RE/MAX 440
Mary Mastroeni
mmastroeni@remax.net
Mary Mastroeni
731 W Skippack Pike
Blue Bell  PA 19422
PH: 610-277-2900
O: 215-643-3200
C: 610-213-4878
F: 267-354-6212 
Welcome Home from RE/MAX 440!

Mary's Blog

Question of the Day

May 26, 2011 5:27 pm

Q: How do I select a home inspector?

A: Begin by only hiring one who is qualified and experienced, someone who belongs to an industry trade group, such as the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). This organization has developed formal inspection guidelines and a professional code of ethics for its members. Also, membership in ASHI is not automatic; members must have demonstrated field experience and technical knowledge about structures and their various systems.

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New Travel Care Code Encourages Travel Industry and Vacationers to Think Green

May 26, 2011 5:27 pm

Memorial Day serves as the official kick off of the busy summer travel season. As millions of American's take to the sky and road to visit their favorite destinations, attractions, and nature parks, the Center for Sustainable Tourism, at East Carolina University, officially introduces the U.S. Visitor Care Code (www.visitorcarecode.org). The code is designed to highlight small and practical efforts travelers can make to protect the natural environment and unique cultures of the places they visit.

Annually, more than 1.5 billion leisure "person trips" are made in the U.S., even small changes in behavior can make a big difference in tourism's impact on communities. The 10 point code encourages travelers to:

• Learn about Your Destination: Enjoy rewarding experiences learning about the environment, culture and history that make each destination unique. •
• Don't Leave Your Good Habits at Home: While traveling, continue to recycle, use water wisely, and turn off lights as you would at home.
• Support Locals: As a visitor, the money you spend on your trip can help support local artisans, farmers and business owners who depend on tourism.
• Protect Your Natural Surroundings: Be mindful of plants, animals, and ecosystems that you might impact. Avoid feeding wildlife, stay on designated trails and follow all fire restrictions.

For more information visit www.SustainableTourism.org.

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Word of the Day

May 26, 2011 5:27 pm

VA loan. Veterans Administration-backed mortgage. The VA, a federal agency, operates a loan guarantee program for honorably discharged veterans and widows of veterans who died of a service-related injury. Mortgages call for low or no downpayment. Sometimes referred to as GI loan.

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A Moving Guide for Pets

May 23, 2011 5:27 pm

Moving to a new home and a new town can be challenging, especially when the move involves a beloved family pet. In order to meet the needs of families facing this difficult transition, TripswithPets is excited to announce the launch of Pets on-the-Move: A Moving Guide for Pets. This free online moving guide is jam-packed with everything a family needs to know in order to successfully move with their pet.
Pets On-the-Move offers the following helpful information and resources:

• Pet Relocation Service: If the move is international or cross-country, or if flying or driving with your pet just isn’t an option, a pet relocation service may be a wise choice. This section provides information about securing a reputable company as well as helpful tips to narrow down which one to choose.

• Airline Pet Policies: There are a lot of regulations regarding flying with pets. This section displays a list of airlines and directly links to that specific airline’s policies.

• Search by Route: Due to a massive request for this service, users can simply enter the departure and destination cities and see a list of all the pet friendly hotels (and other pet friendly properties) within a 3 or 5 mile radius of the route. This is perfect for those families driving to their new homes that need to know where they can stop with their pets along the way.

• Tips, Tips, and More Tips: There are hundreds of things to remember when moving with a pet. The guide covers everything from what to prepare for before the move, to advice on making sure furry family members are comfortable in their new surroundings.

• Pet Moving Essentials: You name it—pet travel crates and kennels, pet seat belts, vehicle pet barriers, and pet car seats—the moving guide includes all the pet travel supplies you’ll need.

“Pets On-the-Move is our answer to all of the inquiries we receive on a regular basis from people moving with their pets. Over 69 million US households have pets but there wasn’t a well-defined resource out there that we could send people to, so we made our own,” says Kim Salerno, President of TripswithPets. “This guide is perfect not only for the families who are moving, but for real estate agents, moving companies, local chambers of commerce—any organization that’s involved in the moving process and wants to better serve their clients!”

For more information please visit www.tripswithpets.com/petmove

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Sunscreens Remain Safe, Effective Form of Sun Protection

May 23, 2011 5:27 pm

The American Academy of Dermatology recently reiterated the safety and effectiveness of sunscreens to protect against the damaging effects from exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. As one component of a daily sun-protection strategy, sunscreen is an important tool in the fight against skin cancer, including melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Unprotected sun exposure is the most preventable risk factor for skin cancer. More than 3.5 million new cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year, affecting 2 million people. At current rates, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in his or her lifetime. Approximately 75 percent of skin cancer deaths are from melanoma, and the incidence of melanoma has been rising for at least 30 years.

