WBEZ | public health http://www.wbez.org/tags/public-health Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Six months after Fisk and Crawford, Chicago area coal still struggling http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/six-months-after-fisk-and-crawford-chicago-area-coal-still-struggling <p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/akagoldfish/2926002818/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/coal-train.jpg" style="height: 414px; width: 620px;" title="A coal train outside Chicago in 2008. (Flickr/Courtesy the pieces are here) " /></a></div><p>The last barge carrying coal to Pilsen&rsquo;s Fisk Power Plant lumbered up the Chicago canal in late August, dumping a final 1,500 tons of coal to burn in a community whose members were more than happy to see their industrial neighbor go.</p><p>Before they shut down, the Fisk and Crawford coal plants were among the state&rsquo;s largest emitters of toxic chemicals. In 2010, the latest year of data available in the EPA&rsquo;s <a href="http://iaspub.epa.gov/triexplorer/tri_release.chemical" target="_blank">Toxics Release Inventory</a>, the power plants were among the leading sources of barium compounds,&nbsp;hydrochloric acid,&nbsp;hydrogen fluoride,&nbsp;mercury compounds and&nbsp;sulfuric acid. A 2002 Harvard School of Public Health study linked the plants to 41 premature deaths and 2,800 asthma attacks annually.</p><p>It has been a little more than six months since the plants closed, and <a href="http://wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-03/fisk-and-crawford-pass-air-and-radiation-tests-lead-persists-nearby" target="_blank">recent tests by the EPA</a> showed <a href="http://www.epa.gov/airquality/particlepollution/" target="_blank">particulate matter</a> concentrations and radiation levels typical for Chicago in the area around Fisk. The readings came from four stationary sensors and a mobile unit mounted to a baby carriage to make sure no odd winds swept pollution between the reach of the monitors.</p><p>&ldquo;Overall it&rsquo;s not unreasonable to expect some air quality improvement since the plants closed,&rdquo; said the state EPA&rsquo;s Andrew Mason.</p><p>There is considerable lag time in analyzing air quality data, and on a regional basis it is difficult to single out individual sources, Mason said, so a definitive breakdown of just what impact the plant closures had on Chicago&rsquo;s air quality doesn&rsquo;t exist.</p><p>But anecdotal evidence abounds. Sulfur oxides can smell like rotting eggs &mdash; an aroma residents are happy to report no longer lingers over their neighborhood. Those compounds, along with nitrogen oxides, also contribute to smog and haze.</p><p>The recent tests seemed to confirm the shuttered coal plants were no longer an air quality concern for neighborhood, but coal is not the only source of particulate matter pollution.</p><p>A <a href="http://www.sciencecodex.com/road_traffic_pollution_as_serious_as_passive_smoke_in_the_development_of_childhood_asthma-109075" target="_blank">new study in the European Respiratory Journal</a> found 14 percent of chronic asthma in kids is caused by car exhaust &mdash; in the same range as the 4 to 18 percent bracket of childhood asthma cases resulting from exposure to second-hand smoke, per World Health Organization estimates. It was the first time they estimated the percentage of cases that might not have occurred if Europeans had not been exposed to road traffic pollution.</p><p>Around the region, coal plants are struggling to compete with low natural gas prices and <a href="http://www.epa.gov/pm/actions.html" target="_blank">tightening EPA restrictions</a>. Dominion Energy, which recently <a href="http://wbez.org/news/dominion-wants-sell-3-power-stations-including-one-outside-chicago-102227" target="_blank">sold off some Chicago area holdings</a>, just settled <a href="http://www.fierceenergy.com/story/dominion-will-pay-mightily-emissions/2013-04-09" target="_blank">to the tune of more than $13 million</a> to resolve Clean Air Act violations. The settlement required Dominion to spend $9.75 million of that on environmental projects, including land acquisition and restoration near the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.</p><p>But <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-09-28/news/ct-met-will-coal-plants-20120928_1_midwest-generation-plants-fisk-and-crawford-coal-plants" target="_blank">two coal plants in Will County </a>are not among the more than 100 coal plants shuttered nationwide in recent years. A Romeoville plant emitted more than six million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2012, according to the <a href="http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/usinventoryreport.html" target="_blank">EPA&rsquo;s greenhouse gas inventory</a>, making it the biggest carbon polluter in the Chicago area. Midwest Generation, which owns three operational coal-fired power plants in the area, last week <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-04-04/news/ct-met-coal-plant-delays-20130405_1_coal-plants-sulfur-dioxide-midwest-generation" target="_blank">won a two-year reprieve</a>&nbsp;from new sulfur dioxide emissions standards in light of its December bankruptcy filing.</p><p>While coal&rsquo;s share of the U.S. electricity mix <a href="http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/steo/report/coal.cfm" target="_blank">has fallen</a> markedly in recent years, it remains a major source of electricity. Coal-fired power plants collectively produce more pollution than any other source in the country.