WBEZ | Science http://www.wbez.org/news/science Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Recent returnees from West Africa monitored by Chicago health officials http://www.wbez.org/news/recent-returnees-west-africa-monitored-chicago-health-officials-111032 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/ebolaphotog1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>On Wednesday afternoon, Marcus DiPaola was in shorts, a t-shirt and puffy shark slippers, bouncing around his West Loop apartment.</p><p>The freelance journalist zinged from his bed to his computer table displaying souvenirs of his recent journey from Liberia, to Morocco, to New York, then Chicago, where he lives. There are brochures from the airport about Ebola symptoms, a digital thermometer (that he uses about 40 times a day) and pills.</p><p>&quot;This is Tylenol just in case I get dehydrated or a headache of some kind,&quot; said the journalist who works for the Chinese government news service, among others. &quot;These are malaria pills. You gotta take these because if you don&#39;t you might get a (malarial) fever which is commonly mistaken for Ebola so you&rsquo;re going to be stuck at an Ebola treatment center and actually get Ebola which would be bad.&rdquo;</p><p>DiPaola returned from Liberia 10 days ago. He filled out his questionnaire at JFK airport in New York and was found to be in the zero-risk category under guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. &nbsp;</p><p>&quot;This was because I never had any patient contact of any kind or even contact with anybody,&quot; DiPaolo said. &quot;No one is shaking hands, no one&rsquo;s hugging. No one&rsquo;s touching each other at all.&rdquo;</p><p>But a day after touching down in New York, Di Paola flew to Chicago. And five days later, he got a call from the New York Department of Public Health. He explained that he was already in Chicago and he was told to expect a call from Illinois officials within 24 hours.</p><p>DiPaola never heard from the Illinois Department of Public Health. But Wednesday, three hours after he finished<a href="https://soundcloud.com/morningshiftwbez/morning-shift-reporter"> an interview with WBEZ</a>, the 23-year-old journalist did get a call from the Chicago Department of Public Health.</p><p>&quot;They wanted to know what my temperature was and they wanted to know if they could come over and give me a quick check over,&quot; he said.</p><p>New protocols from the CDC now require even zero-risk returnees to be reclassified as low-risk and monitored for at least 21 days. DiPaola supports the measures but can be frustrated by some of the fear generated by public ignorance on incubation periods and transmission routes. Some scrutiny has come from friends and the parents of his girlfriend&rsquo;s roommate who believe that his current freedom could spread the virus.</p><p>&quot;They thought that if I woke up with a fever, that somehow I would end up giving it to my girlfriend, and then she would give it to her roommate,&quot; DiPaola recalled. &quot;But the problem with that is that even if you do wake up with a fever, you&rsquo;ve still got between four and seven days before you start vomiting and having a lot of fecal matter leave you. And that&rsquo;s the only way to spread it.&quot;</p><p>Despite these fear-driven concerns from the public, DiPaolo welcomes the public health nurses who arrived at his door for the first time Wednesday afternoon.</p><p>&quot;Hey guys, come on in,&quot; he says to the ladies who seem a little startled by his ebullient manner. &quot;Welcome to the party!&quot;</p><p>In lieu of shaking hands, DiPaola invites them to touch shoes, &quot;like we do it in Liberia,&quot; he says. &nbsp;</p><p>One nurse explains: &quot;Our purpose of being here today is to just look at you and make sure everything is fine with you and that you have no symptoms. And we&rsquo;d like you take your temperature and we will look at it to see what it is.&quot;</p><p>DiPaolo pulls out his digital thermometer and shows the nurses a reading of 98.5 degrees.</p><p>&quot;OK this is my previous temperature from 30 minutes ago,&quot; he says. &quot;I&#39;m going to warm it up here and it is 98.5 again.&quot;</p><p>The nurses scheduled future visits with DiPaola through November 10. Each time, they will monitor him for symptoms and check his temperature. He&rsquo;s also told to call 311 immediately if he starts to run a fever.</p><p>Once the nurses are gone, DiPaola settles back into his quiet apartment with his girlfriend, Emily. She arrived in the middle of the screening to find three strange women in her boyfriend&rsquo;s home.</p><p>&quot;Well, that was a surprise,&quot; she says.</p><p>&quot;I probably should have warned you,&quot; he says.</p><p>&quot;Yeah, you should have,&quot; she responds.</p><p>In coming weeks, DiPaola&#39;s schedule should become more predictable. His employers don&#39;t want him to work for 25 days after his return. But he does have regular apppointments planned with nurses. The journalist says he thinks these visits are probably best for public health, but he&#39;s also looking forward to November 10.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and the co-host of &nbsp;the food podcast &quot;Chewing the Fat.&quot;&nbsp; Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/monicaeng" target="_blank">@monicaeng</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 31 Oct 2014 08:58:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/recent-returnees-west-africa-monitored-chicago-health-officials-111032 As Infrastructure Crumbles, Trillions Of Gallons Of Water Lost http://www.wbez.org/news/infrastructure-crumbles-trillions-gallons-water-lost-111019 <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/water.jpg" style="height: 348px; width: 620px;" title="A water maintenance crew works on leaky infrastructure in Skokie, a Chicago suburb. The area loses almost 22 billion gallons of water a year because of ailing infrastructure. (David Schaper /NPR)" /></div><p>Imagine Manhattan under almost 300 feet of water. Not water from a hurricane or a tsunami, but purified drinking water &mdash; 2.1 trillion gallons of it.</p><p>That&#39;s the amount of water that researchers estimate is lost each year in this country because of aging and leaky pipes, broken water mains and faulty meters.</p><p>Fixing that infrastructure won&#39;t be cheap, which is something every water consumer is likely to discover.</p><p>In Chicago, fresh water is drawn into water intake cribs in Lake Michigan and piped to the enormous Jardine Water Filtration Plant on the lakefront, adjacent to Navy Pier.</p><p>Jardine is the largest water filtration plant in the world by volume, pumping about 1 billion gallons of purified drinking water out through hundreds of thousands of miles of pipes to 5 million people in Chicago and 125 surrounding communities.</p><p>But not all of that treated, potable water makes it through the system to homes and businesses. In fact, quite a bit of it is lost.</p><p>The Chicago-based Center for Neighborhood Technology, a nonprofit focused on sustainability, recently put out a report that estimates &quot;about&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cnt.org/2013/11/18/the-case-for-fixing-the-leaks-release/" target="_blank">6 billion gallons of water per day</a>&nbsp;may be wasted in the U.S.,&quot; says Danielle Gallet, the group&#39;s water supply program manager.</p><p>Where does it go? Much of it just leaks out of aging pipes and water mains that crack and break.</p><p>&quot;We do have a crumbling infrastructure issue,&quot; Gallet says. &quot;It is old.