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by Joyia Emard

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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A woman's hand holds a smoking cigarette.Licensed professionals and helpful resources can help you quit

The problem is real:

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States.
  • Smoking accounts for more than 480,000 deaths annually, or about 20%, per the CDC.
  • Current CDC data show about 34 million U.S. adults—nearly 14%—smoke.

But so is the solution:

  • Most adult smokers (68%, according to the CDC) want to quit.
  • Since 2002, there are more former smokers than current ones.
  • The positive health results of quitting smoking can be measured within weeks, days, or even hours.

And beyond making big improvements in your health, the American Lung Association outlines other major benefits to quitting:

  • Your wallet—It’s expensive to smoke cigarettes. In some places, a pack of cigarettes costs more than $10, and prices keep rising. Even if a pack costs “only” $5, smoking one pack per day equals $1,825 each year.
  • Your convenience—Are you tired of having to go outside many times a day to have a cigarette? Is standing in the cold and the rain really worth it? Wouldn’t it be easier if you could choose to go outside only when you want to and not when you need to?
  • Your friends and family—Cigarette smoke harms everyone who inhales it, not just the smoker. Whether you’re young or old and in good health or bad, secondhand smoke is dangerous. Both you and the people in your life will breathe easier when you quit.
  • Your quality of life—Your senses of taste and smell improve when you stop smoking, your smoker’s cough disappears, you have more energy, and you can sit through a long movie or airplane flight without craving a cigarette.

A doctor encourages an older man to quit smoking.Quitting smoking can be very challenging, and it can take more than one try—or several attempts over a long time. However, you are not alone: If you want to quit, Department of Consumer Affairs’ allied health, behavioral sciences, and psychology licensees can help (you can check professionals’ licenses at https://search.dca.ca.gov). In addition, the California Department of Public Health offers several resources in partnership with the California Smokers’ Helpline ([800] NO-BUTTS), a free phone, text, app, and chat-based tobacco cessation program available in multiple languages. So if you are one of the millions of Americans still smoking cigarettes, give quitting a try—or another try—with the assistance of these professionals and resources.

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An apartment balcony overlooks a tree-covered walkway.New research is the first of its kind to draw a direct link between people living near green spaces and those individuals having lower smoking rates.

A joint study by University of Plymouth, University of Exeter, and University of Vienna researchers used data gathered through the annual Health Survey for England. They examined the responses of more than 8,000 adults to questions about their health, where they lived, and various other lifestyle factors.

Of the survey’s respondents, 19% described themselves as current smokers while 45% said they had regularly smoked at some point during their lives. However, even after to taking into account other factors known to influence smoking, people living in areas with a high proportion of green spaces such as parks, public gardens, landscaped playgrounds, or fields were 20% less likely to be current smokers than those in less green areas.

A downtown San Diego park features drought-tolerant plants.In addition, among people who had smoked at some point during their lives, those living in greener neighborhoods were up to 12% more likely to have successfully quit smoking.

The authors suggest that improving access to neighborhood green spaces may constitute an overlooked public health strategy for reducing smoking prevalence, especially given that smoking uptake and cessation are affected by stress.

“This study is the first to investigate the association between neighborhood green space and smoking behaviors in England,” said lead author Leanne Martin of the University of Plymouth, whose previous studies with the same research team have found being able to see green spaces from your home is associated with reduced cravings for alcohol, cigarettes, and unhealthy foods. “Its findings support the need to protect and invest in natural resources—in both urban and more rural communities—in order to maximize the public health benefits they may afford. If our findings are substantiated by further work, nature-based interventions could be prescribed to assist individuals attempting to give up smoking.”


