With smoke from wildfires, valley air quality looks unpredictable for near future

With wildfires burning throughout the state, in addition to recent local grass fires, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District continues to warn the public about poor air quality, including incidents of severely bad air that may occur sporadically in the coming days.

For a few hours late Saturday, the amount of fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) in the air spiked in Bakersfield and all eight counties across the San Joaquin Valley air district, to a Level 5, the highest level, where all people are advised to remain indoors.

By the next day, Bakersfield had clearer skies and air quality was back down to a moderate range. District officials said winds temporarily pushed smoke into the valley during that several hour period.

“All that pollution literally just inundated the entire San Joaquin Valley,” said Cassandra Melching, outreach and communication representative for the air district.

Because the air can be safe at one point in the day and dangerous at another, depending upon wind flows, Melching said an air quality alert is standing for all areas.

On Saturday, regions farther north in close proximity to the fire were substantially affected, Melching said, with Oakhurst in Madera County reaching a PM 2.5 concentration of 246 micrograms per cubic meter. It takes only 75 micrograms to reach level five risk. Bakersfield hit 87 micrograms that same day.

“We can’t quite say who is going to be impacted the most and when…It doesn’t mean that every single day our air quality is bad,” Melching said.

Glen Stephens, air pollution control officer of the Eastern Kern Air Pollution Control District, said the district has not released any alerts, but is tracking the smoke levels. He said there is less of a concern in eastern Kern County and mountain areas compared to valley locations like Bakersfield, but that there is still poor air quality.

“It’s generally bad. Right now it’s bad because of ozone, not because of the fire,” Stephens said.

The best way to know whether it is safe to be outdoors is by tracking your location on the Valley Air app or online at valley air.org. It is especially important for sensitive groups such as the elderly and those with asthma to remain cautious and updated.

Melching said to also be aware of the potential for ash in the air, which is most likely when temperatures cool down and is not monitored in the air quality levels.

“If you smell smoke, or if you see ash falling, you are being impacted,” Melching said.

Ways to reduce your risk of being affected by the smoke are to limit outdoor exercise, stay hydrated, change your air air filters and keep windows shut.

Article source: www.bakersfield.com/news/with-smoke-from-wildfires-valley-air-quality-looks-unpredictable-for/article_ad179f8e-99d4-11e8-88fb-ff92b41270ae.html

Asbestos found in some crayons, consumer group finds

Parents buying school supplies for grammar schoolers would be wise to avoid Playskool crayons. The brand, sold at Dollar Tree, was found to have trace elements of asbestos.

“The good news is that when we were testing three years ago, all sorts of brands came back with asbestos,” said Kara Cook-Schultz, toxics director at U.S. Public Interest Research Group, which conducts annual tests of toys and school supplies. “Now it’s just this one.”

Indeed, in tests run in 2015, many major brands, including Disney Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Crayons and Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crayons, contained trace amounts of asbestos fibers — a substance that can cause breathing difficulties and cancer if inhaled. Although the Consumer Product Safety Commission acknowledged that it was unclear whether the asbestos trapped in crayon wax posed a danger, it noted that kids sometimes eat crayons and recommended that parents avoid asbestos-containing brands as a precaution. Since then, most brands have revamped their crayon manufacturing process to eliminate even trace elements of asbestos fibers.

However, in tests run this year on green Playskool crayons, U.S. PIRG found tremolite fibers — a type of asbestos. A handful of other products that U.S. PIRG tested also contained dangerous chemicals, according to the organization’s just released back-to-school report.

  • Blue three-ring binders made by Jot and sold at Dollar Tree tested positive for phthalates, a substance linked with asthma, obesity and lower-IQ scores, for instance.
  • Dry erase markers made by Expo and The Board Dudes tested positive for carcinogenic BTEX chemicals, such as benzene, xylene, and toluene.
  • Additionally, two types of children’s water bottles were previously recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission for containing lead — Reduce Hydro Pro Furry Friends water bottle, sold at Costco and Amazon, and GSI Outdoors Children’s Water Bottles, sold at L.L. Bean. Despite the recall, a CBS New reporter was able to order the Hydro Pro Furry Friends product from Costco online. A Costco spokesman failed to return a reporter’s phone calls.

Retailers and manufacturers of these products said they were scrambling Monday to evaluate the PIRG data, which some said conflicted with their own laboratory tests.

A spokesman for Dollar Tree said all of its children’s products are independently tested and meet all legal and safety standards.

Julie Duffy, a spokeswoman for Hasbro, which owns the Playskool brand, said the company would investigate the US PIRG claims thoroughly, “including working with Leap Year, the licensee of the product.”

