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by Joyia Emard

Essential oils have been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years, but the recent popularity of aromatherapy and home oil diffusers has led to a rapidly growing trend that is potentially dangerous for pets.

Often advertised as a natural treatment option for a variety of pet conditions from anxiety and skin problems to flea and tick prevention, essential oils in their concentrated (100%) form can be a danger for pets, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

Dogs and cats who walk through a concentrated essential oil, have gotten some on their coats accidently, or have had their owner apply one may develop symptoms including:

  • Unsteadiness
  • Depression
  • Shaking or tremors
  • Low body temperature (in severe cases)

If a pet ingests a concentrated oil, symptoms—in addition to depression—may include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Natural doesn’t always mean safe if not used properly, according to ASPCA, and pets can react differently to various oils, which are derived from plants. Factors such as the concentration level and what an oil is mixed with affect a dog or cat’s reaction.

Because of the variability in concentration, formulation, and quality of essential oils, ASPCA says to avoid applying them directly to your pet altogether. You should also keep any oils stored away and out of paws’ reach to avoid possible contact or ingestion.

Using a diffuser—an easy way to dispense oils at home—is not likely to be a problem if used away from your pet in a secure space.

However, if your dog or cat has a history or breathing problems, using a diffuser may be an issue; pets have a much better sense of smell than we do and what seems like a light, pleasing scent to a person could be overwhelming for a pet. Anyone who has birds should avoid using a diffuser because of their highly sensitive respiratory tracts.

If you are considering using essential oils on or around a pet, be sure to consult a veterinarian licensed by the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Veterinary Medical Board. They can advise you on which oils are potentially dangerous, how to properly dilute one, and appropriate dosages. You can check a professional’s license at https://search.dca.ca.gov.

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Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky,
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same.
There’s a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

One day in 1962, songwriter Malvina Reynolds was driving through Daly City when she became inspired to write a song after spying rows and rows of look-alike houses alongside the freeway. The song, “Little Boxes,” was made famous by Pete Seeger. The ticky-tacky houses that inspired her? The suburbs.

Song inspiration? A row of ticky-tacky houses in Daly City.

Ah, the suburbs. The domain of the middle-class. An escape from urban ills to sprawling neighborhoods with tidy lookalike tract houses, where families kept up with the Jonses’ and all, at least on the surface, was well. It made us drive more; it did not help greenhouse gas emissions, either.

Although not all ‘burbs were (and are) the same, in a nutshell this was largely the cliché used to describe residents and attitudes of the post-World War II suburban boom. But suburbs aren’t new—they go all the way back to ancient Rome. The word suburb first appeared sometime in the early 14th century, when it was used to refer to the village or area outside of a larger town or city.

These days, the suburbs are changing. Architects and engineers are being challenged to plan greener, more sustainable places to live, which means creating pedestrian-friendly, bikeable city centers for people to work, shop, and play.

picture of Camino Nuevo Charter Academy

From strip mall to charter academy: Camino Nuevo Charter Academy, Los Angeles.

Why? The standard family model in the United States has changed from the Mom + Dad + Jack + Sally template to one of single people, one-parent families, and multigenerational households. Aging Boomers desire close access to services, and Millennials have no desire, and no way to afford, the split-level ticky-tackies in which they grew up. Plus, many big-box stores (think Sears and Fry’s) and large shopping malls are closing for good, leaving huge, empty spaces.

This situation has caused both an inversion—more people moving back to urban living—and, since not everyone can fit, or would want to move, back into the city, a retrofitting of suburbia. Ellen Dunham-Jones, professor of architecture at the Georgia Institute of Technology and June Williamson, architect and professor of architecture at the City College of New York and authors of Retrofitting Suburbia, present strategies for retrofitting that include:

  • Re-inhabitation, or various forms of adaptive reuse,
  • Re-development, or urbanization by increasing density, walkability, use mix; and
  • Re-greening, from small parks and plazas, to restoring wetlands ecologies.

