Health, Science, Environment | St. Louis Public Radio

Health, Science, Environment

Riverview Gardens High School Marching Band saxophone members play sweet tunes during the 109th Annie Malone May Day parade.  May 20, 2019
Andrea Henderson | St. Louis Public Radio

For over a century, the Annie Malone Children and Family Services agency has brought thousands of community members together in the country’s second-largest African American parade: the Annie Malone May Day Parade.

Last Sunday’s procession marked its 109th celebration in downtown St. Louis. Parade viewers saw marching bands, local business owners on floats and peppy cheerleaders throughout Market Street near Union Station.

For the agency, the bash is a yearly celebration to let the public know they are still in the city and willing to serve the needs of a growing community. In recent years, the nonprofit has experienced a drastic change in the type of care families in the area need, said Patricia Washington, the agency’s vice president of development and external affairs.

Roger Ideker's farm in St. Joseph, Mo. during the 2011 Missouri River flood. Ideker is the lead plaintiff in the suit against the corps.
Ideker Farms

U.S. Sens. Josh Hawley and Roy Blunt want the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to stop focusing on protecting wildlife in the Missouri River and instead focus on flood control and navigation, a move that environmentalists are calling misguided.

In 2004, the Corps of Engineers changed its management strategy for the Missouri River to protect two endangered species of birds and one fish, the pallid sturgeon. However, landowners near the river have alleged that prioritizing wildlife over flood protection has caused them extensive property damage from major floods.

A flame lit on the International Space Station.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

NASA scientists are lighting flames on the International Space Station to help a Washington University engineer learn how soot forms from fire.

The NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio is conducting the flame experiments remotely. The space agency is sending data to researchers who are exploring ways to eliminate soot so that fuel can be burned more cleanly.

John Goodwin (at left) is with the Humane Society, and Sarah Javier leads the Animal Protective Association of Missouri.
John Goodwin & Sarah Javier

Missouri is home to 22 of the 100 puppy mills on the Humane Society of the United States’ most recent list of known problem dealers, topping the list for the seventh year in a row. Released last week, the “Horrible Hundred” report highlights animal-welfare issues including high puppy death rates, underweight dogs, neglected health needs and other problems.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, guest host Sharon Stevens discussed the topic with Sarah Javier, president and executive director of the Animal Protective Association of Missouri, and John Goodwin, senior director of the Humane Society of the United States’ Stop Puppy Mills Campaign.

Why Missouri's The Last Holdout On A Statewide Rx Monitoring Program

May 21, 2019
U.S. map illustration

Missouri retained its lonely title as the only state without a statewide prescription drug monitoring program — for the seventh year in a row — after the legislative session ended Friday.

Patient advocates, politicians, experts and members of the medical community had hoped this would finally be the year Missouri would create a statewide electronic database designed to help spot the abuse of prescription drugs. After all, Republican Gov. Mike Parson had pushed for it and, more important, its longtime opponent was no longer in office to block it.

'Volcanoes: Fire of Creation' movie still

Producer and director Michael Dalton-Smith’s early passion for volcanoes has followed him throughout his career. It’s led to his production of various natural history programs on them that have aired on the Smithsonian, National Geographic and Discovery channels.

His film “Volcanoes: The Fires of Creation” – now showing at the St. Louis Science Center through July 28 – takes viewers on an IMAX adventure to the boiling lava lakes of the world, grasslands and the depths of the oceans, all where volcanoes help shape vibrant ecosystems. 

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, producer Lara Hamdan talked with Dalton-Smith about his interest in volcanoes, the theory of how they developed billions of years ago and what it’s really like getting up close to a boiling lava lake.

peter.a photography | Flickr

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said it will distribute 338 licenses to grow and sell medical marijuana. The number is far less than the 510 hopefuls who have already paid application fees with hopes of receiving a license.

These licenses are for different aspects of the medical marijuana pipeline: 60 to cultivate marijuana, 192 to dispense and 86 to manufacture marijuana-infused products.

Even though the number of licenses to be issued is the minimum of what the law allows, a report from University of Missouri economists indicates that might be too much based on demand in other states with similar laws.

Washington University Chancellor Andrew Martin speaks at a press conference with former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg in May 2019 about climate change.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Washington University in St. Louis will become the anchor of a regional effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and stop climate change.

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced on Thursday the creation of the Midwest Collegiate Climate Summit at a press conference in downtown St. Louis. The summit, which would take place at Wash U in 2020, would involve universities, local governments, nonprofits and businesses.

Rachel Webb (at left) and Jossalyn Larson shared their stories on Thursday's talk show.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis-area residents Rachel Webb and Jossalyn Larson come from different walks of life, but they have at least one path in common: They’ve both in recent years developed breast cancer – and have chosen to open up online about their experiences living with it.

While they now have intensive treatments and surgeries behind them, their respective journeys are far from over.