&quot;</p><p>Last winter&#39;s extremely bitter cold in the Midwest and Northeast was especially tough on the aging water infrastructure in those parts of the country.</p><p>But water main breaks are becoming increasingly common in warmer months too. &quot;We replaced 6 feet of main here [of a] 10-inch main,&quot; that burst open 5 feet beneath a busy thoroughfare in the Chicago suburb of Skokie, says Perry Gabuzzi, a maintenance worker for that city&#39;s water department, one recent warm morning.</p><p>&quot;See the golf-ball-sized holes in it?&quot; he asked, pointing to the section of pipe his crew removed.</p><p>The rusted pipe broke open just because of old age. Gabuzzi and his colleagues estimated the section to be at least 70 years old.</p><p>In Los Angeles in July, a water main estimated to be 93 years old broke wide open, causing severe flooding on the campus of UCLA.</p><p>And these kinds of incidents are happening all over the country, as much of the nation&#39;s water infrastructure is now a century old.</p><p>&quot;The infrastructure and the massive investment that our grandparents, great-grandparents, some of us our great-great-grandparents put in, is coming to the end of its useful life, and the bill has come due on our watch,&quot; Gallet says.</p><p>A recent study by Gallet&#39;s group and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning found the Chicago area alone is losing&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cmap.illinois.gov/documents/10180/296743/FY14-0071+IDNR+WATER+LOSS+REPORT/bfda6186-8c79-42b5-80b8-9d97c7c2300d" target="_blank">22 billion gallons of treated water per year</a>&nbsp;through leaky pipes.</p><p>&quot;We figured that that could fill the residential needs of about 700,000 people in a year,&quot; says Tim Loftus, water resource planner for the agency.</p><p>&quot;That&#39;s a big city,&quot; he says. &quot;That&#39;s a year&#39;s worth of residential water use.&quot;</p><p>Nationwide, the amount of water that is lost each year is estimated to top 2 trillion gallons, according to the American Water Works Association. That&#39;s about 14 to 18 percent (or one-sixth) of the water the nation treats.</p><p>And it&#39;s not just water that&#39;s going down the drain, but billions of dollars in revenue too because utilities can&#39;t charge customers for water that is lost before it gets to them.</p><p>But fixing the nation&#39;s water systems isn&#39;t going to be cheap.</p><p>&quot;Our estimates are that this is&nbsp;<a href="http://www.awwa.org/Portals/0/files/legreg/documents/BuriedNoLonger.pdf" target="_blank">a trillion-dollar program</a>,&quot; says David LaFrance, CEO of the American Water Works Association. &quot;About half of that trillion dollars will be to replace existing infrastructure. The other half will be putting into the ground new infrastructure to serve population growth and areas that currently aren&#39;t receiving water.&quot;</p><p>Across the country, many communities are raising water rates &mdash; some in the double and triple digits &mdash; to begin addressing the problem. California and Maine, as well as several individual communities, are asking voters next week to approve massive bond initiatives to fund water infrastructure improvements.</p><p>But some government spending watchdogs are skeptical.</p><p>&quot;Anytime somebody tells me that we have to spend more money, I&#39;m going to look at who is telling me that and do they have an interest in it,&quot; says Steve Ellis of the Washington-based group Taxpayers for Common Sense.</p><p>He says water utilities stand to gain from massive water infrastructure spending, as does the American Society of Civil Engineers, which gives the nation&#39;s water infrastructure a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/drinking-water/" target="_blank">barely passing grade of &quot;D.&quot;</a></p><p>Ellis says that doesn&#39;t mean big spending on water infrastructure isn&#39;t needed. Voters just need to make sure there&#39;s proper oversight, as well as investments in better technologies and conservation.</p><p>The American Water Works Association is meeting in Atlanta this week in its first conference focused on water infrastructure.</p><p>LaFrance says the first priority is to get water utilities to audit their systems and install and upgrade meters where needed. Then they can get a better handle on just how much water is being lost because too many, he says, just don&#39;t know.</p><p>And in the meantime, the old and crumbling pipes keep leaking.</p><p>-<a href="http://www.npr.org/2014/10/29/359875321/as-infrastructure-crumbles-trillions-of-gallons-of-water-lost"><em>Via NPR News</em></a></p></p> Thu, 30 Oct 2014 08:26:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/infrastructure-crumbles-trillions-gallons-water-lost-111019 Suspicion lingers over Ebola treatment http://www.wbez.org/news/suspicion-lingers-over-ebola-treatment-110977 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/african food truck.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Last Friday, Illinois health officials presented plans to deal with any future Ebola cases in the state. These include establishing a test lab, taking the temperature of some foreign travelers, and forming a task force aimed at better communication.</p><p>But a trip to a nearby West African lunch truck revealed that big communication gaps still remain in some parts of the city.&nbsp;</p><p>As the West African vendor served up plates of fufu and goat, he said that, so far, he hadn&rsquo;t seen any shortages in ingredients imported from Africa.&nbsp;<br /><br />But a customer standing in line thought the vendor was, instead, being asked about the safety of West African food.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Ebola cannot infect our food,&rdquo; said the cab driver who only wanted to be identified as Chris. &ldquo;Because our food is properly cooked. It is cooked to at least 90 degrees.&rdquo;</p><p>Chris continued by sharing his view on the true origin of Ebola.</p><p>&ldquo;That thing (Ebola) is a white man&rsquo;s disease,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;They created it in a lab to kill us, and to make the pharmaceutical companies rich.&rdquo;</p><p>Within minutes, fellow cab drivers joined in the conversation, asking &ldquo;Why is it that the black man who came from Africa, he died? But the white man lived. We won&rsquo;t let anyone fool us anymore.&rdquo;</p><p>While some of these views may seem extreme, they echo a larger question in the world health community about why an Ebola vaccine has been so long in coming.&nbsp;</p><p>Laurie Garrett is a Senior Fellow for Gobal Health at the Council on Foreign Relations. She said market forces affect the development of these medications.</p><p>&ldquo;Because it&rsquo;s so rare, and it occurs among very poor people, where is the financial market incentive for the pharmaceutical industry to get in there and commercialize it?&rdquo; she asked.</p><p>Indeed, until recently, that incentive has not existed. But it did get a big push last month when the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation committed $50 million to addressing Ebola.&nbsp;</p><p>Still, Garrett says there are other factors that have slowed progress on an Ebola vaccine.</p><p>&ldquo;How do you clinically test a vaccine against a disease that you cannot possibly ethically induce in your test subjects, and that occurs so rarely,&rdquo; she asks. &ldquo;Also, you don&rsquo;t really have a population that is routinely exposed in order to test how well the vaccine really works.