Most places across the country have experienced a milder winter than normal. The milder temperatures will increase the chances of homes getting infested with pests earlier and perhaps more frequently this spring.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers many do’s and don’ts of pest control and tips on how to prevent them in your home:
Prevent pests by safely storing food in sealed containers
Check any loose plumbing so that no water accumulates
Close off cracks and crevices where pests can enter your home
If pests do enter your home, make sure to carefully and correctly follow the instructions on any pesticide containers. It is also important that you dispose of them correctly in case of any hazardous waste.
Some skin lotions and antiseptic soaps claim to clean and lighten skin while removing freckles and wrinkles. Instead, these illegally imported cosmetic products make consumers ill from exposure to high levels of mercury.
The U.S. Government is warning consumers about these products after dozens of people in at least seven states were diagnosed with mercury poisoning. Victims include a woman in California who was hospitalized after using an unlabeled skin lotion for three years. Several members of her family also had high levels of mercury in their bodies, even though they didn’t use the lotion.
“Exposure to mercury can damage your kidneys and nervous system. It also interferes with brain development in unborn babies and very young children,” said Gloria Sánchez-Contreras, a spokesperson for the Food and Drug Administration.
Immigrants Are at High Risk
The FDA has identified dozens of products that contain high levels of mercury, and has taken steps to deny shipments of these products into the United States. However, many of these lotions and soaps are brought into the country by mail or by international travelers. Once here, they often end up on store shelves that cater to immigrants, including Hispanics, Asians, Africans and people from the Middle East.
People who buy these products are not putting only their own health at risk, small children can also be exposed to mercury by breathing in the vapors of a skin lotion or by touching someone who has used the cream and then putting their fingers in their mouth. “That’s why it’s so important for consumers and sellers to know about the dangers of possible mercury poisoning associated with the use of or exposure to these skin products,” said Sánchez-Contreras.
“That’s why it’s so important for consumers and sellers to know about the dangers of possible mercury poisoning associated with the use of or exposure to these skin products,” said Sánchez-Contreras.
How to Avoid These Products
The FDA prohibits the use of mercury in skin lotions and cosmetic soaps manufactured abroad. To avoid skin lightening and anti-aging products tainted with mercury, stay away from products that:
Do not clearly list ingredients on the label.
Include the words “mercurous chloride,” “calomel,” “mercuric,” “mercurio,” or “mercury” in their labels.
Have labels written in other languages unless they also include a clear description in English.
What to Do If Exposed to Mercury
Be alert for signs of mercury poisoning, which include irritability, changes in vision and hearing, memory loss, depression and numbness in the hands, feet or mouth. If you suspect you have been using products tainted with mercury, stop using them immediately and do the following:
Wash your hands thoroughly as well as any other part of the body that might have come into contact with the product.
More children than ever before are living with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The new data also shows:
ASDs are almost five times more common among boys than they are among girls
1 in 88 children are living with ASDs, which is a 23% increase from the previous report in 2009
The largest increase has been seen in Hispanic and Black children
More children are being diagnosed at earlier ages, many by the age of 3
The CDC recommends you track your child’s development and act early if you are concerned. From birth to five years of age, children reach certain milestones in their behavior. A delay in reaching these milestones could be an early sign of an ASD or other developmental disease.
With gas prices increasing, many people are looking for alternate forms of transportation. But if you have to use your car for transportation, there are lots of ways to improve your gas mileage and help lower travel costs.
While you drive:
Avoid idling. It gets you zero miles per gallon.
Avoid aggressive driving, such as speeding, rapid acceleration, and hard braking. These can lower your highway gas mileage by up to 33% and your city mileage by 5%.
Avoid high speeds. Above 60 mph, gas mileage drops rapidly. For every 5 mph above 60 mph, it’s like paying an additional $0.30 per gallon.
Air conditioning dramatically reduces fuel economy. Most air conditioners have an “economy” setting that allows the circulation of unchilled air. Many also have a “maximum” or “recirculation” setting that reduces the amount of hot outside air that must be chilled. Both settings can reduce the air conditioning load — and save gas.
Before you drive:
Avoid keeping heavy items in your car. An extra 100 pounds could increase your gas costs by up to $.08 cents per gallon.
