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by Joyia Emard

A mechanic points to a tire with the car's owner looking on.

Imagine buying a new or used vehicle only to have it break down. If the new or used vehicle comes with a manufacturer’s warranty, you can take it back to the dealer for repairs. Despite their efforts to “fix” the vehicle, it still keeps breaking down again and again.

That’s a nightmarish scenario, but not an uncommon one. You may have a lemon on your hands.

However, there is recourse. The California Department of Consumer Affairs’ Arbitration Certification Program (ACP) can help consumers attempt to resolve their Lemon Law disputes. In lieu of court actions, the state-certified arbitration program is free and can help take the strain and costs off consumers. The arbitration program investigates the situation and determines what relief will be rendered in a fair and expeditious process.

Although there is no set number for reasonable repair attempts, the California Lemon Law Presumption (Civ. Code, § 1793.22) contains guidelines for determining when a “reasonable” number of attempts have been made. In the majority of cases, the manufacturer must either replace or repurchase the vehicle, whichever the consumer prefers.

The California Lemon Law applies throughout the duration of the vehicle manufacturer’s original warranty period.

The ACP works with participating vehicle manufacturers and state-certified arbitration program to ensure substantial compliance with California laws and regulations related to the arbitration process. The ACP does not certify any mediation processes, conduct arbitration hearings, or modify or overturn decisions.

For additional information about the Arbitration Certification Program and state-certified arbitration programs log on to https://www.dca.ca.gov/acp or contact the California Department of Consumer Affairs at 1-800-952-5210.

The California Attorney General’s website, https://oag.ca.gov,  also has a wealth of information for consumers detailing what to look for when purchasing a new or used vehicle as well as information about the Arbitration Certification Program/Lemon Law including the following.

  • The Lemon Law also applies to used vehicles when they are still under a manufacturer’s new car warranty. Any remaining time left on the warranty protects the car’s new owner.
  • Members of the Armed Forces, who are stationed in or are residents of California, are protected by the Lemon Law even if their vehicles were purchased or registered outside of California.
  • Lemon vehicles that are bought back by dealers and then resold must be identified as a “lemon law buyback” and have a “lemon” sticker on their door. When lemon buybacks are not properly disclosed and sold “as is,” the buyer may still have rights under the Lemon Law. To find more information on the ACP and Lemon Law, visit the Attorney General’s Website at: https://oag.ca.gov/consumers/general/cars.
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Debunking Mask Myths

by Cheri Gyuro

For the past several months, health care providers and public health officials have been asking Californians to wear masks to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Wearing a mask is not exactly pleasant for some people, and for others, it can be a bit challenging. Adding to the stress are myths about health problems caused by wearing a mask. Knowing how to deal with these issues and identifying the myths can help ease any concerns.

Here are some of the top complaints about wearing a mask and how to combat the effects:

  • Breathing—Wearing a mask will not increase the amount of carbon dioxide you breathe in and make you sick. Research by the American Thoracic Society finds that wearing a face mask does not pose a health risk. “We show that the effects are minimal at most even in people with very severe lung impairment,” Michael Campos, MD, told Science Daily. Experts also say the myth that wearing a mask can cause a severe form of pneumonia is simply not true. If you have trouble breathing with a mask on, try to breathe through your nose and limit the time you talk. Also, try to find a safe place where you can remove the mask and take a few breaths.
  • Skin irritations—The new acne dubbed “maskne” is real. Oil, sweat, and saliva swirling around the mouth and nose area where the mask rubs can cause clogged pores. Masks can also cause friction on the skin-damaging the protected barrier. Choosing a cloth mask can help absorb the sweat, oil, and moisture, but be sure to launder it often. Change your skincare slightly by using a mild fragrance-free moisturizer to replenish the skin barrier that is rubbed off by the mask.
  • Eye issues—Some people complain of dry eye from wearing a mask, and for good reason. According to a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, wearing a face mask has been linked to ocular irritation and dryness. Irritation of the eye’s ocular surface has also raised concerns about the increased risk of the spread of diseases from eye rubbing. If you wear glasses, the fog can also make it nearly impossible to see. Still, researchers encourage people to wear a mask and urge those who are long-term mask users to use eye protection to prevent any eye issues.
  • Claustrophobia—If being worried about contracting COVID-19 isn’t enough to cause anxiety, wearing a mask might do the trick. For some people, wearing a mask can bring up traumatic experiences and abuse from the past. Health experts suggest trying to go through a desensitizing period by practicing wearing a mask for a short period of time and slowly increase the time to wear it longer and longer.
  • Oral gum disease—Wearing a mask for an extended period of time can indirectly cause xerostomia or dry mouth. Dry mouth can lead to an increased risk of fungal infections, halitosis, and periodontal disease. But the act of wearing the mask doesn’t cause these problems; rather, it’s from not consuming enough liquids throughout the day because the mask is a barrier. Easy fix: Lift up your mask and take a sip.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only a few people who should not wear a mask. They include:

