Health, Science, Environment | St. Louis Public Radio

Health, Science, Environment

Jamaa Birth Village Tru Kellman at the future site of the Jamaa Birthing Center in Ferguson.
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

A Ferguson midwife and founder of a maternal health center that focuses on black women is accusing Mercy hospital of stealing her business and reneging on an agreement that would direct midwifery care in Ferguson to her clinic.

Tru Kellman, founder of Ferguson’s Jamaa Birth Village, said Jamaa agreed to train Mercy staff to administer culturally sensitive care. That agreement, reached in March, allowed for some Jamaa clients to use Mercy’s Birthing Center in Creve Coeur. 

Dr. Joshua Swamidass
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Bring up Adam and Eve in contemporary conversation, and you’ll likely be met with either total skepticism or deep confidence, depending on the audience. Diametrically opposed views of the biblical origin story come with the territory of ongoing cultural battles between creationists and evolutionists and the typical right and left.

But Washington University’s Dr. S. Joshua Swamidass, who describes himself as “a scientist in the Church and a Christian in science,” is hoping to shift the conversation. In his new book “The Genealogical Adam and Eve: The Surprising Science of Universal Ancestry,” he hopes to reach secular and religious readers alike.

“What if the traditional account is somehow true, with the origins of Adam and Eve taking place alongside evolution?” he asks.

Feral swine in Missouri cause damage to wildlife, plants, animals, natural habitat and farmland. 12-09-19
USDA

ROLLA — Hunters interested in taking any of the feral hogs that are doing significant damage in the Ozarks will have to do so in very limited windows.

The U.S. Forest Service announced on Saturday that hunting of feral hogs in Mark Twain National Forest will be limited to deer and turkey season and restricted to hunters holding permits.

Photo of a farm.
File Photo | Rachel Heidenry | St. Louis Beacon

People in rural areas have more unnecessary hospital visits and are more likely to die from chronic conditions than people in cities because they have little access to specialists, according to a study by St. Louis researchers.

Researchers from St. Louis University, Washington University and Harvard studied nationwide survey and claims data from thousands of Medicare patients with chronic conditions.

Washington University researchers collected bacteria samples from more than 100 families with children who had been treated for MRSA infections. They found MRSA on multiple household surfaces, including towels and bedsheets.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

People treated for drug-resistant MRSA often develop infections again and again — even multiple times in a single year.

Part of the problem is the hardiness of the bacteria responsible, which can live on household surfaces for months.

Washington University researchers report family members who share specific items, including towels and bedsheets, are more likely to pass the bacteria to each other. The team, which spent a year collecting bacteria samples from St. Louis families, also found that children who attend day care were often the ones who brought MRSA bacteria home. 

A soldier at Fort Leonard Wood is tested for TBI using the experimental Brain Scope, part of research going on at the base and Phelps Health in Rolla. 12/5/19
Matthew Doellman | Phelps Health

Diagnosing traumatic brain injury faster so treatment can start right away is the focus of a $5 million research project centered at Fort Leonard Wood and nearby Phelps Health Hospital in Rolla.

Traumatic brain injury is a head injury from an external force that can do long-lasting damage to the brain. Phelps Health is a community hospital that serves a county of fewer than 50,000 people, but is conducting research that could revolutionize the way the Army treats everything from concussions to serious brain injury. 

Tim McBride is a professor in the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis and is co-director of the Center for Health Economics and Policy.
EVIE HEMPHILL | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

The deadline to enroll in a health care plan via the Affordable Care Act marketplace is Dec. 15. Are plans more or less affordable than in previous years? What should people be aware of while searching for plans outside of the ACA marketplace?

Thursday on St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske put these questions to Timothy McBride of Washington University in St. Louis. In addition to talking about the health and future of the ACA marketplace, McBride, the co-director of the Center for Health Economics and Policy, discussed what Medicaid expansion could look like in Missouri. Just last week, Gov. Mike Parson said he would expand the program if voters say that’s what they want. 

The opioid prescribing rate in Missouri went up close to 10 percent between 2017 and 2018 within counties participating in the state's drug monitoring program
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

Nearly three people a day died of opioid overdoses in St. Louis last year, according to data released by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.

There were 1,080 people who died of opioids in St. Louis and eight surrounding counties, up 30% from the year before. 

The 2018 count, released this week, marks the 12th consecutive year of rising drug-related fatalities in the region.

Dr. Laurie Punch plunged her gloved hands into Sidney Taylor's open chest in a St. Louis hospital's operating room, pushing on his heart to make it pump again, though a bullet had torn through his flesh, collarbone and lung. His pulse had faded to nothing. She needed to get his heart beating.

She couldn't let the bullet win.

