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by Joyia Emard

We’re fortunate in California to avoid the long, harsh winters people in other parts of the country suffer through. Nevertheless, as winter approaches, there are several ways to prepare your home for dropping temperatures that will keep the cold out, the heat in, and lessen the chances of unforeseen problems popping up.

These cost-effective tips can also put some money in your pocket with a reduced energy bill:

  • Clean your gutters so that leaves and other debris aren’t inhibiting the flow of water, which can lead to frost and ice buildup.
  • Flush the water heater. Particles and sediment can collect over time in the bottom of your water heater, hindering the unit’s efficiency. Flushing the water through the drain valve clears out material and keeps the unit functioning at its best.
  • Ceiling fans can be a budget boon during the heat of summer, but they can also help during winter: Having ceiling fans rotate in a clockwise direction will push hot air from the ceiling toward the floor. You will be losing some heat that has risen if they move counterclockwise.
  • Use draft guards. If a door doesn’t have a proper guard at the bottom, it’s likely a lot of heat is escaping that would otherwise be warming your house and saving you from cranking up the heat.
  • Replace filters. Regularly changing out filters in your central air and heating system can significantly improve its efficiency and longevity while also improving household air quality.
  • Weatherstripping tape can eliminate air leaks around windows and doors that boost your heating costs.
  • Install a programmable thermostat. The U.S. Department of Energy says you can save up to 1% on your energy bill for every degree you lower your home’s temperature during the winter. A programmable thermostat saves money by keeping the temperature down when you’re not home.
  • For added insulation in siding, windows, and doors, use caulking on the outside to fill cracks and gaps.
  • A chimney can be a huge source of heat loss. If it’s not in use, plug it up with a chimney balloon that stops that heat from escaping.

Although these DIY projects can go a long way to keeping you warm without a huge energy bill, some larger jobs—checking the attic, walls, and basement for adequate insulation; installing dual-pane windows; or having your roof inspected for damaged shingles and cracks—are best left to a professional. The Department of Consumer Affairs’ Contractors State License Board regulates general building contractors along with those in specialty fields. You can check a professional’s license at https://search.dca.ca.gov.





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Replace or restyle it; contact a licensed professional for assistance
A gas insert in the center of an old-fashioned fireplace.

A gas insert, tile, and paint bring new drama to an old fireplace.

They’re cozy, pretty, and traditional, but they also can be dirty, costly, and dangerous: We’re talking about wood-burning fireplaces.


According to data from the last decennial U.S. Census, 46% of American homes had a usable fireplace, with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimating there are more than 17.5 million fireplaces nationwide. But while these longtime house features can help make a home sale, they can also make a whole lot of trouble:

  • Air pollution—The California Air Resources Board (CARB) says most wood heaters, like fireplaces and woodstoves, release far more air pollution indoors and out than heaters using other fuels. In winter, when we heat our homes the most, cold nights with little wind cause smoke and air pollutants to remain stagnate at ground level for long periods. That air pollution contains carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen (which create acid rain), carcinogens, and many other toxic substances.
  • Expensive inefficiency—CARB also notes that fireplaces rob your house of heat because they draw air from the room and send it up the chimney. Yes, you’ll be warmed if you sit near the fire, but the rest of your house is getting colder as outdoor air leaks in to replace the hot air going up the chimney.
  • House hazards—According to the National Fire Protection Association, wood fireplaces can reach 2,000 degrees: a much higher level of heat than other fireplace options that can ignite combustibles near the fireplace. In addition, more than 25,000 chimney fires cause $120 million in damage nationwide each year.
An electric insert is place in an oak mantle.

Electric inserts are another fireplace option.

Many greener, cost-effective, and safer replacement options are on the market to help modernize your old-fashioned wood fireplace, including:

  • Gas—Gone are the kitschy, lukewarm gas inserts of the 1970s: Today’s gas fireplaces are literally hot! Modern gas inserts run the gamut from traditional looks featuring real-looking logs to sleek futuristic designs, all of which bring real warmth to your home without the wood smoke.
  • Electric—Electric fireplaces don’t cause pollution and can be installed anywhere, no vent required, either inside or outside your old fireplace. They can be plugged into any standard household electrical (120V) outlet and can operate with or without heat.
  • Pellet—Instead of logs, pellet stoves burn cleaner-burning compressed wood or organic pellets, and can be installed as fireplace inserts or freestanding heaters.

