Science, Health & Tech

We cover these essential linchpins of the Pittsburgh regional economy, and how they impact residents' personal health and employment. 

EPA Expected to OK Air Quality Plan

Nov 29, 2011

The Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) says that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to conditionally approve the department's air quality improvement plan for the Liberty-Clairton area. The plan will decrease the area's fine particulate matter from 16 micrograms per cubic meter annually to the national standard of 15.

The majority of electric consumers in Pennsylvania know that they can change their supplier, but only half have looked into the option, according to panelists who met with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commisison (PUC) earlier this month.

The Health Effects of Hydraulic Fracturing

Nov 23, 2011

In the past few years, protesters who have opposed Marcellus Shale activities have focused on the detrimental effects that they believe drilling for natural gas could have on the water, and air, and ultimately everyone's health.

But those concerns have been mostly anecdotal, leaning on stories that people have told about the effects that the gas drilling process has had on their neighbors, livestock, pets, and family members — tales that without scientific evidence, that gas drilling companies readily refute.

Environmental Group Releases Report on Green Infrastructure

Nov 21, 2011

Pittsburgh is making progress in using green infrastructure to combat water pollution, but more improvement is needed. That's one of the findings of the National Resources Defense Council's second "Rooftops to Rivers" report which explored the efforts of 14 cities.

David Beckman, Director of NRDC's Water Program, said green infrastructure mitigates urban storm water run-off and sewage overflows by using environmentally friendly practices to capture rainwater before it floods into storm drains or overwhelms sewer systems.

November is Diabetes Awareness Month

Nov 21, 2011

The Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council will release a report tomorrow examining numbers for diabetes-related hospitalizations based on age, race, gender, and geographic regions in the state. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 18.8 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes. Another 7 million are believed to have the disease but haven't been diagnosed.

This month, the Pennsylvania Department of Health has been urging people to take control of their health and get screened for diabetes as part of National Diabetes Awareness Month.

For the seventh straight year, local organizations will receive more than $1 million for use towards breast cancer education, screenings, and treatment initiatives. The Pittsburgh Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure said that the $1.8 million in grants is the largest amount handed out at one time in the history of the affiliate.

Kathy Purcell, executive director of the local chapter, said a large proportion of the money will go to the Mammogram Voucher Program (MVP). Through the MVP, Adagio Health provides women in need with free mammograms and follow-up services.

Facebook Likes Carnegie Mellon

Nov 8, 2011

Mark Zuckerberg brought his college tour to Pittsburgh on Tuesday. The 27-year-old Facebook founder and CEO was on the Carnegie Mellon University campus along with Facebook's vice president of engineering, Mike Schroepfer, scouting talent for the social networking site.

Report Finds Internet Anti-Trackers Insufficient

Nov 8, 2011

Internet users looking to stop companies from tracking them online are having a hard time using common opt-out tools, according to a report from Carnegie Mellon University.

The growth of Online Behavioral Advertising (OBA) — advertising that targets individuals based on their online activity — has some privacy advocates pressing for more regulations limiting the information that companies can gather.

Electric vehicle charging stations are being installed around the Pittsburgh area, with nine likely in use by next spring. The Eaton Corporation announced that they will eventually install 45 stations along Interstate 376, which they say will move Pittsburgh to the forefront nationwide in promoting this technology.

John White, Program Manager for Acquisition Integration at Eaton, said that installations along the parkway will make all of the stations useful and accessible.

Environmental activists are urging the Allegheny County Board of Health to act more quickly on updating air quality regulations.

Tom Hoffman, Executive Director of Clean Water Action, said the County's current air quality guidelines for industrial and commercial structures are outdated and contribute to the Pittsburgh area's "bad air."

"They were written when Reagan was in the White House and the space shuttle program was brand new," said Hoffman. "Now, both of those are gone and we still have the same tired, old guidelines."

When fully implemented, the Affordable Care Act will save Pennsylvania households earning less than $100,000 a year an average of $2,370. That's according to "The Bottom Line: How the Affordable Care Act Helps Pennsylvania Families," a report from Families USA, a non-profit, non-partisan health consumer group.

All provisions of the Affordable Care Act will be fully implemented in 2014. Numbers in the report are for 2019, giving the law a few years to become established.

UPMC will invest nearly $300 million into a new research facility that will focus on cancer and aging along with personalized medicine.

"Right now we take care of diseases that are really syndromes," said Chief Medical and Scientific Officer Steven Shapiro. "Patients have different susceptibility of those diseases, different courses of those diseases, different drugs that one person may respond better to. This is a way of finding the appropriate variation for an individual, to tailor treatment toward that individual."

PennEnvironment released new data Thursday showing that Pennsylvania ranks fourth in the nation for solar jobs, down from second last year. According to a new report from the Solar Foundation, the number of solar workers in the state has dropped from 6,700 to 4,703 at 750 businesses. Nationally, solar industry employment grew by 6.8% last year to about 100,000 workers at 17,000 locations.

“Let’s Move” Campaign Comes to Pittsburgh

Oct 10, 2011

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is joining the campaign launched by First Lady Michelle Obama in February 2010 to encourage healthy eating and increase physical activity by children.

As part of the "Let's Move" campaign, the conservatory is hosting a regional symposium at its facilities to share ideas and actions that help prevent obesity.

