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Michael Jackson: Heart Attack or Cardiac Arrest?


Cardiac arrest was the coroner’s announcement following the tragic death of music legend Michael Jackson on June 25. Many people believe that meant a heart attack, but going into cardiac arrest is something different.

Cardiac arrest is a problem with the beat of the heart, and is known as an arrhythmia, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute is the one of the premier medical research facilities in the world.

There are multiple forms of arrhythmias. For example, the heart can beat too fast, tachycardia, or too slow, brachycardia. The heart can also beat in random forms.

All forms of arrhythmia don’t make the heart go into cardiac arrest. However, having a heart attack greatly increases your chances of going into cardiac arrest. Around 75% of people who die from cardiac arrest also suffered from a previous heart attack, states the Heart Rhythm Society (HRS), an international leader in science, education and support on cardiac arrhythmia for patients and professionals. According to HRS, an estimated 325,000 people die each year from cardiac arrest. This means that every two minutes someone in America dies from cardiac arrest. 

The best prevention for anyone at high risk for cardiac arrest is to get an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), which is a machine that goes under the skin, says HRS. The ICD monitors your heart beat and will send a high-energy shock to your heart when an irregular beat occurs that may lead to cardiac arrest.

A heart attack occurs when a coronary artery, brings blood to the heart, is blocked, states Richard N. Fogoros, M.D. He’s a former professor of medicine, and a longtime practitioner, researcher and author in the fields of cardiology and cardiac electrophysiology.  The blockage to the heart prevents valuable oxygen to a portion of the heart, which damages heart muscle. Heart attacks are the leading killer of men and women in the United States, killing about 550,000 people each year, says HRS. The people most at risk are men over the age 45 and women over 55, says NHLBI. Cardiac arrest can also happen during a heart attack. 

Related stories: Surviving a Sudden Cardiac Arrest; Watch Your Heart

 For most of us, it is not important to distinguish between cardiac arrest or a heart attack if someone suddenly shows signs of trouble, immediately call 9-1-1, says NHLBI. In an emergency, either CPR or an automated external defibrillator (AED) can help get the heart going. An AED machine is sends an electric shock to your heart to try and re-establish a normal heart beat. Damonte Johnson

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Rare Cancer Kills Famous Charlie’s Angel


She was a famous actress best known for her role as TV’s Charlie’s Angel. She first became well known in 1976 as a pin-up model and fashion icon. Her iconic hairstyle, worn by women around the world, is today known as the Farrah Fawcett Flip.

 Fawcett was diagnosed with anal cancer in 2006. Although her rare cancer was detected early, it was fatal because after her treated cancer came back even worse. Her battle with the disease captured national headlines; a fight that ended with her death on June 25.

The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be “5,290 new cases of anal cancer and 710 deaths from anal cancer in 2009”. Women are more likely to get the disease than men, because they don’t get as many colonoscipies as men. Men are more likely to get a colon check up as way to check their prostrate. The cancer is also mostly found in adults 35 or older, and especially those in their 60’s.

“Anal cancer is a rare malignancy that starts in the anus—the opening at the end of the rectum,” says WebMD. Although the cancer starts in the anus, it can work it way up until it shuts down large body parts like the intestines. In many cases this cancer causes anal tumors, which also partake in the body’s shutdown, states the American Cancer Society.

Many anal cancer cases can be found and treated early, according to the American Cancer Society. This is because doctors are able to find the cancer easily. Doctors can detect anal cancer based on symptoms, such as “bleeding or itching around the anus; pain in the anal area; or swollen lymph nodes in the anal or groin area,” reports the American Cancer Society This cancer is curable, but as you can see from Farrah Fawcett, it can come back.

There are many risk factors for this cancer, such as being infected with the human papilloma virus (HPV), smoking, and a depressed immune system. It is believed that anal cancer can be caused by HPV-16, which is spread through sex, according to the American Cancer Society. Anal sex can be a risk for anyone under 30, especially women. Smoking, on the other hand, can cause cancer-causing chemicals to get into you bloodstream and trigger the cancer. Finally having a weak immune system makes it harder to fight off anal cancer. Someone can have a weakened immune system if they have an organ transplant, suffer from AIDS, or have to take many medicines to control their immune system.

To treat anal cancer patients get radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery (most of the time to remove tumors).   

Eating Healthy Lunches


by L. Gaither, Fort Zumwalt North High

First Lady Michelle Obama’s campaign to get children to eat their vegetables mirrors a decision made 4 years ago by Saint Louis County’s Fort Zumwalt School District. Gone from lunches are most fried foods. Instead, students choose from salad bars, multiple vegetables and baked entrees. Teen favorite French fires are limited to just once a week.

