Health, Science, Environment | St. Louis Public Radio

Health, Science, Environment

The St. Louis County Health Department is distributing free two packs of Narcan nasal spray, which can save people from opioid overdoses.
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis County Health Department is distributing free bottles of an overdose antidote to save people addicted to opioids.

The health department announced Monday it is offering naloxone at its health clinic in north St. Louis County and at the Buzz Westfall Justice Center in Clayton. When given to a person who has overdosed on opioids, the medicine can immediately reverse the effects of the overdose.

The Sanvello app is available to all University of Missouri students at all of its campuses 02-21-20
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

Stress, anxiety and depression can be part of the college experience for many students, so the University of Missouri System is hoping a mobile app can help them cope better and be healthy.

The university purchased the rights for students on the campuses in Columbia, St. Louis, Kansas City and Rolla to download and use the app called Sanvello. Normally it costs $8.95 a month. 

It has functions including self-assessments, guided meditations, breathing exercises and behavioral studies that are designed to help manage mental health issues.

The rate of emergency room admissions for child sex abuse in the U.S. nearly doubled between 2010 and 2016, according to research from Saint Louis University.
Maria Fabrizio | NPR

Children who have suffered sexual abuse are now going to the ER at much higher rates compared to a decade ago, according to research from St. Louis University. 

The national rate of ER admissions for child sex abuse nearly doubled between 2010 and 2016. At the same time, cases of confirmed child sex abuse in the U.S. have been declining since the 1990s, according to data from the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect. 

7 Questions About Cancer-Causing Chemicals From Scott AFB Answered

Feb 21, 2020
Airman First Class Anthony Uelk, on the ladder, along with fellow 932nd Airlift Wing flight line crew chiefs, refuel a C-40 in preparation for a launch at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.
Christopher Parr | U.S. Air Force

This article was originally published in the Belleville News-Democrat.

Officials have just begun contacting people potentially affected by contamination from Scott Air Force Base after news broke last week that dangerous chemicals may have tainted drinking water.

Last week, the base joined a growing list of military installations where cancer-causing chemicals from firefighting materials have leaked into the ground and nearby water supplies. 

A scanning electron microscope image shows the novel coronavirus (yellow) against human cells (pink.)

Missouri health officials are taking steps to protect people against the potential spread of the new coronavirus that has sickened thousands in China.

There haven’t been any recorded cases in Missouri and only two in Illinois. But health systems are asking people more questions and creating plans to respond to any potentially infectious patients who come through their doors.

“Our motto is, ‘Hope for the best, prepare for the worst,’” said Dr. Randall Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. “In our case, we would much rather be over-prepared than under-prepared.”

Some structures on the Eureka High School campus remained mostly below water even as floodwater began to recede Thursday.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis County Council may soon approve restrictions on building in the flood-prone areas of unincorporated parts of the county to prevent damage from future floods. 

The St. Louis area has experienced three record floods in the past five years, causing severe damage to communities along the Meramec, Missouri and Mississippi rivers. The county council is considering a bill that would lower the amount of water development can displace from one foot to one inch.

Medical professionals at Johns Hopkins University are studying therapeutic uses of psilocybin mushrooms. Independent of that clinical work, some St. Louisans are using psychedelic drugs to self-medicate depression, stress and other mental health concerns.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

When 76-year-old Mary Sennewald of St. Louis was a young woman, she was profoundly depressed and suffered from migraines. Therapy and medication weren’t working, and she decided to try LSD.

It was a time when Americans saw psychedelics as part of an emerging culture that questioned authority and sought deeper meaning. Today, psychedelic substances like LSD and “magic” psilocybin mushrooms are often still seen as a vestige of that hippie culture or even a dangerous threat.

But a growing number of recent studies at Johns Hopkins University and other institutions show psilocybin can treat depression, addiction, PTSD and other mental health concerns.

Scott Air Force Base Is Testing Surrounding Water Sources For Chemical Contamination

Feb 18, 2020
Airman First Class Anthony Uelk, on the ladder, along with fellow 932nd Airlift Wing flight line crew chiefs, refuel a C-40 in preparation for a launch at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.
Christopher Parr | U.S. Air Force

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in the Belleville News-Democrat.