In California, changes are already happening. Caltrans’ Smart Mobility and Active Transportation Branch introduced the Toward an Active California program in May 2017. The City of Sacramento is making progress in being one of the first cities in the country to reform single-family zoning, which will allow for more duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes—and more much-needed and affordable housing—in the city.

Dunham Jones and Williamson state that, at this time, more than 2,000 retrofit projects are in progress across the United States. Of course, it cannot all be done overnight. Or, as the authors of Retrofitting Suburbia put it, “We spent fifty years building and living in these suburban landscapes, and we must spend the next fifty retrofitting them for the new needs of this century.”

Take a look at some California retrofits!
Santana Row, San Jose
Camino Nuevo Charter Academy, Los Angeles

Want to help plan the future?
What kind of experience and education does it take to be an architect? Did you know there are many classifications of engineers? Find out more at the California Architects Board and the Board for Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors, and Geologists.




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Part of a $6.7 Million Investment in California Pandemic Response and Resiliency Efforts

Editor’s note: this news release was distributed by the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency (BCSH). Click here to view a printer-friendly version of this news release on the BCSH website.

SACRAMENTO – The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) has awarded California’s Outsmart Disaster resiliency program a grant of $782,788 to expand its statewide education and training campaign to help businesses prepare for and recover from disasters.

With the new funding, approximately 1,600 small businesses will be added to the Outsmart Disaster Network of businesses that have accessed resiliency training, completed the business resiliency training, and downloaded toolkits and information to help them prepare to recover from disasters.

Business Consumer Services and Housing Agency logo“These new resources come to the state at a crucial time, as we accelerate our efforts to help California’s small businesses impacted by the economic damage of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency Secretary Lourdes Castro Ramírez. “We will be able to provide more businesses with the tools they need to get back in business faster the next time a disaster strikes, whether it be a fire, a flood, an earthquake or a pandemic.”

The funding comes from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and will go to the California Academy for Economic Development, which is administering Outsmart Disaster on behalf of the state. It is part of the latest announcement of $6.7 million that will go to California organizations to help communities and businesses respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be matched with more than $195,000 from a philanthropic donation by JPMorgan Chase & Co., furthering the reach of the program.

“We strongly believe that being prepared for the next interruption, whatever the cause, will help California’s businesses minimize the impact of such breaks and bounce back quicker,” said Gurbax Sahota, who serves as Executive Director of The Academy and President and CEO of the California Association for Local Economic Development. “The Academy is honored to partner with the state and EDA to expand the availability of such a meaningful economic development resource.”

In addition to adding new small businesses to the Outsmart Disaster Network, the federal dollars will enable regional outreach across all 58 California counties, while targeting six Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy areas, including Humboldt, Madera, Imperial and Santa Cruz counties, the San Francisco Bay Area and the Sierra Economic Development District.

“Small businesses and entrepreneurs are the backbone of our state’s diverse economy,” said Dee Dee Myers, senior advisor to Governor Newsom and director of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz). “Throughout this pandemic, they have worked tirelessly to learn best practices and connect to new tools as they pivot and adapt to the realities of an ever-changing marketplace. This new resource provides yet another opportunity for our small businesses to be as prepared as possible to survive and recover should a disaster strike.” 

Outsmart Disaster offers businesses live and pre-recorded trainings as well as a resiliency toolkit to provide them with resources to help make them more resilient. It also has a Resilient Business Challenge which walks businesses through the key steps they will need to Outsmart Disaster. The Challenge is a virtual, self-guided process that includes information on identifying risks, documenting business functions and identifying impacts of potential disruption; strengthening facilities and safeguarding data; ways to maintain relationships with vendors, partners and employees during business interruptions; understanding insurance and finances; and documenting contingency options.

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La Semana Nacional de la Protección del Consumidor es del 28 de febrero al 6 de marzo

This post originally appeared in English; to view it, click here.

La misión del Departamento de Asuntos del Consumidor (DCA, por sus siglas en inglés) de California es proteger a los consumidores californianos por medio de diferentes maneras, como la supervisión, la aplicación de la ley y la concesión de licencias a las profesiones. Además, nos esforzamos por informarle al público sobre sus derechos como consumidores y brindar recursos para empoderarlos.