“We are aware of a report of trace amounts of asbestos being detected in a small amount of product testing conducted by a private group and are reviewing our own certified lab testing, which to our knowledge, passes all regulatory requirements and had no detectable asbestos,” added a spokesman for LeapYear.  “We will issue a formal statement upon the completion of our review.  Consumer safety is most important to Leap Year and we take these matters very seriously.”

The bright side: The vast majority of products tested by U. S. PIRG this year were found to be devoid of toxic chemicals. U.S. PIRG also tested glue, lunch boxes, spiral notebooks and rulers, as well as multiple other types of crayons and pens. Indeed, Cook-Schultz said the Art and Creative Materials Institute has also begun testing and labeling products and all of the ACMI-labeled items proved safe.

“I think there’s good news here for parents,” said Cook-Schultz. “You can look for these labels and buy safe products.”

— This story has been corrected to exclude Crayola and Rose Art crayons from those found to have trace amounts of asbestos in 2015. Both brands tested negative for asbestos that year.

The Truth about Mold: Preventing Summertime Risks and Beyond

Mold is a common household nuisance and is found both inside and outside in varying amounts. For some people, mold and its spores cause very few problems, while for others it can be devastating—even life threatening. In the U.S., there are over two million children with chronic and other serious conditions that are at higher risk for the dangers that mold in their homes and schools can cause. This is due to their weakened immune systems that leave them more susceptible to infection and allow mold to have a more harmful impact. As many as one-third of the children in the U.S., including those who are considered to be “healthy,” are at risk for allergic reactions to mold. Babies that have been exposed to mold, even without incident, may be at a higher risk for developing allergies and even asthma as they get older, which is why mold exposure can be damaging even if no negative symptoms are immediately detected.

Symptoms of mold allergies are typically similar to those of other allergies, which can make it harder to determine the cause. These include sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, wheezing, and coughing. However, symptoms can escalate to more serious problems such as respiratory and circulatory issues. Mold flourishes in warm, damp environments, which is why warm summer temperatures frequently stir up mold allergies. Make sure to stock the medicine cabinet with the appropriate tools and treatments for babies and small children in order to be prepared to treat any symptoms.

t is important for local health departments to take steps to educate families in their area on this issue to prevent easily avoidable dangers. The remainder of this blog include valuable tips and resources on mitigating health risks related to mold exposure.

Stopping Mold Before It Grows

Prevention is always easier than treatment, especially with mold. Once it gets started, some molds are more difficult to control and may require additional treatments and work. Local health departments should educate their community members on taking the following preventative measures to reduce health risks associated with mold exposure.

Reduce humidity in the home:

  • Because mold thrives in warm and wet conditions, try to keep dampness to a minimum. Install a dehumidifier if necessary. Open windows for ventilation, but close them when there are reports of higher humidity levels.

Household plants:

  • Keep houseplants to a minimum in rooms that may be at higher risk of mold growth, such as rooms with high moisture levels and low ventilation.
  • This is especially important in rooms that do not get visited often, such as the basement, where signs of mold growth can go undetected for longer periods of time.

Bathroom:

  • Do not use carpeting in the bathroom, especially with children. Use washable mats or a towel on the floor instead. Dry the floor as soon as possible.
  • Bathrooms are particularly vulnerable to mold growth, because they often do not have windows, which makes ventilating the damp area more difficult. If there is a window, open it often to dry out the bathroom.
  • If there is an exhaust fan in the bathroom, turn it on as soon as the bath is done so that the room gets dried up quickly.
  • Other common areas for mold growth include the shower curtain and around the bathtub and the sinks.

Kitchen:

  • Any appliances that require water are common places for leaks and mold growth. Be sure to inspect under refrigerators, icemakers, dishwashers, coffee makers, etc.

Pipes/ Drainage:

  • Repair any leaking pipes. Clean up any water immediately and use a fan to make sure that any moisture is dried.
  • Increase the drainage away from the house to protect against leaks.

Summer Toys: The Perfect Hiding Spot for Mold

Pool, bath, and teething toys are breeding grounds for mold, because they can hold a lot of moisture and harbor mold growth undetected for long periods of time. Local health departments should provide the following prevention and treatment tips to limit mold exposure for children engaging in summertime activities and during bath time.

Pool toys:

  • During summer months, kids are playing with many moisture-laden toys to keep cool such as pool noodles, water guns, absorbent animals and balls, and all sorts of inflatable pool toys. Make sure these and other water-friendly toys are squeezed out and left out to dry before storing them after use.
  • Eliminate the risk by using alternative toys such as measuring cups, stacking blocks, and other items without places for water to hide. The advantage of these toys is the ability to toss them directly in the dishwasher after swimming or a bath.

