Health, Science, Environment | St. Louis Public Radio

Health, Science, Environment

Dan Burkhardt of the Katy Land Trust voiced concerns over the proposed Missouri Bluffs Development during a St. Charles Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on July 17, 2019.
Shahla Farzan | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Charles Planning and Zoning Commission voted Wednesday night to reject a housing development near the Katy Trail, a decision likely to be reversed by the St. Charles County Council.

It was the second time in less than two years the commission has voted down the Missouri Bluffs development, a project which would include more than 200 homes overlooking the Katy Trail and Missouri River in St. Charles. 

This interview will be on “St. Louis on the Air” over the noon hour Thursday. This story will be updated after the show. You can listen live.


Years ago, when many multiple sclerosis researchers believed that a type of immune cell known as a T cell was the cause of the disease, Dr. Anne Cross turned her focus instead to B cells. Her findings have led to key breakthroughs in MS research – and also to receiving the John Dystel Prize for Multiple Sclerosis Research from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the American Academy of Neurology.


Cross, who is the Manny and Rosalyn Rosenthal and Dr. John L. Trotter MS Center Chair in Neuroimmunology at Washington University School of Medicine, will join Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air for a conversation with guest host Jim Kirchherr of the Nine Network.

Vaccinations not only protect your health, they protect the health of the community by slowing or stopping the spread of illness.

But Missouri now has some of the lowest measles vaccination rates in the nation, and that’s especially troubling for families with children who can’t get the shots for medical reasons.

Thousands of kids in Missouri's foster care system are likely to benefit from a first-of-its-kind legal settlement under which state officials have agreed to strict limits on how and when kids can be given psychotropic drugs.

The settlement resolves a class action lawsuit charging that Missouri foster care officials failed to safeguard the conditions under which the powerful medications are dispensed. U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey gave preliminary approval to the agreement on Monday. 

Kemet Ajanaku, right, spots an egret near the Audubon Center at Riverlands on July 1, 2019. Teens learn the basics of environmental conservation, then lead a series of summer camps for elementary schoolers.
Shahla Farzan | St. Louis Public Radio

White, upper-middle-class Americans have held the reins of the mainstream conservation movement for decades — and some say change is long overdue.

A small group of biologists and educators in West Alton are working to jump-start that change through a series of outdoor camps. The Audubon Center at Riverlands’ Flight Crew program aims to help more young people of color connect with nature. 

Jorge Riopedre, Executive Director of Casa de Salud.
File Photo | Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Jorge Riopedre, president and CEO of the Casa de Salud clinic, said Monday he’s leaving the St. Louis nonprofit in November. 

Riopedre started as executive director of the clinic, which offers low-cost health care to uninsured foreign-born people, shortly after it opened in 2010. Since then, Casa de Salud has more than quadrupled its number of employees to 28, doubled in physical size and served patients from more than 90 countries.

A rendering of the "forest bottomlands," one of eight activity areas planned for the new Forest Park Nature Playscape.
Forest Park Forever

Visitors to Forest Park will have a new, $4.5 million attraction to explore next year that aims to create a natural playground for families. Forest Park Forever hosted a groundbreaking ceremony at the site with St. Louis officials on Monday.

The project will transform 17 acres between the World’s Fair Pavilion and the Jewel Box into activity areas inspired by natural landscapes found in the region, including meadows, wetlands, springs, mounds and bottomlands. Kids will be able to wander boardwalks, play in water and climb rocks and trees at the Nature Playscape. 

Captain Garon Mosby of the St. Louis Fire Department (at left) and Helen Sandkuhl of SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital joined Monday's talk show.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Last week, St. Louis Fire Department Chief Dennis Jenkerson said that paramedics see the impact of so much violence that they're quitting faster than he can hire replacements.

“Two to three paramedics a month are leaving the job,” said Captain Garon Mosby of the St. Louis Fire Department on Monday’s St. Louis on the Air. “If you can leave the St. Louis City Fire Department and go to another department where there’s less trauma, or get into a completely different field, that’s what we’re seeing our people do.”

