May 23, 2011 5:27 pm
May 23, 2011 5:27 pm
The week of May 23 – 27, the fourth and last week of the International Code Council Foundation's Building Safety Month, has been designated Backyard Safety Week. Throughout the week, consumers will learn safety tips about how to stay safe while having fun outdoors.
"One of the goals of Building Safety Month is a safe outdoor season," International Code Council CEO Richard P. Weiland says. "Don't overlook backyard safety. Make sure decks have not weakened over the winter months. Pools and spas should be in compliance with local codes, including fence enclosures and measures to prevent drowning and entrapment. And keep grills away from siding, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches."
"Everybody loves spending time outdoors during nice weather, and amenities such as grills, firepits, outdoor lighting—even swimming pools and outdoor kitchens—help homeowners make the most of their outdoor spaces," says Stuart Flatow, Vice President of Safety & Training of the Propane Education and Research Council (PERC), the key sponsor of Backyard Safety Week. "At the same time, we want to help homeowners be knowledgeable about the placement, use and maintenance of outdoor gas appliances," he adds. "By supporting ICCF's Backyard Safety Week and offering a comprehensive set of safety tips, we hope to make summer enjoyable for homeowners everywhere."
Getting outdoor areas ready for spring and summer season entertaining is a top priority for many homeowners. According to a recent survey conducted on behalf of the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC), two-thirds of homeowners report spending more time in their outdoor living spaces than in years past, and more than half are looking for new ways to extend the outdoor living season.
Before bringing out portable appliances and firing up the propane grill, PERC offers the following tips for a safe and enjoyable backyard living:
• Keep burnable materials like dry grass, wood, or debris at least 10 feet away from propane tanks and cylinders. Never burn wood, coal, or anything other than propane in a propane fire pit.
• Don't store tanks or cylinders inside buildings, including garages or sheds.
• Read and follow the manufacturer's instructions for the appliance you're using, including where to put the unit, how to connect it to a cylinder, and how to use, clean, and store it. Fire pits and heaters need varying amounts of clearance, depending on the model. In general, allow at least three feet of clearance on all sides.
• Have your fire pit inspected by a professional every year.
• Before lighting your propane grill for the first time in the spring, check the cooking grid and warming rack to be sure both are in their proper place. Clean the grid, the interior of the grill, and the burner (according to the manufacturer's instructions) with a wire brush or scraper to remove any built-up food. And remember—always keep the top open when lighting the grill until you are sure it is lit.
• If the igniter fails to light the grill after two or three tries, turn off the gas and replace the igniter according to the manufacturer's instructions.
• When it's time to refill or replace a propane cylinder, stow it upright in your vehicle in a well-ventilated area, not the trunk. Return home directly after refilling.
• Replace any tank that has holes, dents, rusted weak spots, cracks, or other damage, or is past its expiration date.
First observed in 1980 as Building Safety Week, Building Safety Month is a program of the International Code Council Foundation. The International Code Council Foundation is a 501©3 nonprofit organization with the mission to promote public awareness of ideas' methods and technologies that encourage the construction of safe, durable and sustainable buildings and homes, reducing the devastating effects of building damages due to natural disasters and other tragedies.
May 23, 2011 5:27 pm
This year, the National Council urges everyone to think beyond sunscreen to protect their skin while enjoying the outdoors. While generous sunscreen usage is an important way to protect your skin from the sun, there are additional sun safety measures that can help prevent skin cancer:
• Avoid sun burning, intentional tanning, and using tanning beds
• Wear sun-protective clothing, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses
• Seek shade
• Use extra caution near water, snow, and sand
• Get vitamin D safely through food and vitamin D supplements.
"As millions of Americans head outdoors for family fun on Memorial Day weekend—the unofficial kick-off to summer—'Don't Fry Day' is an important reminder for the public to protect their skin from ultraviolet (UV) radiation while enjoying the outdoors," says Sandra I. Read, M.D., co-chair of the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention. "While most everyone enjoys a sunny day, keeping your skin safe from overexposure to UV radiation can be easy by practicing simple sun-safety tips."
The American Cancer Society recommends that everyone "Slip! Slop! Slap!®...and Wrap"—slip on a shirt; slop on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher; slap on a hat; and wrap on sunglasses.
