Health, Science, Environment | St. Louis Public Radio

Health, Science, Environment

Great Plains toads and Woodhouse's toads collected in the Missouri River floodplain. Missouri Department of Conservation biologists measured and weighed the animals after populations surged this spring.
Jeff Briggler | Missouri Department of Conservation

Frogs and toads need water to breed — and this year, they had a lot of it. 

Months of springtime flooding created near-perfect breeding conditions along the Missouri River, causing a surge in frog and toad populations. For biologists, the population boom has been a rare opportunity to collect information on these animals.

Murphy Lee poses for a portrait at Vape Ya Tailfeather in St. Charles.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri health officials have confirmed two cases in the state of a mysterious vaping-related pulmonary illness that has sickened hundreds of people across the nation. 

Missouri officials are investigating the cases of seven other patients to determine if their symptoms match the criteria for the illness. They’re also warning consumers not to tamper with vaping products.

Patients with the illness report nausea, shortness of breath, fever and elevated heart rates. The nine Missouri patients have reported modifying pre-packaged vaping products to smoke other substances such as vitamin E or THC, said Randall Williams, director of the state Department of Health and Senior Services.

Two of the posters that are part of the "I Chose To Live" suicide prevention program at Fort Leonard Wood. 8/29/19
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

FORT LEONARD WOOD — In 2007, Jason VanKleeck was a drill sergeant in the Army, moving up the ranks and taking on new jobs.

But depression led to suicidal thoughts and nearly ended his life. 

He got help, and now is sharing his story with fellow soldiers at Fort Leonard Wood as part of a suicide prevention and mental health education program called “I Chose To Live.”

A pond at the Clarence Cannon National Wildlife Refuge
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Environmental advocates say that the Environmental Protection Agency’s repeal of a Clean Water Act rule Thursday could raise the flood risk for Missouri residents.

The EPA established the Waters of the U.S. rule in 2015 to give federal protections to wetlands and small streams connected to major waterways in 22 states. Farmers, miners and business groups complained that the rule imposed undue economic burdens.

Rolling back the Obama-era rule eliminates protections for about 200,000 acres of wetlands behind levees in Missouri, said Maisah Khan, water policy director at the Missouri Coalition for the Environment.

Danforth Center researcher Malia Gehan next to a growth chamber containing plants in September 2019.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Scientists at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and Washington University are studying the long-term consequences of exposing plants to high levels of carbon dioxide.

Carbon dioxide levels in the Earth’s atmosphere are the highest they’ve been in 800,000 years, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Scientists expect levels of the greenhouse gas to continue to rise and worsen the effects of climate change over the next several decades if people do not reduce their use of fossil fuels and other natural resources.

Members of the National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United union protest what they refer to as unsafe staffing levels at St. Louis University Hospital in Midtown on Sep. 9.
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

For the second time in three years, union nurses at SSM Health-St. Louis University Hospital are protesting what they call unsafe staffing levels at the Midtown hospital.

There aren’t enough employees at the facility, said representatives of the National Nurses Organizing Committee, which represents the nurses at the hospital. Nurses constantly have to care for more patients than they can handle. Long wait times mean patients can become agitated and violent, putting employees at risk, representatives say. 

Steve Rhodes | Flickr

After the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead last year, President Donald Trump linked the prevalence of gun violence to mental illness. That sentiment came up again after recent shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas. 

Health Care: See Where The 2020 Democratic Candidates Stand

Sep 10, 2019

Health care helped propel Democrats to victory in a wave of elections in 2018, and it remains a top issue for voters heading into 2020.

But the conversation has changed over two years; while in the last midterms health care debates revolved around protecting the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, after GOP attempts to repeal it, presidential candidates ahead of 2020 are focusing more on overhauling the entire health care system.

The Institute in Critical Quantitative, Computational, and Mixed Methodologies will launch in 2020. The program will train up to 75 researchers of color in data science methods.
Washington University | Flickr

Washington University is spearheading a new effort to diversify the field of data science.

