July 30, 2015

MU study finds atmospheric release of BPA may reach nearby waterways

A University of Missouri study says chemicals released in the air by industrial sites and wastewater treatment sites could adversely affect wildlife and humans.

Chris Kassotis and his team of researchers believe atmospheric releases of BPA may create a concern for contamination of local surface water, which may lead to human and wildlife exposure.

Chris Kassotis and his team of researchers believe atmospheric releases of BPA may create a concern for contamination of local surface water, which may lead to human and wildlife exposure. (Photo Courtesy of the University of Missouri)

Researchers from the University of Missouri have studied Missouri water quality near industrial sites that are allowed to release Bisphenol-A (BPA) into the air.  BPA is a chemical often used to make plastic containers that store food and beverages.  BPA has been used to make certain plastics and resins since the 1960s.

Chris Kassotis and his team sampled water near locations with reported atmospheric discharges of BPA as identified by the Environmental Protection Agency.

“We sampled at the Crooked River in Richmond, Missouri and Flat Creek near Jenkins, Missouri,” said Kassotis.  “We also sampled near other point sources of pollution, so wastewater discharge sites in four areas of the state as well.”

Kassotis said the study revealed two key points.

“We found that the BPA concentrations of Bisphnol-A were up to ten times greater than normal near sites where there had been some sort of atmospheric discharge of the chemical and there were elevated amounts of anti-estrogenic and anti-androgenic chemicals in sites that had some sort of wastewater influence,” said Kassotis.

Kassotis said exposure to BPA may produce adverse health effects.

“BPA interacts with the endocrine system of animals and humans,” said Kassotis.  “BPA can lead to the development of breast and prostate cancers, obesity, other metabolic diseases, decreased fertility and reproductive health, neurological and behavioral effects such as ADHD and austism.”

The study was published in the journal, Science of the Total Environment.

Senate leaders negotiating to try and end deadlock

Senate Republican and Democrat leaders have met to try to negotiate a deal that would get legislation moving again on this, the final day of the session. Democrats have been blocking debate since Tuesday when Republicans forced a vote on a so-called “right to work” bill.

Senator Ron Richard (R-Joplin) and Senator Joseph Keaveny (D-St. Louis)

Senator Ron Richard (R-Joplin) and Senator Joseph Keaveny (D-St. Louis)

Majority Floor Leader Ron Richard (R-Joplin) says he’ll see if his caucus agrees with the ideas that came from his meeting with Minority Floor Leader Joseph Keaveny (D-St. Louis).

“I think we can find a path forward on [the Federal Reimbursement Acceptance bill] and maybe one other piece of business, but he’s going to go to his caucus and I’ll go to mine,” said Richard. “I think there’s probably a way to get something done.”

The FRA bill that would let Missouri collect about $3.5 billion in federal tax money that would go to Medicaid.

“He brought some alternatives to us. Some we agreed on, some we didn’t. He’s going to take them back to his caucus,” Richard added.

Richard would not comment on what the other piece of legislation would be. He said that’s in negotiations.

Senator Keaveny says he’s keeping his options open.

“We don’t have a firm commitment on either side,” said Keaveny. “We’ve got some ideas that I think might get this thing resolved for the short term. I think there are longer term issues that we need to address.”

“I would love to get something accomplished. I think we’ve got a good chance of doing it, but I can’t commit either way. With things this delicate, things can change very quickly.”

 

$3.58 billion at stake in bill to receive federal funds from tax on hospitals

Missouri could lose $3.58 billion if it doesn’t pass a Federal Reimbursement bill, or FRA, by the end of the session Friday, but that bill could be caught up in political strategizing.  Republican leaders might use that bill as leverage to get to a vote on a so-called “Right to Work” measure.

Senator Ron Richard (R-Joplin)

Senator Ron Richard (R-Joplin)

FRA Senate sponsor Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) says the bill has become an important game piece.

“I suspect that there’s a lot of acknowledgement on both sides of the aisle that the bill has to pass. That’ll be a major key in what happens next week,” said Schaefer.

Senate Floor Leader Ron Richard (R-Joplin) says “Right to Work” is one of his priorities and he intends to bring it up early next week.

“There are priorities on both sides of the aisle. If mine don’t make it, nobody else’s will either,” said Richard.

Senator Paul LeVota (D-Independence) was asked if he thinks Richard is holding the FRA issue “hostage.”

“It sounds like it is. It sounds like what Senator Schaefer and the Floor Leader are saying is that it is being held hostage. That’s a shame. If FRA is a priority, they can bring it up,” said LeVota.

The FRA funds are scheduled to expire at the end of this year. The allowance gives Missouri federal matching funds of 60% from a tax on hospitals.

 

Missouri governor signs medical malpractice cap legislation

A bill has been signed by Governor Jay Nixon (D) that enacts limits on non-economic damages patients can pursue against health providers during medical malpractice cases. The new limits apply to amounts awarded for pain and suffering in medical malpractice cases, not on awards for things like missed work or medical expenses. The limits, which will increase 1.7% annually, are $400,000 for non-catastrophic personal injury, $700,000 for catastrophic injury and $700,000 for death.