Phipps director Richard Piacentini says a conservatory has more to do with children's health than one might think.

Concussion Guidelines Likely to Become State Law

Oct 6, 2011

Legislation establishing a protocol for managing possible concussions in Pennsylvania's student athletes passed the State House unanimously yesterday afternoon and is expected to pass in the Senate soon after it re-convenes October 17th. Among other provisions, it specifies when an athlete must be removed from play and what steps must be taken before he or she is allowed to return.

Cultural Trust Wins Award for “Smart” Parking

Oct 4, 2011

If you've ever been in a rush to see a show in downtown Pittsburgh but can't find a parking space, the free, real-time smartphone application ParkPGH might be able to help.

ParkPGH was awarded the National Transportation Award on Monday. The app provides parking information for 25% of the garages downtown. It calculates the number of open parking spaces in the Cultural District every 30 seconds and delivers the locations to users.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Oct 3, 2011

For this year's Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Pittsburgh affiliate is urging women to move beyond awareness and take steps to prevent breast cancer. The slogan is "Less talk, more action."

Knowing Vaccine Logistics Can Save Lives

Oct 3, 2011

New research from the University of Pittsburgh has found that simply adding a new vaccine to an existing supply chain can actually do more harm than good. "If your goal is to get new vaccines out to people with a goal of trying to prevent substantial diseases, you can actually inhibit the flow of other vaccines," said Bruce Lee, M.D, assistant professor of medicine, epidemiology and biomedical informatics at the University of Pittsburgh. "If you don't have enough planning you can inadvertently do more harm than good."

Dr. Steven Cleghorn is an organic farmer from Jefferson County, Pennsylvania. He said his wife has stage four lung cancer.

ACHD: Watch for Suicide Symptoms

Sep 9, 2011

The Allegheny County Health Department is marking World Suicide Prevention Day Saturday by reminding residents just how big of a problem suicide can be.

"Between 2005 and 2008, the Health Department's Child Death Review Team examined 19 suicides countywide involving adolescents 14 to 19 years old or about five a year," said Review Team member Jennifer Fiddner. Suicides account for about 3% of sudden deaths in that age group according to Fiddner

Diesel Emissions In Pittsburgh To Be Monitored

Sep 8, 2011

Starting in January battery-operated monitors will be strapped to telephone and light poles in downtown Pittsburgh to measure diesel pollution. The Allegheny County Board of Health has approved spending $860,000 for the three year study to be conducted by the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. Jim Thompson, the county Health Department's Air Program Manager, said the goal is to determine when and where diesel emissions are the highest. "Our efforts have been somewhat scattered," said Thompson.

Three Children Infected With Rare Flu Strain

Sep 6, 2011

Cases of a novel flu virus have been identified in three children with ties to the Washington County Fair according to the Pennsylvania Departments of Health and Agriculture. The first child to become ill has fully recovered while the other two are still healing. The state has not released any information about the three.

A new civic organization is asking experts and ordinary citizens to weigh in on how natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale has impacted Pennsylvania and its residents.

The Citizens Marcellus Shale Commission will gather public testimony and professional opinions at five late-summer meetings across the state, with the intent of making policy suggestions to Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett and state lawmakers this October.

Restoring Power in Pennsylvania Could Take All Week

Aug 29, 2011

Power companies are updating their websites with power outage maps, and eastern Pennsylvania is covered with outage dots. The state Public Utility Commission reports some 385,400 Pennsylvania homes are without electricity as of 4:00 PM Monday in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.

PEMA: Quake Info Flowed Well

Aug 24, 2011

The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) said coordination after Tuesday's earthquake went according to plan. The scope of the quake was small enough that PEMA allowed various state agencies, including PennDOT and the Public Utility Commission, as well as nuclear power plants, to work independently to send out status updates.

Consol Energy announced this week that it's selling half of its interest in Marcellus Shale drilling in Pennsylvania and West Virginia to Houston-based Noble Energy for $3.4 billion. A local energy expert says that he expects such deals to continue. "The amount of available shale gas is so great that it's becoming beyond the ability of any company to develop its own acreage," said Kent Moors of the Institute for Energy and the Environment at Duquesne University.

The infant mortality rate rose by 7% in Pennsylvania since 2000 but the death rate among children ages 1 to 14 fell by 10%. Those are 2 of the 10 indicators examined in the 2011 KIDS COUNT Data Book that tracks the well-being of children in each state and nationally.

A major Marcellus Shale drilling company is challenging an Allegheny County municipality's decision to restrict drilling. Last month officials in South Fayette Township approved an ordinance that requires drillers to obtain a land operations permit for each well, and it creates buffers around schools, hospitals and certain types of businesses.

PA Dems: Pass Impact Fee ASAP

Aug 11, 2011

Democrats in the Pennsylvania Senate are renewing their calls for an impact fee on Marcellus Shale natural gas wells to be passed this fall.

Senator Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) said he would support an impact fee measure that allows for job creation, but also helps to protect the environment from any negative effects of drilling.

Body Mounted Cameras Coming to The People

Aug 10, 2011

Motion-capture technology, used for movies like Avatar or Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, will someday be available to the general public. People will be able to record motion capture and will be able to feel physical sensations as they watch movies or play video games.

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