The UV Index forecast is a helpful resource to learn your daily risk of overexposure to the sun. Developed by the National Weather Service and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the UV Index forecasts the strength of solar UV radiation on a scale from 1 (low) to 11+ (extremely high). Simply log on to the EPA website at http://epa.gov/sunwise/uvindex to see the National UV map, download a free UV Index widget for your website, or download a free mobile application for your smart phone. The predicted UV level can be used as a guide for appropriate sun-protective measures to prevent overexposure to UV radiation.
Skin cancer is on the rise in the U.S. Here are some statistics:
• The American Cancer Society estimates that, 68,130 cases of malignant melanoma—the most serious form of skin cancer—were diagnosed in 2010.
• One American dies of melanoma almost every hour.
• While the incidence of many common cancers is falling, the incidence of melanoma continues to rise.
• Melanoma is now one of the most common cancers among young adults ages 15-29.
To minimize the harmful effects of too much UV exposure, the National Council advocates that comprehensive protection from UV radiation should be a life-long practice for everyone.
For more information, including how to use the UV Index to plan outdoor activities, visit the National Council's site at www.SkinCancerPrevention.org.
May 23, 2011 5:27 pm
Songbird Hearing Inc., a leading developer and manufacturer of high-quality, low-cost hearing devices, recently announced the results of its consumer survey which examined consumer knowledge and perception of hearing issues and technology. The nationwide study polled 526 US consumers ages 21-75.
The survey revealed that consumers are concerned about their hearing, yet are unaware of how easy it is to damage one's hearing. In addition, a very high percentage of consumers identified that they or someone they know has difficulty hearing, yet were unaware of the number of people with hearing loss or that so few of the affected were doing anything about it.
Cost was the leading factor affecting hearing aid use; consumers perceive hearing aids to be expensive. In addition, consumers would be more likely to purchase a hearing aid if they did not have to go to a hearing exam or in-office fitting.
"We are pleased to support Better Hearing and Speech Month and help raise awareness of hearing loss and the options available to address that impairment," says Christopher DiCostanzo, President and CEO, Songbird Hearing, Inc.
"Respondents identified cost as a key barrier to purchase, and over half of the respondents estimated the average cost of a professional hearing aid to be $1100 or higher. It is important for consumers to know that there are proven low-cost, high-quality hearing aid options available at a much lower cost that are available with and without a hearing exam."
Better Hearing and Speech Month, which takes place annually in May, is dedicated to raising public awareness, knowledge and understanding of the various forms of communication impairments including hearing, speech, language and voice.
Among the survey's most significant findings are:
Consumers are Concerned about Their Hearing, yet Unaware of How Easy It Is to Damage Their Hearing
• 82 percent of respondents ranked the overall health of their hearing very important and 64 percent have worried about their hearing.
• According to the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA), prolonged exposure to any noise above 85 decibels (dB) can cause gradual hearing loss. Just over 40 percent of respondents were not aware of how easy it is to damage one's hearing in each of the following situations:
o 42 percent were unaware that just 5 minutes of exposure a day to listening to music on an iPod at full volume can put them at risk of permanent hearing loss.
o 43 percent were unaware that a clap of thunder from a nearby storm (120 dB) or a gunshot (140-190 dB, depending on weapon) can both cause immediate damage.
A High Percentage of Consumers Know Someone with Hearing Loss
A high percentage of consumers know someone that has difficulty hearing, or have been in situations that have affected their ability to hear:
• 79 percent of respondents have difficulty hearing or know someone who has difficulty hearing.
• 83 percent of respondents between the ages of 21-45 have been home for the holidays and found an older family member or friend blasting the volume on their TV.
• 49 percent of respondents between the ages of 46-75 felt that difficulty hearing in certain situations has negatively impacted their enjoyment.
However, only 34 percent of respondents were aware that roughly 35 million people suffer from hearing loss in the US today and less than 25 percent are doing anything about it.
Cost is the Leading Factor Affecting Hearing Aid Use
Respondents felt that the greatest barrier to why people do not purchase hearing devices was cost (61 percent), followed by comfort and size/bulkiness.
Additionally, consumers perceived the cost of hearing aid technology to be expensive. Eighty-eight percent of respondents estimated the average cost of a professional hearing aid to be $500 or higher, and 51 percent estimated the average cost to be $1100 or higher.
For more information visit www.songbirdhearing.com.
May 23, 2011 5:27 pm
Among the findings:
• Feelings of financial security among Americans—as measured by the Financial Security Index—rebounded from April's low of 93.5, back to the same level seen in January (98.5), with all components showing improvement.