What’s more, many California air quality districts offer monetary rebates, refunds, or incentive programs to encourage residents to bring their wood-burning fireplaces into the 21st century with more environmentally friendly options like gas, electric, or pellet options. If you are unsure if your local air quality district offers an incentive program, call for information.


Plants of different shapes and sizes surround an Edwardian fireplace.

Don’t feel like replacing your old fireplace? Restyle it for year-round interest.

Don’t feel like replacing your fireplace? You’ve got lots of options to make that space sparkle without ever lighting a log! Sweep it out, scrub it up, and implement one of these hearth-warming ideas from This Old House:

  • Log illusion—Fool onlookers with the appearance of a tidy hearth poised for lighting by stacking logs up … and then just walking away. For a slightly different approach, fill most or all of the firebox with chopped wood with the cut ends facing the room: an organic look that compliments earthy, natural living room decor.
  • Cozy candles—Put big pillar candles on a tiered stand in the fireplace. If you choose to light them, use a fire screen to keep the flames away from your children, pets, and furnishings. For the twinkle without the trouble, use flame-free candles or string lights as safer options.
  • Screen star—Safety accessories can be pretty, too. Find a fireplace screen with a design you love and let it work as a piece of art.
  • Shadow box—Forget the traditional shadow box and tuck a hefty object inside the firebox, like a handsome architectural model or large family heirloom.
  • Fresh paint—Keep it simple but dramatic with black or white, or create a conversation starter with a pop of color.
  • Houseplant highlight—Show off a favorite plant in an unexpected spot.
  • Summer front—Bring some old-house charm to your hearth by sourcing a summer front from a tag sale or flea market.

Whether you’re looking to style it up or switch it out, contact a licensed professional for any assistance you need with a wood fireplace revamp. The Department of Consumer Affairs’ Contractors State License Board regulates general engineering contractors and building contractors as well as dozens of specialty contractors; check a professional’s license at https://search.dca.ca.gov.

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The California Physician Assistant Board (PAB) announces the appointment of Rozana Khan as its new executive officer, effective December 1, 2020. Ms. Khan has been serving as PAB’s interim executive officer since the retirement of former executive officer Lynn Forsyth in August.

Prior to her appointment, Ms. Khan served as an Associate Government Program Analyst for PAB from 2017 to 2020. She was responsible for analyzing consumer complaints pertaining to licensed and unlicensed activities of physician assistants, and acted as the liaison to the staff at the Medical Board of California (MBC) and the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Division of Investigation.

During her time at PAB, Ms. Khan has gained a comprehensive grasp of the legislative and regulatory processes and developed a wide range of skills in strategic planning, budget management and staff development to ensure the efficient management and achievement of the Board’s mission and goals.

Prior to her work at PAB, Ms. Khan served as a Staff Services Analyst for MBC from 2013 to 2017, a Health Record Technician for the California Correctional Health Care Services from 2008 to 2013, and a Prior Authorization Technician for Health Net Pharmaceuticals from 2005 to 2008.

Click here for a printer-friendly version of this news release.


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Assistance is available from licensed mental health professionals

A depressed older man sits on the side of his bed.A new nationwide poll found that nearly two-thirds of Americans 65 and older who have concerns about depression will not seek treatment, and nearly one in three respondents who are concerned they may be suffering from depression believe they can “snap out of it” on their own.

Conducted by Acupoll and the GeneSight Mental Health Monitor among a statistically representative sample of U.S. adults, including a representative sample of adults 65 and older, the survey also found:

  • Sixty-one percent of respondents who aren’t concerned they might have depression would not seek treatment for it because “my issues aren’t that bad.”
  • Thirty-nine percent of respondents concerned they may have depression think they can manage without professional help.

Survey researchers noted depression remains a taboo topic among older Americans, despite about one-third of those over 65 who are concerned they have depression recognizing that the condition has interfered with their relationships and their ability to enjoy activities.

“The ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ mindset of some seniors and reluctance to talk about mental health are hindering them from getting the help they need, especially now when the pandemic is having an enormous impact on the mental health of older Americans,” said Dr. Mark Pollack, chief medical officer of Myriad Neuroscience, makers of the GeneSight. “People will seek treatment for conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes. Depression is no different. It is an illness that can and should be treated.”