Beginning in 2020, the university will train faculty and grad students from across the country in how to use data science tools and methods. The three-year program will focus specifically on recruiting underrepresented minorities, including Latino, indigeneous and black scholars. 

Assessment Of Flooding Damage In Granite City To Happen This Weekend

Sep 6, 2019
A "freak" storm dumped 9 inches of rain on Granite City on Aug. 12, 2019, flooding homes and businesses.
Belleville News-Democrat

GRANITE CITY — Madison County officials will be taking stock this weekend of damage caused by flash flooding to Granite City homes and businesses.

Last month, approximately 9 inches of rain dumped on the Granite City area, causing severe flash flooding in Chouteau, Nameoki, Granite City and Venice townships. The “freak” storm damaged more than 1,000 homes and left many residents with flooded yards and basements, or homeless. Now, the city is trying to get a handle on the extent of the damage. 

Ben Jellen, an associate professor of biology at St. Louis College of Pharmacy, using a radio receiver to track a copperhead snake at Powder Valley Nature Center on August 30, 2019.
Shahla Farzan | St. Louis Public Radio

Only a few of the more than 40 snake species in Missouri are venomous, including the one Ben Jellen is looking for: the copperhead.

Copperheads have extraordinarily well-camouflaged bodies, which blend in with fallen leaves and branches. Although it’s the most common venomous snake species in Missouri, scientists know surprisingly little about its basic biology. Jellen, an associate professor of biology at St. Louis College of Pharmacy, is leading a small group of researchers who hope to learn more about this elusive snake.

September 5, 2019 Chris Bertke and Todd Boyman
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

In January 2018, the Impossible Burger first arrived in the St. Louis market. The meat-free patty was just like the real thing — it even bled. It became an immediate sensation. But it was soon snapped up by Burger King for its “Impossible Whopper.” After a hugely successful rollout right here in St. Louis, its popularity made the Impossible patties too popular for many locals to obtain. 

But they still had plenty of options. Some have experimented on their own to create tasty meat-free concoctions. Others are turning to more local alternatives. 

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, Todd Boyman, CEO of Hungry Planet, discussed the way demand for the Impossible Burger is driving interest in his products, which include animal-free versions of everything from beef to crab. 

Cambridge House of Swansea on Sept. 4. This is one of three Metro East facilites to receive 50 new apartments for dementia patients.
Eric Schmid | St. Louis Public Radio

BELLEVILLE — Metro East residents will have more options for affordable dementia care. The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services announced it is expanding the number of its dementia care sites across the state. 

The department said it will add 1,600 apartments for dementia patients at 40 care sites over the next three years. Three of those sites are in the Metro East. The Cambridge House communities in Swansea, O’Fallon and Maryville will each get 50 new apartments. 

In his hospital room at Touchette Regional Hospital in Centreville, patient Steven Glispie finishes signing the paperwork to enroll in Medicaid.
File photo | Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

Proponents of a Medicaid expansion in Missouri want to allow voters to override the state's Republican leaders, who have refused to extend coverage to more people.

The Healthcare for Missouri coalition is collecting signatures on a petition that would place a Medicaid expansion on the November 2020 ballot. If approved by voters, Missouri would expand the health insurance program to those who earn up to $18,000 a year. Missouri is one of 14 states that has not made the program available to more low-income people.

Campaign organizers say the expansion is necessary to extend health care coverage to people who have jobs but lack health insurance.

A worker installing a solar panel.
Ameren Missouri

Ameren Missouri plans to install solar farms and storage facilities for three rural Missouri communities. 

If approved by the Missouri Public Service Commission, the $68 million project could provide solar power to as many as 10,000 residents in Utica and Green City, in northern Missouri, and Richwoods, 60 miles southwest of St. Louis. The three cities are at the end of 20-mile transmission lines and often experience long power outages.