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, the two women joined guest host Ruth Ezell to discuss some of the surprises and challenges they’ve been encountering lately.

Leticia Colón de Mejias thinks no problem is insurmountable if Americans come together.

“Sometimes we take these subjects and we make them so big and scary that people feel we can’t take action,” said Colón, 42, a Connecticut entrepreneur, environmentalist and mother of seven. “Climate change seems terrifying. And everyone’s like, it’s too big.”

A heavily littered yard containing furniture and automobile parts in Dutchtown, a neighborhood in south St. Louis.
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Community organizers in Dutchtown are struggling to stop people from outside of the south St. Louis neighborhood from dumping construction debris, mattresses and excessive amounts of trash in alleys and vacant lots.

The Dutchtown South Community Corporation has been working to reduce illegal dumping in the neighborhood through an Environmental Protection Agency-funded campaign since 2016. There’s also been an effort to address illegal dumping city wide. Mayor Lyda Krewson’s office launched its Clean Up St. Louis initiative last year to improve trash-collection services.

Floodwaters on the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers may be going down, but rain has continued to soak farmland around much of the state. More rain could be on the way later this month.

From left, Christine Nagel, Abby Whiting and Carolyn Henry joined Tuesday's talk show
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Like many urban and rural areas around the U.S., the St. Louis region has seen a shortage of veterinarians, and it's affecting clinic hours, staffing and wait times in some communities.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, guest host Ruth Ezell talked with three people deeply invested in the profession and in seeing both veterinarians and the animals they care for thrive.

Joining the discussion were Carolyn Henry, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Missouri-Columbia; Christine Nagel, president of the Greater St. Louis Veterinary Medical Association; and Abby Whiting, who currently works overnights and provides emergency and critical care through Veterinary Specialty Services.

A person prepares a measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, which protects against 93-97 percent of measles cases. Health officials say a case has been reported in Jefferson County.
Matthew Lotz / U.S. Air Force

The St. Louis Department of Health is urging people to receive a measles shot before the busy summer travel season begins.

The U.S. largely eradicated measles decades ago thanks to effective immunizations, but the disease has had a resurgence of recent years as more people choose to not vaccinate their children.

Many of the outbreaks nationwide this year have occurred after people have traveled to countries where the disease is more common and spread it to under-vaccinated communities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

From left, Jo Anne Smiley, Colin Wellenkamp and Phil Stang joined Monday's talk show.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Residents of towns along both the Missouri and Illinois sides of the Mississippi River are all too familiar with the effects of flooding on their communities. The disasters happen again and again, and as the New York Times’ reporting indicated in early May, people are eager for a path forward – and for solutions that look beyond levees.

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, guest host Ruth Ezell talked with Jo Anne Smiley, the mayor of Clarksville, Missouri, and Phil Stang, the mayor of Kimmswick, Missouri, about their goals moving ahead. Colin Wellenkamp, executive director of the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative, also participated in the discussion.

Noah Drozda shows off a pair of biosensors that he wore around the clock for a study on motor deficits in children.
Catherine Hoyt | Washington University

Washington University researchers are testing a wearable biosensor that can detect potential motor impairments early, while kids are still young enough to respond to physical therapy.

An estimated 1 in 3,000 babies have a stroke around the time they’re born, but the signs can be so subtle that parents and doctors miss them.

The West Lake Landfill, seen from St. Charles Rock Road in Bridgeton.
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The Environmental Protection Agency has decided to conduct additional tests for radioactive contamination at the West Lake Landfill, which would delay its excavation of the Superfund site.

When the EPA region that oversees Missouri released its final plan last September to remove 70% of the radioactivity at the site, officials said the cleanup would begin after they spent 18 months planning how to remove the World War II-era waste.

EPA officials announced this week that parties responsible for the landfill signed an agreement with the agency to design the excavation plan. Because of the additional testing, the cleanup won’t begin for two and a half years, EPA spokesperson Ben Washburn said.

Tim Schroeder holds a hatchery-raised pallid sturgeon bound for the Missouri River. The species, which can grow up to six feet long and weigh 100 pounds, was once common in the Missouri River.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Tim Schroeder is a little bleary-eyed.

He left South Dakota before sunrise and drove 10 hours straight to Missouri — with a few hundred endangered fish in the back of his pickup truck.

Schroeder, who works for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was tasked with delivering a load of pallid sturgeon to biologists in St. Charles. It’s part of a long-running partnership between federal scientists and the Missouri Department of Conservation to jumpstart recovery of the endangered fish species, which was once common in the Missouri and lower Mississippi rivers.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Bryce Gray (at left) and St. Louis Public Radio's Eli Chen joined Thursday's talk show.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

As journalists who frequently produce stories focused on the environment, St. Louis Public Radio’s Eli Chen and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Bryce Gray are no strangers to the Mississippi River and its critical role in their city. Now they’ve traveled all 2,300-plus miles of it, following the Big Muddy from Minnesota to Louisiana and bringing home an even deeper understanding of the waterway.