A park in San Francisco features grass and a waterfall.This latest study adds to increasing academic research outlining green spaces’ many benefits to those in urban and suburban areas that, according to the World Health Organization, include:

  • Improved air and water quality
  • Buffering of noise pollution
  • Reduction of environmental health risks
  • Stress alleviation
  • Increased physical activity
  • Improved social interaction
  • Community cohesiveness
  • Improved levels of mental health, physical fitness, and cognitive and immune function
  • Lower general mortality rates

Landscape architects licensed by the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Landscape Architecture Technical Committee are trained, educated, and dedicated to implementing a wide variety of green spaces into our communities and our lives. Find out more about their services at www.latc.ca.gov and, to check a professional’s license, visit https://search.dca.ca.gov.

Related Reading: Landscape Architects: Building Nature Into Our Lives; ‘Awe Walks’ Increase Emotional Well-Being

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Learn more and contact a licensed professional for assistance

They’ve got their own TV shows, websites, and Instagram accounts: Tiny homes have reached celebrity status. Find out what they are, what’s involved, and if one might be right for you.


A tiny home in a yard has its own apple tree.

An accessory dwelling unit (ADU) like this one is a permanent tiny home.

What exactly is a tiny home? While there is no formal definition of what one is, the generally accepted definition is a single dwelling unit that is 400 square feet or less. While each of these dwelling spaces is unique and frequently custom-built to the needs and requests of the residents, these small houses include all the typical comforts of home—sleeping area, food-preparation area, storage, and basic utilities such as electricity and water—just on a much smaller scale.

While many tiny homes are stand-alone small but permanent structures with foundations, often technically referred to as accessory dwelling units (ADU), other tiny homes can be transported or even built with attached trailers, frequently referred to by the acronym THOW, standing for “tiny houses on wheels.”

A tiny home on wheels is parked in a yard.

A THOW — tiny house on wheels — is ready to go.

The overall tiny-house movement has been around for a long time, but rising modern housing costs, an inadequate supply of affordable housing, and increased media attention have all combined to help these increasingly appealing homes go mainstream. In addition to these big-picture reasons for their increased popularity, there are several large benefits to going small, and Money Crashers outlines seven of these major reasons:

  1. Lower expenses—At an average cost of $23,000, a tiny home costs less than 10 times as much as a traditional full-sized home at $272,000 (and even less than an average new car). Those household savings can allow owners to save more, spend more on things they value such as travel, or simply work less.
  2. No mortgage—Most people can’t afford to buy a home without a mortgage, adding to long-term costs. However, nearly 70% of tiny-home owners own their home free and clear, compared with just 29% of traditional homeowners.
  3. Less energy use—Tiny homes cost less up front and are much more inexpensive to maintain. What’s more, you can consider taking your tiny home entirely off the grid with solar electricity and other environmentally friendly energy and utility solutions.
  4. Freedom of placement and movement—Tiny homes have small footprints and can be sited on minimal plots of land. And if you go THOW, you can often take your entire home with you.
  5. Low maintenance—Less to clean means fewer chores, leaving tiny-home owners more time for work, hobbies, and other priorities.
  6. Green living—Tiny homes require much less material to build and much less energy to live in, reducing your impact on the environment.
  7. Simpler life—With less household room for less random stuff, tiny home-owners’ belongings constitute what’s most important to them.


A tiny home's interior features a fold-up table to maximize space.

Function is key to tiny homes’ interiors.

While tiny homes offer a simpler lifestyle, there are some more complicated considerations possible residents should think about prior to going all-in. U.S. News & World Report offers some food for thought for those considering their own tiny homes:

  • Where will you put it?—Will the tiny home be on an existing lot with a larger home, in a rural area, or on wheels in an RV park?
  • ADU or THOW?—Are you staying put or going mobile?
  • Who will live in it?—Will the tiny home be for one person, a couple, or an entire family? And don’t forget about pets!
  • Can you try before you buy?—Considering renting vacation cabins of various sizes and designs to see how you like living in a small space. Camping is another way to determine what you really need to get by.
  • How about the outdoors?—Porches, decks, and room to roam outdoors become more important when your indoor space is limited, so be sure to think about those key areas as well.
  • What’s your motivation?—If your tiny-home motivation is strictly to save money, investigate other alternatives as well: In some areas, buying or renting an existing house or apartment may be cheaper. Before you commit to living in a tiny home, know it’s a financially sound decision and you’re doing it for the right reasons.
  • Have you thought about utilities?—If you park your THOW in an RV campground, you likely will have access to electricity, running water, and sewage disposal, but if you build or park on your own land, how will you handle sewage disposal, water, power, and internet access? Consider the cost of incorporating utilities into your tiny home when crunching the numbers on housing expenses and hammering out logistics.
  • Do you know the codes?—Building codes exist for a reason, as do the codes for recreational vehicles. Any tiny home needs to stand up to hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, or the stress (and cost) of towing it on the highway.


Now recognizing them as “an essential component of California’s housing supply”, our state recently passed legislation to encourage construction of tiny homes, specifically ADUs. However, as with other permanent housing types, tiny-home building codes and permitting requirements are defined and overseen by local agencies and jurisdictions. So before you start pouring concrete in your backyard for that tiny-home foundation, consider contacting a professional for assistance: Licensees of the Department of Consumer Affairs’ California Architects Board can help you plan your dream home—tiny or otherwise—and licensees of the Contractors State License Board can build that dream into a reality, while ensuring all building codes, permit requirements, and safety standards are followed. To check a professional’s license, visit https://search.dca.ca.gov.

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An aerial view of a Los Angeles suburb shows many trees.Find out about their many benefits and contact licensed professionals for assistance

They provide shade, shelter, and beauty: Trees enhance our lives and communities in so many ways that it’s difficult to calculate their true value for ourselves and our world.

However, there’s a way you can find out how much that tree in your yard is worth, not just in terms of money, but also in the bigger picture. The free National Tree Benefit Calculator lets you enter details—location, species, and size—about individual trees around you, giving you an idea of both the economic and environmental value your trees provide on an annual basis.

For instance, using the calculator, a single 10-inch-diameter London planetree at the Department of Consumer Affairs’ (DCA) headquarters provides an annual overall monetary benefit of $94, factoring in property-value and curb-appeal increases, energy-use reduction, air-quality improvements, stormwater and erosion reduction, and pollution decreases. And that’s just one tree!

A tree-lined Northern California street.If you want even more information about the values and benefits of trees, the Arbor Day Foundation has nine reasons why you should plant them:

  1. Fight climate change—Wish you could do more than recycling and reducing your carbon footprint to combat climate change? Trees have you covered. Through photosynthesis, trees absorb harmful carbon dioxide, removing and storing the carbon and releasing oxygen back into the air.
  2. Clean the air—Trees don’t just absorb carbon dioxide. They also absorb odors and pollutants like nitrogen oxides, ammonia, sulfur dioxide, and ozone. It’s estimated that one tree can absorb nearly 10 pounds of polluted air each year and release 260 pounds of oxygen.
  3. Prevent soil erosion and rainwater runoff—During heavy rains, water runoff finds its way to streams, lakes, and wetlands, creating the potential for flooding. It also picks up and carries pollutants along the way. But trees’ leaf canopies help buffer the falling rain and their roots hold the soil in place, encouraging the water to seep into the ground rather than run off.
  4. Have fun gardening—Gardening can be intimidating for newbies because there are so many variables. Which plants and flowers should you put next to each other and which should you separate? Which bloom in the summer and which bloom in the fall? When you’re dealing with trees, there’s none of that: Just choose a spot and you’re good to go.
  5. Save money—Trees conserve energy in summer and winter, providing shade from the hot summer sun and shelter from cold winter winds. With trees standing between you and the elements, you’ll spend less on your energy bill to heat and cool your home.
  6. Increase your home’s value—Studies of comparable homes with and without trees show that, if you have trees in your yard, your home’s value increases by up to 15%.
  7. Attract and support wildlife—Trees provide nesting sites, food, and shelter for birds, squirrels, and other wild neighbors.
  8. Improve your mental and physical health—A view of trees in urban areas has been proven to reduce stress, anxiety, and even the crime rate. In addition, tree-filled gardens on hospital grounds have been found to speed healing in hospital patients.
  9. Create a legacy for your descendants—Trees can live hundreds of years, so when you plant one, you’re giving a gift to your children and grandchildren. It’s a symbol of your commitment to the environment and the beauty of the world around you that will live on far beyond your own lifetime.