&rdquo;</p><p>One Liberian-born, American professor offered up an answer to that question. He believes human trials have already begun...on unsuspecting Africans as part of a plan by the U.S. Department of Defense. The Delaware State plant pathologist detailed these suspicions in a letter that went viral last month in Liberia&rsquo;s largest daily paper, further fueling speculation.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>This and other factors have driven continuing suspicion about a racial component to the outbreak.<br /><br />&ldquo;The white woman who went to England: she was healed,&rdquo; Chris, the cab driver, noted. &ldquo;The nurse who went to Spain: She was healed. The white boy who who came to America. He was healed. But the black man who came to Texas, in America&mdash;in America he died.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>Last week, Illinois&rsquo; Director of Public Health LeMar Hasbrouck stressed that communication will be key in the Ebola fight. And that the new task force would have to: &ldquo;Coordinate public messaging so we are not giving different messages to different audiences, so we are all on the same page there.&rdquo;</p><p>WBEZ asked Hasbrouck&rsquo;s department how and if it planned to address some of the racially-based perceptions on Ebola. The department did not respond.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at <a href="http://twitter.com/monicaeng" target="_blank">@monicaeng</a>&nbsp;or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 13:51:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/suspicion-lingers-over-ebola-treatment-110977 The health problems facing rural and urban poor in Illinois http://www.wbez.org/news/health-problems-facing-rural-and-urban-poor-illinois-110959 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/chinese.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Each year, researchers at the University of Wisconsin&rsquo;s Population Health Institute put out the County Health Rankings. The rankings show how counties across the country match up on things like life expectancy and residents&rsquo; health.</p><p>Julie Willems Van Dijk is one of the directors.</p><p>&ldquo;The reason we do it is to raise awareness about how healthy our communities are, and how healthy they&rsquo;re not. To do so in a way that piques people&rsquo;s interest by comparing them to other counties in their community. And ultimately in a way that helps everybody see &hellip; that health in your community is not just about what the doctors and nurses do. But it really is about decisions that are made by businesses, by government,&rdquo; Willems Van Dijk says.</p><p>Most of the counties around Chicago do really well,&nbsp; but Cook County is way down near the bottom - 75 out of 102 Illinois counties in health outcomes.</p><p>Twenty spots down the list from Cook is Edwards County. Edwards County ranks 96th of all Illinois counties for health outcomes. It&rsquo;s worth looking at because unlike most of the sickest counties, it isn&rsquo;t particularly poor. Edwards County&rsquo;s poverty level is better than the state average.</p><p>&ldquo;Income, and especially poverty are definitely drivers of health,&rdquo; Willems Van Dijk says.</p><p>But that&rsquo;s not what&rsquo;s happening in Edwards County.</p><p>Edwards is due south from Chicago, down near where Illinois, Kentucky and Indiana meet. It&rsquo;s incredibly sparse with just 30 people per square mile. The Illinois average is almost eight times as much.</p><p>Misty Pearson is the administrator of the Edwards County Health Office.</p><p>Edwards is one of only two counties in Illinois without an official health department. That&rsquo;s why it&rsquo;s called a health office, instead of a department of health like in almost every other county.</p><p>&ldquo;We are not certified by the state of Illinois, by choice, I guess. Not my choice, I would change that if I could,&rdquo; Pearson says.</p><p>The health office isn&rsquo;t certified because Edwards County leaders are so against the state being involved in their county they refuse to take health funding from Illinois because it comes with strings attached - like state oversight.</p><p>&ldquo;Food sanitation, we don&rsquo;t have that. None of our restaurants are inspected. It does [make me nervous]. There are certain restaurants I won&rsquo;t eat at,&rdquo; Pearson says. &ldquo;The only thing we can do that a health department does is vaccines for children.&rdquo;</p><p>So Edwards County - despite its low health ranking and relative economic strength - isn&rsquo;t the best indicator of the state&rsquo;s health needs overall.</p><p>The state government can&rsquo;t force people to vaccinate their kids or make counties take its money.</p><p>Still, experts say Illinois needs to come up with policies that work for Edwards County with 30-people per square mile, and Cook County with 5,500-people per square mile.</p><p>They say it can be done. Because despite their differences in population and demographics the two counties face similar health challenges.</p><p>At the top of the list is access to doctors.</p><p>The Illinois Department of Public Health has a map of areas with a dearth of primary care providers.</p><p>There are a lot of downstate counties shaded in - but there&rsquo;s also a bunch of Chicago neighborhoods -- from Rogers Park up north to Austin on the West Side and Chicago Heights down south.</p><p>Harold Pollack with the University of Chicago says the state could help poor people in urban and rural areas by raising Medicaid rates, or just paying its bills on time.</p><p>&ldquo;I can tell you that as someone who takes care of an adult on Medicaid that there are services that we can&rsquo;t use because the providers that we&rsquo;d like to use don&rsquo;t accept Medicaid,&rdquo; Pollack says.</p><p>So physician shortages might not be the happiest point of unity, but Misty Pearson in Edwards County and Harold Pollack in Chicago say they - and others - will be thinking of it when they go into the voting booth.</p><p>In a little more than a week there will be millions of people at the polls. They&rsquo;ll each have different experiences and different expectations, but they&rsquo;ll all be voting on the future of one state.</p><p>&ldquo;How are we going to make these budget numbers work &hellip; and also pay for the services that people in the state actually want and will continue to demand,&rdquo; says Pollack..</p><p><em>Patrick Smith is a WBEZ Reporter/Producer. Follow him on twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/pksmid" target="_blank">@pksmid</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 17 Oct 2014 12:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/health-problems-facing-rural-and-urban-poor-illinois-110959 Push for solar power comes to Chicago's Southeast Side http://www.wbez.org/news/push-solar-power-comes-chicagos-southeast-side-110897 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Solar Chicago 2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Not long ago in a small storefront on Baltimore Avenue near the Indiana border a handful of folks got schooled on solar energy.</p><p>It was part education, part sales pitch put on by Seth Johnson, policy advocate with the Environmental Law and Policy Center in Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;Right now, we see a lot of fluctuation with energy prices. They seem every day to go up and down, up and down,&rdquo; Johnson said at the office of the Southeast Environmental Task Force in Chicago&rsquo;s Hegewisch neighborhood in late September. &ldquo;What you do with solar energy is you lock in that price. You make that upfront investment but then you levelize your cost in the long run.