Fight the Bite: Mosquito Control Awareness Week is June 26-July 1

mosquito-control-aw-cropped.jpgAfter a particularly wet winter and spring in California, mosquito season has arrived. National Mosquito Control Awareness Week, June 26–July 1, is an ideal time to take preventative measures that will help you fight the bite of mosquitoes this summer.

The American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA) emphasizes the “3 D’s” of protection from mosquitoes—drain, dress, and defend.

Drain. Because mosquitoes can lay eggs in a source of water as small as a bottle cap, it’s important to empty all sources of standing water around the home such as flower pots, old tires, children’s toys, and buckets and storage containers. AMCA also recommends drilling holes in the bottom of recycling containers and changing water regularly in pet dishes and bird baths.

“Don’t forget that your rain gutters, tree holes, old buckets or tires—they all make excellent spots for mosquitoes to lay their eggs,” said Joseph Conlon, a technical advisor for AMCA. “Mosquitoes require water to complete their life cycle. If their water source is eliminated, so are their offspring.”

Dress. Light-colored, loose-fitting clothing is best to prevent mosquito bites. Studies have shown many species of mosquitoes are more attracted to dark clothing, according to AMCA, and often they are able to bite through tight clothing. Whenever practical, long sleeves and pants are best.

Defend. The Mosquito and Vector Control Association of California recommends applying insect repellent containing Environmental Protection Agency-registered active ingredients such as DEET, picaradin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535 according to label instructions. DEET can be used safely on infants and children 2 months of age and older.

To cut down on mosquitoes in animal water troughs or ponds, stocking mosquitofish is recommended. Many local vector control agencies will provide mosquitofish to homeowners free of charge.

Fewer mosquito bites and less annoying buzzing will help consumers get the most enjoyment out of summer outdoor activities.

DCA Sounds the Alarm on Fraudulent Alarm System Company Practices

They are out there, and they may be knocking on your door soon. During this time of year there is usually an upswing in alarm companies sending out their employees to canvass neighborhoods, trying to sell alarm systems. While selling alarm systems door-to-door is legal if required permits and licenses are in place, there are some unscrupulous companies that have their agents use tactics that violate the law, which can result in consumers paying excessive costs for alarm services or entering into a new alarm contract for what they believe involved an upgrade to the alarm system on their current alarm contract.
Here are some tips DCA’s Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (BSIS) wants you to know:

Sales agents must be licensed
BSIS licenses and regulates alarm companies and their employees, alarm agents. Alarm agents sell, install, and service alarm systems at homes and businesses. They must carry proof of licensure and present it when asked.

Verify the license and check the company
Before doing business with any door-to-door alarm company salesperson, ask to see their BSIS Alarm Agent Permit to confirm that individual is currently licensed.

If the salesperson claims to be there to update your current alarm system, also ask for proof of the name of the company he or she works for and the company’s BSIS alarm company license number. You should verify the sales agent’s license and, if applicable, the alarm company’s license using the “License Search” button at www.bsis.ca.gov.

Read the contract before you sign  
Before the work to install any alarm system begins, a copy of the full contract signed by an agent of the alarm company must be provided to the consumer. Alarm company contracts must be in writing and must include the following information:

  • The alarm company’s name, business address, telephone number, and BSIS alarm company license number.
  • The alarm agent’s BSIS registration number if an agent solicited or negotiated the contract.
  • The approximate dates your scheduled work will begin and be substantially completed.
  • A description of the alarm system to be installed, including what work is necessary to install the system, the materials that will be used for installation, and the cost of the system and services.
  • A description of other services (e.g., alarm system response or monitoring services) to be provided by the alarm company after installation of the alarm.
  • A clause stating the alarm company will teach the buyer how to properly use the system after it is installed.

