Health, Science, Environment

Health, science, and environmental news

Philae Lander on Comet
ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA

There is a St. Louis-area connection to the mission that recently landed a spacecraft on a comet for the first time.

Paul Friz is wrapping up an internship at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

His interest in space started as a teenager looking at the stars at his family’s home in Creve Coeur, Missouri.

When he was 14, Friz saved money from a summer of mowing lawns to buy his first telescope.

Dr. Karen DeSalvo, Acting Assistant Secretary for Health in the US Department of Health and Human Services.
US Department of Health and Human Services

If you’ve been taking your time to peruse the insurance plans on Healthcare.gov, there’s only one week left to enroll for coverage that begins on the first of the year. (The exchanges will remain open until Feb. 15, however.)

Child therapist Anita Blackwell (right) attends a workshop for Emotional Emancipation Circles on December 6, 2014 at Harris Stowe University.
Durrie Bouscaren / St. Louis Public Radio

“My soul is grieving. Our collective soul is grieving,” Dr. Cheryl Tawede Grills said as she opened her training session for psychologists establishing therapy groups in a post-Ferguson world.  

The groups are called Emotional Emancipation Circles, or EEC’s, and they’re conducted in a specific way: create a safe space for people to talk about the racism they experience. Validate that experience. And give participants emotional tools to go forward.

Adrian Clark | Flickr / Flickr

Less than a month into the Affordable Care Act’s open enrollment period, there are some questions, but nowhere near the problems that were seen a year ago at this time.

“Compared to last year, it is going much smoother. The first day, about 500,000 people logged on and 100,000 people actually signed up for coverage, compared to last year when it took us over a month to get the website working,” said Sidney Watson, a Saint Louis University Health Law Policy Center professor.

The "plume" of TCE-contaminated groundwater in Elmwood Park is shown in light blue in the top left of this map.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

After years of concern, residents of Elmwood Park aren't any closer to knowing if they are being harmed by chemical vapors.

In the late 1980s, the industrial chemical trichloroethylene, or TCE, was first detected in groundwater under the North St. Louis County neighborhood. The contamination came from spills at the nearby Missouri Metals Shaping Company.

Jan Polizzi
Provided by the family

For 12 years, Jan Polizzi was a nurse in pediatric intensive care units. That was as long as she could take it.

''I still recall the first child that I ever lost,'' she said in a 1988 St. Louis Post-Dispatch story. ''I dressed and bathed him and got him his favorite toys. I learned to love that kid and his family.''

Missouri currently gets more than 80 percent of its electricity from coal-fired power plants like Ameren's Labadie power plant, pictured here.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

Update 1/7/15

The EPA has delayed their schedule to release carbon dioxide emissions rules until ‘midsummer,’ a top EPA official announced Wednesday.

The final rule for new power plants had been scheduled to be published January 8, with the rules for existing and modified power plants due June 2. Now, all will be released at the same time.

Ryan White, the Indiana teenager who, after contracting AIDS at age 13, advocated for a more considered approach to those facing AIDS-related illnesses.
(via Wikimedia Commons/Wildhartlivie)

For people who live with HIV/AIDS, the cost of anti-retroviral medications, doctor’s visits and other medical care can quickly amount to thousands of dollars each month. Health insurance can keep these costs affordable, and the federal Ryan White program pays the cost of insurance for Missourians who meet certain income guidelines. 

But choosing a plan that works for people living with HIV can still be a challenge, and it’s a process Tom Kribben knows well.

Griffin 3D is a local start-up that makes original design 3D printers. Here, the Griffin Pro Mini, prints an octopus at the Science Center's First Friday event in November.
Rebecca Smith/St. Louis Public Radio

Most people have heard of 3D printing, but few have ever seen these printers up close and in action.

Scott Rocca, co-owner of Griffin 3D, a St. Louis start-up, is trying to change this by showcasing his company’s printers at numerous events, such as the Science Center’s First Fridays. People can come and watch the printers. Soon they will be able to buy their own. 

Véronique LaCapra / St. Louis Public Radio

Post updated 11:13 a.m. on Monday, 11/24/14. 

After four years and a court order that pitted environmental groups against the coal industry, the Environmental Protection Agency is nearing its December deadline to finalize regulations for how coal-fired power plants dispose of the ash they create.  

