landfill construction permit on Friday.

In its approval letter, the state agency said that Ameren’s landfill plan met or exceeded all the requirements of the new federal coal ash rule ― except one.

Gateway Greening intern Ting "Bella" Liu shows students at Clay Elementary School in North St. Louis how to harvest peas.
Gateway Greening

A St. Louis-based community gardening organization is wrapping up its 30th year with a record harvest.

Gateway Greening’s community and youth gardens harvested more than 190,000 pounds of fresh vegetables and fruit in 2014.

The nonprofit’s executive director, Mike Sorth, said the organization provides basic gardening supplies and assistance to neighborhood gardens, schools and youth groups.

Adrian Clark | Flickr / Flickr

Missouri lawmakers pre-filed more than 500 bills over the past month that they plan to take up during the next legislative session, which begins on Jan. 7. Here’s a selection of bills related to health care that St. Louis Public Radio’s Health Desk will be keeping an eye on in 2015:   

HB 282: Consumer Rate Review on Health Insurance Plans

Republic Services spent $55 million to build this leachate pretreatment plant at the Bridgeton Landfill, in order to bring the wastewater into compliance with its disposal permit from the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District.
Missouri Department of Natural Resources

Bridgeton Landfill owner Republic Services is building a pipeline to carry wastewater from inside the landfill to a sewer line leading to the Bissell Point sewage treatment plant in north St. Louis.

The 7.5-mile-long pipeline will run along St. Charles Rock Road just south of  Lambert-St. Louis International airport, through St. Ann and several other north St. Louis County communities.

That has some area residents worried about the potential for toxic contamination.

Adrian Clark | Flickr / Flickr

The state agency that provides Medicaid coverage to more than 840,000 Missourians does not have proper oversight over contractors in charge of certain aspects of payment processing, according to an audit released Monday of MO HealthNet.  

The report by the office of Tom Schweich, the Missouri state auditor, identified four areas of concern:

In Dec. 2008, a dike collapsed at TVA's coal-fired power plant near Kingston, Tenn., releasing 1.1 billion gallons of coal ash into the Emory and Clinch rivers and covering about 300 acres of land.
Tennessee Valley Authority

A local environmental group is asking state regulators to deny Ameren’s request to build a new coal ash landfill next to its Labadie power plant in Franklin County, on the basis that the landfill would not comply with new federal regulations.

In Dec. 2008, the failure of a dike at TVA's coal-fired power plant near Kingston, Tenn., released 1.1 billion gallons of coal ash into the Emory and Clinch rivers and buried about 300 acres of land.
Tennessee Valley Authority

For the first time, the byproducts of coal-fired power plants will now be subject to federal regulation.

In a state like Missouri, which generates more than 80 percent of its electricity from coal, the new standards could have significant repercussions.

On the eastern edge of St. Joseph, Mo., lies the small city's only hospital, a landmark of modern brick and glass buildings. Everyone in town knows Heartland Regional Medical Center — many residents gave birth to their children here. Many rush here when they get hurt or sick.

Adrian Clark | Flickr / Flickr

Despite progress in unemployment rates, the number of St. Louis residents who were uninsured in 2013 was almost the same as it was five years ago, according to an annual report by the St. Louis Regional Health Commission.   

The Missouri Agriculture Department is hoping Farm-to-School value-added grants will bring more locally produced food into schools.
Stephanie Lecci

The Missouri Department of Agriculture will soon announce the winners of competitive grants aimed at increasing the amount of locally produced foods in school, while growing local businesses.

The Farm-to-School Value-Added grants will go to businesses that either buy or process foods from local farmers, or are food producers themselves. The applicants must already have a relationship with schools, either directly or through a distributor. 

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

Updated 12/18/14:

Groundwater under the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton is contaminated with unhealthy levels of radium.

That’s according to a U.S. Geological Survey report, released on Wednesday by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

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