</p><p>Chicago&#39;s recent decision to aggregate electricity purchases gave coal the boot from the city&#39;s fuel mix, in a nod not only to the decades of environmental concerns that sped the closures of Fisk and Crawford, but to the flagging economic profile of the fuel source whose command of the country&#39;s electricity portfolio is beginning to wane.</p></p> Wed, 10 Apr 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/six-months-after-fisk-and-crawford-chicago-area-coal-still-struggling In 1918, killer flu hits Chicago http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-10/1918-killer-flu-hits-chicago-102957 <p><p>A killer was stalking Chicago in the fall of 1918, a killer called the Spanish flu. The city had never seen anything like it. On this October 17th&nbsp;&mdash; on this one day alone &mdash; 381 Chicagoans died.</p><p>Nine decades later, scientists still argue over the origins of the disease. We do know that the worldwide 1918 flu was the deadliest pandemic since the Black Death. Over 40 million people died &mdash; four times the number killed in World War I. In the United States, flu fatalities were 600,000.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/10-18--US%20Dept%20of%20Public%20Health.jpg" title="Makeshift hospital ward during the 1918 epidemic (Office of the U.S. Public Health Service)" /></div><p>Unlike the usual pattern, most of the victims were not the very young or the very old. Healthy people in the prime of life were dying, and dying quickly &mdash; often within hours of showing symptoms. In Chicago, health commissioner John Dill Robertson decided on drastic actions.</p><p>The disease spread through close human contact. Therefore, all large gatherings were banned&nbsp;&mdash;&nbsp;athletic contests, labor and political meetings, banquets and so on. Schools shut down, and children playing in the parks were told to go home. Theaters and cabarets closed. Weddings were postponed, and even funerals were suspended.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/10-17--Flu poster.jpg" style="width: 221px; height: 335px; float: right;" title="Chicago Public Health Poster (author's collection)" /></div></div><p>Because they were considered essential for morale, churches remained open. However, Robertson requested that pastors shorten their services. Even so, attendance at religious events was down about one-third.</p><p>Most people had to continue working, so officials asked businesses to stagger their hours. Robertson suggested that commuters walk whenever possible, to avoid overcrowding on public transportation. Laws were passed to ban public spitting and to outlaw smoking on &quot;L&quot; trains. Citizens were asked to wear gauze face masks when they appeared in public.</p><p>By October 21, Chicago had received 100,000 doses of flu vaccine, and inoculations began. Whether this helped is debatable. But over the next weeks, flu deaths rapidly dropped. The war ended on November 11, and the Spanish flu was forgotten in the excitement.</p><p>About 8,500 Chicagoans had died. Former mayor John Hopkins and pioneer educator Ella Flagg Young were the most prominent victims. And there were all the others, known only to their family and friends.</p><p>Those left behind dealt with their grief. One of these was a 29-year-old Bucktown bricklayer named Florian Przedziankowski. In October 1918 he lost both his wife and his mother to the deadly flu.</p><p>But Florian moved on, as he had to. In 1920 he remarried, and a year later, he had a daughter. And that daughter became my mother.</p></p> Wed, 17 Oct 2012 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-10/1918-killer-flu-hits-chicago-102957 Mexican poet leads march against drug war http://www.wbez.org/news/mexican-poet-leads-march-against-drug-war-102148 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/JavierSiciliaCROP.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Led by a renowned Mexican poet, a four-mile march through Chicago&rsquo;s West Side on Monday evening called for an end to the U.S. war on drugs. Javier Sicilia, whose 24-year-old son was killed last year by Mexican drug traffickers in Cuernavaca, blames the drug war for tens of thousands of violent deaths in that country.</p><p>Sicilia says the war has been devastating north of the border too. To make that point, he is leading a month-long bus caravan through the United States. His group joined hundreds of Chicago activists on the march, which began in the city&rsquo;s Little Village neighborhood and ended in West Garfield Park.</p><p>&ldquo;These are African-Americans and Latinos who have been criminalized,&rdquo; he told WBEZ in Spanish, motioning to bystanders watching the march. &ldquo;They are more vulnerable because there is a drug war.&rdquo;</p><p>Sicilia said the war on drugs, which dates back to President Richard Nixon&rsquo;s administration, has fueled mass incarceration and street violence in the United States.</p><p>He compared that bloodshed to Chicago gangster violence during Prohibition almost a century ago. But the drug war has deeper effects, Sicilia said, &ldquo;because the scale is international and the weaponry is more powerful.&rdquo;</p><p>Sicilia said authorities should treat drug use as an issue of public health, not criminality.</p><p>The caravan is scheduled to wrap up in Washington next week.</p></p> Tue, 04 Sep 2012 00:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/mexican-poet-leads-march-against-drug-war-102148 Weather brings bats out early, raising rabies risk http://www.wbez.org/science/health/weather-brings-bats-out-early-raising-rabies-risk-97910 <p><p>Illinois health officials say the remarkably warm weather means bats are active earlier this year. That increases the risk of exposure to rabies.