Health, Science, Environment

Health, science, and environmental news

Meds and Food For Kids

On a typical day in 2010, Joseph Volcy found himself sitting outside of his church after choir practice when he felt a great tremble, “like a bulldozer on the road.” He looked up, and from his seat on a bench, he saw half of a mountain come down behind his church. Then came the dust.

“I didn’t know what was going on,” Volcy said. “No one could see where they were going. When I left the church to go home, I couldn’t. I saw a lot of people on the back of taxis and people being brought to the hospital, where some of them died. But I still couldn’t tell what was going on.”

This treehopper in a greenhouse at Saint Louis University would not normally have a purple horn or "pronotum." It was painted that color for identification purposes.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

On a warm summer night, it can sound like there are insects all over the place, calling out from every lawn, bush and tree branch.

But most of what insects are saying to one another we can’t hear.

Saint Louis University evolutionary ecologist Kasey Fowler-Finn has been listening in on the hidden world of insect communication and one bug’s unusual love songs.

Air pollution from coal-fired power plants, industrial activities, and cars contributes to asthma and other health problems in the St. Louis area.
Syracuse University News Services

In December, government representatives from all over the world will meet in Paris for another conference on climate change aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and curbing rising global temperatures.

In advance of that meeting, some scientists and environmental leaders are gathering at Washington University to discuss one particular consequence of climate change: widespread species extinctions.

One of RideFinders' 15-passenger vans
(Courtesy: RideFinders)

More than 11,000 commuters in the St. Louis area are registered with RideFinders, an organization that provides free ride-matching services over a nine-county area in Missouri and Illinois.

According to data from the U.S. Census, carpooling is most popular in cities such as Memphis, Houston, Phoenix, Detroit and Dallas. In those communities, about 12 percent of commuters carpool.

Sarah sleeps.
Mark Glenshaw

Updated 5:20 p.m., Sept. 7 with news about Sarah’s passing

Amateur naturalist Mark Glenshaw on Monday reported that Sarah, a beloved Great Horned Owl in Forest Park, has died.

Glenshaw had followed the pair of mated Great Horned Owls for nearly 10 years.

police car lights
Jason Rojas | Flickr

Law enforcement agencies on both sides of the Mississippi River are out in force this weekend to try and keep a deadly trend in check. Historically Labor Day weekend is one of the deadliest holidays to travel in both Missouri and Illinois.

Rev. Ken McKoy of the Progressive A.M.E Zion Church organizes NightLIFE walks three times a week in two north St. Louis neighborhoods.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Three nights a week, between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., half a dozen St. Louis clergy members walk the streets in a line.

Led by Rev. Ken McKoy of the Progressive A.M.E Zion Church, they visit the Fountain Park and Lewis Place neighborhoods to act as a “ministry of presence,” as McKoy calls it. It’s a violence prevention effort that began on a grassroots level and is now on the cusp of expanding. McKoy calls it NightLIFE.

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

Updated 5:20 p.m., Sept. 3 with additional comments — Radiation from the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton has spread to neighboring properties. That's according to reports released on Thursday by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster. The reports also suggest the underground fire at the neighboring Bridgeton Landfill is moving in the direction of the radioactive waste.

Landfill owner Republic Services maintains that the situation is under control and that the subsurface chemical reaction is headed south, away from the known area of nuclear contamination.

Wastewater from Ameren's coal-fired power plant in Franklin County discharges into the Missouri River.
Labadie Environmental Organization

The Sierra Club says Ameren's Labadie power plant in Franklin County does not meet state and federal water quality standards and wants it brought into compliance.

On Friday, the environmental group filed an appeal with the state, alleging the plant’s operating permit does not do enough to protect wildlife or groundwater.

Front entrance to the Illinois Veterans' Home-Quincy. Seven have died in an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease.
Jason Parrott | Tri States Public Radio

Illinois has confirmed three more deaths from Legionnaires' disease at a Quincy veterans' home, increasing the number of fatalities from the outbreak to seven. 