Reduce drag by placing items inside the car or trunk rather than on roof racks, which can decrease your fuel economy by 5% or more.
Plan your route ahead of time so you combine errands and drive as little as possible. Several short trips each taken from a cold start can use twice as much fuel as one trip covering the same distance when the engine is warm.
Skip the after-market products that promise improved gas mileages. They don’t work, and sometimes they can damage your car.
Use the grade of motor oil your car’s manufacturer recommends. Using a different motor oil can lower your gas mileage by 1%-2%.
Inflate your tires to the pressure listed in your owner’s manual or on a sticker in the glove box or driver’s side door jamb. This number may differ from the maximum pressure listed on your tire’s sidewall.
Get regular maintenance checks to avoid fuel economy problems due to worn spark plugs, dragging brakes, sagging belts, low transmission fluid, or transmission problems.
Check into telecommuting, carpooling, and public transit to save driving and car maintenance costs. Many urban areas provide carpool lanes that are usually less congested.
All cost estimates assume an average price of $3.96 per gallon. Source: energysavers.gov
If you’re planning a trip and you’re going by bus, you can check the safety of your bus using the SaferBus App from the Department of Transportation. The SaferBus App provides an efficient way to view and access the safety performance of commercial motor carriers including motor coach and bus companies. This app is currently available for iPhone users.
Immigrants in the United States are entitled to certain benefits through the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If you are here on a temporary or permanent basis, you may be eligible to apply for naturalization, permanent status, or to work in the United States.
The USCIS can help you find the right forms, see an update on your case if you have applied for citizenship, find out how to bring family to the United States and much more. Their online resources are divided by topics to help you easily find what you are looking for depending on your current situation.
Listen to Supreme Court Arguments about the Affordable Care Act
The Supreme Court finished hearing arguments about the Affordable Care Act yesterday. The Court is considering whether or not Congress can mandate that all citizens purchase health insurance. You can can listen to audio and download transcripts of the arguments from Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday on the Supreme Court’s website.
The Supreme Court justices will deliberate on the arguments for the next three months and are expected to announce a decision in the case in late June.
Through the National Mortgage Settlement, the country’s five biggest mortgage servicers must commit about $25 billion in relief to individuals and governments because they broke the law in how they managed home loans.
It will take time to figure out which individuals are eligible for help from the settlement. If you are eligible, you should receive a letter in the next 6 to 9 months.
In the meantime, you can learn about the National Mortgage Settlement from its website, including
By Maggie Anderson from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
It can be hard to understand the language of financial products and services. Just what exactly is a grace period? What about an ARM? A balloon payment? And while the Internet can serve up an answer, how can you be sure it’s the right one?
Ask CFPB, a new interactive online tool from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), can help.
Say you’re thinking about buying a home. You could type in a question to Ask CFPB’s search box, or you could browse the list of questions in the Mortgage category. Once you’ve done a search, you can also filter by topic, like “fees” or “closing,” or by populations, like servicemembers, students, and older Americans.
Ask CFPB contains three general categories of questions and answers:
Definitions: Financial products and terms are often described in industry jargon. Ask CFPB translates the jargon into clear definitions. You can get answers to questions like, “What is a credit report?” or “What is a reverse mortgage?”
Explanations: Financial products can include many complicated terms and features, and it can be difficult for you to understand how they work. Ask CFPB provides you with general information and explanations on terms and features of financial products
Situations : Ask CFPB arms you with information and tips to help you navigate various situations. For example, you can use to the tool to ask, “What if my lender quoted me one rate at application but raised it at closing?”
Ask CFPB also lets you provide feedback. You can rate an answer “Helpful,” “Too long,” “Confusing,” or “Incorrect.” And if you don’t find the answer you’re looking for, you can submit a question for consideration.
Our Ask CFPB database currently contains more than 350 questions and answers, primarily focused on credit cards and mortgages. In the coming months, the CFPB will continue to build the database to answer questions about a range of financial products and services, including student loans, auto loans, checking and savings accounts, and prepaid cards.
Nonimmigrant visas are for citizens of other countries coming to the United States temporarily. The visa allows you to travel to a U.S. port-of-entry and request permission of the immigration officer to enter the country.
A visa does not guarantee entry into the U.S.
Citizens of some countries are not required to have a visa to visit the United States.