  • Children younger than two years old.
  • Anyone who has trouble breathing. For example, someone who depends on an oxygen tank.
  • Anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

If you need to make an appointment for health, dental, eye, or mental health issues, you can check a professional’s license by visiting the California Department of Consumer Affairs’ search tool at https://search.dca.ca.gov/.

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What do cat food, a can of soda, architecture, and engineering have in common? If you add mushrooms to the mix, you’ve got the perfect recipe for strong, sustainable building material.

Researchers are building structures using mycelium, the underground foundation of mushrooms found naturally in the wild. Although this may sound like it’s straight from a sci-fi movie, scientists, in reality, are growing the most extraordinary materials when combining mushrooms with things typically found in the landfill.

“Fungal buildings will self-grow, build, and repair themselves subject to substrate supplied, use natural adaptation to the environment, sense all what [a] human can sense,” wrote Cornell University scientists Andrew Adamatzky, Phil Ayres, Gianluca Belotti and Han Wosten in a research publication about fungal architecture.

Here’s how the process works:

  • A mushroom sample is placed in agar (a seaweed-based gelatinous substance) and spores start to grow.
  • A separate mixture of substrate is prepared. This can consist of waste such as glass, candy, cat food, and an energy drink and agricultural waste like straw or wood chips.
  • The mushroom sample is mixed in with the substrate.
  • The mixture is placed in or on a form and sealed up for about a week while the mycelium increases in volume.
  • The mass is removed from the form and baked dry.

Mycelium composite products come with many benefits and can be used for insulation, packing material, furniture, leather-like fabric, and bricks. The material is currently being developed to serve as sustainable technology. Mycelium insulation can be fire and pest resistant, useful for acoustics, and efficient for thermal control in architectural structures.

You’ve probably already seen mycelium molds used to store computer parts and household products. Researchers are now working on creating mycelium bricks that can be used to build structures while reducing the world’s carbon footprint at the same time. While the process is underway, it’s far from complete. Mycelium composite can break down if stored outside, and the compression strength for mycelium bricks is only 30 PSI (pounds per square inch) compared to concrete that can withstand 4,000 PSI. But still, one’s dream can eventually become reality, right?

If you are thinking about the possibility of using mycelium for a construction project, it’s a good idea to make sure you are working with a licensed professional. Visit the Department of Consumer Affairs’ California Architects Board, the California Board for Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors, and Geologists, or the Contractors State License Board for more information on these licensed professionals; to check a professional’s license, visit https://search.dca.ca.gov.

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Contact licensed medical and mental-health professionals for wellness help

A young man in a T-shirt scowls with dropped shoulders.Here’s a heart-health reason to turn that frown upside-down: A new study out of Baylor University found that people with cynical personalities are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease.

Cynical people are characterized as those who believe others are motivated purely by self-interest rather than by acting for honorable or unselfish reasons: a negative world view where no one can be trusted and everyone is out for—and can only depend on—themselves.