If the total value of the contract exceeds $250, it must also include a schedule of payments and information about the permit fees charged by local governments. (NOTE: A down payment may not exceed $1,000 or 10 percent of the contract price, excluding finance charges—whichever is less.) The contract must also disclose if monitoring services are being provided. Also, never sign a blank contract.

The Federal Trade Commission’s “Cooling-Off Rule” gives you three business days to cancel the deal if you sign the contract in your home or at a location that is not the seller’s permanent place of business. You don’t have to give a reason.

Beware the automatic renewal
Alarm system monitoring contracts may contain an automatic renewal clause that binds a consumer to the contract for an extended period after the expiration of the initial contract term unless the consumer cancels the contract as specifically outlined in the contract. Effective January 1, 2017, consumers must be provided a written notice if the alarm contract presented to them includes an automatic renewal provision that renews the contract for a period of more than one month. Prior to signing the contract, the consumer is to acknowledge receipt of the disclosure by signing or initialing it. If written acknowledgement is not obtained from the consumer, the automatic renewal provision in the contract is invalid.

Don’t be pressured
If you’re not interested, say so. If the salesperson won’t leave, call the police.

If you are interested in an alarm system, ask for referrals from friends and family members who have had successful experiences with an alarm company. Also, get an estimate from more than one BSIS-licensed alarm company.

The BSIS “Consumer Guide to Alarm Companies” details important information about alarm companies and their employees, purchasing an alarm system and/or alarm system monitoring services, and how to file a complaint against an alarm company or one of its employees.

To file a complaint against an alarm company or an alarm agent with BSIS, visit www.bsis.ca.gov or call (800) 952-5210.

Neti Pots: Tap Water is a No-No

Spring is almost over, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the end of allergies. Those
who suffer year-round look for relief in a number of ways—from daily doses of allergy medicine to regular sessions of acupuncture. Another popular—as well as drug-free and inexpensive—method is nasal rinsing.

A common nasal irrigation device is the neti pot—a small, teapot-like container that you fill with a saline solution to clear nasal passages. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the neti pot can flush out dust, pollen, and other debris, and also help to loosen thick mucus.

The FDA states that, when used properly, the neti pot is safe and effective in reducing allergy symptoms—as long as they are used correctly. Neti pots must only be filled with distilled, sterile, or previously boiled water. If you use tap water, you risk putting organisms in your nasal passages that can cause serious infections, or even result in death. You don’t get sick from drinking tap water because your stomach acid can kill low-level organisms.

According to the FDA, other tips for safe use of your neti pot include:

  • Making sure your hands are clean before use.
  • Checking that the device is clean and completely dry.
  • Carefully following the manufacturer’s directions for use.

Before using any nasal rinsing device, consult with your doctor to see if it’s the best solution for you. Be sure to check the license of your doctor by going to the Medical Board of California’s website, www.mbc.ca.gov.

 

 

Celebrating Diversity and Showing the Path to Licensure in Two New Videos From DCA

Did you know that the State Board of Barbering and Cosmetology (BBC) offers assistance and materials to consumers and licensees in Korean, English, Spanish, and Vietnamese?

Did you know there are four easy steps on the path to obtaining professional licensure with the Board for Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors, and Geologists (BPELSG)?

You can learn about one—or both—of these subjects by watching two new videos available on the Department of Consumer Affairs’ YouTube channel.

BBC Celebrates Diversity” highlights the board’s recognition of California’s diverse population and its continuing efforts to provide meaningful access to its services, programs, and activities to all of its consumers and licensees. Its expanded language accessibility includes interpreter services via a toll-free language phone service as well as specialized training for board staff.

Board for Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors and Geologists—Apply for EIT or LSIT” provides a step-by-step roadmap for students on the four components necessary for obtaining a certificate as an engineer-in-training or land surveyor-in-training—both essential in the path to licensure.

Visit the Department of Consumer Affairs’ YouTube channel for a variety of instructional videos, public service announcements, webcasts, and much more, then subscribe to be notified when new videos are available.