&rdquo;</p><p>Johnson&rsquo;s been making these types of sales pitches throughout the Chicago area since July.</p><p>He&rsquo;s trying to get people to take advantage of incentives offered by the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago before the October 10 deadline.&nbsp;</p><p>Peggy Salazar is with the Southeast Side Environmental Task Force, which hosted the informational meeting. Her group is on the front lines of banning companies from storing potentially harmful pet coke nearby.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re the ones that deal with the air emissions from the pet coke being stored. We have the BP refinery that is just across the border,&rdquo; Salazar said. &ldquo;But the emissions from the actual refinery don&rsquo;t stop at the Indiana border, they blow toward us.&rdquo;</p><p>Salazar says eventually they want to attract cleaner energy companies to the Southeast side.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s what we would love to see in this area. So, it&rsquo;s very important that we work hard to at least help direct people to new, cleaner renewable energy,&rdquo; Salazar said.&nbsp;</p><p>Local resident Maria Gallegos said she was on the fence, but wants to do something to help curb fossil fuels -- especially in her own backyard.</p><p>&ldquo;This is an industrial area. Pollution has been a big problem,&rdquo; Gallegos said.</p><p>Gallegos said the main issue with a solar panel system is the cost factor.</p><p>&ldquo;Even though there&rsquo;s some incentives, right out of the bat it&rsquo;s pretty expensive,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Depending on the solar panel system, a customer can expect to shell out $8,000 to $18,000.</p><p>And that return of investment in lower ComEd bills may not be realized for at least seven years.</p><p>That may be one reason why only about 100 people have signed up to purchase a solar panel system in Greater Chicago since July, according to Johnson.</p><p>But Luis Rojas is giving solar energy a try. Rojas is a construction manager with Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago. The 59-year-old lives on Chicago&rsquo;s Southeast Side on Avenue H.</p><p>Rojas said his investment in solar makes sense in the long run.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m really excited about it,&rdquo; Rojas said. &ldquo;Lately, I&rsquo;ve been putting a lot of attention to the efficiency of my house and the footprint that we all leave just by living.&rdquo;</p><p>He&rsquo;s already installed barrels next to his two-flat to capture rainwater that he uses to water the grass.</p><p>Now, after years of considering solar energy, Rojas says it finally makes financial sense.</p><p>&ldquo;Solar PV panels, they were always really expensive to install and the second things was the efficiency rating of them,&rdquo; Rojas said. &ldquo;The efficiency looks like it has quadrupled in the last five or six years so I&rsquo;m in for it.&rdquo;</p><p>A dozen solar panels, each about the size of a flat-screen TV, will be installed on Rojas&rsquo; roof in the next few weeks.</p><p>The system would normally cost $12,000 but with the state and city incentives, Rojas expects to only pay half that much.</p><p>And eventually, it will cut his electricity bill by more than half.</p><p>&ldquo;If you can save money and then at the same time do some good to the environment, well, here&rsquo;s my two pennies,&rdquo; Rojas said.</p></p> Mon, 06 Oct 2014 13:14:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/push-solar-power-comes-chicagos-southeast-side-110897 After the march, what's next for climate change? http://www.wbez.org/news/after-march-whats-next-climate-change-110837 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/global warming.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">In the days leading up the 2014 <a href="http://www.un.org/climatechange/summit/" target="_blank">UN Climate Summit</a>, thousands of people marched through New York to bring attention to climate change. Millions around the world joined in the effort, but will the movement last?</p><p>One expert says most of that hinges on whether people think climate change is real. A <a href="http://environment.yale.edu/climate-communication/files/Climate-Beliefs-April-2013.pdf" target="_blank">2013 study</a> by Yale and George Mason universities found nearly two out of three people in the U.S. believe global warming is occurring, but a small percentage of Americans say climate change is all hype.</p><p>Tim Calkins, a marketing professor in the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, says the campaign faces a unique challenge because it has to prove there&rsquo;s a problem. Calkins&nbsp;says the movement is getting it right by providing solid evidence that temperatures are rising.</p><p>In August, scientists at the National Climatic Data Center reported the highest global average of land and ocean temperatures since the center began keeping records in 1880.</p><p>&ldquo;By doing that, all of a sudden it takes that raw data and makes it more personal for people,&rdquo; Calkins&nbsp;said. &ldquo;And when you can really see a picture of it, you say &lsquo;my goodness, look at that it is a problem,&rsquo; and it keeps the belief going.&rdquo;</p><p>Calkins&nbsp;says the effort should be prepared to lose momentum post-march.</p><p>&ldquo;The real issue is how do you keep it going, year after year, because this isn&rsquo;t a problem that you solve one time and then you&rsquo;re done,&rdquo; Calkins&nbsp;said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s sort of an ongoing challenge for all of us.&rdquo;</p><p>Calkins&nbsp;says interest in climate change peaked in the mid-2000s, but lost steam in the last few years. Pointing to the success of public health campaigns for <a href="http://komen.org/" target="_blank">breast cancer</a> and the <a href="http://www.alsa.org/" target="_blank">ALS ice bucket challenge</a>, he says climate change falters because advocates struggle to explain why it matters on a deeper level.</p><p>&ldquo;When you have a disease, and there&rsquo;s some diseases that sort of lend themselves perfectly to engagement, there people see it,&rdquo;&nbsp;Calkins&nbsp;said. &ldquo;They say &lsquo;I know somebody who has this and so it matters a ton. Unless they consistently make it relevant for people, it&rsquo;s going to be tough to keep people fired up over time.&rdquo;</p><p>Confusion over what people can actually do to combat climate change is another issue. Most people agree with the primary point that climate change is a problem and and needs to be addressed, but Calkins says it&rsquo;s the secondary point of what action individuals can take that remains unclear.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s this goal to get a lot of action going, and the challenge is that progress is likely to come in little steps,&rdquo; Calkins said. &ldquo;The risk in that is you don&rsquo;t want people to get discouraged.&rdquo;</p><p>Beyond the <a href="http://peoplesclimate.org/" target="_blank">Climate March</a>, Calkins predicts the movement will be around for years. But for those involved, he says the biggest challenge will be keeping the issues at the front of peoples&rsquo; minds.</p><p>&ldquo;The problem today that people get all excited about something, but then they very quickly move on,&rdquo; Calkins said. &ldquo;The digital world we are in encourages that, because there&rsquo;s so many things that pop up that distract everybody.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Updated Sept. 24, 2014: This story was changed to correct the spelling of the name of professor Tim Calkins.