A mental health professional listens to a patient.Depression is more than just feeling down once in a while or having a bad day: It pervades and negatively affects your everyday life. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of depression include:

  • Feeling sad or anxious often or all the time.
  • Not wanting to do activities that used to be fun.
  • Feeling irritable‚ easily frustrated‚ or restless.
  • Having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
  • Waking up too early or sleeping too much.
  • Eating more or less than usual or having no appetite.
  • Experiencing aches, pains, headaches, or stomach problems that do not improve with treatment.
  • Having trouble concentrating, remembering details, or making decisions.
  • Feeling tired‚ even after sleeping well.
  • Feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless.
  • Thinking about suicide or hurting yourself.

If you are concerned that you may be experiencing depression, you don’t have to go it alone—reach out for professional help: Licensees of the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Board of Psychology and Board of Behavioral Sciences can assist, as can specialists of the Medical Board of California and the Osteopathic Medical Board of California. You can check a professional’s license at https://search.dca.ca.gov. In addition, several pandemic-related resources for emotional support and well-being are available at https://covid19.ca.gov. If you feel you are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK (8255) or call 911.

Related Reading: Study Finds Anxiety on the Rise in Age of Pandemic; #BeThe1To Make a Difference: National Suicide Prevention Day

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California residents Justin Wilhite and Paul Cantelli relive their horrifying experiences fighting COVID-19 while Kim Duran talks about the pressures of having two family members with the virus at the same time.

All three have one message to share—wash your hands, wear a mask, and practice physical distancing.

Watch this emotional video as all three relive painful memories.

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The newest tagline on the television news is “[fill in the blank] is going to look different this year…”

Well, guess what: Everything looks different this year, thanks to the pandemic.

In the fall issue of DCA’s Consumer Connection magazine, the writers take a look at what’s become different in 2020, such as:

  • Athletes competing without the roar of the crowd
  • Combating anxiety with mindfulness
  • Architects designing safer, healthier, public spaces
  • The absence—and importance—of the power of the human touch
  • William Prasifka, the new Executive Director of the Medical Board of California

    Left: Page 10. Top: Page 5. Bottom: Page 19.

The writers also take a look at how long-time, well-known issues are being looked at in new ways, including:

  • The pervasive problem of domestic violence; how to help victims and how to help stop it
  • How autism in girls looks and needs to be treated differently than that used for boys
  • Accountancy is not just addition and subtraction but an exciting career choice

But don’t worry: Some things in the magazine are the same, such as answers to your questions in #AskDCA, news briefs, and other information for consumers and licensees to keep you safe and informed in these up-and-down times.

So what’s the big deal about normal, anyway? Normal is what you make it. Wear you mask. Stay safe. And while you’re quarantining, read the Consumer Connection!

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Regular checkups and early treatment are key

Four men stand together smiling in front of a high-rise building.He brings weather, news, and smiles to the more than 3.5 million Americans who wake up with NBC’s TODAY Show every morning. But popular TODAY co-host Al Roker brought a very serious message to his audience earlier this month when he publicly revealed his prostate cancer diagnosis.

Adding to his long history both on- and off-screen to raise prostate-cancer awareness, Roker shared his latest health news with his coast-to-coast audience to further inform viewers about this illness, which is the No. 1 cancer affecting Black men and the No. 2 cancer affecting all American men.

“It’s a good news/bad news kind of thing,” Roker said. “Good news is we caught it early. Not great news that it’s a little aggressive, so I’m going to be taking some time off to take care of this.”

Since his November 6 announcement, Roker has kept audience members updated with the latest on his treatment and promising prognosis while continuing to encourage others—especially Black men—to know the facts about this common but often treatable disease.

An older smiling man talks to his doctor about test results.PROSTATE CANCER FACTS

According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer can often can be treated successfully, especially if it is detected early. Prostate cancer begins when cells in the prostate gland start to grow out of control; however, while some prostate cancers grow and spread quickly (like the more aggressive type affecting Roker), most grow slowly. Most prostate cancers are found early through screening, and early forms of this cancer usually cause no symptoms. However, more advanced prostate cancers can sometimes cause symptoms such as:

  • Problems urinating, including a slow or weak urinary stream or the need to urinate more often, especially at night.
  • Blood in the urine or semen.
  • Trouble getting an erection (erectile dysfunction).
  • Pain in the hips, back (spine), chest (ribs), or other areas from cancer that has spread to bones
  • Weakness or numbness in the legs or feet, or even loss of bladder or bowel control from cancer pressing on the spinal cord.