Chen and Gray returned earlier this month from a weeklong Institute for Journalism & Natural Resources trip along the Lower Mississippi. The experience was part of a fellowship that also included exploration of the Upper Mississippi in 2018.

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, the two reporters joined guest host Jim Kirchherr to discuss what they’ve learned along the journey – about flood and levee issues, ecosystems, wildlife and more.

Stu Durando is the author of "Under the Gun: A children's hospital on the front line of an American crisis." May 9, 2019.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

The latest local reminder of an ongoing nationwide epidemic came over the weekend as at least 19 people were injured and two people killed in St. Louis during multiple incidents involving guns.

The Kansas City metro area is among three sites still in the hunt to become the next location for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's research arms.

The main levee in Winfield failed May 4, 2019, near the Pillsbury grain elevator on Pillsbury Road.
Winfield Foley Fire Protection District

Updated: 8:50 p.m. May 5 — with information about flood damage to an Illinois American Water plant.

Floodwaters have continued to rise over the weekend in areas along the Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois rivers.

In St. Louis, the Mississippi River had reached nearly 41 feet by 11:30 a.m. Sunday morning — more than 10 feet above flood stage. The National Weather Service predicts the river will crest at 41.6 feet Monday morning.

Tonya Harry, the chief of security at the Medium Security Institution in St. Louis photographed on May 1, 2019.
Shahla Farzan | St. Louis Public Radio

Tonya Harry had been working as a correctional officer for about a year when she had one of the most traumatic experiences of her life.

During her shift at the Medium Security Institution in St. Louis — also known as the Workhouse — she discovered an inmate who had died by suicide.

“Sometimes I still think about it,” said Harry, who serves as the jail’s chief of security more than 20 years later.

A recent St. Louis University survey of about 300 jail officers in Missouri found more than half reported symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Kaci Dalton helped residents fill sandbags on Starling Airport Road in Arnold in May 2017.
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Civic leaders along the Mississippi River are bracing for near-record flood levels in the coming days and weeks.

Mayors in Missouri and Illinois say federal programs that aim to prevent flood damage need more funding to adequately support river towns that face evacuation and income loss.

Flooding in Alton is expected to crest next week at 35.2 feet, the fifth-highest flood level on record, according to the National Weather Service. The river at Grafton is expected to reach the fourth-highest flood level on record for the city. River levels at both Illinois towns are expected to exceed levees and rise within 10 feet of historic levels reached during the Great Flood of ’93.

Since February, patients in Illinois have been able to swap their opioid prescriptions for marijuana. And many are doing just that.

Mussels stuck to a bottle
Zhang Laboratory

Engineers at Washington University are studying the substances that make mussels cling to boats and ships to develop stronger, waterproof types of glue.

Many super glue products and other adhesives on the market are ineffective when they become wet. Researchers want to know how the proteins in mussels allow them to stick to any surface despite being in very wet environments.

Coldwater Creek in north St. Louis County has been linked to increased cancer risk, thanks to radioactive waste that contaminated the creek bed.
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

A federal agency has confirmed that residents who lived and played near a north St. Louis County stream may face a higher risk of certain types of cancer because of radioactive contamination in the area.

The Total Organics Recycling compost site.
Virginia Harold | Sauce Magazine

Consumers are becoming more aware of the negative effects mass consumption has on the environment. Many are calling for more ethical fashion, eating less meat and raising awareness about what happens to food that doesn’t make it on the shelves, or onto a plate. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that 30 to 40% of the U.S. food supply is wasted.

Composting and combating food waste are the subjects of this month's Sound Bites segment with Sauce Magazine. On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, Sauce managing editor Heather Hughes and Total Organics Recycling marketing coordinator Sara Koziatek joined guest host Sharon Stevens to explain what composting is, how it helps the environment and how some local restaurants are making it a priority to keep food scraps out of landfills.

A geothermal test well at Parkway South High School in Manchester, Missouri.
Erik Lueders| Parkway School District

Parkway South High School in Manchester this year will use geothermal energy, an uncommonly used form of renewable energy, to power its heating and cooling systems.

Parkway School District plans will soon install the geothermal units, which use heat from the earth. The $2.4 million system, which will replace the school’s aging chillers, was largely funded by a recent bond issue.

Replacing the chillers with cooling towers would have been less expensive than the geothermal units. But the geothermal units would save the school district $1.9 million over 30 years, said Erik Lueders, director of purchasing and sustainability at the Parkway School District.

Caleb Smith plans to skate 100 miles Saturday to raise money for his cousin Shannon Donavan's medical recovery.
Caleb Smith

Caleb Smith is 100 miles away from a goal he’s been planning for about a month. It’s a in-line skating challenge that will take him throughout the St. Louis area this Saturday.

“I’m going to be starting at 4:45 in the morning,” Smith said. “I project that it’ll take right around 10 hours.”