Pool garments:

  • Swimsuits and towels are also used and re-used frequently in the summertime. Do not leave either of these sitting in a ball somewhere. It is important to pick them up and spread them out in a ventilated or breeze spot so they can completely dry out before use.
  • Be sure to regularly wash suits, towels, and any other damp clothing.

Bath toys:

  • For regular bath toys, one option is to plug the small holes with water-resistant glue. This keeps them from squeaking and/or shooting water but keeps them mold free.
  • Boil bath toys about once a week, and allow them to air dry completely.
  • Soak toys in white vinegar overnight to clean them. The vinegar odor will dissipate as it dries.

Teething toys:

  • Teething toys can also harbor moisture for mold to grow. Squeeze all of the water or drool out of rubber or mesh teething toys and clean them using a damp cloth.
  • Teething and bath toys can be run through the sanitize cycle on the dishwasher and then allowed to air dry.

A Surprising Source of Mold

One of the most surprising sources of mold problems can be found in children’s sippy cups/water bottles, used increasingly often during summer months as a source of hydration. Many people do not completely disassemble sippy cups when they are cleaning them, greatly increasing the potential for mold growth. Local health departments should provide the following cleaning steps for sippy cups/ water bottles to minimize and eliminate mold growth:

Sippy cups:

  • If there is a rubber or plastic ring on the lid of the sippy cup, make sure to pull it out and rinse under it carefully.
  • Look for sippy cups with solid, one-piece lids, but make sure to clean the spout or drinking straw as well.
  • All of the cups and parts can be washed in the dishwasher. Make sure that everything is completely dry before reassembling them.

Water bottles:

  • Disposable water bottles should not be reused, not only because of the risk of mold but because the plastic can leach into the water and can be harmful to a child’s health.
  • Metal water bottles are good because they keep drinks cooler and are easy to sanitize in the dishwasher.
  • Whenever in doubt over whether mold was completely cleaned from a toy, it is best to be safe and throw it out.

The Critical Role of Local Health Departments

Families with young children should be able to enjoy cooling off in the summer heat risk-free. Unfortunately, many parents and guardians are unaware of the hidden dangers that lurk in the nooks and crannies of their child’s toys. As a result, it is vital that local health departments provide ongoing and visible guidance to highlight the various health risks associated with mold and how to protect their child from exposure. For example, local health officials can disseminate the facts and tips included in this blog via their websites and social media pages, or by engaging in traditional community outreach (e.g., distributing pamphlets, one-pagers).

Asbestos exposure at West Los Angeles apartment complex leaves 15 people displaced

 

14 Summer Vacation Ideas From Romantic Getaways to Family Vacations and All-Inclusive Resorts

It’s the season for summer vacations — or at least planning one. You’ve hoarded your days off and have been eyeing some free time in the sun. Or, maybe a new city. Actually, what about getting away from it all and embracing the great outdoors?

If you’re as indecisive as we are after typing that paragraph, we don’t blame you. There are so many great summer destinations out there, confidently picking one to spend your summer vacation is half the battle. Then you have to worry about finding the best hotels and looking up things to do in each destination.

Fear not! We’re here to help. You see, the benefit of being a travel magazine is that we’re constantly reading up on some of the most exciting destinations out there and we can piece together for you, dear reader, what might be the summer vacation you’re looking for.

Below, we’ve included our picks for the best summer vacation spots of 2018. Whether you’re looking for your next city break, all-inclusive resort, outdoor adventure, romantic getaway, you’re traveling with the family, or you’re like us and travel for the hotel — we’ve got something for you.

Summer Vacation Ideas for 2018

Weekend Getaways

Idaho: Adventure Awaits in the Gem State

Hiking Near Sun Valley - Weekend Getaways in Idaho

Photo courtesy of Idaho Tourism

Idaho is known for its famous potato farms, but there’s far more to the Gem State than carbs. Writer Melynda Harrison takes us through some of the best weekend getaways in Idaho that will drop you off in front of rugged mountains, placid lakes, and canyons that’ll give you a new appreciation for Idaho and its pristine outdoors.

Ohio: Amish Ambiance and Hippy Haunts

Berlin Ohio Amish Country - Weekend Getaways in Ohio

Laura Blake

When you hear “Ohio,” a rather plain, homogeneous image probably comes to mind. (Though if you’re from the Buckeye State, you know better.) If that’s you, then you’re sorely mistaken. Fact is, Ohio is an incredibly diverse state from its urban hubs of Cleveland Cincinnati to its Amish towns and hippy headquarters in Yellow Springs. Find out more about the heart of it all in our weekend getaways in Ohio guide.

