Health & Science | WABE 90.1 FM

Health & Science

Science news

Wilbert Baan /

Earth's heat is stuck on high.

Thanks to a combination of global warming and an El Nino, the planet shattered monthly heat records for an unprecedented 12th straight month, as April smashed the old record by half a degree, according to federal scientists.

Georgia's financial reserves for its State Health Benefit Plan, which is used to cover roughly 650,000 state employees and teachers, was taken by officials to balance the budget during the Great Recession.

Now the plan faces a a projected $55 million deficit within two to three years.

That's why the Department of Community Health is looking for ways to address upcoming money woes.

Almost half of all heart attacks cause no obvious symptoms, yet they can still be life-threatening, according to research on more than 9,000 middle-aged men and women.

It's one of the biggest studies to examine so-called silent heart attacks, and to also explore them across racial and gender groups.

Researchers at Wake Forest University's medical school led the government-funded study. Results were published online Monday in the American Heart Association's journal, Circulation.


Garry Knight /

Grandma's cholesterol is OK, but maybe the doctor should be asking about her social life, too.

Think about health during the senior years, and a list of common ailments pops to mind. But that's not the whole story. New research suggests factors such as loneliness and whether they've broken any bones since middle age also play a role in the well-being of older adults.

The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, without additional emergency funding from Congress, it may have to stop or delay measures to prevent the Zika virus.

Right now the CDC's Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response is throwing everything it's got at trying to understand Zika and prepare for warmer temperatures favorable to mosquitoes that can carry the virus. 


It's 100,000 laps around Earth and counting for the International Space Station.

The space station reached the orbital milestone — 17½ years in the making — Monday morning. NASA said these 100,000 orbits are akin to traveling more than 2.6 billion miles. That's equivalent to 10 round trips to Mars, or almost one way to Neptune.

Each orbit takes about 90 minutes; 16 orbits comprise a station day.

Josh Replogle / Associated Press

The mosquitoes that can spread Zika are already buzzing among us. The U.S. government could use some help figuring out exactly where.

No experience is necessary for what the U.S. Department of Agriculture envisions as a nationwide experiment in citizen-science. Teenagers already have proven themselves up to the task in tryouts involving a small number of high school students and science teachers.

A concrete pipe below this coal ash impoundment failed, releasing between 50,000 and 82,000 tons of coal ash and 27 million gallons of ash pond water waste into the Dan River.
Steven Alexander / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division is considering tightening rules on how utilities store coal ash, a byproduct from burning coal for electricity. The ash can contain toxic materials like arsenic and mercury, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency introduced rules on storing it in late 2014, after disasters in other states.

Alison Guillory / WABE

Georgians might want to take a close look inside their kitchens.

This week, Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black issued a warning about the items recently recalled in the state. Kroger, Publix and CRF Frozen Foods are among the companies that have recently pulled products due to fears of listeria contamination.

Martha Irvine / Associated Press

For decades, pregnant women and women who may become pregnant have been advised to take folic acid to help prevent certain birth defects.

But a new study suggests it may be possible to get too much of a good thing — very high levels of the vitamin in mothers' blood at the time of childbirth was linked to higher risk of their children developing autism years later.

Other research points to an opposite relationship between folic acid and autism, showing that adequate amounts of the vitamin at the time of conception can significantly reduce the risk.

Mike Householder / Associated Press

Humans aren't the only victims of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, as pets also may have been exposed to the toxic lead. An effort coordinated by Michigan State University is now helping dogs get tested.

The school's College of Veterinary Medicine has hosted screening events with professors, students and technicians volunteering to draw blood from dogs. State veterinarian James Averill said 266 dogs have been tested so far, with seven documented cases of lead toxicity.

Eleanor (cropped) /

After two years of improvement, America's honeybees had another tough and deadly winter, probably because of mites, according to a new federal survey released Tuesday.