Chemicals known to cause serious health problems, including cancer and birth defects, may be contaminating water sources near Scott Air Force Base.

Studies commissioned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers revealed that a toxic class of chemicals, known as PFAS, have saturated the ground at seven sites on base. Those chemicals may have leached into local water supplies, according to an Illinois Environmental Protection Agency report obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

Washington University's Clinic for Acceptance, Recovery and Empowerment (CARE) is one of two clinics in St. Louis that provides care for pregnant women facing the challenges of an opioid use disorder.

Washington University’s Clinic for Acceptance, Recovery and Empowerment treats women who become pregnant while dealing with an opioid use disorder. It provides prenatal care, substance abuse treatment and extended postpartum support. 

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, the clinic’s medical director said there is a high demand for these services in the St. Louis region.

“We started as a half-a-day-a-week clinic, and volume has expanded so much that we are opening a second half-day in addition to our original,” said Dr. Jeannie Kelly. “We have seen a pretty high number [of clients] in our clinic.”

State lawmakers and public health advocates want to make it more convenient for Illinoisans to get rid of their unwanted medicine.

Connor Highlander, a senior at St. Louis University, tests the Argus-2 satellite.
Michael Swartout | St. Louis University

A team of engineering students at St. Louis University this week will be listening for signals from a six-pound, tissue-box-size satellite in outer space. 

About 45 undergraduate students have spent nearly three years building the Argus-2 satellite. The International Space Station will deploy it and eight other satellites Wednesday as a part of a NASA science education program

The satellite will capture images of Earth and demonstrate how well memory storage devices perform in space, said Jeffrey Kelley, a senior majoring in aerospace engineering at SLU.

Sign at the main entrance to the old Monsanto headquarters reads Bayer Crop Sciences as of August 21, 2018
Bill Greenblatt | UPI

Bayer AG announced today that its researchers have discovered a molecule that it could use to develop new herbicide products. 

The biotech company is conducting field tests of the compound, which it hasn’t yet named. It’s been 30 years since scientists have developed an herbicide molecule, largely due to a lengthy regulatory process and the widespread use of Monsanto’s Roundup, which contains the molecule glyphosate.

Near-record precipitation last year has set the stage for renewed flooding along the Missouri River and its tributaries, according to a forecast released Thursday.

In 2019, the Missouri and Mississippi rivers and their tributaries raged through towns and farms for months.  Forecaster Kevin Low at the Missouri Basin River Forecast Center said this year could be just as bad.

No Quick Fix: Missouri Finds Managing Pain Without Opioids Isn’t Fast Or Easy

Feb 13, 2020
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

Missouri began offering chiropractic care, acupuncture, physical therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy for Medicaid patients in April, the latest state to try an alternative to opioids for those battling chronic pain.

Yet only about 500 of the state’s roughly 330,000 adult Medicaid users accessed the program through December, at a cost of $190,000, according to Josh Moore, the Missouri Medicaid pharmacy director. While the numbers may reflect an undercount because of lags in submitting claims, the jointly funded federal-state program known in the state as MO HealthNet is hitting just a fraction of possible patients so far.

Orthopedic specialist Dr. Patricia Hurford was originally skeptical of cannabis' medical benefits. After she saw how it changed her patients' quality of life, she began to change her mind.
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

At the Green Health Docs medical marijuana certification clinic in Florissant, the walls are painted bright green, and a television show called “Munchies” plays on a loop in the waiting room. 

Marijuana is new for 68-year-old Brenda Lane, who is trying to balance on a dorm room-style saucer chair while she fills out medical forms. Lane, of St. Peters, has a packet of papers in her hand outlining many ailments, including rheumatoid arthritis, glaucoma and kidney failure. She’s in constant pain.

“That’s how I tell I’m alive,” she said. “I wake up, I’m in pain. Yep! I’m alive.”