Upstate New York: Nature and Historic Charm

Weekend Getaways in New York

Photo courtesy of I Love NY

More than enough has been said on New York City, so get out of town and see what’s going on upstate with our friends at Compass + Twine. From Buffalo to Ithaca, they share their favorite weekend getaways in New Yorkfeaturing recently-renovated inns and delectable farm-to-table restaurants surrounded by incredible outdoor adventures.

Looking for something closer to your neck of the woods? Check out more of our weekend getaways.

Summer Family Vacations

Tech-Free Family Vacation Ideas

Tech Free Family Vacation Ideas

Edward Cisneros, Unsplash

You don’t need a study to tell us that we’re spending too much time on technology these days. (But if you do, research confirms.) That means both you and your family could stand for some time away from the devices and out enjoying your natural surroundings. That’s why we hooked up with 12 family bloggers to share their tips on where to go for a family vacation away from the screens. From Helen, Georgia and Key West to Oceanside, California and Medora, North Dakota, your next family vacation might be closer than you think.

Moms Know Best: The 19 Best Family-Friendly Hotels

Mom and Daughter

London Scout, Unsplash

There’s never been a shortage of parenting advice. Even people without kids chime in these days to give their two cents. To give you the best advice out there, we went straight to the experts themselves — the moms. Nineteen family bloggers shared their favorite family-friendly hotels of 2018 where you can comfortably book your stay and know that you’ll be surrounded by a slew of family-friendly activities.

City Breaks

Detroit: A City Untapped

the-foundation-hotel-detroit-room

Beyond the post-apocalyptic ruins and “most dangerous city” moniker, Detroit is a city untapped. Here we took a look at the 7 coolest hotels in Detroit that are reshaping the Motor City’s beguiling past into its exciting future. Near these hotels, you’ll find all kinds of things to do in Detroit from rocking out to local music to enjoying a pint of local craft beer.

View Hotels in Detroit

Denver: “Create, Drink and Be Merry”

Things to do in Denver

Evan Simon, Visit Denver

There’s really never a bad time to visit Denver — one of the sunniest cities in the United States. Sure, it gets a little toasty in the summer with the average high reaching the upper 80s in July and August, but it cools right back down to the 50s at night. In our Art of the City look at Denver, writer Lauren Monitz dove in further beyond what’s already known in the Mile High City to show off the indie music scene, outdoor art, and some of the best places to eat.

View Hotels in Denver

Kansas City: The Paris of the Plains

Lobby The Fontaine

As Kansas City-native and writer Laura Watilo Blake put it, Kansas City is on a roll. That’s not just because of the new streetcar rolling up and down Main Street. It’s also thanks to the new hospitality options popping up in the city that undeniably make this so-called ‘Paris of the Plains’ decidedly cool. Follow Laura through her return to KC as she visits the coolest hotels in town and reexplores her favorite hotspots.

View Hotels in Kansas City

 

Romantic Getaways

Hotel Tips from the World’s Happiest Couples

Hotel Habits and Travel Tips for Couples from the World's Happiest Couples

Toa Heftiba, Unsplash

Every couple travels differently, so it’s hard to say precisely what the best romantic getaway is for your and your significant other. But, if we were to source couples from around the world, odds are we’ll be that much closer to hitting the nail on the head. That’s exactly what we did when we sought out hotel tips from some of the world’s happiest couples. Whether you’re eyeing something in Europe, Central America, or you’re looking to stay Stateside, there’s a romantic hotel (and getaway) waiting for you.

Sip and Savor Texas Wine Country

Sip and Savor the Big Flavors of Texas Wine Country

We’re not sure about the exact math, but we’d estimate that 99 percent of wine travelers have had a, let’s say, successful romantic getaway. If you’re looking for something you might not expect — that is, away from the familiarity of Napa — then think about planning a trip to some Texas wineries. Writer Elaine N. Schoch shares her favorite stops for wine in Texas Hill Country as well as where to stay to make the most of your romantic getaway.

Snuggle Up In Georgia

romantic getaways in georgia

Okay, summer might not be the ideal temperature for a trip through Georgia, but have a glass of sweet tea and you’ll cool off in no time. Besides, you simply can’t beat the slew of romantic getaways in Georgia. From the rolling hills and lush meadows to the charming cobbled streets — you and yours will feel that southern welcome as soon as you step outside and breathe that fresh Dixie air.