“Cynical hostility is more cognitive, consisting of negative beliefs, thoughts and attitudes about other people’s motives, intentions and trustworthiness,” said study lead author Alexandra T. Tyra, a doctoral candidate in psychology and neuroscience at Baylor. “It can be considered suspiciousness, lack of trust, or cynical beliefs about others.”

That psychological negativity is physically hurting cynics, according to Tyra and other researchers. As published in the journal Psychophysiology, researchers measured 196 study participants’ heart rates and blood pressure when giving a speech and doing a math problem; participants also completed a survey measuring their temperament, including degrees of hostility representing an individual’s disposition toward cynicism and chronic hate. Those whose temperament survey reflected greater “cognitive hostility”—i.e., cynicism—had cardiovascular systems that went into “fight or flight” overdrive when faced with the two tasks.

“These results identify a potential pathway through which hostility, particularly cynicism, contributes to disease risk,” the study authors concluded.

The same young man as above smiles and holds his hands in a heart shape.“I would hope that this research raises awareness about the potential health implications of cynicism,” added Tyra. “Perhaps the next time someone thinks a negative thought about the motives, intentions, or trustworthiness of their best friend, a co-worker, or even a politician, they will think twice about actively engaging with that thought.”

The numerous medical and mental-health professionals licensed by Department of Consumer Affairs’ boards and bureaus can help you reduce negativity and stress while living a healthier life; to check a professional’s license, visit https://search.dca.ca.gov.

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Before March 2020, my family and I were not regular users of hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes. We would use them on occasion when access to soap and water was limited—while traveling, for example.

However, the coronavirus changed that. Now, there are tubs of name-brand disinfectant wipes strategically placed around the home that we use to wipe down frequently touched surfaces. We also keep plenty of antibacterial hand wipes stored in the glove compartment inside each vehicle. And every member of the household now carries small bottles of hand sanitizer with them.

I began to wonder if using these products daily could do more harm to my family than good. I did some personal research and looked at some of the most commonly used products:

Disinfectant wipes—They’re more than just wipes that kill germs and disinfect surfaces. Some brands contain pesticides registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, such as QACs or quats (quaternary ammonium compounds). With long-term exposure, quats and commonly used active ingredients such as bleach (or sodium hypochlorite) have been linked to health problems such as asthma. A published study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found disinfectants, including bleach and quats, were responsible for illness or injuries like eye, skin, or upper respiratory irritation in children. The research concluded that adults were affected too. However, children’s exposure during inhalation was greater because children breathe more air per pound of bodyweight than adults.

Hand sanitizing gels—The CDC recommends washing hands with regular soap and water whenever possible to reduce the amounts of germs and chemicals on hands. Suppose you do not have access to soap and water: In that case, the CDC suggests that hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol (also referred to as ethyl alcohol) be used as a last resort when soap and water are not available to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Finally, it is essential to note that all hand sanitizing gels are not the same. To know the difference, check the label. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns against using hand sanitizers that may include methanol or wood alcohol, which are toxic.

Antibacterial soaps—According to the FDA, some over-the-counter antibacterial wash products contain certain chemicals (e.g., triclosan and triclocarban) concerning to the agency because manufacturers have not proven that these ingredients are safe for daily use over time and that they are more effective than plain soap. The FDA asserts that there isn’t enough science showing that antibacterial soaps are better than regular soap. Additionally, there is a chance that triclosan may aid in making individuals bacteria resistant to antibiotics, which could impact medical treatments, specifically with the use of prescribed antibiotics used to fight infection.

Scientists have cautioned that overuse of alcohol-based sanitizing gels and disinfecting products may give consumers a false sense of security and create superbugs that could threaten public health. The CDC and many health experts agree that following basic handwashing practices is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of illness and disease.

The California Department of Consumer Affairs licenses health care professionals in a variety of categories. You can verify the license status of a professional using DCA’s License Search tool: https://search.dca.ca.gov.

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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.

MODERN OPTIONS FOR AN OLD-FASHIONED FEATURE

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 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.

STYLE TIPS FOR OLD FIREPLACES

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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