</em></p><p><em>Mallory Black covers water, energy and the environment as WBEZ&rsquo;s Front and Center reporting intern. Follow her<a href="http://twitter.com/triciabobeda"> </a><a href="https://twitter.com/mblack47" target="_blank">@mblack47</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 23 Sep 2014 15:58:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/after-march-whats-next-climate-change-110837 Blue-green algae back with a vengeance http://www.wbez.org/news/science/blue-green-algae-back-vengeance-110822 <p><p>Residents of Toledo, Ohio are still worried about drinking their water after toxic algae got into the water system in August and caused a two-day shutdown. Legislators and scientists are scrambling to find solutions to the growing problem with algae blooms in midwestern water.</p><p>It&rsquo;s an issue that affects the entire Great Lakes region, but for now, all eyes are on Toledo and the shallow western basin of Lake Erie, where the problem is concentrated. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/great-lakes-brace-more-toxic-algae-110112">That pollution actually starts far upstream</a> &mdash; and it&rsquo;s not just about the algae.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Annie, Fannie and Mike</span></p><p>First, a few names you&rsquo;ll need to know: Annie, Fannie and Mike.</p><p><em>&ldquo;</em>Annie stands for Anabaena, Fannie stands for Aphanizomenon, and Mike stands for Microcystis,&rdquo; explains Chris Winslow, associate director of the Stone Lab at Ohio State. We&rsquo;re out on a pontoon boat with a group of scientists taking water samples. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re the three major players that are in the lake. &ldquo;</p><p>These three types of greenish little cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, bloom in warm, shallow parts of Lake Erie in the summer and early fall, and can release <a href="http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wq/plants/algae/publichealth/generalcyanobacteria.html">toxins that are unsafe to drink in high concentration</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;Even if you look over the edge of the boat, you will see tiny green flecks in the water,&rdquo; Winslow explains. &ldquo;That is the cyanobacteria that you&rsquo;re seeing.&rdquo;</p><p>The water is choppy and blue, but Annie, Fannie and Mike are lurking down below, and what comes up in the sample is a thick green goo that someone jokes looks like a vegetable smoothie.</p><p>The last few years the blooms in Lake Erie have been out-of-control, with <a href="http://www.cleveland.com/science/index.ssf/2013/04/record-sized_lake_erie_algae_b.html">the worst bloom on record taking over the Maumee Bay area in 2011,</a> and bad blooms returning in 2012 and 2013. Their growth is stimulated by natural and commercial fertilizers that run off from farm fields, manure from livestock, and <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/heavy-rain-overwhelms-combined-sewer-system-106731">sewage overflows from aging city water systems</a>.</p><p>Nitrogen and phosphorous concentrate in the shallowest part of Lake Erie and feed blooms of the toxic cyanobacteria in the summer. Later, massive die-offs of the algae eat up oxygen at the bottom of the lake, creating <a href="http://www.wbez.org/content/because-climate-change-fears-great-lakes-%E2%80%98dead-zone%E2%80%99">dead zones</a> that can span up to half the lake&rsquo;s surface area.</p><p>One of this year&rsquo;s blooms, though not as expansive as some other years, ended up directly over the water intake for the city of Toledo in early August. When water officials tested the water and found cyanotoxins at above one part per billion, the limit recommended by the World Health Organization, they shut down water services to an estimated 450,000 people for two days.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Toledo pays the bill</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/DSCN2519_1.jpg" title="Water is mixed with chemicals that bond with and separate out cyanobacteria and other tiny pieces of matter at Toledo’s Collins Park Water Treatment Plant. (Lewis Wallace)" /></p><p>People in Toledo are living with the consequences of the dispersed pollution.</p><p>&ldquo;I won&rsquo;t drink the water because even though they said it was safe, I don&rsquo;t believe them,&rdquo; said Aasiyah Taalib-deen, an 18-year-old first year college student who grew up in Toledo.</p><p>She says water trouble is bad for the economy &mdash; her workplace closed during the water shutdown. &ldquo;If the water crisis keeps going on it can shut somebody&rsquo;s business down, and that can affect a lot of people&rsquo;s money.&rdquo;</p><p>It&rsquo;s already affecting a lot of people&rsquo;s money &mdash; mainly, the people who pay for Toledo water, and water users in surrounding areas that get their water from Lake Erie. In 2013 nearby Carroll Township&rsquo;s water system was shut down by the algae, a sneak preview of what happened in Toledo that some were <a href="http://www.toledoblade.com/local/2013/09/15/Carroll-Township-s-scare-with-toxin-a-wake-up-call.html">hoping would be a wakeup call</a>.</p><p>Over at the Toledo water treatment plant, lake water gets mixed up with a chemical that bonds with the cyanobacteria to separate them out in giant gray vats. Right now the city spends about $1 million a month to separate out Annie, Fannie and Mike, plus the costs of regular, voluntary test for the toxins.</p><p>Each test is over $400 to run and about a half a day&rsquo;s work for one person; during the algae-heavy summer months, the city generally tests once a day. In the coming year, the city plans to invest in temporary barriers that would keep more of the algae from even entering the system.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re treating symptoms of a bigger problem,&rdquo; says Tim Murphy, Toledo&rsquo;s head of water treatment. &ldquo;We need to get to the bigger problem or else we&rsquo;re gonna keep having this battle, and not just us but every drinking water facility located in the western basin is gonna have this problem, and probably others.&rdquo;</p><p>Smaller lakes across the midwest are getting clogged up every summer; they just happen not to be drinking water sources, but those algal blooms can lead to swim and fish advisories.</p><p>Still, Murphy says he believes the problem can be solved. &ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s a hundred percent fixable.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The problem starts upstream</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/DSCN2481_1.jpg" title="Paul Herringshaw farms 1500 acres of corn, wheat and soybeans outside Bowling Green. (Lewis Wallace)" /></p><p>The fixes start a long long way from the coast of Lake Erie. The watershed that drains into the lake at Toledo, the Maumee River watershed, extends all the way to Indiana, and more than a hundred miles south into Ohio. Countless farms, golf courses and lawns wash out into it, and right now there&rsquo;s not much in place that limits fertilizer use.</p><p>Still, farmers say they have plenty of interest in solving the problem.</p><p>&ldquo;My largest expense is fertilizer,&rdquo; says Paul Herringshaw, who farms 1500 acres outside Bowling Green and sits on the board of the <a href="http://ohiocorn.org/about/">Ohio Corn Marketing Program</a>. &ldquo;If I&rsquo;m losing it down the stream, then I&rsquo;m literally throwing money down the stream.