World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day is held on the 1st December each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died. World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day, held for the first time in 1988.

WHY IS WORLD AIDS DAY IMPORTANT?

Over 100,000 people are living with HIV in the UK. Globally there are an estimated 34 million people who have the virus. Despite the virus only being identified in 1984, more than 35 million people have died of HIV or AIDS, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history.

Today, scientific advances have been made in HIV treatment, there are laws to protect people living with HIV and we understand so much more about the condition. Despite this, each year in the UK around 6,000 people are diagnosed with HIV, people do not know the facts about how to protect themselves and others, and stigma and discrimination remain a reality for many people living with the condition.

World AIDS Day is important because it reminds the public and Government that HIV has not gone away – there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education.

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National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast Cancer Awareness month is an annual international health campaign organized by major breast cancer charities every October to increase awareness of the disease and to raise funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure. The campaign also offers information and support to those affected by breast cancer.

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Properly Vetting Tenants

Most investors are all too familiar with the horror stories of what can go wrong when you have the misfortune to land a problem tenant. But the best way to avoid such nightmares – and thus maximize the returns on your investment – is to try and select a good tenant in the first place. Whether or not you decide to leave the tenant selection process in the hands of a property manager, it is sensible to have a solid set of vetting criteria in place.

When it comes to vetting potential tenants, landlords should:

  1. Require them to fill out a detailed application form.
  2. Get both professional and personal references and thoroughly verify them.
  3. Request at least three months bank statements.
  4. Use a credit referencing service.
  5. Get extra information – eg: a utility bill in the tenant’s name.
  6. Ask them to show evidence of assets.
  7. Speak to their current real estate agency and, if possible, some previous landlords to establish their rental history.
  8. Call their current employer and, if possible, a past employer to establish their employment record.
  9. Ask for a copy of their passport and/or driver’s license.
  10. Secure a guarantor – eg: a parent.
  11. Check tenancy databases to see if they have been listed as a bad tenant.
  12. Always meet them in person to assess them and get a feel of who they are.

Essentially, you should be looking for a tenant who is in stable employment and has a regular income; has a solid rental history; and who is reliable, diligent, responsible and house-proud. Finally, it is also a good idea not to rush into a decision too quickly… An extra week or two of rent might pale in significance compared to a bad tenant decision made in a hurry.

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Allergy Proof Your Home – Part 2

Bathroom

  • Ventilation. Install and use an exhaust fan to reduce moisture while taking baths or showers.
  • Floors. Remove carpeting and use tile, vinyl, wood or linoleum flooring. Use washable rugs.
  • Walls. Remove wallpaper and install tile, or paint walls with mold-resistant enamel paint.
  • Shower and tub. Towel-dry the tub and enclosure after use. Scrub mold from tub, shower and faucets with bleach. Clean or replace moldy shower curtains and bathmats.
  • Toilet and sink. Scrub mold from plumbing fixtures. Repair leaks.

Basement

  • Flooring. Remove moldy or water-damaged carpeting. If possible, use concrete, vinyl or linoleum flooring.
  • Furniture. Consider replacing upholstered sofas and chairs with furniture made of leather, wood, metal or plastic.
  • Foundation, windows and stairwells. Check for and repair any sources of leaks or water damage.
  • Air quality. Use a dehumidifier to reduce dampness, and clean it once a week.
  • Storage. Store collectibles and clothes in plastic storage bins.
  • Clothes dryer. Vent moisture outside.

Entire House

  • Temperature and humidity. Hot, humid houses are breeding grounds for dust mites and mold. Maintain temperature between 68 F (20 C) and 72 F (22 C) and keep relative humidity no higher than 50 percent. Clean or replace small-particle filters in central heating and cooling systems and in room air conditioners at least once a month.
  • Pests. Control cockroaches and mice with inexpensive traps from the hardware store. If that’s not effective, hire a professional exterminator. To remove allergy-triggering insect and mouse residue, thoroughly vacuum carpeting and wash hard surfaces. To prevent re-infestation, seal cracks or other possible entryways.
  • Mold. Close doors and windows during warm weather and use air conditioning and dehumidifiers. Remove nonwashable contaminated materials such as carpeting.
  • Clean washable material with a solution of 5 percent chlorine bleach and wear a protective mask when cleaning away mold. Check the roof and ceilings for water leaks.
  • Weekly cleaning routine. Damp-mop wood or linoleum flooring and vacuum carpeting. Use a vacuum cleaner with a small-particle or a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. Use a damp cloth to clean other surfaces, including the tops of doors, windowsills and window frames. If you have allergies, either wear a dust mask or get someone who doesn’t have allergies to do this job. Change or clean heating and cooling system filters once a month.
  • Smoking. Don’t allow smoking anywhere inside your house.

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Allergy Proof Your Home – Part 1

If you have hay fever or allergic asthma, take a few steps to reduce allergens in your home. Some steps to reduce indoor allergens are complicated and time-consuming — but there are some easy things you can do that may help. Some steps may be more effective than others, depending on what particular allergy or allergies you have.