On April 2, records from the 1940 Census will be made available to the public.
Strict laws ensure that records are only unsealed after 72 years, so many family genealogists, historians and researchers are eagerly awaiting the release.
In honor of the records release, the U.S. Census Bureau is holding a countdown to the April 2nd release where you can find an interactive overview of the 1940 Census, historical facts, videos and pictures. The census website will also directly link to the National Archives site where you will be able to find individual 1940 Census records.
This year, federal tax returns must be filed by April 17, 2012. The deadline was extended by two days because April 15 falls on a Sunday and April 16 is Emancipation Day, which is a holiday in the District of Columbia.
Visit our File Your Taxes page to learn more about filing federal and state taxes, requesting an extension, getting free tax help, and checking your refund status.
A good way to start saving money is by creating a budget, detailing all of your income and expenses each month. It is important to remember to update your budget as your income and expenses change.
Your income is the money you bring in each month. This can be a fixed income - like a salary - or a variable income - based on commission - or a mix of both. To make a budget, first you should add up and record your monthly income.
Next, take a look at your expenses each month. Some of these will also be fixed, such as rent, car payments or other utility bills. Other expenses will vary, like groceries or transportation costs.
Once you have outlined your average monthly incomes and expenses, you will be able to see how much extra money you have left over. While some unexpected expenses may come up each month, you should be able to put a percentage of your money into a savings account.
The U.S. Mint is honoring the 200th anniversary of the Star Spangled Banner by issuing commemorative coins that include an image of ships at war that match the scene in 1812 when Francis Scott Key penned the national anthem. Key wrote the national anthem the morning after the British bombarded the Americans at Fort McHenry in Baltimore, during the War of 1812.
Up to 100,000 gold $5 coins and 500,000 silver $1 coins will be issued to mark the anniversary. You can purchase the gold coins for $35 each. The silver coins are $10 each.
MyPlate Super Tracker Helps You Make Good Food Choices
March is recognized as National Nutrition Month; a time to remind yourself about the importance of good nutrition for you and your family. Keeping up with good nutrition is key to healthy living, disease prevention, overall fitness and growth in children and adolescents.
Good nutrition can also mean maintaining a healthy weight through good eating habits and exercise.
With an array of nutrition information all over the Internet, news stands and books and magazines, it can be overwhelming to sort through it all and find what can really help you make the right decisions for you and your family.
Educating yourself on the food groups, healthy fats and what vitamins and minerals your body needs are just a few steps in the right direction.
With the MyPlate Super Tracker you can track your food habits, fitness and overall health on a daily basis. Learn which foods are best for you with the latest dietary guidelines, learn new and exciting recipes and keep track of all your health habits in one place.
The Centers for Disease Control statistics indicate that poisoning has become the leading cause of death from injuries in this country. More than 2 million human exposures occur every year. More than 50% involve children 6 years old or younger.
EPA and its federal partners are especially concerned about preventing accidental exposures among young children. They are especially vulnerable to poisonings for several reasons.
Given the fact that they inhale more air and consume more food and water in proportion to their body weight, any exposure to poisons, even those in small quantities, heighten the dangers of poisoning to their developing bodies.
There are behavioral risks as well. Children are frequently crawling on the floor where there may be pesticide residues and they frequently put their hands and small articles in their mouths. These behaviors put them at even a greater risk.
So what can you do to protect your family from accidental poisonings? Here are some simple tips:
Keep pest control products, household cleaners, and medication up high, out of children’s reach, in a locked cabinet or garden shed.
Read the label before using a pest control or household cleaning product.
Using more than indicated on the label does not kill more pests or clean better. In fact, misuse of the product only increases the risk of poisonings.
Go through your home room by room to see where there are potential poisoning hazards and correct accordingly.
Use products with a tamper-resistant bait station to protect children from exposure to mouse/rat/insect poison.
Program the Poison Help Line (800-222-1222) into your phone and post the poison help line number near your phone. In the event of an accidental poisoning, call the toll free Poison Help line which is staffed around the clock. Help is available in English, Spanish and more than 150 languages.
Do us a favor—help us spread the word during National Poison Prevention Week! Together we may prevent accidental poisonings at home and in your community. Find additional resources on how to protect children from pesticide exposure.