"Scientific evidence supports the benefits of sunscreen usage to minimize short and long-term damage to the skin from UV radiation and outweighs any unproven claims of toxicity or human health hazard," says Ronald L. Moy, M.D., FAAD, president of the Academy. "To reduce the risk of skin cancer and premature aging, dermatologists continue to recommend generously applying a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen—that protects against both types of ultraviolet radiation (UVA and UVB)—with an SPF 30 or higher, in conjunction with other sun-safe practices such as limiting sun exposure, seeking shade, and wearing sun-protective clothing, hats and sunglasses."

Sunscreen products contain one or more active drug ingredients—compounds that absorb, scatter or reflect UV light—and are regulated as over-the-counter (OTC) drugs by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA has several safety and effectiveness regulations in place that govern the manufacture and marketing of all sunscreen products, including safety data on its ingredients. However, recent media reports have questioned the health risks of some sunscreen ingredients, specifically oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate, as well as the use of nanotechnology in sunscreen.

Oxybenzone is one of the few FDA-approved ingredients that provides effective broad-spectrum protection from UV radiation, and has been approved for use since 1978. "Contrary to recent reports, available scientific literature and decades of public use does not support a link between oxybenzone in sunscreen and hormonal alterations, or other significant health issues in humans," states Dr. Moy. "The FDA has approved oxybenzone in sunscreen for use on children older than six months, and dermatologists continue to encourage protecting children by playing in the shade, wearing protective clothing and applying broad-spectrum sunscreen."

Retinyl palmitate is a form of vitamin A (retinol), but is not an active drug ingredient in sunscreen. When used in sunscreen, retinyl palmitate serves cosmetic purposes as an antioxidant to improve product performance against the aging effects of UV exposure, or to enhance product aesthetic qualities. Despite recent concerns from in vitro studies and one unpublished report using mice, "topical and oral retinoids are widely prescribed to treat a number of skin diseases, such as acne and psoriasis, and there is no published evidence to suggest either increase the risk of skin cancer in these patients," says Dr. Moy. 

"In fact, oral retinoids are used to prevent skin cancers in high-risk patients such as those who have undergone organ transplantation." Dr. Moy also adds that "unlike more potent prescription forms of vitamin A, there is no evidence to suggest that use of sunscreen with retinyl palmitate poses comparable risks."

The broad-spectrum sunscreen active ingredients titanium dioxide and zinc oxide leave a white residue on the skin following application when used in a larger particle form. However, when these active ingredients are converted into nanoparticles—smaller, lighter molecules—they appear to vanish on the skin, do not leave a residue, and retain and enhance their ability to block UVA and UVB light.

"While widespread use of nanotechnology in medicine is currently under evaluation, one of the main benefits of nanoparticles in sunscreens is that the small molecules can provide more protection and more even coverage on the skin's surface than larger particles," says Dr. Moy. "Considerable research on the use of nanoparticles on healthy, undamaged skin has shown that the stratum corneum—the outermost layer of the skin—is an effective barrier to preventing the entry of nanoparticles into the deeper layers of the skin. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide have a long history of safe use in sunscreens and offer good options for broad-spectrum UV protection."

There has also been concern that sunscreen use prevents the synthesis of vitamin D by the skin. Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that is vital for strong bones and a healthy immune system. The Academy recommends that an adequate amount of vitamin D should be safely obtained from a healthy diet that includes foods naturally rich in vitamin D (e.g., dairy products and fish), foods/beverages fortified with vitamin D (e.g., fortified milk and fortified cereals), and/or vitamin D supplements—and not from UV exposure. The Academy recently updated its position statement on vitamin D based on the published review of the increasing body of scientific literature on this vitamin conducted by the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine (IOM).

"Unprotected UV exposure to the sun or indoor tanning devices is a known risk factor for the development of skin cancer. Since sun exposure is responsible for vitamin D production in the skin, wearing sunscreen can decrease the skin's production of vitamin D, but alternative and safer options are available to obtain your vitamin D," states Dr. Moy. "Individuals who properly and consistently wear sunscreen or use other UV protective measures, and are concerned about their vitamin D, should discuss obtaining sufficient vitamin D from foods and/or vitamin supplements with their doctor."