Este año, la Semana Nacional de la Protección del Consumidor (NCPW, por sus siglas en inglés) de la Comisión Federal de Comercio es una opción para que el DCA –junto con nuestros socios federales, estatales y locales de todo el país– se pongan en contacto con los consumidores para informarles sobre los recursos que ofrece el DCA, para recomendarles que conozcan más sobre ellos, y para ayudarlos a comprender sus derechos y a tomar decisiones bien informadas.

Si alguna vez tuvo un problema con un contratista, con un veterinario, con un taller de reparación de automóviles o con una cosmetóloga, o se encontró con alguien que se hizo pasar por un profesional autorizado, comprenderá por qué es importante conocer cuáles son sus derechos y utilizar solo los servicios de profesionales autorizados, es decir, que tienen licencia. Una forma de protegerse de los fraudes, de las estafas y de los perjuicios financieros es verificar la licencia antes de entregar el dinero o de firmar el contrato. El DCA regula muchas industrias y las personas que están autorizadas para trabajar en ellas. Si tiene un problema, un conflicto o un desacuerdo con un profesional, puede dirigirse al DCA para presentar su queja.

El DCA también defiende los intereses de los consumidores ante los legisladores y hace cumplir las leyes del consumidor. Nuestro personal encargado de velar por el cumplimiento de la ley colabora con la oficina del fiscal general de California y con los fiscales del distrito locales para luchar contra el fraude en el mercado. De hecho, muchas investigaciones se inician a raíz de quejas de los consumidores. Si el DCA determina que existe una infracción, puede tomar medidas contra una licencia.

El DCA otorga licencias, certificados, registros y permisos en más de 250 categorías empresariales y profesionales por medio de 37 entidades reguladoras compuestas por juntas, oficinas, comités, un programa y una comisión. Estas 37 entidades establecen y hacen cumplir las cualificaciones mínimas de las profesiones y vocaciones que regulan, entre las que se encuentran casi todos los ámbitos sanitarios de California. Para comprobar si el DCA regula el sector sobre el que puede tener una queja, haga clic aquí. Hay muchos sectores comunes que el DCA no regula, por lo que es importante verificarlo antes de presentar su queja.

El DCA informa a los consumidores por medio de nuestra revista premiada Consumer Connection; nuestras páginas de Facebook, Twitter y YouTube; nuestro blog The DCA Page, y los videos de The Peel. Conozca más sobre nosotros en nuestra publicación Who We Are & What We Do. Esta publicación también está en español: Quiénes somos, qué hacemos.

Si necesita verificar una licencia o presentar una queja contra un licenciatario, llame a nuestro Centro de Información al Consumidor al (800) 952-5210 o visite www.dca.ca.gov.

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National Consumer Protection Week is February 28-March 6

The mission of the California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) is to protect California consumers through numerous avenues including oversight, enforcement, and licensure of professions. We also work hard to educate the public about their rights as consumers and provide resources to empower them.

This year, the Federal Trade Commission’s National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW) is an opportunity for DCA—and our federal, state, and local partners across the country— to connect with consumers about the resources DCA offers, encourage the public to learn more about the resources DCA provides, and help consumers understand their rights and make well-informed decisions.

If you’ve ever had a bad experience a contractor, veterinarian, automotive repair shop, cosmetologist, or encountered someone posing as a licensed professional, you understand why it’s important to know your rights and use the services of only licensed professionals. One way to protect yourself from fraud, scams, and financial harm is to check the license before money changes hands or contracts are signed. DCA regulates many industries and the people licensed to work in them. If you have an issue, dispute, or disagreement with a professional, you can turn to DCA to submit your complaint.

DCA also advocates consumer interests before lawmakers and enforces consumer laws. Our enforcement staff works with the California Attorney General’s Office and local district attorneys to fight fraud in the marketplace. In fact, many investigations are initiated by consumer complaints. If DCA determines wrongdoing, it can take action against a license.