&rdquo;</p><p>Herringshaw drives his truck out over a wide strip of grass that separates a soybean field from a drainage ditch. Conservation strips like this are a relatively easy way farms can absorb some of the runoff before it hits the water, but the nutrients aren&rsquo;t just running off the field from the top; Herringshaw&rsquo;s farm, like many in the region, uses what&rsquo;s called a tiling system to keep the field well-drained from below.</p><p>Herringshaw says that&rsquo;s necessary to farm this land.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s a saying that the old-timers had, and it is so very true, that &lsquo;in a dry year a farmer around here worries to death, in a wet year around here he starves to death.&rsquo; We suffer more from too much moisture than we do from not enough moisture,&rdquo; he explains. &ldquo;So this tile system here is designed to get rid of the water so that we&rsquo;re able to farm the ground.&rdquo;</p><p>A lot of farmers just let this water flow out through the underground tiling, but Herringshaw has installed controls on his &mdash; he&rsquo;s put in a dam system so he can close up the outlet at the edge of the field and keep it from draining out. He also uses an acre-by-acre grid to determine how much fertilizer to use in different areas, and avoid over-fertilizing.</p><p>Even these simple controls, though, are an expense. A new state law will eventually require farmers here to get permits to fertilize, and the training would teach them about responsible fertilizing practices, but right now nothing requires Ohio farmers to limit runoff from their fields.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Climate change worsens the threat</span></p><p>There&rsquo;s probably going to be more runoff as intense downpours become more common due to climate change. Although this summer was something of a break from the heat, predicted warmer water temperatures in the lakes also encourage bacteria to grow in the summer.</p><p>Climate change is just one of several factors that has scientists concerned that this problem will become even more widespread in the Great Lakes. Invasive zebra and quagga mussels have played a role in giving the toxic cyanobacteria a competitive advantage in Lake Erie&rsquo;s ecosystem; the aggressive invasives consume the &ldquo;good&rdquo; algae rapidly, leaving even more space for the toxic cyanobacteria to thrive.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s gonna take a combination of efforts throughout the entire ecosystem,&rdquo; says Stuart Ludsin, a biologist with Ohio State. &ldquo;We need to think about the climate, we need to think about invaders, we need to think about nutrients, you can&rsquo;t do them in isolation of one another.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://wyso.org/post/ohios-us-senators-introduce-legislation-address-toxic-algae">Ohio&rsquo;s senators have introduced a few bills</a> in recent weeks that would put some more responsibility on the feds to monitor the situation, but there&rsquo;s no real central leadership; the solutions remain a patchwork of local, state and federal efforts.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/DSCN2516_1.jpg" title="Stone Lab researcher Justin Chaffin with Ohio’s Democratic U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, seeing “Annie, Fannie and Mike” cyanobacteria in person for the first time. (Lewis Wallace)" /></p><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">&lsquo;Why the land wins and the water loses&rsquo;</span></p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s multi-jurisdictional, and that&rsquo;s why I say the federal government needs to step up,&rdquo; says Sandy Bihn, an environmental advocate with Lake Erie Waterkeeper.</p><p>She wants to see the EPA get involved, starting with <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/storyline/wp/2014/08/11/watching-toledos-toxic-water-troubles-with-a-wary-eye-and-few-regulations/">regulating the toxins </a>from cyanobacteria. Chicago and other cities ran voluntary tests after Toledo&rsquo;s shutdown, but right now there&rsquo;s no federal protocol or drinking water standard; cities like Toledo who test regularly aren&rsquo;t required to do so under any law.</p><p>Bihn says there&rsquo;s another shift that needs to happen. She says right now, the land, and its uses for farming, industry and development, is taking precedence over water.</p><p>&ldquo;I would venture to say that most people, when their water runs off their land would not know where their streams are,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;How it connects to the lake...most people have no clue.&rdquo;</p><p>Watersheds cross state lines, but water policy often doesn&rsquo;t. Bihn thinks that needs to change in the Great Lakes.</p><p>&ldquo;I mean we have, what, 20 percent of the world&rsquo;s fresh water supply here in the Great Lakes, 95 percent of the U.S. surface freshwater? This is the greatest economic opportunity we&rsquo;ll ever know,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;Water is becoming a more scarce resource...and shame on us if we keep giving excuses for why the land wins and the water loses, which is pretty much what I see.&rdquo;</p><p>She says when she first moved out here, she used to go out to the beach and swim. That was a minor miracle: Lake Erie had just been cleaned up after decades of industrial pollution.</p><p>Now, when she wants to swim, she heads for her swimming pool.</p><p><a href="http://wyso.org/people/lewis-wallace"><em>Lewis Wallace is a reporter for WYSO</em></a><em>, the public radio station for Dayton, Springfield and Yellow Springs, Ohio. </em></p><p><em>Front and Center is funded by the Joyce Foundation: Improving the quality of life in the Great Lakes region and across the country.</em></p></p> Fri, 19 Sep 2014 08:34:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/science/blue-green-algae-back-vengeance-110822 Great Lakes racing to prepare for a new kind of oil spill http://www.wbez.org/news/science/great-lakes-racing-prepare-new-kind-oil-spill-110797 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/boom2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The <a href="http://www.uscg.mil/d9/">U.S. Coast Guard&rsquo;s Ninth District</a> is in charge of protecting the maritime interests of the Great Lakes. Those interests include industries like shipping, fishing, and tourism that create billions of dollars in revenue for the Great Lakes basin each year. And so, the agency is always thinking about oil spills. It conducts dozens of tabletop and real world preparation exercises every year to prepare.</p><p>But the oil spill game is changing.The explosion in tar sands production in western Canada means increasing amounts of crude oil is making its way to the American Midwest. Imports of crude oil to the Midwest reached a record high earlier this month, according to the Energy Information Association. Tar sands bitumen is different than traditional crude oil. It&rsquo;s heavier and it sinks in freshwater. And that has caught the attention of the people in charge of cleaning up oil spills, including the U.S. Coast Guard.</p><p>&ldquo;The Midwest and the Great Lakes lie at a virtual crossroads of production and transportation and distribution. And because those things carry inherent risk. we&rsquo;re faced with some tough questions about how to deal with that,&rdquo; says Rear Admiral Fred Midgette, who commands the U.S. Coast Guard&rsquo;s Ninth District.</p><p>&ldquo;From my perspective, clearly one of the most important things that are going to happen in the next decade is how we handle this issue of heavy oil. We need to get it right,&rdquo; he told a crowd last week in Detroit at the <a href="http://www.spillcontrol.org/">International Spill Control Organization</a>&rsquo;s annual forum. ISCO has been around for decades, but this was the first time its annual forum focused exclusively on responding to heavy, Group V oils that can sink in water.