The FDA is continuing to work on addressing requirements for UVA coverage in sunscreens and considering sunscreen labeling changes to help the public make knowledgeable decisions about protecting themselves from the dangers of sun exposure. "Dermatologists recommend the use of broad-spectrum sunscreen products to protect against UVA and UVB rays and we rely on the FDA to confirm the safety of the products," says Dr. Moy. The American Academy of Dermatology currently awaits the FDA's final ruling to provide the most current information.

"Despite any concerns over the use of sunscreens, they are an important component of a daily protection plan, as dermatologists understand the limitations of clothing and minimizing sun exposure. There are many sunscreen products available that meet the Academy's recommendations, and consumers need to be comfortable with their choice of product in order to use it routinely," Dr. Moy adds. "Since allergic and other reactions can occur, individuals should read the product's labeling carefully, use as directed, and seek the advice of their dermatologist in using sunscreens and any product applied to the skin. The American Academy of Dermatology will continue to monitor scientific evidence related to sunscreen ingredients and their effectiveness to help guide patients and the public."

For more information, visit www.aad.org.

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Early Start to Summer Construction Season to Slow Memorial Day Holiday Travel

May 23, 2011 5:27 pm

INRIX®, a provider of traffic information and driving services, recently announced drivers can expect heavier than normal traffic congestion heading into Memorial Day weekend. With thousands of summer road construction projects already underway nationwide, INRIX predicts the heaviest traffic for 3 p.m. on Friday afternoon, 2 hours earlier than normal—increasing drivers’ trip time by up to 27 percent.
"Memorial Day weekend combined with an early start to a heavy summer construction season will create havoc for people trying to get out of town," says Kevin Foreman, INRIX Vice President of Mobile Applications. 

Recently INRIX introduced several new time-saving features that help minimize frustrating delays caused by summer road construction, festivals and other seasonal events including: 

• Comparative Traffic provides an instant view of daily traffic hot spots indicating you where conditions are substantially worse or better than normal along your route. A simple map interface shows you in real-time where traffic is worse than normal (black) or better than normal (light blue) helping drivers better gauge travel times.
• One-tap Reporting empowers our community of more than one million drivers with the ability to easily view and alert others to changes in traffic conditions. With just one tap, community members also can alert INRIX to slower than reported traffic speeds immediately correcting the traffic conditions shown in the app for the indicated road.
• Unlock from Me allows users to look beyond their current locations to see traffic conditions in other cities. Inspired by feedback from our community, this handy feature helps business and vacation traveler better plan their trips with the ability to see real-time traffic conditions and get traffic forecasts for any city across North America.

Worst Memorial Day Travel Corridors 
INRIX Traffic can help drivers navigate around some of the nation's worst travel corridors as they head out Friday afternoon for the long Memorial Day Weekend including:
• Los Angeles: The entire I-405 Corridor in both directions from Wilshire Blvd. down to the I-5/1-405 interchange near Laguna Beach where the average trip will take up to 3x longer.
• New York: The I-95 (NE Thwy, Bruckner/Cross Bronx Expys) in both directions from the NJ Turnpike to Hutchinson River Pkwy where the average trip will take up to 3x longer.
• Chicago: The I-90/I-94 (Kennedy/Dan Ryan Expressway) in both directions from the Tri-State Tollway through downtown where the average trip will take up to 3x longer.
• Washington, D.C.: I-95 Southbound from I-395 to Russell Rd. where the average trip will take up to 3x longer.
• Dallas: I-35 W in both directions between Rosedale St. to the Hwy 287 Interchange where the average trip will take up to 2x longer. 

For more information visit www.inrix.com.


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Word of the Day

May 23, 2011 5:27 pm

Variance. A permit granted as an exception to a zoning ordinance that allows a property owner to meet certain specified needs.

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This Week Is Backyard Safety Week during Building Safety Month

May 23, 2011 5:27 pm

As spring becomes summer, Americans will head outdoors, fill up swimming pools and fire up grills. That makes the upcoming holiday weekend the perfect time for homeowners to run through a checklist to ensure their backyard activities are as safe as they are entertaining.

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.

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Is Sunscreen Enough on ‘Don't Fry Day’?

May 23, 2011 5:27 pm

Despite skin cancer's being largely preventable, it remains by far the most common type of cancer in the United States. There are over two million new cases of skin cancer diagnosed annually, which is more than new cases of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers combined. To help reduce rising rates of skin cancer, the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention designated the Friday before Memorial Day, May 27, 2011, as "Don't Fry Day."

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.

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Songbird Hearing Consumer Survey Highlights Gaps In Consumer Knowledge around Hearing Loss

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.


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