Coal ash — which contains toxic substances like mercury, lead and arsenic — can leach into groundwater if not properly contained. That has raised concerns among environmental groups who say Missouri does not properly regulate coal ash disposal.  

The Ebola virus, shown through transmission electron micrograph.
CDC

A female nurse who was admitted to Mercy Hospital Jefferson with a fever after returning from Liberia has returned home, officials confirmed Saturday night. 

Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
mshipp via Flickr

Several factors are helping St. Louis make a name for itself as a startup city.

“First of all is talent,” Thomas Osha told “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh on Thursday. Osha is managing director of innovation and economic development for Wexford Science + Technology. “Talent trumps everything. That’s why it is the fuel of entrepreneurial activity. Innovation is totally a social enterprise, so the more folks you can bring into that orbit, the more chance you have of being able to scale those entrepreneurial businesses.”

The Ebola virus, shown through transmission electron micrograph.
CDC

Updated at 6:40 p.m.

A Jefferson County woman who was showing symptoms of Ebola has initially tested negative for the virus at Mercy Hospital in Crystal City. As a precautionary measure, officials said she will remain in an isolation room for treatment and will be monitored according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Flickr/rosemary

To date, Missouri has failed to expand its Medicaid program as part of the Affordable Care Act, aka "Obamacare." As a result, federal dollars that would normally flow to underserved areas are being transferred to states that have expanded their programs. This loss of funding has major implications for health care in our state especially for those in areas of poverty and who are underserved. One particularly susceptible area is rural Missouri.

Sac-Osage Hospital in Osceola is a telling example.

Curesa Atkins sits in her apartment at the Garfield Commons.
Durrie Bouscaren / St. Louis Public Radio

When Curesa Atkins moved into her apartment at Garfield Commons, a group from her church decorated it for her.

“It was snowing, and I just thought, 'Thank God. I’m watching it from the other side of the window when there’s so, so many people out there,'” Atkins said.

Atkins, a 42-year-old former dental assistant, said she became homeless after a dealing with series of car repairs, a change in her marital status and, eventually, the loss of her job.

via Flickr / Mark Hadley

Farms surrounding St. Louis now dedicate much less land to growing fruits and vegetables than they did 80 years ago.  According to a report released Wednesday by the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, only one tenth of 1 percent of the cropland surrounding St. Louis is dedicated to produce. Commodity crops such as corn and soybeans take up the vast majority of the agricultural land within a 100-mile radius of the city.

McDonald's Chicken McNugget Happy Meal
McDonald's

Two things are certain: Kids like toys and nearly every story has a St. Louis connection. Case in point: The genesis of McDonald's Happy Meal.

In the 1970s, St. Louis native Joe Johnston went to work for a Cleveland marketing agency. That's where he had a hand in changing fast food.

(Courtesy University City Children's Center)

About 12,300 fewer children attended federally subsidized day cares in Missouri during fiscal year 2013 than in 2012. That marks the largest decline in the country. But child service nonprofits say it’s unlikely the decline is due entirely to a reduction in need. Instead, it may be due to changes within the state agency that administers the funds.

U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay speaks with Rhonda and John Kiely at the health insurance resource fair at the St. Ann Community Center on Saturday, November 15, 2014.
Camille Phillips/St. Louis Public Radio

U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay says he hopes more Missourians sign up for health insurance this year, now that the second year of open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act has begun.

More than 150,000 Missourians signed up for insurance last year—about half of those eligible. 

To mark the first day of open enrollment, the congressman visited a resource fair Saturday at the St. Ann Community Center in north St. Louis County. On-site navigators helped people sign up for health insurance, as vendors sold barbecue and salsa music played.

Dara Taylor of Community Catalyst.
Durrie Bouscaren / St. Louis Public Radio

On Saturday, open enrollment season for Healthcare.gov begins. For the second time around, public health organizations and insurance "navigators" are holding outreach events, running ads, and looking for the remaining uninsured Missouri residents.

But who are those uninsured Missourians? And how have the changes implemented through the Affordable Care Act affected the state?  

Hundreds of thousands of people in Missouri are uninsured. Who are they?

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