A volunteer with Coalition for Life St. Louis protests outside Planned Parenthood on Forest Park Avenue.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A federal judge has put a hold on Missouri’s eight-week abortion ban, but has left other provisions of the controversial law intact.

The parts of the law that prohibit abortions because of race, sex or Down syndrome diagnosis and updated requirements to pre-abortion counseling went into effect last week. Doctors say those new regulations victimize patients and compromise doctors’ medical ethics. 

St. Louis resident Erica Camp and her spent hen, Jo, at the Autism Behavioral Spectrum School in Ballwin, Missouri in August 2019.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

At the Autism and Behavioral Spectrum School in Ballwin, Missouri, a woman with purple-streaked black hair walked in with a stroller containing a plump, white chicken. 

Erica Camp brought Jo the chicken to meet a few dozen children, who petted and held Jo in their laps. The visit is part of Camp’s efforts to spread word about her organization, Second Hen’d, which helps people adopt older chickens from commercial farms that don’t want them anymore. 

Jo, a spent hen from a commercial egg producer, is one of 180 hens that Camp has saved since starting Second Hen’d last year. Owning hens can be therapeutic, she said.

The state program will cover the cost of hearing aids for about 20 low-income Missouri residents this year.
Flickr

Low-income Missouri residents in need of hearing aids may find relief in a new state program.

The Missouri Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing will help residents living at or below the federal poverty line purchase hearing aids. The Hearing Aid Distribution Program, established this summer, is designed to offset the cost of these expensive devices.

Health regulators have been trying to keep up with a surge in popularity of vaping products. Officials in Missouri admit more study is needed to clearly determine if e-cigarettes are linked to health problems.
Wayne Pratt | St. Louis Public Radio

Health officials in Missouri are warning residents about the potential dangers of vaping. 

The state’s Department of Health and Senior Services has issued a health advisory for severe lung conditions possibly related to e-cigarette use. It comes after Illinois reported what is believed to be the first vaping-related death in the United States.

Cannabis plants grow inside an indoor facility. These facilities use high amounts of energy and water. Illinois aims to cut that use by requiring its growers meet strict energy efficiency standards.
Micripper / Pixabay

BELLEVILLE — Both recreational and medical cannabis growers in Illinois will have to meet high standards for their energy and water use. 

A state law signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in June places limits on the amount of water and electricity growers can use, as well as setting requirements for water runoff and wastewater.

Neighborhood volunteers in Hyde Park clean garbage from the street. Black neighborhoods in St. Louis are more likely to be subject to illegal dumping of potentially hazardous materials. [9/1/19]
LinkSTL

Environmental hazards in the neighborhoods of many black people in St. Louis put them at a higher risk of health problems than white residents, according to a report released Saturday. 

An Asian tiger mosquito
Centers for Disease Control

Biologists at Washington University have discovered that an invasive species of mosquito in the U.S. has adapted to colder climates by laying eggs that can survive harsh winters.

Researchers at Wash U’s Tyson Research Center and the University of Central Florida wanted to know how the Asian tiger mosquito can survive in northern areas like Iowa and New Jersey. The species first appeared in Texas in the mid-1980s and can transmit the West Nile, dengue, Zika and chikungunya viruses. 

August 29, 2019 Ben Westhoff
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

Fentanyl has become an international scourge. It’s been blamed for a spike in drug overdose deaths in Missouri as well as around the world. It’s both contaminated many recreational drugs and become a substitute for heroin in many American cities. And yet the Chinese factory responsible for manufacturing most of its precursors has received funding and lucrative tax breaks from the Chinese government.

Through years of research, St. Louis journalist Ben Westhoff has become one of the foremost experts into the international fentanyl trade. On Thursday, he joined St. Louis on the Air to talk about his new book, “Fentanyl, Inc.: How Rogue Chemists Are Creating the Deadliest Wave of the Opioid Epidemic.” Westhoff discussed how his investigation followed the drug from its manufacture in China to the streets of St. Louis – and the terrible impact that synthetic, laboratory-made drugs are having on communities around the world.