</p><p>The reason why has a lot to do with what happened four years ago in the small town of Marshall, Michigan. On July 26, 2010, a 30-inch pipeline belonging to Enbridge Energy Partners LLP burst and spilled over a million gallons of tar sands oil into Talmadge Creek. From there, it made its way to the Kalamazoo River where it traveled over 35 miles downstream, coating birds, turtles, and other wildlife with oil.</p><p>Cleaning up the river took longer than anyone expected. That&rsquo;s because tar sands oil is too thick to move through a pipeline on its own--imagine a kind of shiny, black peanut butter. It&rsquo;s thinned out with other chemicals to get it flowing. But when the mixture is exposed to air, those chemicals gradually evaporate over a period of several days or weeks. At the Kalamazoo River, that left behind over a million gallons of heavy, sticky goo at the river bottom. Crews are finally wrapping up the dredging process four years and nearly $1 billion later.</p><p>&ldquo;I can&rsquo;t speak for a lot of the other players, but I know for us the EPA response and the Enbridge response to the Kalamazoo, I think opened a lot of people&rsquo;s eyes in that the threat is real from heavy oils and what they can do to the environment,&rdquo; says Jerry Popiel, incident management advisor for the Coast Guard&rsquo;s 9th District.</p><p>Popiel says there aren&rsquo;t any vessels carrying tar sands crude oil on the Great Lakes right now, but at least one company--<a href="http://www.calumetspecialty.com/">Calumet Specialty Products Partners</a> in Indianapolis--has expressed interest in the idea. And that has Popiel thinking about the challenges of responding to a such a spill in the Great Lakes.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s one thing when you have 10 feet of water, 5 feet of water, or maybe 30 feet of water. Well, okay there are tethers and things and divers you might potentially use for there. That&rsquo;s one set of problems. If it happens in Lake Superior in 800 feet of water, that&rsquo;s a different set of problems,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Right now, those are problems without good solutions. The Coast Guard&rsquo;s trying to change that, and so is a whole industry that&rsquo;s grown up to respond to oil spills. In 2011, the Coast Guard awarded $2.5 million to three companies. They were asked to develop technologies that could better detect and recover sinking oils.</p><p>Some of those technologies were on display at last week&rsquo;s forum, including one from <a href="http://www.alionscience.com/">Alion Science and Technology</a> called the Seagoing Adaptable Heavy Oil Recovery System or the SEAHORSE. The SEAHORSE looks more like a giant carburetor than a dainty ocean creature. But Al Arsenault, an engineer with the company, says it&rsquo;s safer and more effective than traditional methods.</p><p>&ldquo;The scenarios in the past have used divers. It&rsquo;s a dirty job, it&rsquo;s a very dangerous job to send divers down when this product is on the water column, on the surface, and on the bottom. It sticks to you like peanut butter,&rdquo; Arsenault explains.</p><p>The SEAHORSE doesn&rsquo;t use any divers. Instead, its trio of remotely operated vehicles scans the seafloor for oil and pumps it back up to the surface. SEAHORSE and other new technologies let responders reach spills hundreds of feet under water and can detect and recover oil at the same time. The Coast Guard says these new technologies are promising, but they aren&rsquo;t widely available and can be costly to build.</p><p>Emergency responders in our region may still have some time to sort out those problems. It isn&rsquo;t clear yet that Great Lakes shipping is going to be a good option for moving tar sands oil. For one thing, the lakes are frozen over for several months every year.</p><p>&ldquo;The other big issue is competition. Shipping oil on the Great Lakes will make sense if it&rsquo;s less expensive than shipping it by rail,&rdquo; says Steve Fisher, Executive Director of the <a href="http://www.greatlakesports.org/">American Great Lakes Ports Association</a>. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Fisher says a lot would have to change before tankers full of tar sands crude oil set sail on the Great Lakes. It would require the oil industry to make long-term commitments with shipping companies to entice them to make investments in new ships and shoreside loading facilities.</p><p>Still, environmentalists say economic pressures are building.</p><p>Several refineries in the region, including one just south of Chicago in Whiting, Indiana, have been upgraded to process tar sands oil. Lyman Welch, Water Quality Program Director at the <a href="http://www.greatlakes.org/">Alliance for the Great Lakes</a>, says shipping by vessel on the lakes also opens up a route for transport to refineries on the East Coast.</p><p>Welch says right now, a lot of the decisions that could set the scene for shipping this kind of oil on the Great Lakes are happening at a state or local level. And he says that patchwork approach could have consequences for the entire region.</p><p>&ldquo;A spill could happen anywhere, not just in the state where the initial dock is built to allow for this shipment,&rdquo; says Welch.</p><p>The dock he&rsquo;s referring to is owned by Elkhorn Industries in Superior, Wisconsin. The company reapplied for a permit to upgrade the dock in August after its first application was rejected by the state earlier this year. It&rsquo;s considered a first step in the project proposed by Calumet Specialty Products, though Elkhorn says they don&rsquo;t have concrete plans to partner with the company yet.</p><p>But the possibility that it could worries Welch, who says existing spill response preparation measures are inadequate when it comes to responding to a spill of tar sands oil.</p><p>There are increasing efforts to beef up those measures. Emergency responders like the Coast Guard and EPA are starting to include heavy oil spills in their preparation exercises. And the spill response industry continues to develop new and better technology for dealing with heavy oil spills.</p><p>But Welch says we shouldn&rsquo;t accept the shipment of tar sands oil on the Great Lakes as inevitable, even as we work out the regulatory kinks.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s vital that our Great Lakes region and community has a discussion as to whether the Great Lakes should become this thoroughfare for tar sands crude oil shipping. Are we prepared to accept that risk?&rdquo;</p><p>That&rsquo;s not a question, Welch says, for industry or government, but for each of the 34 million people who call the Great Lakes basin home.</p><p><em>April Van Buren is an assistant producer at WKAR in East Lansing. You can follow her on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/aprilveebee">@aprilveebee</a>.</em></p><p><em>Front and Center is funded by The Joyce Foundation: Improving the quality of life in the Great Lakes region and across the country.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Mon, 15 Sep 2014 14:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/science/great-lakes-racing-prepare-new-kind-oil-spill-110797 A last chance for a better life http://www.wbez.org/news/science/last-chance-better-life-110781 <p><p>On a warm summer morning, Julia is seated in her kitchen, watching a small flatscreen on a kitchen counter. Julia, 10, smiled as she watched pictures of her family. Meanwhile, her mother Lisa, rummaged through a black and white square bag loaded with pills and bottles. It&rsquo;s Julia&rsquo;s morning routine. A pill crusher is used to grind up the medication. According to Lisa, 11 pills are needed in the morning, more at night.