Tim Bono has written the book on "Happiness 101."
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Tim Bono knows what will make you happier. And it may not be what you think. “[T]he common denominator of happiness has a lot to do with the denominator itself,” writes the Washington University lecturer in psychological and brain sciences. “The happiest young adults craft lives that ensure that what they want doesn’t get larger than what they have.”

But as Bono explains in his book, “Happiness 101,” it’s not about keeping expectations low. It is about keeping them realistic — and remembering what you have by practicing gratitude.

Mercy Hospital St. Louis
File photo | Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Medical marijuana is legal in Missouri, but some of the region’s largest hospital systems aren’t allowing their physicians to certify patients to use it. 

SSM Health will allow certifications for some patients. Mercy hospitals have announced a blanket ban on medical marijuana certification. BJC Healthcare, which includes Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, is still formulating its policy. 

“A lot of hospitals have decided, 'We’re not going to certify, because then nobody can tell us we’re doing anything wrong,'” Missouri Hospital Association General Counsel Jane Drummond said.

Every summer for the past three years, the phones have been ringing like crazy in the Office of the Indiana State Chemist. Farmers and homeowners were calling, complaining that their soybean fields or tomato plants looked sick, with curled-up leaves. They suspected pesticides from nearby farms — a kind of chemical hit-and-run.

It was up to investigators like Andy Roth to find the true culprit.

Dicamba graphic
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri agriculture officials are struggling to address a backlog of complaints from farmers who allege that dicamba-based herbicide drift from another farm has damaged their crops. 

The Missouri Department of Agriculture has about 600 pending pesticide investigations. Some of them date back to 2016, the year that Bayer-owned Monsanto began selling its dicamba-tolerant soybeans. 

State legislators are considering a budget request the state agriculture agency made last week to hire more staff to help address complaints.

Shannon Nickless, owner of Claddagh Carriage Company, slips a peppermint to his draft horse, Harvey on January 28, 2020. The four horses live on a farm in East Carondelet, Illinois and travel back and forth to the city of St. Louis to pull carriages.
Shahla Farzan | St. Louis Public Radio

Zach Stafford has never taken a carriage horse ride in St. Louis — but he's spent a lot of time thinking about these animals.

“I’ve always wondered, is it OK for them to be out here in such different conditions than a normal horse?” Stafford said. “If it isn’t, do they have that time to experience the normal horse lifestyle?”

He decided to submit his questions to our Curious Louis reporting series: Where do the horses go after they get done pulling the carriages? Is there a stable downtown? Are the horses okay living in such a cityscape?

Kasey Fowler-Finn, a St. Louis University biologist, puts the finishing touches on part of the "Too Hot to Sing" exhibit at the SLU Museum of Art. Jan 9 2020
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Kasey Fowler-Finn wants people to hear how climate change could alter the lives of a sap-feeding insect that’s smaller than a fingernail. 

The St. Louis University biologist studies how rising temperatures could affect the mating calls of treehoppers. Fowler-Finn and Virginia-based sound artist Stephen Vitiello used that research to produce an exhibit, called “Too Hot To Sing,” that opens today at the SLU Museum of Art

A sign announces the sudden closure of Pinnacle Regional Hospital in Boonville.

When Pinnacle Regional Hospital in Boonville closed recently, it became the seventh rural hospital to shut its doors in Missouri since 2010.

In that same time frame, Illinois had two rural hospitals go out of business. The National Rural Hospital Association blames the difference on lack of Medicaid expansion. 

The association reports there are nine factors that can lead to a rural hospital shutting down, and being in a state, like Missouri, that hasn't expanded Medicaid is No. 1.

Some structures on the Eureka High School campus remained mostly below water even as floodwater began to recede Thursday.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has developed a plan to help eight municipalities and three counties along the Meramec River better prepare for floods. 

Agency officials recently released a report recommending numerous strategies that include buying out properties and restoring wetlands in the flood plain for areas that have a high risk of being flooded. Communities along the river have dealt with three record floods since 2015. 

Municipal and county governments will decide in March whether to adopt the corps’ plan. Doing so would help them better inform residents about flood plain development, said Hal Graef, a St. Louis corps program manager. 