The annual survey of beekeepers showed the winter colony loss rate was 28 percent, up from 22 percent. That's about average over the past decade but higher than the 17 percent that beekeepers call acceptable.

But it is still lower than the peak rate of 36 percent nine years ago.

Alison Guillory / WABE

Georgia is again affected by Kroger recalls.

The grocery giant has announced it is recalling its Simple Truth Organic Mixed Vegetables and its Broccoli Raisin Salad.

Kroger officials say those items might be contaminated with listeria.

No related illnesses have been reported thus far.

psyberartist (cropped) /

Starting in June, Marietta will join the growing list of area cities and counties that aren't recycling glass.

The city of Marietta is entering a new contract with its vendor WestRock, which no longer accepts glass as part of recycling. 

It operates in many parts of Cobb County and was the only trash and recycling vendor that applied to collect the city's trash. 

City of Marietta spokesperson Lindsey Wiles said companies have said they are not able to make a profit recycling glass and it contaminates other recyclable materials.

Andrew Harnik / associated press file

Updated at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday

The Food and Drug Administration will re-evaluate its definition of "healthy," which could eventually change how a range of foods are marketed.

In light of evolving research, the FDA said it believes "now is an opportune time to re-evaluate the regulations concerning nutrition content claims, generally, including the term 'healthy'." The agency plans to solicit public comment on the matter in the near future, said Lauren Kotwicki, an FDA representative, in an email.

James Gathany / CDC, Wikimedia Commons

The possibility for more pesticide spraying amid heightened fears of Zika by both metro Atlanta government entities and private citizens has beekeepers worried.

“If [the pesticide] does contaminate the pollens and nectars the bees are going to, they'll take it home, and then it damages more than just the bee it landed on,” said Cindy Hodges a past president of the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Association. Anyone spraying their yard with pesticides could harm area bee colonies, she said.

wild bergamot
Joshua Mayer /

In Atlanta, it’s hard to ignore the mosquitoes and roaches. But there are insects some people would like to see more of: pollinators, like butterflies and bees. The Atlanta Botanical Garden is working with other organizations on the Greater Atlanta Pollinator Partnership to make the city a better place to live for birds, bats, bees and butterflies.

Solar and Heliospheric Observatory/NASA/ESA via AP

Mercury has begun a relatively rare move across the sun.

The solar-planetary ballet got underway just after 7 a.m. Monday on the East Coast with the smallest planet appearing as a tiny black dot on the face of the sun. The transit will last for a total of about 7½ hours. The last time it happened was 2006. It will happen again three years from now, but then not until 2032. NASA says the event occurs only about 13 times a century.

The entirety of Mercury's journey will be viewable to the eastern U.S. and Canada, as well as most of western Europe and South America.

Matt Rourke / AP Photo

Doctors in Philadelphia hope to lower the city's high infant mortality rate by distributing baby boxes that encourage safe sleeping.

The cardboard boxes are lined with a mattress and function like a bassinet. They're meant to discourage parents from sleeping with their babies, which could cause accidental suffocation.

Temple University Hospital plans to give out 3,000 boxes over the next year to every woman who delivers there. The program started this week.

Georgia Wildlife Resources Division /

The first loggerhead sea turtle nest in Georgia of the season was found earlier this week on Cumberland Island, according to a press release by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Division.

The loggerhead – the largest species of hard-shelled turtle and Georgia's primary sea turtle – has been on the federal list of threatened species since the 1970s, due to a number of factors including development and pollution. 

Solar and Heliospheric Observatory/NASA/ESA via AP

Updated at 1:14 p.m. Thursday

Earthlings are in for a treat Monday as Mercury makes a relatively rare transit of the sun.

The solar system's smallest, innermost planet will resemble a black round dot as it passes in front of our big, bright star. The last time Mercury crossed directly between the Earth and sun was in 2006, and it won't happen again until 2019 — and then, until 2032. NASA says the event occurs only about 13 times a century.

Louis Mayo, program manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, considers it "a big deal."