Expert Practice Consultants Wanted by the Board of Registered Nursing

Nearly all industries have them. From medicine to technology. Expert Practice Consultants (EPCs), also known as Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) are bona fide experts in a particular field who are called upon to provide guidance or counsel, and sometimes expert testimony in lawsuits or other legal matters.

Typically, EPCs have developed proficiency in their career after a great deal of immersion in their particular field over a period of time.  Many EPCs have advanced degrees in their area of specialization and maintain continuous study in their profession as required for licensure.

The California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) is actively recruiting EPCs who are experts that specialize in various areas from emergency room to risk management.  

An EPC plays a crucial role in the investigation process of an enforcement case.  By providing an objective, reasoned and impartial evaluation of the matter, the EPC is primarily concerned with whether there was a departure from the standard of nursing practice.

These experts must meet the specific criteria set by BRN and possess a current and active California RN license devoid of any disciplinary action.

EPCs have day jobs and their responsibilities are very specific as they serve in this capacity for a limited term.

Duties include case review, preparation and creation of an expert report and possibly, testifying at an administrative hearing.

Sound interesting?  For more information about EPCs or if you are interested in performing a greater service for the State of California by becoming one, you can view BRN’s new brochure Become An Expert Practice Consultant or contact the board via phone (916) 322-3350 or email Expert.BRN@dca.ca.gov.

Your Healthy Summer

The official start of summer is around the corner. Warmer, longer days usually mean squeezing in as much activity as possible. That’s why now is the perfect time to take stock of your health and strive for improvements.

Start out in the right direction by heading outdoors. According to a study from Environmental Science & Technology, just 5 minutes of activity in natural areas resulted in improvements in self-esteem and mood. Also, an article on the American Society of Landscape Architects website reports that, in 1984, researcher E. O. Wilson coined the term Biophilia, which suggests outdoor preferences are an evolutionary response and there is an intuitive link between nature and well-being. For many, Biophilia explains the stress reduction connected to gardening, so it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get busy. IMG_0193Plant a small garden and if space is limited plant a few flower pots—indoors and out. Enthusiasts will confirm there is something cathartic and grounding about feeling the crumbly soil trickle through your hands. 

You may also want to try skipping the gym and  embrace green exercise by hiking, cycling, walking, roller blading or swimming. Both your brain and body will feel revitalized after breathing in fresh air and observing nature.

While out in the summer sun, remember to shield your eyes from intense rays with sunglasses that block at least 99% of ultraviolet A and B rays. Sunglasses can also help prevent cataracts as well as wrinkles around the eyes. The thing is, the closer you travel toward the equator, the harsher the sun’s UV rays, so all types of sun protection can be powerful tools.

Other healthy summer suggestions include taking advantage of California’s summer crops by loading up on seasonal berries. A cup a day of blackberries, blueberries, or strawberries will provide a healthy dose of fiber and antioxidants. The fiber helps keep cholesterol low and may help to prevent some cancers, while the antioxidants may help prevent damage to tissues and reduce the risks of age-related illnesses.

When entertaining, acknowledge the fact that food-borne bacteria thrive in warm weather. The picnic-without-food-poisoning rule-of-thumb is that no food should be left out for four total hours then eaten. Food should only be out in the sun two hours max, and if it’s
90 degrees or hotter, cut that to one hour.

You won’t be able to enjoy summer picnics and parties if your teeth and gums aren’t in top condition. Your dental hygienist isn’t wasting her breath when she goes into floss sermon mode. Do it every day. According to several dental associations, flossing reduces oral bacteria, which improves overall body health, and if oral bacteria is low, your body has more resources to fight bacteria elsewhere.

Ultimately, embrace your summer and take a vacation—or even a staycation. Studies have shown multiple benefits from R & R including lowering your blood pressure, heart rate, and stress hormones such as cortisol, which contributes to a thick waist and an increased risk of heart disease.