• 35 percent of Americans are less comfortable with their savings now compared to 12 months ago, down from 42 percent in April. One in six (16 percent) are more comfortable, up from 14 percent in April.
• A strong April jobs report, released the morning of May 6, buoyed Americans' feelings of job security with only 18 percent feeling less secure now than 12 months ago, an improvement from 25 percent in April (The Financial Security Index poll was conducted May 5-8, 2011).
• Americans are split on their overall financial security, with 27 percent reporting better overall financial security compared to 12 months ago and 28 percent saying they're worse-off. Those reporting better overall financial security are higher-income earners ($75,000-up), college graduates and those under age 50. Those reporting worse overall financial security are those with household incomes under $50,000, the unemployed and retirees.
"The sensitivity to gasoline prices voiced by Americans cuts both ways. Any sustained pullback in prices would be a boost to the economy, but a renewed increase in gas prices would be a further drag on growth," says Greg McBride, CFA, senior financial analyst for Bankrate.com.
For more information visit www.Bankrate.com.
May 23, 2011 5:27 pm
May 23, 2011 5:27 pm
A: A home inspector is a paid professional—often a contractor or an engineer—who checks the safety of a home. Home inspectors search for defects or other problems that could become your worst nightmare later on. They focus particularly on the home’s structure, construction, and mechanical systems.
It is not the inspector’s job to determine whether you are getting good value for your money. He does not establish value, only whether the home might collapse in a storm or if the roof might cave in.
A home inspection typically takes place after a purchase contract between the buyer and seller has been signed.
Women Concerned about Health Risks yet Lack Knowledge to Promote Wellness in the Home, According to New Survey
May 20, 2011 5:27 pm
Despite elevated concerns about the safety and health of their home environments and the recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warning that indoor environments are two to five times more polluted than the outdoors, only 27.8 percent of total respondents say a ‘healthy safe environment’ is their primary motivator for house cleaning.
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, about 20 percent of the U.S. population suffers from allergies and asthma and their conditions are exacerbated by the tiny dry particles floating around in the home.
The natural response to this is to clean, but unfortunately some of the products used to rid homes of allergens contain irritating ingredients themselves.
“Asthma and allergy season is inside people’s homes every day of the year,” comments Marie Stegner, consumer health advocate for Maid Brigade. “The data suggests consumers may not view the inside of the home as an exposure point for sickness, allergies, or health risks.”
To help consumers become aware of invisible indoor air triggers that can cause potential health risks like asthma and allergies, Maid Brigade has released an educational video to show how green cleaning can help improve indoor environments. The video explains how to reduce the impact of allergens in the home including combating dust mites, mold, and pet dander and eliminating the detriments to household air quality that chemical fumes from cleaning products and spray air fresheners can also present.
The recent survey also shows that there is a lack of understanding regarding the effect many chemical-based cleaning supplies and ordinary cleaning equipment can have on family health including causing asthma and allergy attacks. Less than one in three women surveyed understand proper disinfection cleaning methods.
One in three survey respondents say they use outside cleaning help—an increase from 25 percent in 2009—to provide a better sense of balance and improve their quality of life. Most of the women surveyed who use local house cleaning services feel that the service is a necessity rather than an indulgence as they feel more time starved and burdened with their multiple roles than ever before. Seventy two percent of women also feel they work a ‘second shift’ when it comes to the number of hours they spend cleaning their homes.
More than 1,000 women between the ages of 25 and 64 were polled in the Maid Brigade and Mom Corps survey that probes women’s attitudes about housework, infectious disease and ‘doing it all well.’ The two companies formed an alliance in 2009 to help women improve their quality of life. To view the companies’ 2011 study findings, as well as survey methodology, visit maidbrigade.com/momcorps.
May 20, 2011 5:27 pm
From June 20-23, these experts will present findings on how to produce healthier housing for people living with disabilities, including a growing number of adults with autism who are confronted with the lack of supportive housing options.
"It's shocking that the leading causes of preventable death, disease and disability are right in our own homes," says HUD Deputy Secretary Ron Sims. "Home ought to be a place where we feel safest, not a place where we're most likely to get sick or be injured. We need an honest conversation about supporting efforts to improve the health and safety conditions in our homes."