Mare Nectaris is a small lunar sea located on the near side of the moon.
Paul Stewart | Flickr

The Earth’s moon contains ice, but scientists don’t know much about where the water came from. As the moon formed, water could have come from Earth’s volcanoes in the form of gas. It could have been brought there by comets and meteorites. Or, it may have traveled to the lunar surface via solar wind that interacted with minerals on the moon to create water. 

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis are teaming up to find some answers. The team has been chosen as one of NASA’s eight new Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institutes. They are part of a five-year cooperative agreement valued at more than $7 million.

Nicole Jackson came to the first Midwest SoulVeg Fest to get some inspiration on her slow path to being a vegan. She admitted that as a black person who grew up going to events centered on meat, it’s easier said than done.

“Sunday dinner after church, the cookouts, the barbeques, where we are just gathered by food that pulls us together,” said Jackson, who is from Olathe, Kansas.

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

Updated at 1:09 p.m. with comments from environmentalists A Missouri environmental advocacy group is suing the Environmental Protection Agency, claiming that it has failed to prevent farm runoff from polluting Missouri’s lakes. 

The EPA last December approved a plan the Missouri Department of Natural Resources developed to monitor nutrient pollution in the state’s lakes. Excessive amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus that largely come from farm runoff can threaten aquatic wildlife and public health. 

An illustration of astronauts at a lunar crater.
NASA

Space explorers could someday use the moon to mine for elements needed to make rocket fuel on the moon, making it a launchpad to other worlds. 

But first, scientists need to study the moon’s ice deposits. A team of astrophysicists at Washington University has received a $7 million agreement with NASA to study the origins of lunar ice, ammonia and methane over the next five years.

Missourians buying health insurance on the federal exchange likely won't see the sky-high rate increases that have becoming common in recent years in 2019. But experts say the marketplace's woes are far from over.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Missourians shopping for health insurance on the federal government’s online marketplace are likely to see slightly lower premium prices, but health economists warn residents could still pay more for their health care next year.

Deductibles, the prices customers pay out-of-pocket before insurance startas to cover bills, are increasing by $100-$200 a year on average, according to an analysis by the Missouri Foundation for Health. Some consumers have deductibles of more than $6,000.

Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

More people in Missouri are consulting doctors via telephone or video services — and mental health care is most in demand.

Patient visits using telephones or video conferencing systems have increased tenfold since 2010 among Missouri Medicaid users, according to the Missouri Telehealth Network at the University of Missouri. 

The vast majority of those visits were for behavioral or mental health services, said Rachel Mutrux, senior program director at the network. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has paid out a record $4.24 billion in claims for acres farmers couldn’t plant this year.

The “prevented planting” provision allows farmers to file a crop insurance claim when weather conditions leave fields unfit for a crop. Heavy spring rains and flooding left some Midwest farm ground too wet for seeds and equipment during the planting window, meaning farmers couldn’t put in the corn or soybeans they’d intended for those acres. 

More than 70% of U.S. seniors surveyed lived in homes without any accessibility features, like handicap ramps or grab bars.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Seniors with disabilities who live alone show faster declines in brain function than those who live with others, according to Washington University research.

But there’s an encouraging finding: Seniors who live in homes with handicap-accessible features stay mentally sharp longer. 

More than 12 million seniors in the U.S. live alone. Many are opting to age in their homes, rather than move into nursing facilities. But most homes in the U.S. lack features that make them accessible for disabled people.

via Flickr/functoruser

Red-light cameras might be returning to St. Louis intersections, but research questions whether they make streets any safer.

Missouri S&T researchers Ryan Smith, Marek Locmelis, Jonathan Obrist-Farner and research assistant Gabriela Ramirez examine a soil sample as part of their research into toxic contaminants. 11-25-19
Tom Wagner | Missouri S&T

ROLLA — The spring floods in Missouri and Illinois caused more than $1 billion in damage and may have left behind chemicals that could hurt the environment and end up in drinking water.

“A lot of times we don’t take measurements right after a flood. So we don’t have a really good idea of how long it takes for these things to get flushed out,” said Ryan Smith, a geologist at Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla. 

An analysis of states that decriminalized marijuana reported a steep drop in the number of related arrests and no increase in adolescent use.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Illinois becomes the 11th state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana on Jan. 1, six years after Colorado started to allow recreational sales. The cannabis industry grew rapidly in that time, and so did claims about the plant’s properties and effects.

Joseph DiVerdi doesn’t believe those assertions. He should know. DiVerdi is a cannabis researcher and chemistry professor at Colorado State University.

“The hype totally outstripes knowledge,” he said. “The lack of hard data has permitted opinion to run wild and rampant. There are so many things attributed to the cannabis plant that are far beyond what might be considered reasonable.” 

Five Illinois residents have died so far this year after vaping. Two of those people have died within the last week, while public health investigators have struggled to find what’s behind the spike in illnesses.

