Shopping for energy efficiency

Better energy management often means investing in alternative products and technologies, but that doesn’t necessarily mean spending a lot of money – it could be as simple as buying some wooden clothes pegs and a clothesline to take a load off your electric dryer. In the last decade, hundreds of products and services designed to help save energy and money have hit the market. The best way to determine whether or not they actually work is by looking for the “Power Saver” or “Energuide” labels.

The Power Saver symbol identifies manufacturers, retailers, contractors, builders, installers and architects who sell, manufacture, install or distribute products that Ontario Hydro has deemed energy efficient. The products are arranged in categories: appliances, water-saving devices, lighting, insulation, heating cooling and ventilation, and miscellaneous (cords for vehicle block heaters, clotheslines, etc.). Not every product in those categories qualifies as a proven energy saving product, so make sure you look for the logo on the dealer’s premises. If they are displaying the logo, they can provide you with information on energy saving products.

Buying Products

SHOWERHEADS: Water heating is the second largest energy user in the average home, accounting for 20 per cent of the typical energy bill. Not surprisingly, showers represent the single largest user of hot water. Short of taking fewer showers, an energy efficient showerhead is the most cost-efficient way to tame this number one hot water user.Energy saving showerheads don’t usually cost more than $50; some are available for as little as $8. Without sacrificing a thing – there is no noticeable difference in water flow – you can cut hot water use by a third, which works out to about 28,000 litres of water over the course of a year. An energy saving showerhead should have a flow rate of less than 11.0 litres/minute or 2.5 gallons/minute. They fit standard 1/2-inch threaded shower arms. In areas with heavy water sediments, regular cleaning is recommended to gurantee good performance. Try cleaning it in a bath of vinegar.

FAUCET AERATORS: At a cost of between 50 cents and $3.50, you can screw a faucet aerator onto your tap to cut unnecessary water flow. It works on the same principle as some of the low-flow showerheads: the flow seems to have the same force because of the aerating effect.

LOW-FLUSH TOILETS: A typical family of four uses more than 1,000 litres of water a day. The toilet is responsible for about 40 per cent of that. Conventional toilets use as much as 20 litres per flush. By comparison, water-saver toilets use less than 13.25 litres and low-flush toilets use six litres or less. A low-flush toilet can usually pay for itself in two or three years.

OUTDOOR TIMERS FOR BLOCK HEATERS: There are about 1/2 million block heaters in use in Ontario, and half the people who use them plug them in when they get home from work; the other half, at 11 p.m. But a car only needs two to four hours on a block heater. A timer, which costs about $30, can save up to 60 per cent of the energy.

LIGHTING: The easiest way to achieve significant energy savings in your house is to change the light bulbs. A whole new generation of lighting products makes it possible to achieve higher efficiency and higher quality. Switching to fluorescent is the most energy-efficient alternative. The quality of color rendition has been greatly improved in the newest fluorescent tubes – skin tones no longer take on that bluish, greenish hue and on average they use 60 to 80 per cent less energy than incandescents. They cost more than bulbs, but last 10 to 20 times longer. They are ideal for bathrooms, kitchens, workrooms and in coves and valences. On the other hand, compact fluorescent bulbs are most appropriate in light fixtures that are on for more than three hours each day. These bulbs use 70 per cent lessenergy and last 10 times longer than incandescents. Halogen bulbs are a type of incandescents, but use up to 40 per cent less electricity. Most halogen bulbs operate on standard household voltage; the small low-voltage bulbs that provide the same light output as regular bulbs while consuming up to 50 per cent less power, require a special housing. If you prefer incandescent, consider switching to the new, energy saving bulbs in 34, 52, 90 and 135 watts instead of the usual 40, 60, 100 and 150. Few people notice the difference.

When shopping for new ceiling or wall fixtures, keep in mind that a fixture with a single bulb is more economical to operate and will give you more useful light than one with several bulbs having the same total wattage.

MOTION SENSORS: In addition to saving energy, equipping outdoor fixtures with a motion sensor will light the way when you or your guests approach your house, and serve as a good security measure when intruders approach. Motion sensors are also available as indoor replacements for regular light switches.

DIMMER SWITCHES: These will save energy and extend the bulb’s life. Dimmer switches also give you the option of having the lights lower in one part of the room than another. Most dimmer switches do not work with compact fluorescents, regular fluorescent tubes or some halogen lamps.

TIMERS: Programmable timers will make your house look occupied when you’re out by turning lights on and off at specified times. This costs less than simply leaving the lights on when you’re out.

Buying Appliances

Reading the Energuide label

The six major appliances consume 45 per cent of household electricity if you have gas heat/water heating and 22 per cent if you have all electric. Energy efficiency varies a surprising amount between models – some cut energy consumption in half – so it’s worth it to shop around. Before making a buying decision based on the cost of an appliance, look for the Energuide rating, which is considered the “second price tag.” Energuide takes into account the cost of operating the appliance throughout its 10- or 20-year lifespan. It gives the appliances consumption in kilowatt hours per month – the lower the number, the more efficient the appliance. To figure out the energy costs, multiply this figure by the cost per kilowatt hours (usually about $0.065). Multiply the figure by 12 to arrive at an annual cost. Over the lifetime of an appliance, you can save up to $2,400. Remember, smaller appliances use less energy. Below are some buying tips.