Officials have so far diagnosed 39 people with the disease and tests are pending for other residents. The veterans' home is working with the state and county health departments as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to find the source.

A view of Saint Louis University Hospital, taken 02/23/15.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

SSM Health has announced plans to build a brand new hospital and outpatient facility to replace Saint Louis University Hospital, as it completes the process to take the 356-bed medical center under its wing. SSM officials made the surprise announcement on Tuesday morning, the first day of new ownership.

WeCare Clinic director Kim White, a clinical nurse specialist, stands in the waiting room of WeCare's primary care clinic.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

A $1.08 million grant from the federal government is allowing an East St. Louis clinic to expand its services as a “one-stop shop” in a city where many struggle to manage chronic health conditions and access to care is often limited.

Jamyla Bolden's photo for a GoFundMe site created to pay her funeral costs. A private donor later stepped forward to pay the full costs.
Cropped | Provided by the Bolden family

Over the weekend, the family of Jamyla Bolden buried their daughter — a bubbly fourth grader who loved to sing, dance and spend time with her friends.

A farm pond in southern Illinois
Deb Rednour

Missouri is one of 13 states that won a reprieve from a new Environmental Protection Agency rule that expands the definition of a navigable waterway.

The ruling comes after the states sued, claiming that the new Waters of the U.S. definition went too far, to the point of including ponds, channels that are dry most of the time, and streams that only flow when it’s raining.

Dr. Gene Robinson (left) and Dr. James Carrington (right) joined "St. Louis on the Air."
Áine O'Connor | St. Louis Public Radio

Insect communities are well known to exhibit social behavior, often accomplishing in groups extraordinary tasks of building and cooperation far disproportionate to their individual size and brainpower.

Jessica Liss (left), Michelle Smith (middle), and AJ Bockelman (right) joined "St. Louis on the Air" in studio.
Áine O'Connor | St. Louis Public Radio

Awareness of transgender individuals and trans* issues has grown substantially in the past couple of years, but for many people—transgender and cisgender alike—uncertainty still prevails.

Ameren's Callaway nuclear power plant produces about 19 percent of the electricity the company generates in Missouri. It is the only nuclear energy facility in the state.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

Starting this week, Ameren will have a new way to store radioactive waste at its Callaway nuclear power plant near Fulton.

It’s called dry cask storage.

Prof. Sarah Gehlert (left) and Dr. Will Ross (right) discussed precision medicine in studio on "St. Louis on the Air."
Áine O'Connor | St. Louis Public Radio

Precision medicine, sometimes called personalized medicine, is a model of health care in which care, treatment, and medicines are customized to the individual—tailored, extraordinarily, to a person’s genetic code.

Precision medicine is lauded by some medical professionals and hopeful patients for its potential to elevate individual health, but some critics ask if precision medicine is being cast, to the cost and detriment of some groups, as a miracle cure.

An excavator with an eight-foot-long claw takes down chunks of the Wilco Building at the Carter Carburetor site on Monday.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

The contaminated buildings of the old Carter Carburetor plant on North Grand Boulevard are finally coming down.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is overseeing the clean-up, which started in April 2014 with the removal of asbestos from the large CBI building. Earlier this year, contractors used dry ice to blast away indoor lead paint.

On Monday, demolition of the two-story Wilco building got underway. The CBI building will follow, with all above-ground work expected to be completed by next April.

Robbin Dailey of Bridgeton, Mary Oscko of Hazelwood and Meagan Beckermann of Bridgeton survey the newly closed St. Cin Park.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

This post has been updated to include information regarding the city of Florissant. 

Hazelwood is closing a popular park along Coldwater Creek as cleanup efforts continue after the discovery of “low-dose” radioactive soil. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is conducting a cleanup on one side of St. Cin Park, and the city had kept the park’s playground open.

Some residents in this part of north St. Louis County believe their health problems are due to exposure to the creek, which is contaminated with decades-old radioactive waste from the Manhattan Project. Tensions in Hazelwood reached a high point last week, when the Army Corps confirmed that they had found radioactive contamination in soil samples from the backyards of three homes on Palm Drive.