DCA issues licenses, certificates, registrations and permits in over 250 business and professional categories through 37 regulatory entities comprised of boards, bureaus, committees, a program, and a commission. These 37 entities set and enforce minimum qualifications for the professions and vocations they regulate, which include nearly all of California’s healthcare fields. To check if DCA regulates the industry you may have a complaint about, click here. There are many common industries DCA does not regulate so it is important to check before reaching out to submit your complaint.

DCA works to educate consumers through our award-winning magazine Consumer Connection; our Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube pages; The DCA Page blog; and The Peel videos. Learn more about us in our publication Who We Are & What We Do. This publication is also available in Spanish: Quienes Somos y Que Hacemos.

If you need to verify a license or file a complaint against a licensee, call our Consumer Information Center at (800) 952-5210 or visit www.dca.ca.gov.

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Prevention is key, but contact a licensed professional for assistance

The floorboard of a wall is covered with splotches of mold.Mold can take a hold just about anywhere in your home: bathrooms, kitchens, garages, and more. Learn more about this household issue and how to prevent and control it from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.


Molds are living organisms that grow in damp places in your home. These numerous organisms can stain or discolor surfaces and smell musty.

Mold can grow almost anywhere in your home: on walls, ceilings, carpets, or furniture. Humidity or wetness—caused by water leaks, spills from bathtubs or showers, or condensation—can cause mold to grow in your home.

Mold spores are tiny particles that float through the air. These can sometimes cause health problems, and different people are affected differently when mold is breathed or inhaled. People with allergies to mold may get:

  • Watery eyes
  • Runny or stuffed noses
  • Itching
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Asthma attacks for those with this health condition

In addition, some molds produce toxins (poisons) that may be hazardous if you are exposed to large amounts of these molds. Mold spores and their mycotoxins can also pose a serious health threat to individuals who have compromised immune systems.


To prevent mold:

  • Keep your house clean and dry.
  • Fix water problems such as roof leaks, wet basements, and leaking pipes or faucets.
  • Make sure your home is well ventilated and always use ventilation fans in bathrooms and kitchens.
  • If possible, keep humidity in your house below 50% by using an air conditioner or dehumidifier.
  • Avoid using carpeting in areas of the home that may become wet, such as kitchens, bathrooms and basements.
  • Dry floor mats regularly.

To find mold that might be growing in your home:

  • Search for moisture in areas that have a damp or moldy smell, especially in basements, kitchens, and bathrooms.
  • Look for water stains or colored, fuzzy growth on and around ceilings, walls, floors, windowsills, and pipes.
  • If you smell a musty odor, search behind and underneath materials such as carpeting, furniture, or stored items.
  • Inspect kitchens, bathrooms, and basements for standing water, water stains and patches of out-of-place color.

To control moisture problems and mold:

  • Fix any water problems immediately and clean or remove wet materials, furnishings, or mold.
  • Clean up spills or floods within one day. If practical, take furniture that has been wet outside to dry and clean. Direct sunlight prevents mold growth.
  • Dry all surfaces and fix the problem or leak to prevent further damage.
  • Install a dehumidifier when a moisture problem is evident or when the humidity is high.


The California Department of Public Health has further information in multiple languages to help homeowners and renters address mold. If you contact a contractor to do related repairs, check that the professional is licensed by the Department of Consumer Affairs’ (DCA) Contractors State License Board. If you have health concerns that you suspect may be related to mold, contact one of the many health professionals licensed by DCA. You can check a professional’s license at https://search.dca.ca.gov.

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Clockwise from upper left: A Highlands Eichler home, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Union Station, and Cathedral of Christ the Light.

Clockwise from upper left: A Highlands Eichler home, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Union Station, and Cathedral of Christ the Light.

