Just south of the Chicago Skyway bridge, a dusty byproduct of the Canadian oil boom is piling up in huge black mountains along the Calumet River. More is on the way. A lot more. By the end of the year, the oil giant BP is expected to complete work on new equipment that will more than triple the amount of petroleum coke produced by its Whiting refinery on Lake Michigan. The project will turn the sprawling Indiana plant into the world’s second-largest source of petroleum coke, also known as petcoke, and Chicago into one of the biggest repositories of the high-sulfur, high-carbon waste.
Drinking before you’re thirsty is a common hydration strategy for athletes that was widely encouraged for years. But many experts in exercise science advocate a simpler and surprisingly controversial method: Trust in your thirst, and drink water when the urge hits. The supposed dangers of dehydration — such as heat illness and cramps — have been overblown, these scientists allege, a problem some blame on the sports drink industry.They say water loss is a natural consequence of exercise and is far less dangerous than overconsumption, which in extreme cases can cause serious illness and death.
Fed up with package liquor stores marked by street fights and curbside drug dealing, West Side residents more than a decade ago won a moratorium banning new liquor licenses on a bleak stretch of West Madison Street. But in April, a new neon sign for Miller beer blinked alight in the storefront at 5337 W. Madison St., a block away on either side from two other package liquor outlets. Officials knew the Convenience For You store was coming — in fact, the city gave it $105,000 in tax increment financing grants.
Dangerous levels of lead are turning up in Chicago homes where pipes made of the toxic metal were disturbed by street work or plumbing repairs, according to a new federal study that suggests the city’s aggressive efforts to modernize its water system could inadvertently pose health risks. The problem starts with lead service lines that Chicago installed across the city until the mid-1980s to connect water mains with homes. Researchers at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that spikes of lead can leach into tap water when those pipes are altered by water main replacements, meter installations or street work. High levels can be found in tap water for years afterward, the EPA study found, raising concerns that other cities with lead pipes could face similar problems.
Peotone’s Maggie Yunker had been taking birth control pills for a year when her doctor suggested switching to a brand that also could clear up acne and ease some aggravating symptoms related to her period. Yunker was sold. But a year later, the 20-year-old suffered a life-altering stroke after multiple blood clots formed, broke free and lodged in her brain. Though all oral contraceptives slightly increase the chance of developing blood clots in the legs and lungs, Yunker was taking Yaz, part of a newer generation of pills that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says may pose a greater risk than similar types of birth control. The increase in risk is still small, and birth control pills are generally considered so safe and effective that some doctors’ groups advocate selling them over the counter. But Yaz and other pills containing the hormone drospirenone have drawn a flood of litigation over reports of deaths, strokes, pulmonary embolisms, gallbladder disease, elevated potassium levels and other problems.
Across the nation, cities are taking advantage of deals for cheaper electricity made possible by low-cost natural gas. But not in five Chicago suburbs and more than 200 other Midwestern towns that made a big bet on coal. Almost every month, Batavia, Geneva, Naperville, St. Charles and Winnetka are among dozens of municipalities feeling the sting of their decisions to finance the Prairie State Energy Campus in southern Illinois. The promised savings simply have not materialized.
Once considered an adult injury, ACL tears are occurring more often in the legs of elementary and middle school-age children, orthopedic specialists report. The increase, which stems in part from better diagnostic tools and a dramatic increase in children playing competitive, organized sports, has created a vexing problem: What’s the best way to fix it?
Women who have consumed their baby’s placenta claim benefits including reduction of fatigue, a more balanced mood and increased breast milk production. Medical experts say there is no scientific evidence that consuming placenta benefits women, as no controlled studies have tested it versus a placebo. Nor have placenta pills been analyzed to see what substances they contain.
Many health experts say high-risk food establishments — mostly restaurants, grocery stores and other businesses that prepare food from scratch — should be inspected at least two times a year to protect customers. But the Chicago Department of Public Health has fallen far short of that mark for at least the past seven years. Last year only 32 percent of 4,000 high-risk venues in Chicago were inspected twice, a Tribune analysis of city records shows. Inspectors visited 78 percent at least once, meaning nearly a quarter — 892 venues — were not inspected at all in 2012.