FRIDGE: Check for an “energy-saver” switch, which allows you to change the setting when the air is very humid and condensation forms on the outside of the fridge. A fridge with wheels is easier to move in order to clean and vacuum the coils (regular cleaning makes it run more efficiently). An old “basement” fridge can cost up to $100 per year to operate. It’s wiser to keep one larger energy efficient fridge.

FREEZER: Chest freezers are more efficient than uprights because they retain the cold better and keep more cold air in when the door is opened.

CLOTHES DRYER: Look for a dryer with a cool-down cycle, which tumbles clothes in cooler air during the last five to 10 minutes. Look for an electronic moisture sensor to turn the dryer off when clothes are dry.

DISHWASER: More than 80 per cent of the operating power is used to heat the water, so choose a dishwasher with a short or “econo-wash” cycle. Look for an energy saver switch that turns off the heating element, allowing dishes to air-dry. An extra powerful spray action cuts down on water use. A delay-wash option lets you program your dishwasher to come on late at night when you’re not using hot water for other things.

CLOTHES WASHER: Look for models that offer cold wash and rinse cycles and a water level control for shorter, gentle cycles. Front-loading washers use less hot water since they move the water and clothes around more efficiently.

STOVE: Self-cleaning ovens cost more but are better insulated and therefore use less energy for normal use. Look for oven doors that are well-insulated and fit tightly.

ELECTRIC WATER HEATERS: When buying an electric water heater or having one installed, check for the CSA label on the tank to ensure that it meets safety standards. A pressure relief valve is also essential and is purchased separately. All installations should be carried out by qualified personnel and must pass on Ontario Hydro electrical inspection. A setting of 60 [degrees] C (140 [degrees] F) is recommended by manufacturers.

Helicopter flying Reagan in near-miss

A small airplane flew within 75 metres of the helicopter carrying President Ronald Reagan to his mountaintop ranch yesterday, forcing Marine One to take evasive action, the White House said.

Mr. Reagan landed safely, and White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said the pilot of the presidential helicopter “felt there never was a time when they were on a collision course.”

The pilot of the small plane was taken into custody as he landed at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, about 160 kilometres south of Santa Barbara, after being chased by another Government drones with camera, Mr. Fitzwater said.

The President and the helicopter’s other occupants, including White House chief of staff Howard Baker and national security adviser Frank Carlucci, did not see the plane, Mr. Fitzwater said. The President’s wife Nancy was not aboard.

Mr. Fitzwater said the pilot of the presidential helicopter, Marine One, reported that the plane flew within 75 metres of the helicopter and about 45 metres below it.

He said the pilot, Colonel Michael Glenn, did not believe the plane was on a collision course with the helicopter at any time but “viewed the incident as very serious” and reported it to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration at Santa Barbara Airport.

The agency has begun an investigation, an FAA spokesman said in Los Angeles. The airspace at the ranch is restricted.

The incident was witnessed and photographed by Rafael Maldonado, 41, a staff photographer for the Santa Barbara News-Press.

“I saw the chopper coming in from the east,” Mr. Maldonado said. The plane came in from the opposite direction, “moving pretty fast,” he said.

He said the helicopter did not appear to take evasive action. Mr. Fitzwater, who was aboard Marine One, said the pilot took evasive action.

Mr. Reagan’s helicopter, accompanied by two others, had departed from Point Mugu Naval Air Station shortly after 3 p.m.

Although three helicopters had departed from the air base, Mr. Maldonado said he saw only one helicopter approaching the Reagans’ Rancho del Cielo, 50 kilometres from Santa Barbara.

Mr. Maldonado said he did not get a picture of the two aircraft in the same frame. He said he took pictures in sequence of the airplane and the quadcopter with camera reviews. Meanwhile, two men were arrested during a peaceful demonstration outside Mr. Reagan’s ranch before the President’s arrival yesterday, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office eported.

A deputy sheriff said a 60-year-old man was arrested for a parking violation after he refused to move a vehicle which he had parked across a road from the ranch entrance. He said the other man was arrested on three previously issued warrants charging possession of marijuana and switchblade knives.

Coyote ugly: how big brands made consumers forget fur’s cruelties

Remember when fur was murder? The mere idea of wearing fur was seen as nothing short of barbaric. A can of paint was a fitting punishment for those outrageous enough to flaunt pelts as fashion. But that was the ’90s. Today, when looking down any cold, busy street there’s lots of fur and a dearth of opposition. To wear fur now, like it or not, is cool–and even mainstream.