For sickle cell patients, opiods are often the only pain relief. But growing rates of addiction among the general public mean emergency room doctors are more cautious than ever in prescribing those powerful medications, causing challenges.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A growing number of people in the St. Louis region are seeking mental health treatment in hospital emergency rooms, according to a recent report from the St. Louis and St. Louis County health departments.

The report’s authors found the rate of people seeking mental health care in emergency rooms increased more than 40% in both the city and the county between 2010 and 2016, indicating people can’t get access to long-term care for chronic issues, health officials say.

Some patients seek treatment in the emergency room because they do not have health insurance. Others go to the ER because they cannot find psychiatrists, social workers or counselors. For many, the only available option is the emergency room — not an ideal setting for mental health treatment, doctors say.

Food nutrition specialists will learn about the latest trends in school lunches at the School Nutrition Association conference in July.

The people in charge of deciding what’s on the menu at school cafeterias around the country will converge on St. Louis to consider how to make school lunches better. 

The discussion will happen at the School Nutrition Association's national conference, July 14-16. The goal of the conference is for school nutrition professionals to learn about the latest changes and innovations in the food industry and how those trends can translate into nutritious and tasty meals.

From left, Kathie Brennan and Don Massey joined Friday's talk show.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Meandering over more than 400 miles of southeast Missouri is a network of hiking trails that’s been in existence since the 1970s: the Ozark Trail. Its history, along with its natural beauty, fill the pages of Don Massey’s photographic book titled “The Ozark Trail: Images of Missouri’s Longest Hiking Trail.”

Massey is a member of the Ozark Trail Association, and he joined Friday’s St. Louis on the Air alongside the association’s president, Kathie Brennan, for a conversation with St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum.

When Porter Hall of Raymore, Missouri, was a year old, he broke out in hives after eating a spoonful of peanut butter. It led to a scary night in the emergency room and a diagnosis of peanut allergy.

But today, Porter, who’s now five, is giving peanuts another shot with the help of Kansas City doctors, who have been giving him tiny doses of peanuts over the course of months.

This oral immunotherapy treatment isn’t a cure, but doctors say these tiny exposures may help to reduce or prevent severe reactions – although some critics are warning families to consider the risks. 

Hemp And The Challenges Of Farming’s Frontier

Jul 10, 2019

There’s millions of dollars to be made from growing hemp, which for years was lumped in and vilified with its sister plant, marijuana. With the government loosening laws around growing hemp for the first time in more than 80 years, some states are charging ahead and letting farmers plant it — even before federal regulations are in place. 

Those states aren’t just getting a head start, though. They’re seeing significant challenges that hemp farmers will face for years to come, things like seed fraud, weather and a lack of machinery.

Trees killed by sudden oak death on a hillside in Big Sur, California, in 2006. The pathogen that causes sudden oak death was found on some ornamental plants in Illinois.
Wikimedia Commons

Updated at 12:45 p.m. Friday to add that the pathogen has been found in Missouri, as well.

A pathogen that’s deadly to some native trees has been found in 10 Illinois counties, including St. Clair and Monroe.

Agricultural officials found Phytophthora ramorum, which causes sudden oak death, on some ornamental plants from big-box garden centers around the state. The pathogen causes dark brown spots on the leaves and branch tips of rhododendron, azalia and lilac, but it is deadly for oaks and certain other tree species. 

Engineering researchers noted damages caused by the tornado and by debris that flew because of strong winds.
File photo | Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

President Donald Trump has issued a disaster declaration to help residents in 20 Missouri counties who have experienced major damage from tornadoes and floods this year. 

The declaration allows homeowners to apply for grants to cover repair costs and replacement of household items not covered by insurance. Business owners and farmers also can apply for loans for property damage caused by extreme weather events. 

Missouri is among several states that have been hit hard by natural disasters this year, said John Mills, a regional spokesperson for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

From left, Adam Jones and Herb Simmons joined Tuesday's talk show.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

After a very rainy spring and early summer that have included more than 80 days of flooding along rivers in the St. Louis region, many area residents are still feeling the effects.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jonathan Ahl talked with guests from both Illinois and Missouri about the impacts they’ve been dealing with in their respective communities.