To verify the license of a dental hygienist, visit the Dental Hygiene Committee of California’s website at www.dhcc.ca gov; for an optometrist, visit the Board of Optometry website at www.optometry.ca.gov, and for a Landscape Architect, visit the Landscape Architects Technical Committee’s website at www.latc.ca.gov.

June is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is most often associated with military veterans but PTSD affects more than those who have experienced combat warfare.

The National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder defines PTSD as a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault.

PTSD does not discriminate, it can happen to anyone.

Here are some facts from the National Center for PTSD:

  • About 7 or 8 out of every 100 people will have PTSD at some point in their lives
  • About eight million adults have PTSD during a given year
  • About 10 out of every 100 women develop PTSD sometime in their lives compared with about 4 out of every 100 men

Symptoms of PTSD vary from person to person, but the most common symptoms are:

  • Replaying the traumatic event over in your mind
  • Anxiety around people or places that trigger memories of the event
  • Feeling on edge and angered easily
  • Feelings of guilt, shame or depression

In 2014, to increase the promotion and public awareness of PTSD and the availability of effective treatments, PTSD Awareness Day, formerly June 27, was expanded to the entire month of June and 2017 marks the fourth consecutive year of the awareness campaign.

Only a mental health or medical professional can properly diagnose PTSD.  The California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) licenses such professionals through the Board of Psychology, Board of Behavioral Sciences and the Medical Board of California.

To check the license status of a mental health or medical professional in California click here.

For more information about PTSD and the National Center for PTSD, view the PTSD Awareness PSA below and visit the VA’s website at https://www.ptsd.va.gov/

 

FDA Warns Against Prescribing Codeine, Tramadol, to Children and Breastfeeding Mothers

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued its strictest warnings to date against the use of codeine and tramadol in children and breastfeeding mothers. The drugs carry serious risks involving slowed or difficulty breathing and death, especially for children younger than 12.

Codeine and tramadol are a type of narcotic medicine called an opioid.  Codeine is used to treat mild to moderate pain and also to reduce coughing.  Tramadol is a prescription medicine approved only for adults to treat moderate to moderately severe pain.

The FDA also recommended that these drugs should not be prescribed to teens to treat pain after surgery to remove tonsils or adenoids; to teens who are obese; or to teens who have sleep apnea or lung disease.

Parents, caregivers, and patients should always read the label on medicine bottles to find out if a medication contains codeine or tramadol. For prescription medications, consult with your health care provider at the time the prescription is written, and with your pharmacist when the prescription is filled.

If a child has been given either of these drugs or received it through breastfeeding, watch closely for signs of breathing problems. Danger signs include slow or shallow breathing, difficulty or noisy breathing, confusion, more than usual sleepiness, trouble breastfeeding or limpness. If you notice any of these signs, stop giving the medicine immediately and seek medical attention by going to an emergency room or by calling 911.

Click HERE to view the document on the FDA website.

A Clear Look at Contact Lenses

Contact lenses can be liberating. You don’t have to deal with the discomfort of eyeglasses resting on your face and ears, your peripheral view is generally better, and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), they can even improve the progression of nearsightedness in children and teenagers.

However, despite their benefits, if you don’t care for and wear them properly, they may cause eye infections that can lead to long-term damage, according to the CDC. The good news is, though, that with good habits, you can most likely avoid infections.

Here are some tips to ensure healthy use of your contact lenses:

  • Be sure to wash your hands with soap and water before handling.
  • Rub then rinse them with disinfecting contact lens solution.
  • Don’t “top off” old solution in your case or re-use solution.
  • Don’t sleep, shower, or swim with your lenses on.
  • Don’t wear your contact lenses longer than your eye doctor instructed.

If you’re interested in wearing cosmetic contacts, know that, similar to vision-correcting lenses, they must be prescribed by a licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist. Find out more about cosmetic contact sales in the Board of Optometry’s Cosmetic Contacts: Change the Look of Your Eyes Safely and Legally publication.

