To help ensure families protect their children from lead poisoning, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently announced new Guidelines on how to identify and control lead-based paint and related hazards in housing, and to help property owners, government agencies, and private contractors sharply reduce childhood exposure to lead without unnecessarily increasing the cost of renovation. This second edition of the guidelines replaces the 1995 edition.

“HUD is committed to providing healthier housing for all families,” says Jon L. Gant, Director of HUD’s Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control. “These Guidelines will help communities around the nation protect families from lead exposure and other significant health and safety hazards.”

The Guidelines for the Evaluation and Control of Lead-Based Paint Hazards in Housing support HUD’s vision to reduce hazards in housing in a cost-effect manner while protecting the health of children. The Guidelines apply to lead hazard evaluation and control in all federally associated housing.

These Guidelines can be used by those who are required to identify and control lead paint hazards, as well as property owners, landlords, and child-care center operators. They offer helpful advice on renovations in older housing, lead-based paint inspections and risk assessments, and where to go for help. The Guidelines also outline what users have to do to meet requirements and recommendations; identify training – and if applicable, certification – required for people who conduct the work; and describe how the work should be done.

The Guidelines complement regulations that have been issued by HUD, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and policies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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Today’s modern world shows how much our relationship with animals has changed, says animal chiropractic consultant Dr. Rod Block.

“Back before the mechanical wonders of industrialization, we relied upon animals to carry the brunt of our work; essentially, their purpose was to haul loads, plow fields and chase down prey,” says Block, author of “Like Chiropractic for Elephants,” a book in part about his experience treating elephants and other animals for chiropractic problems.

“Today, tractors and other marvels of the post-industrial era have largely replaced the duties of the working animal. In a world where humans distance themselves more and more from one another, these animals have become our companions, family members and closest confidantes.”

More friends and custodians of animals – including dogs, horses and, yes, elephants – realize that they too suffer from spinal irregularities, he says.

“Of course, any living creature with a spine is vulnerable to injury, which can incur years of suffering and even death,” he says.

With that in mind, he offers gift ideas for the furry family member that cannot tell you with language what it needs:

• Dog harnesses: For those who haven’t already noticed, collars and choke chains hurt dogs that have a habit of pulling during walks. Collars centralize stress on their neck. Ideally, you should train your dog to not pull — there are how-to books and programs that can help. In the meantime, and even after successful training, a dog harness works best on that rare occasion when, for example, a squirrel piques their interest. Harnesses appropriately distribute weight throughout a canine’s torso. They’re also appropriate for cats on leashes.

• Need a chiropractor? … Some animals go many years before their caretakers realize they have a significant mobility problem, or that there is an affordable solution to the problem. Many simply do not consider alternative health measures for their horse, dog or cat; they think their only options are expensive, invasive surgery, or nothing. To spot problems early, always monitor how they walk or run, and how they hold their head. “Pay attention to their movements, and how they respond to touch,” he says.

• Don’t overfeed: An overfed dog or cat, just like an obese human, experiences damaging health consequences. Excess weight puts stress on the skeleton and joints, and obese cats and dogs can get diabetes. Feed them the appropriate amount of pet food, and do not give them scrap from the dinner table. If your dog has grown accustomed to begging at meal times, put him in another room when you sit down at the table. Our pets do not have the right digestion system for many human foods.

• Dog beds: Know your dog. You wouldn’t give a child’s bed to a large adult; consider what’s appropriate for your dog’s length, weight and sleeping style. This knowledge will help you when confronted with the many styles of beds: bagel, doughnut and bolster beds; cuddler or nest beds; dog couches; round, rectangle or square beds; or elevated beds with frames. Also, consider manufacturer differences. Each may have its own definition of “large dog,” for example.

• Holistic options: As health-care avenues have expanded for humans, so too have they for pets. Often, the answer for human and animal well-being is not an overload of prescription medication. Acupuncture is a valid option with no adverse side affects that has shown positive results, especially for large animals like horses. In general, use common sense; an overstressed environment is not good for any living thing. Consider researching the latest alternative-health options for your animal.

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*By Barbara Pronin, RISMedia Columnist

It’s possible to reduce home energy costs by as much as a third this year by following four simple recommendations.

“Fans, lighting, doors and windows can suck up a lot of energy,” said Do-it-Yourself video host Jeff Meacham. You can improve efficiency and save money in four main areas.”

Ceiling fans – Clean the blades with a dusting cloth and some white vinegar. The reduced weight will make them rotate more easily, reducing the motor effort and saving energy. Also, for maximum efficiency, flip the switch in winter so the fan rotates clockwise, forcing warm air down into the room. Come summer, switch it back so the blades rotate to the right.

Lighting – Spiral shaped CFL bulbs use about a third of the energy of regular light bulbs. (They also emit less heat, so you can save on air conditioning costs in summer.) Switching to the new bulbs can save you as much as $200 per light over 20 years.

Heat loss through doors –
 Adding a tight seal of weather stripping around your front door provides a barrier against escaping heat. Place the weather stripping along the inner door jambs on both the top and sides. Press snugly into place and check to make sure the door closes fully and securely. Adding a door sweep to the bottom of the door will also help to seal heat in – and stopping the loss of heat is a win-win for your budget and the environment.

Water drips and temps – Fix dripping faucets. A single dripping hot water faucet can waste 212 gallons of water a month, increasing the cost of water and gas or electricity for heating. Set the water heater to 140 degrees or ‘normal’ if you have a dishwasher, If not, set the water temp to 120 degrees or ‘low.’