Joining the discussion were Adam Jones, a fourth-generation farmer on about 900 acres in Missouri, and Herb Simmons, the longtime mayor of East Carondelet, Illinois.

Ben Zeno, Casa de Salud's mental health coordinator, stands in the clinic's lobby. Since it's opened in 2018, the clinic has provided low-cost or free therapy to more than 300 people.
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

After years of preparation, Casa de Salud, the low-cost clinic for uninsured immigrants and refugees, is providing mental health services to 100 people a month. 

Early last year, the clinic opened a mental health facility in a renovated mechanic’s garage. To help staff the facility, it provides free clinic space to budding counselors who take on Casa de Salud patients as part of their caseload.

That brings mental health care to patients who need help but often can't obtain it because there aren't enough available therapists or because they don't speak English, have insurance or transportation.

A male or bull elk.
Missouri Department of Conservation

If Missouri’s elk population grows enough, state conservation officials will allow hunters to apply for permits to hunt elk next year.

The Missouri Department of Conservation expects the state’s elk herd to grow from 175 to 200 by early 2020. The department released plans last Friday for a elk hunting season to take place in Carter, Shannon and Reynolds counties the following fall and winter. 

Illustration by Tamara Cubrilo

When José moved his family to the U.S. from Mexico nearly two decades ago, he had hopes of giving his children a better life

But now he worries about the future of his 21-year-old-son, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder last year.

Planned Parenthood physician, Dr. Colleen McNicholas, stands outside the clinic in St. Louis.
File photo | Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri has hired one of its most visible doctors as its first full-time chief medical officer.

Colleen McNicholas, who’s worked as an OB-GYN at the organization’s St. Louis clinic, started her job on July 1. As chief medical officer, she’ll oversee and coordinate medical care at Planned Parenthood clinics across the region.

Harris-Stowe biology professor Sandra Leal demonstrates how to make fruit fly food infused with CBD oil on June 25, 2019.
Shahla Farzan | St. Louis Public Radio

Anaejal Davies reaches into a jar of wriggling fruit fly larvae and grasps one with a pair of tweezers.

“You have to be really delicate,” said Davies, positioning the larva under a microscope. “Even the slightest pinch, you could puncture them and they can die.”

The Harris-Stowe State University sophomore is one of a handful of biology students studying how CBD, a compound derived from cannabis plants, affects fruit flies. Most of the students had never worked in a research lab before taking the class and are learning the process from the ground up — while investigating cutting-edge scientific questions.

A NASA satellite image of light pollution in North America in 2016.
Joshua Stevens | NASA Earth Observatory

When students and faculty at Truman State University come back for the fall semester, they might notice more stars in the sky. 

After four years of research on how artificial light brightens the night sky, scientists are planning to change lighting on campus to direct light away from the sky. That could limit light pollution, which prevents people from seeing stars and galaxies, and also can disrupt sleep patterns.

Floodwaters have swamped many homes and businesses in Missouri this year, including the Lewis and Clark Boat House and Museum in St. Charles, shown here in May. The Red Cross will host a series of events to help disaster victims apply for aid.
Red Cross of Missouri and Arkansas

Missouri residents forced from their homes by near-record flood levels will soon have access to a variety of disaster-recovery resources.

The American Red Cross of Missouri and Arkansas will offer a series of informational events designed to connect flood victims with relief organizations. The one-day resource centers will be held in some of the river towns hit hardest by this year’s flooding, including Boonville, St. Charles and Winfield.

Planned Parenthood supporters walked onto the Eads Bridge to drop banners with a message to Missouri Gov. Mike Parson.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 3:30 p.m. July 1 with "St. Louis on the Air" audio — Access to abortion in Missouri will continue as a state commission prepares to consider a licensing dispute over a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in St. Louis.