</p><p>The Illinois Department of Public Health announced Tuesday that two people are getting treatment after a bat tested positive for rabies.</p><p>State public health veterinarian Connie Austin says people shouldn't approach bats. Instead, call your local animal control agency.</p><p>If you find a bat indoors, try to contain it in one room and call local animal control officials.</p><p>Rabies is a viral disease that affects the nervous system. Humans can get rabies from the bite of an infected animal, and it can be fatal if left untreated.</p><p>Last year, 49 bats and one cow tested positive for rabies in Illinois.</p></p> Wed, 04 Apr 2012 10:46:38 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/science/health/weather-brings-bats-out-early-raising-rabies-risk-97910 Campaign aimed at bacteria in health facilities http://www.wbez.org/story/campaign-aimed-bacteria-health-facilities-97086 <p><p>Illinois health officials have kicked off a campaign to fight the spread of the deadly bacteria C-diff in hospitals and other health facilities.</p><p>C-diff is the short name for Clostridium difficile. Some infected patients suffer mild diarrhea, but others can develop more severe condition and die. Government estimates suggest C-diff is responsible for up to 15,000 deaths annually.</p><p>The Illinois Department of Public Health has launched an educational campaign for hospital workers and health care personnel on preventing the spread of C-diff.</p><p>So far, 137 facilities statewide have signed up.</p><p>C-diff is commonly spread from person to person via contaminated surfaces or the unwashed hands of health care workers, patients and visitors.</p><p>The project is called the Illinois Campaign to Eliminate Clostridium difficile, or ICE C-diff.</p></p> Thu, 08 Mar 2012 15:10:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/campaign-aimed-bacteria-health-facilities-97086 Common air pollutant linked to mental decline http://www.wbez.org/story/common-air-pollutant-linked-mental-decline-96364 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-February/2012-02-13/smokestacks.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-14/smokestack_flickr_nathanmac87.jpg" style="width: 630px; height: 473px;" title="According to new research, particulate pollution is associated with accelerated cognitive decline in older women. (Flickr/nathanmac87)"></p><p>A common type of air pollution might speed up the mental decline that comes with aging, according to <a href="http://archinte.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/short/172/3/219">new research</a> led by a Chicago scientist.</p><p>Particulate pollution, made of tiny particles and droplets from smokestacks and tailpipes, has been known to contribute to lung disease and other health problems. Now a study has linked higher exposure to it with cognitive deterioration.</p><p><a href="http://www.rushu.rush.edu/servlet/Satellite?ProfileType=Short&amp;c=RushUnivFaculty&amp;cid=1231770859925&amp;pagename=Rush%2FRushUnivFaculty%2FFaculty_Staff_Profile_Detail_Page">Jennifer Weuve</a>, an epidemiologist and assistant professor at Rush University’s Rush Institute for Healthy Aging, said each additional increment of exposure, defined as 10 micrograms of particulate matter per cubic meter of air, seems to age a person’s brain an extra two years. But she pointed out that, unlike other risk factors, air pollution is something public policy can tackle directly.</p><p>“These people, whose exposures that we reduce will experience a slower rate of cognitive decline, which means fewer people will reach the threshold of dementia during their lives,” Weuve said.</p><p>It’s not clear just how particulate pollution might speed up cognitive decline. It may have to do with increased rates of cardiovascular disease. But there also may be a direct mechanism: Some tiny particles can pass from the bloodstream into the brain.</p><p>Wueve’s study is large, based on a sample of 19,409 nurses. But some uncertainties remain. It’s difficult to tease out the effects of particulate pollution from other air pollutants that might come along with it. The pollution measures came from air quality monitoring in the area where each participant lived. The results are published in Archives of Internal Medicine.</p><p><em>This article has been chnaged to clarify the exposure increment linked to two years of aging.&nbsp; </em></p></p> Mon, 13 Feb 2012 22:55:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/common-air-pollutant-linked-mental-decline-96364 In Syrian crackdown, doctors who treat protesters become targets themselves http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-02-02/syrian-crackdown-doctors-who-treat-protesters-become-targets-themselves- <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2012-February/2012-02-02/syria1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In Syria, a surprising constituency has gotten caught up in the conflict between the government and dissidents: ordinary doctors. As President Assad’s regime becomes more militarized and protesters take up arms, doctors are resorting to underground clinics to treat those hurt in the violence.</p><p>But the struggle to provide care is wrought with complications. With independent medical organizations like Doctors Without Borders barred from the country, individual doctors must deal with scores of patients on their own. Many underground clinics have only basic medical supplies. And because blood supplies are monitored by the government, many of those injured in the protests are bleeding to death without access to basic transfusions.