*By Barbara Pronin, RISMedia Consumer Columnist

For some people, an afternoon nap is a signal you are losing your edge. For others –and not just for the elderly – naps can be a valued way of life. Most people, say the sleep experts at the Mayo Clinic, fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. But whether you’re sleep-deprived or looking for a way to relax, it’s good to understand when and how to get the most out of napping.

The Upsides

Napping offers various benefits for healthy adults:


Reduced fatigue

Increased alertness

Improved mood

Improved performance, including quicker reaction time, better memory,and fewer accidents or mistakes

The Downsides:

Sleep inertia – some people may feel groggy or disoriented after napping

Nighttime sleep problems – while short naps do not generally affect nighttime sleep patterns, napping could worsen problems for those who generally sleep poorly.

The bottom line:

Experts agree you should consider taking a nap if you are not feeling well, if you are feeling unusually fatigued, or if you are about to experience sleep loss, such as having to work an unexpected night shift. Under normal circumstances, to get the most out of napping, consider these simple tips:

Keep it short – A 10 to 30 minute nap provides the best opportunity to wake up feeling refreshed – and some people claim that a 10-minute power nap dramatically increases productivity.

Make it restful – Nap in a dim, quiet place with few distractions and a comfortable temperature.

Time it right – The optimal time to nap is midafternoon, the time when you may experience after-lunch drowsiness or a lower level of alertness. Naps taken between 2 and 3 p.m. are less likely to interfere with nighttime sleep. Also, sticking to the same schedule is helpful if you plan to make napping a part of your daily routine.

*By Dr. Judith S. Black

Helping older family members stay safe, secure and independent begins with preparation in the home.

Learn how to help seniors stay safe and healthy by following these tips:

  • Since snow and ice and other adverse weather conditions raise the risk of falls during the winter season, it is important to wear appropriate footwear – comfortable shoes with anti-slip soles. This will help secure footing on icy or snowy walks, stairs or driveways.
  • Check where you regularly walk and be aware of any surfaces that may present a slip or fall risk. Be sure rugs are flat and secure, especially since footwear in the winter tends to be a bit heavier and bulkier than in the warmer weather months.
  • Flu seasons are unpredictable and can be severe. If you haven’t done so already, it is not too late to call your friends and family members to remind them to get a flu shot. Getting a flu shot can help prevent complications in older adults and anyone with asthma, diabetes, anemia and other heart and lung problems. Call your doctor today to discuss and schedule your flu shot.
  • I also recommend getting a pneumococcal (pneumonia) shot. Unlike the flu shot, which is different each year and is given before the start of the influenza season, the pneumococcal shot can be given at any time of the year. However, for convenience, the pneumococcal shot can be given at the same time as the flu shot.
  • At this time of the year, it is also important for senior citizens to be protected from the cold temperatures. Every year, many elderly people die from hypothermia and exposure since our bodies are less able to protect us from dangerously cold weather if they have to be outdoors.
  • Finally, diet and exercise should not be neglected during the winter months. While you may not want to venture outside for a walk, it is important to stay active with light exercises indoors.

Dr. Judith S. Black has been the medical director for senior markets at Highmark Inc.

Three out of every four motorists are focusing on something other than driving while behind the wheel, according to a poll conducted by Leger Marketing. With the aim of shedding light on the fact that dangerous driving isn’t limited to the standard categories of speeding or drunk driving, is drawing attention to the lesser known instances of distracted driving to help inform consumers about safety and its impact on insurance. Their list of seven driving distractions is as follows:

1. Using a cell phone. Even though there are laws and legislation in many cities, people still have the tendency to use their cell phone while driving. If you are talking or texting and are involved in an auto accident, you could be charged with “careless driving with undo care and attention,” and could face a serious conviction that comes with a fine of up to $1,000. This type of conviction, coupled with all the implications that are tied to an auto accident, could impact your automobile insurance premium by thousands of dollars every year for at least six years.

2. Eating and drinking. Whether you are drinking hot coffee or eating fast food, your attention can be diverted away from the road, increasing the chance of a collision.

3. Grooming. Applying makeup and even shaving while behind the wheel means a drivers’ attention is taken away from the road and decreases their ability to apply defensive driving techniques.

4. Reading/writing. Yes that’s right, even a GPS system that’s attached to the dashboard can pose a potential danger as it can take the driver’s eyes away from the road. A split second is all it takes!

5. Outside distractions, including everything from billboards to movies in other vehicles; it’s easy to get distracted and it’s important to always maintain focus while driving.

6. Animals/pets. As much as pets can be a companion on long road trips, a barking dog or a pet blocking your view can be a distraction. If you’re traveling with animals, it’s important to have them in a proper crate to avoid any safety hazards.

7. Passenger distractions. Maintaining focus while driving with screaming children or emotional passengers can be a difficult task. Remaining calm is essential for the safety of both the driver and fellow passengers.

“Most people don’t consider minor distractions behind the wheel, such as children or pets as dangerous driving; however, at-fault accidents, regardless of the cause, can affect consumer’s rates in a negative manner,” explains Tammy Ezer, marketing director,

It is important for consumers to stay safe and be well informed about the different options available for car insurance. Be sure to comparison shop to obtain the best auto insurance rates.

If you need to start a new policy, or would like a quote to replace a current one, call us today or send us a message from our website.