Regina Hartfield speaks with her daughters Khia, 14, and Destinee, 12 , as they eat dinner. Hartfield's children were dropped from Missouri's Medicaid program.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On Aug. 9, Holly Uchtman and her 7-year-old son Zyler headed to their weekly appointment at Mercy Hospital in Springfield. Zyler has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a rare, terminal disease that causes muscles to weaken and eventually stop working. For two years, Zyler had been receiving eteplirsen, gene therapy that helped his muscles keep their shape.

But that day, there was a surprise on the other side of their journey. The state had removed Zyler from Medicaid, which pays for his nearly $40,000-a-week treatment. They were turned away, and he missed his appointment.

Glyphosate is one of the most widely used herbicides in the United States.
Mike Mozart |Flickr

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in the weed killer Roundup, is manufactured by Monsanto-Bayer. Depending on whom you talk to, it’s either a safe, highly effective herbicide, or it’s a dangerous substance linked to cancer cases from use by farmers and landscapers.

Wednesday on St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked with author Carey Gillam, who will give a presentation Friday at Washington University titled “Monsanto Trials and Monsanto Papers.” Gillam has investigated the topic of agrochemical safety and corporate interests for more than 20 years.

This cannon made by Missouri S&T faculty and students is being used to test mine seals.
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

ROLLA - Sometimes, the best way to see how strong something is means shooting it with a cannon loaded up with stuff found in a coal mine.

While this may sound like a TV comedy bit, it’s part of serious research at the Missouri University of Science and Technology that could make coal mines safer for workers.

Researchers at SLU eavesdropped on treehopper love songs to better understand how climate change might affect mating in this insect species.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

The insects in your backyard are having conversations at this very moment — but you can’t hear most of them.

Many communicate by producing tiny vibrations that travel through plant leaves and stems, like Morse code. 

St. Louis University researchers are studying treehoppers, insects common to Missouri and Illinois, to understand how climate change might affect their mating songs. Based on years of research, they report male treehoppers change their songs depending on temperature, but females still find the new songs attractive. 

Mike "Muddy Mike" Clark, standing in the stern, guides adventuregoers underneath the Eads Bridge near downtown St. Louis on a recent afternoon.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Despite its ever-present vastness along the Missouri-Illinois border, the Mississippi River is easy for locals to take for granted. And all too often, residents completely avoid the river.

It’s one thing to drive above it on a highway or eat a meal at a restaurant overlooking the water; relatively few actually travel its meandering length. But the people behind Big Muddy Adventures are aiming to change that, one canoe trip at a time.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked with the company’s founder and lead guide, Mike Clark, who is better known as “Muddy Mike.” Also participating in the discussion was Roo Yawitz, general manager of Big Muddy Adventures.

It’s the middle of summer but Harrisburg Middle School is a hive of activity. Between summer school classes and renovations, it’s a little chaotic for counselor Brett Rawlings, who just wrapped up his first year at the school.

Harrisburg is a town of fewer than 300 people, midway between St. Louis and Kansas City. But the school also serves the surrounding area, which is primarily farmland. As the K-8 counselor, Rawlings is responsible for some 400 students, and he deals with a range of issues.


Tobias prances around in an enclosure in the "Antelope Yards" at the St. Louis Zoo.
Emily Woodbury | St. Louis Public Radio

On July 30, St. Louis gained a new resident — Tobias, the Somali wild ass. His birth is special, since he is part of a subspecies that is both critically endangered in the wild and underrepresented in zoos nationwide. In fact, just by being born, Tobias increased the number of Somali wild asses in the United States by 1.5%.

Tuesday on St. Louis on the Air, Sarah Fenske spoke with Tim Thier, the acting curator of antelope at St. Louis Zoo, about the Somali wild ass and the zoo’s conservation efforts in the Horn of Africa, where the Somali wild ass resides.

Pages