A father and son plant a small tree together.Check out resources for free neighborhood trees and, to incorporate trees and other outdoor elements to their—and your—best advantage in a landscape, contact a professional licensed by the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Landscape Architects Technical Committee; for assistance with tree pruning and upkeep, contact a tree service contractor licensed by the Contractors State License Board; to check a professional’s license, visit https://search.dca.ca.gov.

Related Reading: Landscape Architects: Building Nature Into Our Lives; Specialized Contractor Licenses: Building on Skills

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Know the basics and call a licensed professional for plumbing help

Vegetables in a colander in a kitchen sink.With holiday-season cooking and baking about to get underway—and with even more people preparing meals at home as part of “coronacoping”—it’s a good time to remember what not to put down your kitchen (or any other) sink.

According to Real Simple magazine, here are 10 things that never should never go down the drain:

  1. Grease and oil—The next time you cook bacon, think twice before you pour the grease down the drain, where it can cause a clog in your pipes.
  2. Coffee grounds—Before you pour out leftover coffee or wash out your coffee maker, scoop out and dispose of any coffee grounds. Even if there aren’t a lot left, if you have a habit of pouring them down the sink every morning, they can build up in your plumbing.
  3. Uncooked rice—Rice expands in water, so just imagine what happens when you pour extra rice down the drain and then turn on the water.
  4. Flour and dough—When baking, always scrape excess flour or dough into the trash can before you wash the bowls, measuring cups, or egg beaters at the sink. Otherwise, you’ll risk clogging the drain with a messy goop.
  5. Eggshells—Even if you have a garbage disposal, eggshells should never be put down the sink because the membrane of the shell is known to cause clogs. Instead, throw them in the trash or consider composting them.
  6. Medications—When you pour medicine down the drain, it enters and pollutes waterways. But there are several different options for safe disposal: Check with your local pharmacy, which may have a medical waste disposal unit or pre-addressed envelopes that let you mail in the medications for incineration. Also, be on the lookout for U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration-sponsored National Drug Take-Back Days annually each April and October.
  7. “Flushable” wipes—They may say “flushable,” but that doesn’t always mean these wipes will disintegrate easily, and they can be particularly difficult on older plumbing systems. Simply throw these away with your regular trash.
  8. Cleaning products—To avoid water pollution, never pour harsh chemicals like bleach or ammonia down the drain. Instead, contact your local hazardous household waste collection center for their drop-off schedule and procedures.
  9. Paint—Depending upon how much leftover paint you have, there are a few options for safe disposal—but pouring it down the drain is never one of them. If it’s a small amount, simply open up the lid and allow the paint to dry out before throwing it away (do this outside to avoid fumes). But if you have half a can left, try mixing it with kitty litter and allowing it to dry, turning it into a solid before disposing of it. If you have more paint, contact your local hazardous household waste collection center.
  10. Chemicals—Pesticides and other chemicals should not be put down the drain. Again, your local hazardous household waste collection center can guide you on proper disposal.

A plumber fixes a kitchen sink.And don’t forget that chemicals include chemical drain cleaners, which have been found to be dangerous to people, plumbing, and the environment. If your drain’s clogged or if you need any other plumbing help, contact a licensed professional for assistance. The Department of Consumer Affairs’ Contractors State License Board (CSLB) licenses contractors in California, including those with specialty plumbing licenses. Find out more about licensed contracting professionals and their many services at www.cslb.ca.gov and check a professional’s license at https://search.dca.ca.gov.

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