Healthy Lunches are economical (google images)

The District decided in 2005 to lower the amounts of sugars, fats and salt in student lunches, according to Janice Granicke with the District Food Service Department.  A committee composed of parents, dieticians, students, and school board members recommended a menu that contains 50% less salt; replaces beef with turkey, includes fresh vegetables, fruits and salads daily; and uses fruits canned in light syrup.

Celebrity chef Alice Waters is widely credited with launching the healthy school lunch movement. In the mid-90’s, she started the Edible Schoolyard Project in Berkeley, CA. “If we don’t go into the public school system and if we don’t teach [about healthy foods] to every child, there are going to be many, many people left behind.” Waters told USA Today in 2007.

Growing Green Oil



algaePlans are afoot for Missouri’s first algae biofuel facility.  Saline County, MO, located two hours west of St. Louis, is in line to become home to what is being called one of the nation’s most promising innovations in alternative fuels. The oil extracted from algae can be converted into biodiesel, ethanol, crude and aviation fuels. Company officials say this site will focus on the production of ethanol.                                            

The U.S. currently has 20 small algae producers, and that number is growing, according to Barry Cohen, director of the National
Algae Association

Last July, the Saline County commissioners approved $141 million dollars in revenue bonds to finance a bio-refinery complex that will be home to this venture. Pure-Energy Corporation, a biofuel company located in Paramus, New Jersey, recently purchased the land for the facility, which will be known as EcoAlgae. Plans are underway for the construction of 2,000 one-acre ponds that will house green algae says the alternative energy company.

The U.S. Department of Energy states that, using current procedures, one acre of algae yields 30 times more fuel than the same area planted in soybeans. The agency also estimates that it would only require the amount of space equivalent to the state of Maryland to replace all of the petroleum based fuel used in the U.S. with algae fuel. Algae 2020 , a comprehensive market study released this month by Emerging Markets Online, claims a potential annual production of up to 10,000 gallons of oil per acre. Algae can reproduce every 6 hours, while it takes millions of years to produce crude oil in the ground, according to Joseph LaStella of a similar biofuel company, Green Star Products.  

Biofuels made from corn and soybeans are already on the market, but critics contend that using these crops competes with their use as human food.  Once processed into a fuel, the algal leftovers can be sold as a high protein and carbohydrate livestock feed supplement. Another potential benefit of algae farming is that it can directly recycle CO2 emissions from nearby industrial plants.  Since algae feeds on sunlight and CO2, the greenhouse gas would be recycled naturally.

Construction of the algae facility will begin fourth-quarter 2009, and be completed by fourth-quarter 2010, says Irshad Ahmed, President and CEO of Pure-Energy.  Any project of this scale has many obstacles to overcome, he tells SciJourner.  “I am surprised at how fast, how far the project has come in so short of a time.”  
According to Ahmed, the Saline County project will be the first of its kind with several biofuel technologies integrated under one roof.  Phase I will involve the use of landfill biomass to generate fuel while the later development of Phase II will include the algae biofuel facility. Pure-Energy is involved in seven similar projects, one each in India, Costa Rica and Canada, and four others in the U.S.

Despite Ahmed’s promises, some local residents are skeptical. “I would wager any amount that zero of what is talked about here ever comes to fruition–that is the modus operandi, talk a lot and produce nothing, or as the old saying goes 'all hat and no cattle',” read one web-posting on the Marshall-Democrat newspaper site. Trish Baker

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Can Ameren Go Green In Time


According to a new Missouri initiative, Ameren UE has to more than double their output of electricity coming from clean energy sources in the next twelve years.  What is their plan for doing so?

    In November of 2008, Missouri citizens passed the Missouri Clean Energy Initiative by a vote of 2 to 1.  This initiative decrees that by the year 2021, all utilities in the state must produce at least 15% of their electricity from clean energy sources.  According to the Ameren website, the company currently has the capability to produce 7.1% of their electricity from hydroelectric power.  The rest comes from coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear.  How is Ameren going to deal with this initiative?

   windmill The initiative defines clean energy as being one of the following forms: wind, solar, landfill gas, hydroelectric and biomass.  According to Lisa Cosgrove of the renewables group with Ameren UE, most of these resources could be in Ameren's plans.  "Once we identify regional resources with the most technical and economic potential, we will implement a plan to develop these resources." Cosgrove stated via e-mail.  

    Along with the hydroelectric generation Ameren already generates they have just contracted with the Horizon Wind Energy’s Pioneer wind farm in Iowa to purchase 102 megawatts per year for the next 15 years.  This represents enough energy to power 26,000 homes per year.