Landowners and environmentalists expressed opposing views on the Maryland Park Lake District TIF proposal at a packed public hearing on Nov. 21, 2019.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

The Maryland Heights Tax Increment Financing Commission could soon approve a plan to use tax money to build pumps and levees in a frequently flooded area near the Missouri River. 

City officials and the urban planning group PGAV Planners propose to redevelop the Maryland Park Lake District. That’s a 2,215-acre agricultural area near Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park that is protected by the Howard Bend levees. 

Josh Graciano | Flickr

A Missouri appeals court has ordered the natural gas company Spire to pay customers at least $4 million in reimbursements after it improperly charged them for pipe repairs.

In a trio of decisions, judges from the Missouri Western District Court of Appeals ruled the utility improperly used surcharges to fund infrastructure improvements that were not eligible for those fees.

An illustration of pollution, 2017
Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Predominantly black neighborhoods in the St. Louis region where poor people live have a much higher exposure to carcinogenic air pollution than white middle-class neighborhoods, according to a study from Washington University. 

Researchers analyzed the Environmental Protection Agency’s data on risk of cancer from air pollutants, like ozone, among census tracts in the St. Louis metropolitan area. In the journal Environmental Research, scientists reported that the risk was five times higher for census tracts that had mostly black residents and high levels of poverty than for areas with white middle-class residents.

In the spring of 1989, Missouri lawmakers were motivated to figure out how climate change would affect the state’s economy, political future and social capital. 

A year after California started looking into climate change, the Missouri General Assembly created a commission of 14 experts and politicians to study the issue and come up with solutions. The result was more than 100 policy suggestions, covering everything from the use of solar and wind energy to transportation and teaching about climate change.

Three decades later, experts say Missouri hasn’t achieved its goals. 

Solar panels are one upgrade business can make with PACE financing. The Fairview Heights City Council will consider tonight whether to allow the financing program in its city.
File photo| Maria Altman | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis officials released a plan late Monday to generate 100% of the city’s energy from wind and solar power by 2035. 

Environmental lawyers and advocates who worked on the report recommended making buildings more energy efficient, increasing solar panel installation and purchasing wind energy. 

Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed, who sponsored the board’s 2017 clean energy resolution, said achieving the resolution’s goal would benefit the economy.

Ella Olsson | Flickr

In the new Netflix documentary "The Game Changers," a former team physician for the St. Louis Rams and Cardinals challenges what he refers to as a “locker-room mythology about meat, protein and strength.

“The attitude of most athletes for many years was that you had to eat meat to get protein, [that] we need that protein to get big and strong, and again, that meat was the best source. But that’s clearly just not true,” Dr. James Loomis said Friday on St. Louis on the Air.

“There are many, many highly successful athletes, both in the strength world … but also endurance athletes, who really thrive on a plant-based diet.”

A pesticide storage tank deposited by floodwaters along Interstate 29 in northwest Missouri, near the Iowa border.
Missouri Department of Natural Resources

Floodwaters carved a path of devastation through the Midwest this year — and carried hundreds of storage tanks downstream to Missouri.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources is collecting these orphaned containers, which range in size from small buckets to 500,000-gallon tanks. Many contain hazardous materials, including diesel fuel, pesticides and ammonia gas.

Most of the containers have washed up along the banks of the Missouri River in the northwest corner of the state, said DNR environmental scientist Stephen McLane.

Environmental activist Patricia Schuba discusses proposed changes to the Franklin County zoning map at a library in Union on November 9, 2019.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Franklin County is considering zoning changes that would allow large livestock operations to be built in areas where they haven’t been permitted before. 

The proposed revisions to the county’s zoning map have many residents worried that the changes could make it easier for corporations to build concentrated animal feeding operations. Such industrial livestock farms produce large amounts of animal waste, which can pollute the air and water for nearby residents.

Rita Csapo-Sweet joined Wednesday's program.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

In 2012, Rita Csapo-Sweet and her husband, the late Frederick Sweet, jointly published a paper on the ghastly but little-known legacy of Carl Clauberg, a German physician who conducted mass sterilization experiments at Auschwitz during World War II. Clauberg would use his work in the concentration camp to develop a pioneering fertility test. 

“Clauberg’s name needs to be placed next to [Josef] Mengele’s in its rightful place in infamy,” the two scholars concluded, emphasizing that Clauberg’s medical crimes against humanity “must be disclosed whenever the test bearing his name appears” in modern biomedical texts.

As Csapo-Sweet and Sweet dug into their research, filmmakers Sylvia Nagel and Sonya Winterberg also began a documentary about Clauberg — and the St. Louis-based couple’s academic article filled in key gaps in the filmmakers’ story. Nagel and Winterberg reached out to Csapo-Sweet in 2015, and she joined the documentary as its American producer.

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