 

Adults Only All-Inclusive Resorts

Costa Rica: Adults Only in the Land of Pura Vida

occidental-papagayo-pool-adultsonly-allinclusive-costarica

People know about Costa Rica through its reputation for natural splendor from the lush tropical forests to the rolling surf along the Guanacasteco Pacific coast. With that in mind, we fixated our eye on the best all-inclusive resorts in Costa Rica with a nod to those with an adults-only spin. Start planning and enjoy your taste of the pura vida.

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Florida: An Adults Only Playground

Adults-Only Resorts and Hotels

Angelina Litvin, Unsplash

We know what you’re thinking. “Florida? In the summer? Will I ever not sweat again?” Yes, summer in Florida sends the mercury bursting out of the thermometer, but nobody is suggesting you roast yourself on the side of Jacksonville sidewalk. Instead, head to an adults only, all-inclusive resort where you can camp out by the pool, dip in whenever you’re hot, then retreat back under the shade when the sun gets to be a bit much. You’ll thank us later.

Caribbean: Check Off The Beach Boys’ Bucket List

Adults Only All Inclusive Resorts Caribbean

The Caribbean is once again open for business after fighting to recover from last year’s tropical storms. Of course, you can continue to donate to charities like the American Redcross and GlobalGiving, who have facilitated hurricane relief efforts in the region, but another way you can contribute is by giving them your tourist dollars. With our list of Caribbean adults only, all-inclusive resorts, you can feel good about your summer vacation.

 

 

*Feature image courtesy of Thiago Cerqueira

12 Maintenance Tips to Get Your Home Ready for Spring

Maintaining a healthy home goes beyond dusting and vacuuming. When is the last time you checked your smoke alarms? How about the last time you cleaned out your dryer vent? Follow the tips below to make sure your family and home are ready for a happy, clean spring season.

Clean Gutters

Grab a ladder, and check your gutters for debris. Remove as much as you can with your hands (Don’t forget to wear gloves!). Remove any leftover gunk with a garden hose. Take off any nozzle and have a helper turn on the water when you’re ready. Shove the hose into the downspout to power out of gooseneck bends. Make sure your downspouts channel water at least five feet from foundation walls.

Scrub Walls, Baseboards and Outlets

Scrub all the walls — in the bathroom, kitchen, bedrooms and living areas — with a sponge or brush and mild soap and water. This includes baseboards and outlets. Make sure to completely dry outlet covers before replacing.

Replace Filters

Tom DiPace/AP Images

Replace all filters including water, range hood and air vent filters. You should replace these filters every 3-6 months depending on the type of filter you have.

Clean Faucets and Showerheads

Unscrew the faucet aerators, sink sprayers and showerheads, and soak them in equal parts vinegar and water solution. Let them soak for an hour, then rinse with warm water.

Clean Out the Dryer Vent

Sarah Wilson / Getty Images

A clogged dryer vent can be a fire hazard. To clean it, disconnect the vent from the back of the machine and use a dryer vent brush to remove lint. Outside your house, remove the dryer vent cover and use the brush to remove lint from the other end of the vent line. Make sure the vent cover flap moves freely.

Wash Exterior Windows

Hire a window-cleaning service to clean all exterior windows.

Keep Allergens Away

Photos: Christopher Shane/Styling: Elizabeth Demos

Keep dust, mold and pollen at bay by decluttering your home, checking pipes for leaks and keeping the air clean. Follow these 5 steps to an allergy-free home>>

Check Foundation Vents

A house with a crawl space has vents along the foundation walls. The vents provide air circulation that helps prevent excess moisture and mold growth, and they prevent critters from taking up residence underneath your home. The screens collect leaves and other debris from fall and winter. Spring is a great time to clean them out and check for damage. Clean the vents by hand or use a shop vacuum. Repair any damaged screens — critters can get through even the smallest holes.

Clean the Grill

Frank Murray

Your grill has most likely collected dust during fall and winter. Help your grill live a long life with these maintenance tips, whether you have a charcoal or gas grill.

Prep Your Garden

Julie Forney

You can’t have a successful garden without good soil. Follow these tips on how to prepare your soil to help you grow a lush garden.

Test Smoke Alarms

Test smoke alarms and CO detectors, and change out batteries as needed. It’s cheap, only takes a few minutes and can save your family’s lives.

Clean Outdoor Furniture

Emilee Ramsier

Outdoor entertaining season is just around the corner. Learn the best ways to clean all outdoor furniture (recipes included), from plastic to canvas.

https://www.diynetwork.com/made-and-remade/fix-it/12-maintenance-tips-to-get-your-home-ready-for-spring