Laura Smith | Flickr

With the new year come many new developments related to who can light up and what they can smoke. Recreational marijuana is now sold in cities across Illinois. Missouri dispensaries are getting ready to sell medical marijuana. More teens are vaping than ever.

And in December, the Trump administration raised the sales age for tobacco products across the U.S. To buy cigarettes in Missouri, you now have to be 21 years old. Previously, the state allowed sales to 18-year-olds. Illinois raised its age to 21 just five months before.

Christine Anyeko, a laborer in Uganda's northern Amuru district, weeds a field of cassava, banana and beans by hand.
File Photo | Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation plans to build a nonprofit organization in St. Louis to advance technologies that would help small farms in developing countries. 

The nonprofit, to be named Gates Ag One, will focus on more rapidly developing seeds and technologies that could help farmers in south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa raise yields. 

The foundation also aims to help growers adapt to more frequent droughts, floods and other extreme weather events brought on by climate change.

Dr. Deem examines a lemur while working in Madagascar.
St. Louis Zoo

The director of the St. Louis Zoo Institute for Conservation Medicine, Dr. Sharon Deem, wants people to understand just how much human health is dependent on the health of other animals and the environment.

She often shares the fact that since 2006, about 7 million bats in the U.S. have died from a disease called white-nose syndrome. The often-fatal disease derives from a fungus that arrived in the U.S. from Europe in 2006. While many people think of bats as pests, they are productive pollinators and eat a lot of mosquitoes. One bat eats roughly 6,000 mosquitoes in 24 hours. 

Photo courtesy Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site

In the popular imagination, Cahokia seems to represent a cautionary tale. What today remains only as a series of mounds outside Collinsville, Illinois, used to be a thriving city — bigger than London in the mid-13th century. There may have been as many as 40,000 people living there. Yet in the years that followed, the population faced rapid decline. By 1400, what was a city had become a wasteland. 

A new paper suggests that narrative is at best incomplete, and at worst inaccurate. Published Monday in American Antiquity, the study uses fecal deposits to show that the exodus from the site was short-lived. A fresh wave of native people settled in Cahokia and repopulated the area from 1500 to 1700. It was only after European settlers made their way to the area that Cahokia’s ultimate abandonment began.  

Wes Moore (left), author and CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation spoke with Charli Cooksey (right), CEO of WEPOWER about ways to dismantle poverty not only in St. Louis, but nationally.
Andrea Henderson | St. Louis Public Radio

Poverty and racism should not be discussed separately in St. Louis, author Wes Moore said.

“You can't look at a region like this, and you can’t look at places like my hometown of Baltimore and think that the reason that we have the racial wealth gap is just simply because one group isn't working as hard as the other,” Moore said.

Moore is CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation, an anti-poverty organization, and the author of several young adult novels, as well as his bestselling biography, “The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates.” 

Barbara Chicherio, of the Gateway Green Alliance, protests Monsanto outside the Civil Courts Building on Jan. 24, 2020.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A St. Louis circuit court judge has postponed a trial for a lawsuit that alleges the Monsanto weed killer Roundup caused people to develop cancer. 

Opening statements in the case were scheduled for Friday. But Judge Elizabeth Hogan continued the case indefinitely to give attorneys for Monsanto and four plaintiffs time to work on a settlement, according to a statement from Bayer.

The city of St. Louis alone contains roughly 2,000 miles worth of sidewalks, which vary widely in design and overall condition.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

In an age of crumbling infrastructure across the U.S., sidewalks have been no exception to the pattern of decay. The city of St. Louis alone is home to roughly 2,000 miles worth of sidewalks, and both the physical condition and suitability of those streetside pathways vary widely.

David Newburger, St. Louis’ commissioner on the disabled, thinks about sidewalks quite a bit. He notes that he’s old enough to remember when curb cuts — sloped curb faces that are particularly critical for someone using a wheelchair — were few and far between. These days, Newburger says, a lot of effort goes into the design of new sidewalks to ensure that they are safe and passable for everyone, including pedestrians with disabilities.