People and groups behind the places

The place names might be well-known—Hearst Castle, Ahwahnee Hotel, Union Station—but do you know the architects behind the buildings? Get to know 25 of California’s must-see structures and their architects, as compiled by USA Today and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) California Council:

  1. Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles—Frank Gehry.
  2. Ahwahnee Hotel, Yosemite—Gilbert Stanley Underwood.
  3. Hearst Castle, San Simeon—Julia Morgan.
  4. Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey—EHDD.
  5. Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala, San Diego—Fr. Jose Bernardo Sanchez.
  6. Condominium One, Sea Ranch—Moore Lyndon Turnbull Whitaker.
  7. Transamerica Pyramid, San Francisco—William Pereira.
  8. Wayfarers Chapel, Rancho Palos Verdes—Lloyd Wright.
  9. The Highlands, San Mateo—Joseph Eichler.
  10. Hallidie Building, San Francisco—Willis Polk.
  11. Marston House, San Diego—Irving John Gill.
  12. Marin County Civic Center, San Rafael—Frank Lloyd Wright.
  13. Cathedral of Christ the Light, Oakland—Craig Hartman/Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.
  14. Union Station, Los Angeles—John and Donald Parkinson (station)/Mary Colter (restaurant).
  15. Oakland Museum, Oakland—Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates/Mark Cavagnero Associates (renovation).
  16. Eames House, Los Angeles—Charles and Ray Eames.
  17. Neurosciences Institute, San Diego—Tod Williams Billie Tsein Architects.
  18. Mission Inn, Riverside—Arthur B. Benton/Myron Hunt/G. Stanley Wilson.
  19. Crown Zellerbach Building, San Francisco—Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.
  20. Salk Institute, La Jolla—Louis Kahn.
  21. King’s Road House/Schindler House, West Hollywood—Rudolph M. Schindler.
  22. H. DeYoung Memorial Museum, San Francisco—Herzog & de Meuron/Fong & Chan Architects/Hood Design.
  23. Frey House II, Palm Springs—Albert Frey.
  24. Hollyhock House, East Hollywood—Frank Lloyd Wright.
  25. Gamble House, Pasadena—Charles and Henry Greene.

The majority of these architecturally renowned locations are accessible to the public, so start planning your future California architectural journey today! For information on California’s licensed architects—or to help you design and implement your own project—visit the Department of Consumer Affairs’ California Architects Board; to check a professional’s license, visit https://search.dca.ca.gov.

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Giant cranes offload shipping containers from a cargo vessel.Shipping containers are a creative housing option

Your new home could be on the back of a big rig, chugging by on a freight train, flying in a cargo plane, or cruising into port. People are increasingly upcycling shipping containers into new housing, and you could be one of them.


Intermodal containers—commonly called shipping containers—have been in heavy commercial cargo and freight use since the 1960s, now numbering over 17 million in current global circulation. Their uniform “dry cargo” measurements (typically 8 feet by 20 or 40 feet), sturdy metal construction, and security standards allow them to be packed with goods and easily transferred via standard equipment from boat, to train, to truck in order to get items to market—and in your hands.

But what happens to the containers once they’ve made it to the end of the road? Sometimes, it’s the end of the road for the containers. While the intermodal containers often are repacked and sent back where they came from or on to other ports of call, continuing the reuse cycle, many reach their destinations and simply stay put due to logistics or return costs.

An apartment complex made of shipping containers.Those leave-behinds offer ample opportunities for other types of reuse, namely in new lives as structures. According to REAL Trends, there are more than 14 million out-of-service shipping containers around the world, some of which are now being used to construct residential houses, multi-housing developments, student accommodations, and shopping malls.


If you’re feeling inspired to make a landlocked shipping container into your new home, here are some things to consider according to Inhabitat:


  • Cost-effective—Containers’ shape and size make them ideal for repurposing into buildings. Compared to building a similar structure with brick and mortar, on average, containers can be 30% cheaper. However, the savings will depend on the location and what type of home you are building.
  • Stability—These tough-as-nails steel containers are designed to carry tons of merchandise across rough ocean tides. Earthquakes and hurricanes are virtually no match for them, which make containers an excellent choice for building a home in areas prone to natural disasters.
  • Speed—Traditional structures can take months to build, but a very simple container conversion can be as fast as two to three weeks.
  • Recycling—Repurposing the containers instead of scrapping and melting them can save a lot of energy and carbon emissions while preventing the use of and reliance upon traditional materials.
  • Safety—Good luck breaking into an all-metal shipping container!

