Bryan Thompson

Bryan is the health reporter for Kansas Public Radio.

A new report says nearly all Kansans are exposed to air that's polluted with smoke, but the source of that smoke isn't clear.

The report from a non-profit environmental group, the Natural Resources Defense Council, shows that virtually all Kansans breathed smoke pollution in 2011 and that 2.8 million Kansans were exposed to medium-to-high-density smoke for anywhere from 12 to 47 days.

Columbia University Environmental Health Professor Patrick Kinney says smoke is a serious health hazard, even if you can’t smell it.

Healthcare.gov

The rampant glitches that have plagued the federally-operated health insurance marketplace have been the focus of a lot of political heat. It's prompted Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to fire back with a full-throated defense of the law that created the exchanges, the Affordable Care Act.

THE PROBLEM

School nurses in Wichita have been notifying parents that their kids can't go to school if they're not up to date on their required immunizations.

The annual enrollment period for Medicare's prescription drug coverage and privatized Medicare Advantage plans is now open. It's the one time of year when people can make changes to their coverage without being penalized.

This year, many senior citizens have been confused. The enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act started just two weeks ago. Many people are under the mistaken impression that they need to sign up for coverage on the exchange, even though they have Medicare.

If the shutdown of the federal government continues longer than two more weeks, 70,000 young mothers, babies and preschoolers in Kansas stand to lose access to some of the food they rely on.

KDHE has ordered local WIC offices to withhold checks for November and December until federal funding is assured. WIC checks are normally issued for three months at a time.

Dave Thomason, who heads the federally-funded Women Infants and Children supplemental food program in Kansas, says withholding checks dated later than October is a precautionary response to the federal shutdown.

The rate of drug overdose deaths in Kansas has more than doubled since 1999, but the rate has gone up even more in many other states.

As a result, Kansas now has the eighth-lowest drug overdose mortality rate in the country, according to a new report from the non-profit Trust for America’s Health.

According to a new report, more than 145,000 women in Kansas were uninsured last year. That’s a little less than 17 percent. But a majority of Hispanic women in Kansas—53.4 percent—have no health insurance. That’s one of the highest rates in the country.

The first-ever statewide report on infections occurring in Kansas hospitals shows progress against two specific types of infections.

Hand-washing is one of the most important precautions to keep from spreading germs to susceptible patients. Hospitals are also trying to use urinary catheters only when there’s no other option. They’re also reducing the use of central lines—IV ports that go into a large blood vessel.

The results from 2011 show that Kansas is well below national averages for usage of those devices, and for the infections that result.

The EPA has proposed new carbon emissions standards for coal and gas-fired power plants built in the future. However, it's unclear whether the rule will apply to the expansion of a coal-fired plant in southwest Kansas.

If the new standards are applied to the expansion of the Sunflower electric generating station, near Holcomb, it could get expensive. The plant would likely have to capture some of the carbon it produces, and store it below ground. Sunflower’s Colorado-based partner has told the EPA the new rule should not apply because they’ve already commenced construction.

The Wolf Creek Nuclear Generating Station, the only nuclear power plant in Kansas, remains shut down due to problems with an air conditioning compressor. The unit is needed to cool safety-related equipment.

Operators shut down the reactor late Wednesday afternoon when they noticed abnormal vibration in the compressor while doing maintenance work.

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