Asthma, lead poisoning, house fires, falls and drowning in bathtubs are just a few of the hazards that families face. For example, studies find that mold, cockroaches and dust mites trigger more than 4.5 million cases of asthma each year, costing $3.5 billion. In addition, lead poisoning and cancer are caused by lead-based paint and exposure to other environmental toxins, generate an estimated $53 billion in annual medical costs. Hazards that lead to falls and burns add another $222 billion.
To address these critical problems, HUD developed Seven Principles of Healthy Homes:
• Dry – Damp houses provide a nurturing environment for mites, roaches, rodents, and molds, all of which are associated with asthma.
• Clean – Clean homes help reduce pest infestations and exposure to contaminants.
• Pest-Free – Recent studies show there is a connection between exposure to mice and cockroaches and the development of asthma. Improper treatment of pest infestations can leave pesticide residues, which could cause neurological damage and cancer.
• Safe – The majority of injuries occur in the home. Falls are the most frequent cause of residential injuries, followed by injuries from objects in the home, burns, and poisonings.
• Contaminant-Free – It is important to keep homes clear of contaminants such as lead, asbestos particles, radon gas, carbon monoxide, pesticides, volatile organic compounds, and tobacco smoke. Exposures to these contaminants are far higher indoors than outside.
• Ventilated – Studies show that increasing the fresh air supply in a home improves respiratory health. Even cooking in a poorly-ventilated home can produce harmful pollution.
• Maintained – Poorly maintained homes are at risk for moisture and pest problems. Lead-based paint in older homes is the primary cause of lead poisoning, which affects some 240,000 U.S. children.
The National Healthy Homes Conference will be held in Denver, June 20-23 and feature more than 150 educational sessions and workshops, allowing officials from the public health, housing, safety and environmental communities to collaborate and share ideas. NHHC is the housing industry's most comprehensive, progressive and educational forum on the issue of healthy, safe and sustainable homes. The conference is a federally sponsored event, bringing together a wide range of health, housing, and environmental professionals to work toward making housing healthy, safe and environmentally sustainable.
May 20, 2011 5:27 pm
The American economy relies heavily on small- and medium-sized businesses. The sluggish economic recovery is partly attributed to the fact that SMEs have been hit on two critical fronts. One, they were highly concentrated in the hardest hit industries of the recession. And, two, tight credit conditions have been made worse with collateral tied to real estate. Of the two influences, the mix of industry concentration now seems to be the bigger, lingering issue holding back SMEs.
"Fortunately, the recovery is broadening out beyond the manufacturing sector and domestic demand is gaining strength. Opportunities for new firms to start up and take advantage of the economic recovery should continue to rise," says TD Deputy Chief Economist Beata Caranci.
"In the second and third quarters of 2010, small and medium sized enterprises—businesses that employ fewer than 500 people—began to reinstate their status as a dominant hiring source, accounting for 60 percent or more of national net jobs gains," says Caranci. "Although SME data at this disaggregated level is only available to the third quarter for 2010, there is reason to believe that small-sized firms were instrumental in driving the strong job gains seen over the February to April period in 2011. These firms have a high representation in the service sector where jobs accelerated sharply within the national non-farm monthly payroll figures."
The TD Economists also predict that along with the increased opportunities that are materializing from current, domestic economic improvement, there is enormous potential for small and medium sized businesses to tap into foreign markets.
"Emerging-market economies already make up 50 percent of the world economy and, in the next decade, that share will rise to 60 percent," says Caranci. "Given the increasingly diverse growth in world demand and the global competitiveness of the current American dollar, businesses adept enough to navigate products and services in an export market face a number of unique advantages over those focusing solely on the domestic market."
This opportunity, the TD Economists say, will allow SMEs in the service trade industry – a key driver of exports – to expand sales and provide services such as accounting, advertising, consulting and legal advice.
Although entering the export market presents great potential for SMEs, there are some challenges in exploring foreign markets, such as obtaining financing, high tariffs and transportation and shipping costs. However, like many aspects of owning a business, practice will make perfect. As firms become more experienced in navigating foreign markets, and recruit the appropriate talent and services, they will become more successful at the business of exporting.
"Looking beyond the U.S. business cycle, the increasing global nature of economic growth should not be overlooked as businesses recover from the recession," says Caranci. "Some are already gaining a foothold in high-growth countries in emerging markets such as Asia, and the potential to expand further is prodigious."
TD Economics provides analysis of global economic performance and forecasting, and is an affiliate of TD Bank, America's Most Convenient Bank.