A two-story home made of shipping containers features wood cladding and landscaping.Considerations

  • Green living—Some people are using brand-new containers instead of recycling old ones, and this completely defeats the purpose of container recycling. In addition, energy is required for modifications like sandblasting and cutting openings, and fossil fuels are often needed to move the container, making a recycled container’s ecological footprint larger than you might think.
  • Health—Shipping containers aren’t made with habitation in mind. Many shipping containers have lead-based paints on the walls and chemicals like arsenic in the floors. You must investigate and deal with these issues before moving in.
  • Temperature—Some of the biggest concerns are insulation and heat control. Large steel boxes are really good at absorbing and transmitting heat and cold. Therefore, controlling the temperature inside your shipping container can be a challenge and must be addressed for it to be habitable.
  • Building codes—With shipping-container structures still being relatively new, they have caused some issues with local building codes. You should always check to see if they meet your local regulations.

For help with shipping-container construction, contact a licensed professional: Licensees of the Department of Consumer Affairs’ California Architects Board can help you plan your intramodal home and licensees of the Contractors State License Board can make it happen, ensuring all building codes, permit requirements, and safety standards are followed. To check a professional’s license, visit https://search.dca.ca.gov.

Related Reading: Tiny Homes Are a Huge Trend

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A child lock prevents a toddler from opening a cabinet.Little things can make a big safety difference

Have a little one on the way? You’ll want to know about these 12 items recommended by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission that can make a big difference when it comes to your child’s safety:

  1. Safety latches and locks—Latches and locks for cabinets and drawers in kitchens, bathrooms, and other areas help prevent poisonings and other injuries. Safety latches and locks on cabinets and drawers can help prevent children from gaining access to medicines, household cleaners, matches, or cigarette lighters, as well as knives and other sharp objects. Even products with child-resistant packaging should be locked away and kept out of reach. This packaging is not childproof. Look for safety latches and locks that adults can easily use but are sturdy enough to withstand pulls and tugs from children.
  2. Safety gates—Help prevent falls down stairs and keep children from entering rooms and other areas with possible dangers by using safety gates. Look for safety gates that children cannot dislodge easily but that adults can open and close without difficulty. For the top of stairs, only use gates that screw into the wall. All new gates must meet current safety standards: Replace or avoid older safety gates, especially those that have “V” shapes that are large enough to entrap a child’s head and neck.
  3. Door knob covers and door locks—These items prevent children from entering rooms and other areas with possible dangers. Be sure the door knob covers are sturdy and allow doors to be opened quickly by an adult in case of an emergency.
  4. Anti-scald devices—Anti-scald devices regulate water temperature and can help reduce the likelihood of burns. Also be sure to set your water heater temperature no higher than 120 degrees to help prevent burns.
  5. Smoke alarms—Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside each bedroom, and outside sleeping areas to alert you to fires. Smoke alarms are essential safety devices for protection against fire deaths and injuries. Check smoke alarms once a month to make sure they’re working, and change batteries at least once a year or consider using 10-year batteries for alarms.
  6. Window guards and locks—These items help prevent falls from windows, balconies, decks, and landings. Check these safety devices frequently to make sure they are secure and properly installed and maintained. Use them to limit window openings to four inches or less, including the space between the window guard bars. If you have window guards, be sure at least one window in each room can be easily used for escape in a fire. Remember: Window screens are not effective for preventing children from falling out of windows.
  7. Corner and edge bumpers—Bumpers help prevent injuries from falls against sharp edges of furniture and fireplaces. Look for bumpers that stay or stick securely on furniture or hearth edges.
  8. Outlet covers and plates—Help prevent electrocution with outlet covers and outlet plates, which can help protect children from electrical shock and possible electrocution. Be sure outlet protectors cannot be easily removed by children and are large enough so that children cannot choke on them. If you are replacing receptacles, use a tamper-resistant type.
  9. Carbon monoxide alarms—These alarms specifically alert you to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Install these items near sleeping areas and change their batteries at least once a year.
  10. Cordless window coverings—The commission recommends using cordless window coverings in homes with young children to help prevent strangulation. Children can wrap window covering cords around their necks or can pull cords that are not clearly visible, but are accessible, and become entangled in the loops. If you have window blinds from 2000 or earlier and you cannot afford new, cordless window coverings, call the Window Covering Safety Council at (800) 506-4636 or visit windowcoverings.org for a free repair kit. In addition, window blinds that have an inner cord (for raising the slats of the blinds) can be pulled by a child and form a potentially deadly loop. Consumers should immediately repair these types of blinds. Please note that these free retrofit kits do not address the dangling pull cord hazard associated with many common window blinds.
  11. Furniture and appliance anchors—Deaths and injuries occur when children climb onto, fall against, or pull themselves up on television stands, shelves, bookcases, dressers, desks, chests, and ranges so, for added security, anchor these products to the floor or attach them to a wall. Free-standing ranges and stoves should be installed with anti-tip brackets.
  12. A pool fence prevents a toddler from falling in.Layers of protection for pools and spas—Pools and spas should be surrounded by safety features including fences with self-closing, self-latching gates. If your house serves as a side of the barrier, doors heading to the pool should have an alarm or the pool should have a power safety cover. Pool alarms can serve as an additional layer of protection. Remember: Sliding glass doors, with locks that must be re-secured after each use, are not an effective barrier to pools.