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

About 80 people, clustered around tables, bent their heads and waited for the voices to start.

“Don’t answer,” a woman’s voice warned as a phone rang. “They’ll know who you are.”

Coldwater Creek Facebook group co-administrator Jenell Wright (white jacket) takes notes during a meeting of the Coldwater Creek oversight committee on Thursday.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

More than a hundred people packed into a room at the Hazelwood Civic Center last night to hear about radioactive contamination outside homes near Coldwater Creek.

Michael Moehn (left) and Ajay Arora (right) joined "St. Louis on the Air" in studio.
Áine O'Connor | St. Louis Public Radio

This story was updated on August 20, 2015 with corrections to details of the Clean Power Plan and Integrated Resource Plan.

Coal has continued to fuel arguments over health hazards, hidden costs, and energy efficiency since “St. Louis on the Air” tackled Missouri’s problematic coal dependence in a July show featuring an ex-miner from Appalachia.

St. Cin Park in Hazelwood on Wednesday. The park is staying open during the clean-up, but the Corps is monitoring the air and water for contamination.
Mike Petersen | U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Louis District

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has confirmed that it has found radioactive contamination at residential properties along Coldwater Creek in north St. Louis County.

Mike Petersen, the chief of public affairs for the Corps' St. Louis District, said as of right now, "low-dose" contamination had been found in the soil around "a handful" of homes on Palm Drive in Hazelwood, immediately adjacent to the creek. He was not able to specify the exact number of properties affected.

Washington University in St. Louis

African-American men are more than twice as likely to die from prostate cancer than men of any other racial group, but a group of St. Louis-area physicians say that disparity was not considered when a U.S. health regulator decided no longer to recommend annual screening tests, regardless of race.

The Prostate Specific Antigen test, or PSA, is often criticized for its high rate of false-positive results. But Dr. Lannis Hall, a radiation oncologist for Siteman Cancer Center in St. Peters, credits the tests with helping alleviate the stark disparity in survival rates between African-American men and white men. 

This graph from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources' letter to Republic Services shows gradually rising temperatures in the neck of the Bridgeton Landfill.
Missouri Department of Natural Resources

Missouri environmental officials are ordering the owner of a landfill in Bridgeton do more to prevent a smoldering subsurface fire there from spreading. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources wants to keep the underground reaction from coming into contact with radioactive waste stored nearby.

But Republic Services, the owner, insists the situation at the Bridgeton Landfill is under control.

Zella Jackson Price (right) and her daughter Melanie Gilmore are reunited, nearly 50 years after Price says she was told her daughter died at birth.
Wiley Price | St. Louis American

Federal officials in St. Louis are closing an investigation into claims that the daughter of a local gospel singer was stolen from her at birth. The Department of Justice released hospital records that undermined the mother’s claims during a news conference Friday afternoon.  

For months, Zella Jackson Price had maintained that 50 years ago, a nurse at the Homer G. Phillips Hospital told her that her newborn daughter had died. Instead, the baby was placed in foster care. A DNA test reunited them this year.

A line of police face off with protesters on West Florissant Ave., last Sunday night.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Fearing for your safety or that of your family; witnessing violence; and the repeated, chronic stress of a traumatic event’s aftermath can all leave mental and emotional scars. Mental health professionals caution that last year's events in Ferguson have likely placed people at risk for developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.

With the hopes that they can help people work through their trauma, researchers from the University of Missouri-St. Louis are trying measure the scope of PTSD in the region, triggered by the Ferguson protests.

The St. Louis County Building Commission (Jeff Aboussie, Barry Glantz and John Finder, right) listens to Sierra Club supporters on Wednesday. The model house is covered with the names of 529 area residents who want stricter energy efficiency standards.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri Sierra Club is raising the alarm that new residential building codes under review by St. Louis County would reduce home energy efficiency below existing standards.

But the Home Builders Association of St. Louis and Eastern Missouri (HBA) believes the changes are needed.

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