Regularly check the health of your eyes by visiting your eye doctor. To verify the license of your optometrist, visit the Board of Optometry’s website at www.optometry.ca.gov.

 

 

 

Don’t Get Burned by Rental Listing Scammers

The real estate market in California is hot and some people searching for apartments and home rentals are getting burned by purchasing useless rental listings.

Crooks are ready to take advantage of the unwary by selling listings of rentals that either aren’t available, don’t exist or are in foreclosure.

The California Bureau of Real Estate (CalBRE) warns consumers not to become a victim of such scams, which are most prevalent in areas where affordable rental housing is difficult to find.

A prepaid rental listing service is a business that supplies people with lists of residential properties for rent. The prospective tenants are required to pay a fee in advance or at the time the listing is provided. This business requires a prepaid rental listing service (PRLS) license from the Bureau of Real Estate or the person running the business must be licensed with the bureau as a real estate broker.

Wayne Bell, Real Estate Commissioner and CalBRE chief officer, says that consumers must be careful when using PRLS companies and offers this information to help you avoid problems.

Red Flags

  • The PRLS company only accepts cash (because credit cards allow for disputing charges).
  • The PRLS company guarantees the prospective tenant will get a rental in his or her price range, as well as a desired location, along with other positive options (such as allowing pets).
  • The list of rentals is handwritten and not computer generated.
  • The company does not provide property management or owner contact information for a prospective renter to schedule an appointment to visit the property.
  • The company asks the consumer to contact them instead of the property manager or owner if there is an interest. Typically, a PRLS company will provide you rental property addresses and property manager or owner information so that direct contact can be made by the client.
  • Company representatives use only first names. Note: Last names may be omitted and first names are often changed to avoid detection by law enforcement or to keep from being sued.
  • The company has only been in business for a brief period of time. Some PRLS companies open, quickly close, and move around a lot to avoid customers seeking refunds.

Avoid Being a Victim

  • Check the real estate and/or PRLS license HERE. And please note that there are very few PRLS licensees statewide. The list of such licensees can be viewed HERE.  Companies operating lawfully under a PRLS license must maintain a $10,000 bond or cash deposit.  Scammers will just take your money and there is no recourse.
  • If the PRLS company is not licensed, consumers should not use that company and should report the company to CalBRE.
  • If licensed, also check the PRLS with the local Better Business Bureau.
  • Do a Google, Yahoo or Yelp search on the Internet to see what others say about the company.

Read Your Contract with the PRLS Company

Protect yourself by reading your contract carefully. Before any PRLS company accepts a fee for rental listings it must provide a contract stating the amount of the fee and specify what services will be performed in exchange for the fee.

  • The contract must include a description of the kind of rental unit the consumer wants to find.
  • Even if the contract is signed electronically, consumers can and should still request a printed copy of the contract. This must be provided within five working days of a request.
  • Consumers need to be sure the contract states exactly what sort of rental listings will be provided. For instance, if a consumer is looking for a specific number of bedrooms, a maximum rent amount or listings in a specific area, this must be written into the contract.
  • The contract must state an expiration date of no more than 90 days from the date it is signed.
  • The PRLS company must also disclose small claims court remedies available to you should any issues arise.
  • If the PRLS company fails to provide the specified features, this is one of several conditions that would form a basis for the customer to receive a refund.
  • Prospective renters using a PRLS must carefully review the refund section of the contract. It is important to understand what rights you have should a refund be requested.

If you feel you have been the victim of a prepaid rental listing service licensee, please file a complaint HERE.  And if you have been victimized by an unlicensed scammer, CalBRE wants to know.  Contact them at 1-877-373-4542.

Sources:

Consumer Fraud Alert and Warning – Prepaid Rental Listing Services (PRLS)

Consumer Alert: Warning Regarding Online Rental Schemes