The good news is that the risk of injury can be reduced or prevented by using child-safety devices and reminding older children in the house to re-secure safety devices after disabling them. Most of these safety devices are easy to find and are relatively inexpensive. You can buy them at hardware stores, baby equipment shops, supermarkets, drug stores, home improvement stores, on the internet, and through mail-order catalogs. Safety devices should be sturdy enough to hinder access and yet easy for you to use. To be effective, they must be properly installed: Follow installation instructions carefully.

However, no device is completely childproof—determined youngsters have been known to overcome or disable them. While these items can and do make a vital difference for children’s safety, there is ultimately no substitute for close and careful parental supervision.

For assistance in installing these devices in your home, and for other around-the-house safety improvement help, contact a professional licensed by the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Contractors State License Board; to check a professional’s license, visit https://search.dca.ca.gov.

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A taxi zooms down a busy city street bordered by green trees on each side.A new study correlates increased numbers of street trees to reduced antidepressant prescriptions, emphasizing the positive role even the smallest and simplest amounts of urban greenspace can play in our mental health.

Experts from Germany’s Leipzig University and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research analyzed health data from almost 10,000 inhabitants of the mid-size city of Leipzig. By combining that data with the number and species types of street trees throughout the city, the researchers were able to identify the association between antidepressant prescriptions and the number of street trees at different distances from people’s homes.

Even after controlling for other factors known to be associated with depression—such as employment, gender, age, and weight—the researchers found that, the more trees that were immediately around homes and apartments (closer than about 300 feet), the less likely the residents were to take antidepressants.

A man wearing a backpack walks on a city sidewalk bordered by trees.“Our finding suggests that street trees—a small scale, publicly accessible form of urban greenspace—can help close the gap in health inequalities between economically different social groups,” said lead author Dr. Melissa Marselle.

“Our study shows that everyday nature close to home—the biodiversity you see out of the window or when walking or driving to work, school, or shopping—is important for mental health,” added study researcher Dr. Diana Bowler, noting that these mental health findings are especially important now in times of pandemic stay-at-home needs.

Landscape architects licensed by the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Landscape Architects 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. For assistance with tree pruning and upkeep, contact a tree service contractor licensed by the Contractors State License Board.  If you are concerned that you may be experiencing depression, 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. Check a professional’s license at https://search.dca.ca.gov.

Related Reading: The True Value of Trees; Study: Living Near Green Spaces Means Lower Smoking Rates

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