Gov. Jay Nixon UPI/Bill Greenblatt

Gov. Jay Nixon UPI/Bill Greenblatt

“The bill signing marks a successful completion of a bi-partisan effort to ensure that our healthcare providers can do what they do best: help and heal Missourians in need,” said Nixon. “We needed to devise an approach that would protect patients by making sure that appropriate financial restitution can be sought and garnered in serious cases where there is medical malpractice. Taking this dissonance away and giving cost certainty, while still protecting the rights of folks who are damaged, strikes the right balance.”

Senate bill sponsor Dan Brown (R-Rolla) agrees with the Governor.

“I think this law is just about right for the people of the state of Missouri,” said Brown. “I think this does translate into less healthcare cost, which is what we are all trying to reach.”

House Minority Leader Jake Hummel (D-St. Louis) told Missourinet he’s against every type of malpractice cap.

“I’m fundamentally opposed to putting a dollar figure on someone’s life. That’s why we have courts, that’s why we have a jury, and they should decide that,” said Hummel. “Not bureaucrats in Jefferson City.”

Missouri lawmakers, officer disagree on effect of system to track pseudoephedrine purchases

Some Missouri lawmakers say a system that tracks the purchase of pseudoephedrine is helping law enforcement crack down on those trying to make meth.  At least one narcotics law enforcement officer disagrees.

State Representative Kurt Bahr explains the NPLEx system at Whaley's Drugstore in Jefferson City.

State Representative Kurt Bahr explains the NPLEx system at Whaley’s Drugstore in Jefferson City.

NPLEx is a real-time electronic logging system used by pharmacies and law enforcement that tracks and limits how many times an individual buys medicine that has pseudoephedrine, the key ingredient used in making meth.  The Combat Meth Act was passed by the federal government in 2005 and requires that every purchase of pseudoephedrine products are logged.  The Missouri legislature passed the NPLEx system in 2010 and it was implemented in 2011.  State law allows the purchase of 3.6 grams per day, 9 grams per 30 day, and 108 grams annually.

State Representative Kurt Bahr said the NPLEx system is more efficient than the previous log book method in which pharmacies tracked purchases by logging information by hand in written books.  Bahr said last year the NPLEx system stopped 3,500 boxes of pseudoephedrine from being sold to those who would be improperly using it.

“It’s a point of sale security measure to make sure people aren’t purchasing too much pseudoephedrine, so that we curb the production of methamphetamines,” said Bahr.

Some states require a prescription for drugs containing pseudoephedrine, but State Representative Travis Fitzwater said lawmakers are thankful Missouri has the NPLEx system rather than requiring a prescription for those drugs.

State Representative Travis Fitzwater at Whaley's Drugstore in Jefferson City says he is thankful Missouri has the NPLEx system rather than requiring a prescription for pseudoephedrine.

State Representative Travis Fitzwater at Whaley’s Drugstore in Jefferson City says he is thankful Missouri has the NPLEx system rather than requiring a prescription for pseudoephedrine.

“We want to make sure that there’s nobody pushing to make this an RX only thing because it prevents patients from getting the medications that are necessary in this really annoying time of the year where everybody kind of gets drilled with allergies,” said Fitzwater.

Lieutenant of the Franklin County Sheriffs Office and President of the Missouri Narcotics Association Jason Grellner said the NPLEx system is not enough to fight the production of meth and believes the state should adopt a prescription only method.

“The NPLEx system can’t stop smurfing in which we see day in and day out,” said Grellner.  “We even see large scale smurfing among gangs in St. Louis where gang members will stand on the parking lots of Walgreens and shoulder tap individuals going inside, giving them cash to purchase pseudoephedrine.”

Grellner said “smurfing” is where multiple people purchase pseudoephedriene in order to make meth and said an upwards of 60 to 70 percent of pseudoephedrine sales go directly to meth labs.  Grellner said there are 74 counties and cities that require prescriptions for drugs containing pseudoephedrine.

“What we have seen in those communities that have gone prescription only is up to an 80 or 90 percent drop in meth labs along the southeast portion of Missouri where we have the most cities and counties with prescription only requirements,” said Grellner.

Franklin County Lieutenant Jason Grellner

Franklin County Lieutenant Jason Grellner

Bahr said requiring a prescription would make purchases of pseudoephedrine impossible to track.

“Once you become a prescription only you’re subject to HIPAA law,” said Bahr.  “So, now the sheriff can’t go in and take a look at the log book because that’s now a HIPAA violation and so he doesn’t know whose buying pseudoephedrine in his own county.”

Grellner said the NPLEx system is paid for by the industry that manufactures pseudoephedrine products that are sold to the public.

“The problem is it’s a $1.2 billion a year gross industry that we’re up against and we’re up against a lot of strong lobbying from the industry that stands to lose that money,” said Grellner.

Some experts say 90 percent of the meth purchased in the United States is cooked in Mexico, where precursor chemicals are easier to obtain.

“I would rather work on methamphetamine trafficking than meth labs that explode, endanger the lives of Missourians, endanger the environment, and endanger children throughout the state of Missouri and law enforcement officers that have to work in those environments,” said Grellner.