Most of these problems are more likely to be caused by something other than prostate cancer. For example, trouble urinating is much more often caused by benign prostatic hyperplasia, a non-cancerous growth of the prostate. Still, it’s important to tell your health care provider if you have any of these symptoms so that the cause can be found and treated, if needed, and so more tests can be done to check for prostate cancer, if necessary.

A blood test shows a raised level of PSA.HELP IS AVAILABLE

Roker’s cancer was found during a regular checkup using a blood test that measures elevated blood levels of prostate-specific antigen, a protein produced by the prostate gland. The test was subsequently confirmed by an MRI and a biopsy. Following surgery and treatment, he returned to work a few weeks later and continues to encourage men to go to regular medical checkups so, if prostate cancer is present, it can be detected and treated as early as possible.

The Department of Consumer Affairs licenses hundreds of thousands of medical professionals statewide who can be consulted on prostate health questions or any other health issues. To verify a professional’s license, visit https://search.dca.ca.gov.

Related Reading: With Screenings, Colon Cancer Is Preventable; ‘Movember’ Focuses on Men’s Health

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Contact a licensed N.D. for insights on nature-based care

A gloved hand holds a pepper in a lab setting.A new study is shining a light on the chili pepper and its apparent role in lower mortality rates.

As presented before the American Heart Association earlier this month, study researchers reviewed 4,729 studies from five leading global health databases featuring the health and dietary records of more than half a million individuals in the United States, Italy, China, and Iran. Their final analysis included four large studies that outlined health outcomes for participants with data on frequency of chili pepper consumption.

Using that large combination of international data, researchers compared individuals who often ate chili peppers to those who rarely or never ate them. They found those who often ate chili peppers had:

  • A 26% relative reduction in cardiovascular mortality.
  • A 23% relative reduction in cancer mortality.
  • A 25% relative reduction in all-cause mortality.

The researchers were intrigued by previous studies that have found eating chili peppers has an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticancer, and blood-glucose regulating effect due to capsaicin, which gives chili peppers their characteristic mild to intense spice when eaten.

“We were surprised to find that, in these previously published studies, regular consumption of chili pepper was associated with an overall risk-reduction of all-cause, CVD [cardiovascular disease], and cancer mortality,” said senior author Dr. Bo Xu, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic’s Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute, noting more research is needed to specify amounts and types of chili peppers or capsaicin that may make the biggest health difference. “It highlights that dietary factors may play an important role in overall health.”

A variety of peppers and other herbal remedies are arranged on a table.Nature-based remedies such as those highlighted in this study are typical of those used in both longtime traditional and today’s holistic health care. California’s professionally educated and licensed naturopathic doctors (N.D.s) are trained to safely treat patients by using natural methods and substances to support and stimulate the body’s self-healing process, while also utilizing conventional medicine in conjunction with naturopathic medicine when appropriate. This makes N.D.s valuable assets to Californians who are interested in natural and conventional medicine and treatments, since N.D.s are trained in both.

To find out more about California’s licensed N.D.s and their distinct and comprehensive system of primary health-care services, visit the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Naturopathic Medicine Committee at https://naturopathic.ca.gov; to check a professional’s license, visit https://search.dca.ca.gov.

Related Reading: Mushrooms as Medicine; #TBT with DCA: Naturopathic Medicine Committee

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Engineers and contractors implement water supply needs.DCA licensees help keep Californians healthy

Access to adequate toilet facilities, clean water, and sanitation is no laughing matter. According to the United Nations (U.N.):

  • 2 billion people live without safely managed sanitation—more than half the global population.
  • 673 million people still practice open defecation worldwide.
  • Inadequate sanitation is estimated to cause 432,000 diarrheal deaths every year and is a major factor in intestinal worms, trachoma, schistosomiasis, and other dangerous sewage-related illnesses.

That’s why the U.N. annually recognizes the importance of clean water, sanitation, and safe facilities on World Toilet Day November 19. As part of that international recognition, the U.N. and its partners work toward water and sanitation services that are sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible, and affordable, with a goal of providing these services for everyone across the globe by 2030.

Here in California, numerous Department of Consumer Affairs licensees are educated and dedicated to providing our state and its residents with water and sanitation services that are second to none. By researching and responsibly using water resources, testing and transporting water to our homes and businesses, and ensuring safe sanitation facilities and services, engineers, contractors, and other licensed professionals uphold our health and our environment.

So the next time you turn on the faucet or flush the toilet, remember how important these seemingly simple actions are. For World Toilet Day resources and materials, visit the United Nations; to check a California professional’s license, visit https://search.dca.ca.gov.

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