Michell Eloy / WABE

Katy Mallory says she’s ready to head to the hospital at moment’s notice: “If we need to get our bags, we actually have them in the car already."

Mallory is pregnant with twin girls, due in early May. Her pregnancy has been relatively routine, except for one twist.

Earlier this year, Mallory’s husband, Dan, traveled to Mexico for business. Mexico is among the countries where the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say mosquitos are actively spreading Zika, the virus that’s been linked to severe birth defects in Brazil.

Most people at a public hearing in Waynesboro, GA in May, 2015 opposed the use of eminent domain to build the Palmetto Pipeline.
Molly Samuel / WABE

There's now a moratorium on taking private property to build petroleum pipelines in Georgia.

Gov. Nathan Deal on Tuesday evening signed a bill that puts pipeline permitting on hold until June 30, 2017.

The legislation followed public outcry against a pipeline that would have traveled down the Georgia coast. The energy company Kinder Morgan asked the state to allow it to use eminent domain to build the project. The state said no, and that pipeline is now suspended.

Toby Talbot / Associated Press

Among the dozens of bills Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law Tuesday is one that puts a temporary stop to issuing licenses to clinics that treat people addicted to heroin and prescription pain killers.

The bill puts a one-year moratorium on accepting licensing applications from those looking to open a new opioid treatment center.  The suspension will last through June 30, 2017, while the legislature convenes a study committee to look at licensure requirements for such clinics and other related issues. The moratorium does not apply to applications currently under review.

Alison Guillory / WABE

One of Georgia’s most notorious air monitoring stations is on top of Fire Station Number 8 in northwest Atlanta. It's notorious because it consistently ranks among the worst in the state in levels of air pollution.    

“Those in EPD who are familiar with air quality issues are very familiar with this monitor,” said Rich McDonald, with the Environmental Protection Division.

Jason Dearen / Associated Press

Wearing black headsets with tentacle-like sensors stretched over their foreheads, the competitors stare at cubes floating on computer screens as their small white drones prepare for takeoff.

"Three, two, one ... GO!" the announcer hollers, and as the racers fix their thoughts on pushing the cubes, the drones suddenly whir, rise and buzz through the air. Some struggle to move even a few feet, while others zip confidently across the finish line.

Science/K. Curry Rogers, M. Whitney, M. D'Emic, and B. Bagley via AP

Think your kids grow fast? Scientists say one dinosaur baby went from tiny to a true titan in the blink of a prehistoric eye.

At birth, titanosaur babies weighed about as much as average human babies, 6 to 8 pounds. But in just a few weeks, they were at least the size of golden retrievers, weighing 70 pounds.

And by age 20 or so, they were bigger than school buses.

total solar eclipse
Oleg Romanov / Associated Press

Where's the best place to watch next year's eclipse? If you're thinking the grand open spaces of Wyoming, you have plenty of company.

Hotel rooms across the Cowboy State are going, going, gone, well over a year before the arrival of the first total solar eclipse to be seen from the mainland U.S. in almost four decades.

M. Spencer Green / Associated Press

It happens every day to the most vulnerable infants in hospital intensive care units: fragile babies born way too soon are poked, prodded and jabbed as part of medical care meant to help them survive — and it can be heart-wrenching to watch.

Heel sticks for blood tests, inserting IV tubes, adjusting breathing machines — even the gentlest jostling to remove a bandage from translucent skin can cause kittenlike whimpers and tiny arms and legs to suddenly jerk. Sometimes there's no sound at all — just a dip on the heart rate monitor.

Anthony Camerano / associated press file

Dinosaurs were in decline long before an asteroid strike polished them off about 66 million years ago, a study says.

It's the latest contribution to a long-running debate: Did the asteroid reverse the fortune of a thriving group of animals? Or were dinosaurs already struggling, and the disruptive effects of the asteroid pushed them over the edge to extinction? Or were the dinosaurs headed for oblivion anyway?