Bedroom

  • Bed and bedding. Encase pillows, mattresses and box springs in dust-mite-proof covers. Wash sheets, pillowcases and blankets at least once a week in water heated to at least 130 F (54 C). Remove, wash or cover comforters. Replace wool or feathered bedding with synthetic materials.
  • Flooring. Remove carpeting and use hardwood or linoleum flooring or washable area rugs. If that isn’t an option, use low-pile instead of high-pile carpeting and vacuum weekly with a vacuum cleaner that has a small-particle or high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. Shampoo the carpet frequently.
  • Curtains and blinds. Use washable curtains made of plain cotton or synthetic fabric. Replace horizontal blinds with washable roller-type shades.
  • Windows. Close windows and rely on air conditioning during pollen season. Clean mold and condensation from window frames and sills. Use double-paned windows if you live in a cold climate.
  • Furnishings. Choose easy-to-clean chairs, dressers and nightstands made of leather, wood, metal or plastic. Avoid upholstered furniture.
  • Clutter. Remove items that collect dust, such as knickknacks, tabletop ornaments, books and magazines. Store children’s toys, games and stuffed animals in plastic bins.
  • Pets. If you can’t find a new home for your dog or cat, at least keep animals out of the bedroom. Bathing pets at least once a week may reduce the amount of allergen in the dander they shed.
  • Air filtration. Choose an air filter that has a small-particle or HEPA filter. Try adjusting your air filter so that it directs clean air toward your head when you sleep.
 Living room
  • Flooring. Remove carpeting and use hardwood or linoleum flooring or washable area rugs. If that isn’t an option, use low-pile instead of high-pile carpeting and vacuum weekly with a vacuum cleaner that has a small-particle or high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. Wash area rugs and floor mats weekly, and shampoo wall-to-wall carpets periodically.
  • Furniture. Consider replacing upholstered sofas and chairs with furniture made of leather, wood, metal or plastic.
  • Curtains and blinds. Use washable curtains made of plain cotton or synthetic fabric. Replace horizontal blinds with washable roller-type shades.
  • Windows. Close windows and rely on air conditioning during pollen season. Clean mold and condensation from window frames and sills. Use double-paned windows if you live in a cold climate.
  • Plants. Find a new home for potted plants or spread aquarium gravel over the dirt to help contain mold.
  • Pets. If you can’t find a new home for your dog or cat, consider keeping it outside if weather permits.
  • Fireplaces. Avoid use of wood-burning fireplaces or stoves because smoke and gases can worsen respiratory allergies. Most natural gas fireplaces won’t cause this problem.
 Kitchen
  • Stove. Install and use a vented exhaust fan to remove cooking fumes and reduce moisture. Most stove-top hoods simply filter cooking particulates without venting outside.
  • Sink. Wash dishes daily. Scrub the sink and faucets to remove mold and food debris.
  • Refrigerator. Wipe up excessive moisture to avoid mold growth. Discard moldy or out-of-date food. Regularly empty and clean dripping pan and clean or replace moldy rubber seals around doors.
  • Cabinets and counters. Clean cabinets and countertops with detergent and water. Check under-sink cabinets for plumbing leaks. Store food — including pet food — in sealed containers.
  • Food waste. Place garbage in a can with an insect-proof lid and empty trash daily. Keeping the kitchen free of food crumbs will help reduce the chance you will have rodents or cockroaches.

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My Own Mold Testing Experience

After months of searching for a new home, my wife and I finally found our dream house.  A grand two story entry, a cookers dream kitchen with Wolf appliances, two story living room and a bedroom bigger than most apartments.  Our excitement was too much to contain and we even started planning what furniture we would buy for each room, and which colors to change.  There was zero doubt during the inspection period that I wouldn’t get a mold test for two reasons.  One being how often I preach of the importance of mold testing, and two, I own the company and perform all testings so it’s nearly free.  I was slightly concerned when I saw suspect areas on the joists in the basement and crawl space, and more anxious about the attic.  I took nine interior air samples and four lifts prior to submitting the results.  After a few days, the results came back with nearly nothing on the air samples, but failed in both the attic and basement for the surfaces tested.

Saying I was disappointed was an understatement, as I passed this house after we had an agreement probably thirty times, and even took my parents to see it.  So now what?  I approached this house as if it was someone else’s home, which it still was, and wrote an estimate which turned out to be just over thirty eight thousand dollars.  You see, the basement was big but the attic was massive.  If it was a small mold issue, it would only cost me material and labor to remediate the problem.  But this was very different because it would take three weeks to complete, and that’s something I can’t just chalk as a loss. After trying to negotiate with the home owner, we couldn’t come to terms and I walked away from the house.

The point?  I can see some people saying, “How can you own a mold remediation company and not see the mold?”  The answer is simple.  The areas were suspect and not definitive, and warranted testing to confirm.  I also sampled a few random areas that had no visible discoloration, and they too failed because mold is microscopic.  The greater point.  If I hadn’t followed my own suggestions to all perspective home buyers I would have been stuck with a major mold remediation project, even be it that I own the company.  Mold testing does not cost much, but what it can find can save you way more.

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Asthma & Allergies

The symptoms you may feel during an asthma attack are due to the inflammation of the lungs and airways. This inflammation causes the simple act of breathing to become painful. Not only do the airways become tighter and narrower, the walls of those airways release extra mucus, adding additional barriers to breathing. The body responds to this excess mucus by coughing, in attempts to expel it rapidly. Currently, there is no explanation of why asthma occurs or what triggers your lungs to be so sensitive.

Allergy Can Trigger Asthmatic Reactions

There are many irritants that can trigger an asthmatic reaction. These are the most common:

  • Airborne Allergens (pollen, mold, animal dander, and dust)
  • Allergic Rhinitis (hay fever)
  • Viral infections of the respiratory system
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Pollution
  • Strong odors (paint, house cleaners, etc)
  • Exercise (Note: asthmatic people can and should exercise, with care, when they are feeling well. Ask your doctor about exercise and asthma).
  • Drug sensitivity (for example, to aspirin)
  • Stress and emotional anxiety
  • Pollen season (Airborne pollens in the air during periods of high allergy levels can cause an asthmatic reaction)

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