</p><p>In the process of treating others, Syria's doctors have become government targets themselves. Many have been detained, harassed, deported and – according to some reports – killed. <em>Worldview</em> talks with Dr. Zahrer Sahloul, president of the <a href="http://www.sams-usa.net" target="_blank">Syrian American Medical Society</a>. He’s trying to mobilize Syrian American doctors to help medical professionals in their home country.</p></p> Thu, 02 Feb 2012 17:17:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-02-02/syrian-crackdown-doctors-who-treat-protesters-become-targets-themselves- Surgeons in short supply in Uganda http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-01-20/surgeons-short-supply-uganda-95696 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2012-January/2012-01-20/uganda1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><span class="piece-description-lead">Uganda desperately needs surgeons. In a country of 32 million people, there are only about a hundred specialist surgeons. As a result, accident victims with critical injuries must sometimes wait weeks or months for operations. </span></p><p><span class="piece-description-lead">One reason for the shortage: Ugandan medical students increasingly choose to work in the better paying field of HIV and AIDS care. Bonnie Allen reports.</span></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>The piece originally aired on the <a href="http://www.prx.org/group_accounts/5538-worldvision" target="_blank">World Vision Report</a>. We got it from the <a href="http://www.prx.org" target="_blank">Public Radio Exchange</a>.</em></p><p style="margin-left: 1in;">&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 20 Jan 2012 18:59:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-01-20/surgeons-short-supply-uganda-95696 Global Activism: Combatting HIV in Togo http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-01-19/global-activism-combatting-hiv-togo-95651 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2012-January/2012-01-19/condom demo togo.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>On today&#39;s <a href="http://wbez.org/globalactivism"><em>Global Activism</em></a>, we talk to Beth Skorochod, who works on HIV prevention for <a href="http://www.psi.org/" target="_blank">Population Services International</a> (PSI).</p><p>The organization runs a host of health programs around the globe. These include an HIV prevention project in Togo that targets men who have sex with men. The program uses peer to peer education to encourage men to use condoms and get tested. The Togolese government invited PSI into the country despite the fact that it is illegal for men to have sex with men.&nbsp; Beth tells <em>Worldview</em> how things have been going.</p><p><em>To hear more stories of people making a difference, check out the </em>Global Activism<em> <a href="http://wbez.org/globalactivism" target="_blank">page</a>, where you can also suggest a person or organization for the series. Or, email your suggestions to <a href="mailto:worldview@wbez.org">worldview@wbez.org</a> and put &ldquo;Global Activism&rdquo; in the subject line. Also, don&#39;t forget to subscribe to <a href="http://wbez.org/podcasts" target="_blank">the podcast</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 19 Jan 2012 16:17:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-01-19/global-activism-combatting-hiv-togo-95651 Haiti’s earthquake recovery marred by forced evictions, cholera http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-11-21/haiti%E2%80%99s-earthquake-recovery-marred-forced-evictions-cholera-94237 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-November/2011-11-21/haiti2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Although it's been two years since the earthquake and billions of dollars in aid have gone into the country, Haiti is still struggling. Many of those who were displaced in the earthquake still live in tent camps. And a public health disaster has further destabilized the country: half a million people have been sickened by cholera and 5,000 have died from the illness.</p><p>Attorney <a href="http://ijdh.org/who_we_are/staff_volunteers#nicole" target="_blank">Nicole Phillips</a> says the epidemic was triggered by United Nations workers who contracted cholera in Nepal, and then brought it to Haiti. An attorney with the <a href="http://ijdh.org/" target="_blank">Institute for Justice &amp; Democracy in Haiti</a> and <a href="http://www.usfca.edu/law/faculty/nicole_phillips/" target="_blank">assistant director</a> for Haiti Programs at the University of San Francisco School of Law, Nicole is part of a team of lawyers that’s suing the UN on behalf of the Haitian people. She tells us why she's taking action and also gives us insights into the recent uptick in forced – and sometimes violent – evictions from Haiti’s tent camps under President Michel Martelly.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>To watch a video of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon's spokesperson, Martin Nesirky, addressing the cholera allegations with members of the press, click <a href="http://www.unmultimedia.org/tv/webcast/2011/11/daily-press-briefing-and-guest-catherine-bragg-ocha-on-her-recent-visit-to-central-america.html" target="_blank">here</a>. His comments begin at 15:55.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 21 Nov 2011 16:38:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-11-21/haiti%E2%80%99s-earthquake-recovery-marred-forced-evictions-cholera-94237