    Cosgrove also mentioned wind farms that are currently being developed in Northwest Missouri.  These farms could produce between 100-150 megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity per year.  This would be a good beginning according to Renew Missouri, who claims that Missouri ranks 20th of the 50 states in wind energy potential, yet ranks 45th in the amount of energy produced from wind.

    The initiative requires that at least 2% of the utilities electricity production must be from solar.  According to Cosgrove, no large scale solar projects are presently in the plans at Ameren due to the high cost and low capacity factor.  Ameren is looking into purchasing electricity from solar sources, much like they will be doing with wind energy.

    The passage of the clean energy initiative does, however, offer encouragement to individual homeowners and businesses to explore solar for themselves.  According to Missouri Solar Living, LLC, residents and businesses in Missouri can receive $2 per watt rebates for installation of solar power systems.  They also can receive a federal tax credit of 30% and the $2000 cap on tax credits has been eliminated.  Also, the Missouri Net metering and easy connect act that took effect on January 1, 2008 now allows individuals and businesses to sell any excess power they generate to local utilities.

    Cosgrove also talked about the Ameren Pure Power program.  This program, named by the U.S. Department of Energy as the "most successful" New Green Power Program of the year in 2007, allows customers of Ameren to pay an additional 1.5 cents per kWh on their electric bills to purchase renewable energy credits (REC's).  

    The Pure Power program, which as of October 27, 2008 had purchased REC's equal to 37,000 MWh of renewable energy, has been Green-e energy certified.  Green-e is the leading renewable energy certification and verification program in the United States.

    The REC's are used to develop regional renewable energy resources helping to replace pollution-causing power with clean power.  This creates a demand for the development of regional renewable resources thereby creating local jobs and keeping local money in the region.

    While Ameren has more plans to make to catch up with the 26 other states that already have clean energy initiatives, they have made a start.  According to Cosgrove we should "stay tuned to the local news.  An Ameren UE renewable announcement is in the near future."

A Sinking Feeling


Now there is a device to detect the sinkhole that can eat your car, the broken pipe that can pollute your neighborhood and even the secret tunnel running under the border. Entech Engineering Inc., a St. Louis based company, says that their instrument can detect damaged pipes or smuggler’s tunnels as deep as 50 feet.


EnTechUsing infrared sensors to see changes in temperature of less than a hundredth of a degree, Entech is able to see through the ground up to a reported 50 feet. Each sensor has an estimated cost of $125,000 and you can only rent their services, the sensors aren’t for sale.

The sensor can be mounted on a helicopter, vehicle, or even a hand held device, says the company.  The infrared sensor records differences in temperature and creates a visual representation of what it sees in the form of a thermograph.

Beneath the first few feet of earth, the ground stays at a constant 55 ºF. The sun warms the earth’s top layer of soil to above eighty degrees, any empty spaces that may exist below will act as natural insulators between the lower and upper soil temperatures, just like the space between to panes of window glass. These empty spaces therefore maintain a different temperature from the surrounding soils. The fact they retains a different temperature even when the surrounding soil has changed allows the infrared sensor to see them clearly.

On a cold day, it would work just the opposite the earth would remain at 55 ºF while the surface would be colder, again causing different temperatures in the soil and any empty spaces. The same idea holds true if you look at your roof after a fresh snow. Anywhere the snow has melted shows a warm spot, while anywhere the snow remains shows an area with good insulation.

One of Entech’s first contracts was with St. Louis Metropolitan Sewer District to survey areas of North St. Louis. They found so many leaks and breaks that the repairs took years, says Gary Weil, founder and president of Entech. Even if the street shows no signs of an imminent collapse, an impending sinkhole would be very evident in the thermograph according to Weil.

Weil stated that Entech has also successfully used this technology for tunnel detection on the U.S.-Mexico border. With the helicopter mounted sensor flying at over 2,000 feet, they were capable of covering a distance of 2.5 miles in less than 15 minutes. To search the same area by hand would take the use of high strength microphones to detect sounds of digging or vibration sensors. This could take a week or more, and might completely miss the tunnel if it were already completed and insulated from sound and vibration.

Since 1999, through careful inspection of British Petroleum’s pipelines running underneath there refinery, Entech has found potential leaks about every 128 feet. This has saved 90% of the costs associated with pipeline leaks. That translates into millions of dollars for British Petroleum.

At times, it may be either not cost prohibitive or to environmentally sensitive to just dig until problems are found. Roadways can have many different utilities running under them. Many empty lots also have unused fuel tanks lying below. Entech is especially adept at detecting these types of possible hazards.

Entech says their technology saves clients money by avoiding exploratory digging. Although they are guarded as to how exactly their technology works so well, Weil told The St. Louis Post Dispatch in a recent article that they are five years ahead of their closest competition.