On Friday, a state administrative hearing commissioner extended the organization’s license until the Administrative Hearing Commission decides how to resolve Planned Parenthood’s complaint against the state Department of Health and Senior Services. The commission set a hearing for Aug. 1.

Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region is the last provider of abortion services in Missouri. It could lose its license this week.
File photo | David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Planned Parenthood will lose its license to perform abortions on Friday afternoon unless a state commission grants the clinic’s request to keep the clinic open. 

The St. Louis clinic, the last in the state to provide abortions, earlier this week formally requested that the Administrative Hearing Commission keep its license valid until an Aug. 1 hearing. 

Dr. Ken Haller joined Thursday's talk show.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Dr. Ken Haller regularly finds himself assuring parents that childhood vaccines are safe. He tries to do so with empathy, because along with having confidence in vaccinations, he also believes parents genuinely want what’s best for their kids.

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, the Saint Louis University associate professor of pediatrics joined St. Louis Public Radio’s Rachel Lippmann for a discussion about how he navigates vaccine worries.

In addition to talking with families, Haller makes a point of participating in vaccine trials to help advance research at SLU’s Vaccine Center, which is currently enrolling children and teens in a flu study.

How Black Pharmacists Are Closing The Cultural Gap In Health Care

Jun 27, 2019
Bernard Macon picks up his prescription on June 6, 2019 at LV Health and Wellness Pharmacy in Shiloh, Ill.
Michael B. Thomas | KHN

SHILOH, Ill. — After a health insurance change forced Bernard Macon to cut ties with his doctor, he struggled to find another African American physician online. Then, he realized two health advocates were hiding in plain sight.

At a nearby drugstore here in the suburbs outside of St. Louis, a pair of pharmacists became the unexpected allies of Macon and his wife, Brandy. Much like the Macons, the pharmacists were energetic young parents who were married — and unapologetically black.

From left, Erica Jones, Dr. Brad Warner and Dr. Nicole Wilson joined Tuesday's talk show.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Earlier this month, four St. Louis-area children died as a result of guns over the course of just five days.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, St. Louis Public Radio’s Rachel Lippmann discussed the ongoing violence and related trauma that many children in the region face – as well as resources and ideas for a way forward.

Joining the discussion were three guests: Erica Jones, who has lost both a 7-year-old godson and an adult daughter to guns in recent years; Dr. Brad W. Warner, the Jessie L. Ternberg MD PhD Distinguished Professor of Pediatric Surgery at Washington University School of Medicine and surgeon-in-chief at St. Louis Children's Hospital; and Dr. Nicole Wilson, pediatric surgery fellow at St. Louis Children's Hospital.

Salvador Mondragon, left, with a large alligator gar caught near the Mississippi River.
Salvador Mondragon

On a hot morning in Cape Girardeau, two men pulled up nets from a lake in hopes of catching alligator gar, one of the largest and most feared fish species in North America.

They’re scientists with the Missouri Department of Conservation, which has spent 12 years trying to restore the alligator gar’s dwindling population in the state. Its numbers in Missouri have fallen partly because the state doesn’t have strong regulations to prevent overfishing of the species.

Man-made structures like levees and dams have also separated the Mississippi River from the floodplain. They block the alligator gar from reaching critical habitat, said Solomon David, an aquatic ecologist at Nicholls State University in Louisiana.

(June 24, 20190 Melissa Vatterott (at left) and Rae Miller of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment joined Monday's talk show to discuss the organization's new Known and Grown campaign that helps showcase local farmers.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Earlier this month, the Missouri Coalition for the Environment launched a campaign aimed at getting the word out about farmers who are engaging in responsible agriculture practices by ethically raising animals and growing their food.

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, St. Louis Public Radio’s Rachel Lippmann will delve into what the new Known & Grown project entails, as well as its broader implications for growers and consumers, with the MCE’s food and farm director Melissa Vatterott and local food coordinator Rae Miller.

Nicki Morgan, a co-founder of Hart|Beet Farms, also joined the conversation by phone while at the farm in Lincoln County Missouri. The farm joined Known and Grown in 2018.