</p><p>Lisa and Julia are using pseudonyms for privacy reasons.</p><p>According to Lisa, Julia is thin for her age because she never has an appetite, something Lisa claimed is a side effect from all the medication. But Lisa said the pills do very little to get her daughter through the day.</p><p>An hour after she took her medicine, Julia wanted to go to a friend&rsquo;s house to see a dog named Wrigley. But she didn&rsquo;t walk to the door to leave. Julia sat frozen on the couch and just stared straight ahead. All of a sudden, Julia screamed &ldquo;Wrigley! I want to see Wrigley!&rdquo;</p><p>She did this for about 10 minutes straight. As she screamed, she leaned forward as her arms and legs stiffened. It was as if she was restrained by some kind of invisible rope.</p><p>Lisa said her daughter&rsquo;s epilepsy isn&rsquo;t the kind which manifests in convulsions. Julia&rsquo;s epilepsy renders her almost motionless. She cried with no tears. This type of seizure can happen at least once a day, sometimes more often at school.</p><p>&ldquo;When we have bad days, they&rsquo;re very bad. I can be crying, the caregiver is crying,&rdquo; said Lisa with a sigh. &ldquo;Because we can&rsquo;t do anything to help her.&rdquo;</p><p>Julia has cerebral palsy and epilepsy. While there&rsquo;s no cure for either, epilepsy is one of 40 illnesses approved in Illinois to be treated with medical marijuana.</p><p>To get it for her daughter, Lisa will have to fill out a nine-page application, including a form signed by Lisa&rsquo;s doctor saying she&rsquo;d benefit from using the drug. Because Julia is a minor, Lisa will get fingerprinted. Many have said that requirement likens them to criminals. I asked Lisa if she&rsquo;s ever thought about doing what hundreds of families have done: moving to Colorado for a special strain of marijuana many say reduces seizures.</p><p>&ldquo;On bad days, yes, I have,&rdquo; said Lisa. &ldquo;But my help is here. My family is here.&rdquo;</p><p>If Julia can use medical marijuana, Lisa hopes she can get it at one of the state&rsquo;s 60 licensed dispensaries in or near her home in McHenry County. Lisa is prepared to get a second opinion if her daughter&rsquo;s doctor doesn&rsquo;t approve.</p><p>&ldquo;Because I would like to see all these medicines diminish and cut back. I mean they have horrible side effects.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Epilepsy2_140909_yp.jpg" style="height: 188px; width: 250px; float: left; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" title="“Julia” holds a picture of herself the day she was born. She was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth, epilepsy a year later. (WBEZ/Yolanda Perdomo)" />Everything from rashes to liver damage and even blindness. For Lisa, and countless others, what some in the medical profession think about using pot to treat serious illnesses has little influence on their decision. The American Medical Association discourages the use of cannabis. But the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago has come out in support of using medical marijuana. There are approximately 130,000 people in the Chicago metro area who suffer from epilepsy. Around 30,000 of them are children.</p><p>&ldquo;There are members of our professional advisory board that kind of felt along the same way that some parents felt (that) trying CBD oil could, in no event, be any worse than what they&rsquo;re already going through,&rdquo; said Kurt Florian, CEO of the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago. &ldquo;Given the successes we&rsquo;ve been hearing about, it would make sense to give it a try.&rdquo;</p><p>The strain of marijuana known to reduce seizures is called Charlotte&rsquo;s Web. It&rsquo;s named after a Colorado girl whose family fought to use it. It has little to no THC levels, the hallucinogenic property in marijuana. But it&rsquo;s high in cannabidiol or CBDs, the component said to reduce the number of seizures.</p><p>&ldquo;We had very motivated parents who had kids having anywhere from 100 to 1,000 seizures a day,&rdquo; Florian said. &ldquo;And witnessing the devastating impact those seizures were having on their children, we&rsquo;d love to see marijuana, CBD oil available in Illinois.&rdquo;</p><p>If the American Medical Association is opposed to it and the Epilepsy Foundation supports for it, an organization representing more than 140 thousand doctors, is somewhere in the middle. The American College of Physicians doesn&rsquo;t advocate using outright. But it wants more research to see whether it helps. Dr. David Fleming is the organization&rsquo;s president.</p><p>&ldquo;What we&rsquo;re attempting to garner is a better handle on that data,&rdquo; said Fleming. &ldquo;A handle on the science. So that we can advise our patients more effectively.&rdquo;</p><p>To do that, the federal government has to declassify the drug, now listed as a Schedule 1. That&rsquo;s in the same category as heroin. That restructuring could be more than a decade away. But some people aren&rsquo;t waiting years to get medical marijuana. Some aren&rsquo;t even waiting until next spring when it would be available in Illinois.</p><p>&ldquo;Mike&rdquo; from Rockford has traveled to Colorado a few times to get the prized CBD oil for his son, who suffers from autism and epilepsy. Mike doesn&rsquo;t want his real name used. He knows he broke a few laws that carry prison time if caught. When I bring up the consequences, he shrugged his shoulders, unfazed.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re not breaking any laws so that we can enrich ourselves,&rdquo; said Mike. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not harmful to nobody if it&rsquo;s going to help him.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Follow WBEZ Reporter/anchor Yolanda Perdomo on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/yolandanews">@yolandanews</a>&nbsp;&amp; <a href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/106564114685277342468/posts/p/pub">Google+</a>&nbsp;</em></p></p> Thu, 11 Sep 2014 07:40:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/science/last-chance-better-life-110781 Explosion at BP refinery, no injuries reported http://www.wbez.org/news/explosion-bp-refinery-no-injuries-reported-110719 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/whiting.png" alt="" /><p><p><em>Updated Aug. 28, 7:47 a.m.</em></p><p>WHITING, Ind. &mdash; A fire broke out after an explosion at a BP refinery in Whiting, Indiana, which rattled nearby homes.</p><p>BP America spokesman Scott Dean said early Thursday that the refinery, which is just east of Chicago, had &quot;an operational incident&quot; on a process unit about 9 p.m. He said in a statement that the plant&#39;s in-house fire department responded, and the fire was out by 10:55 p.m.</p><p>Dean said refinery operations were &quot;minimally&quot; affected and that one employee was taken to a hospital as a precaution, but was later released.</p><p>A Whiting Fire Department spokesman said the explosion could be heard clearly several blocks from the plant.</p><p>The Chicago Sun-Times said Wednesday was the anniversary of a 1955 explosion in Whiting that killed two people.</p></p> Thu, 28 Aug 2014 00:47:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/explosion-bp-refinery-no-injuries-reported-110719