According to British Vogue, fur appeared in nearly 70 percent of fall/winter runway collections for 2013. The fur industry in Canada, in response to this trend, is booming. Statistics Canada reported fur farming is on the rise, with farmed mink pelt sales reaching $245 million in 2012–more than double that of 2008. Last year, was also a record year for wild fur sales at Toronto’s North American Fur Auction, the biggest trade show in North America.

While fur was about luxury in the past, now it’s pragmatism driving the markets. Local and natural are the buzzwords of today’s hip shoppers and the industry is quick to point out why fur makes sense for them. Furisgreen.com–a marketing campaign for the Fur Council of Canada–rebrands fur as “a natural, renewable, and sustainable resource.” If you’re not wearing fur, the site claims, you’re probably wearing something synthetic and petrochemical-based, “which is NOT consistent with the sustainable use of our environment.”

This rebranding has helped propel winter-wear kingpin Canada Goose–the company’s annual average sales have catapulted more than 3,000 percent in 10 years. This is largely because the company has managed to shield its customers from the realities of fur, Joseph Pace, campaign director for the Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals, told media last March. Instead, the company focuses on “functionality” in cold weather, which it says is “paramount.”

The opposing camp is uninterested in such semantics. Toronto tween Jasmine Polsinelli, 11, made recent headlines by protesting the company’s use of coyote fur trim–and, as Pace has said: “She’s going to keep on speaking up until Canada Goose listens.” In December, Polsinelli spent several weekends in a popular Toronto shopping district with her morn, and other volunteers, educating people about the fur trade. “People are open and want to learn more,” Polsinelli told media. “Some shoppers decide not to buy a Canada Goose product because of the coyote fur trim or down filling; we’ve even had some people return jackets.”

Are you holding the right (credit) cards?

You rely on credit cards almost every day. But do you know how they really work? Especially the ones with those tempting offers for zero percent interest? Most companies hide important info from unsuspecting customers in a sea of fine print. Here’s what to watch out for:

Zero percent interest that isn’t

Credit card companies want you to switch the debt you’re carrying on your current cards to the new card they’re selling. In return, they’ll charge you zero percent interest, usually for six months but sometimes for as long as 18 months.

The idea is appealing, especially if you’re currently carrying a large balance on a high-rate card. You can use the money you save on finance charges each month to help pay down your debt. But be sure you check to see if the zero percent rate also applies to new purchases. If not, you might find yourself stuck with monthly interest charges that you hadn’t expected.

Say you sign up for a card that’s offering zero percent interest and you transfer a $5,000 balance. Then you use the card for $500 in new purchases. The following month, you send in $700, intending to cover the new items and pay $200 toward your zero percent interest debt. The credit company won’t allow that. Instead, it will apply your entire payment to your transferred balance, reducing your zero percent interest debt to $4,300. Your purchases will be treated as new debt, charged at the card’s full rate.

Here’s how to avoid this trap. Do not make any purchases with your new card until the zero percent interest promotion has expired. Put your purchases on your old card and pay the bill in full each month, advises Robert D. Manning, author of Credit Card Nation. (But be careful not to charge so much that you’re carrying high balances on two cards.)

Or look for cards that offer zero percent interest on new purchases as well. They’re hard to find, but at press time, Discover Platinum Clear Card and BB&T Visa Platinum were advertising such an offer.

Some cards charge zero percent interest on new purchases only, making them a good deal if you’re not going to transfer any balances.

Promotion rates that end before you know it

Be sure you check what your final rate will be once the zero percent period has expired. The offer may quote a rate in the 9 to 11 percent range, but the fine print warns “oops, maybe not.” The card issuer will pull your credit history. If it’s not perfect, your regular rate may jump to as high as 17 percent or so. Alternatively, you might get the promised rate but with a tiny credit limit. Either way, the card may be less attractive than the one you have now.

What’s more, if you make one or two late payments or exceed your credit limit, you’ll instantly be bumped to a higher rate. It could be as high as 24 percent for the following six months. (This policy may be true for your existing credit cards too.)

In certain cases, though, your existing card could be a better bet than a new card. Usually, the zero percent and low-rate offers are used to attract new customers. But sometimes you can make a deal on your current card by calling the bank and saying that you plan to switch. To keep your business, the bank might give you a rate cut on your outstanding balance. This tactic works often enough to make it worth a try.

Low-interest offers with strings attached

You’ll see plenty of cards offering a 2 or 3 percent interest rate for a limited time. But they carry the same risk as zero percent offers. If you are transferring balances, be sure to check whether that low rate also applies to new purchases.

Costly transfer fees

Check these carefully. Some cards charge nothing to transfer a balance, others charge $5 or $10, and some go as high as $50. If that fee puts you over the credit limit on your new card, you’ll immediately be charged another $25 or more.

Fixed rates that end up changing

Even if your credit card agreement says the interest rate is fixed, it may not be. Read carefully and you’ll probably learn that your card company reserves the right to raise those rates at any time for any reason. If you have a great credit history, look for cards issued from banks chartered in Arkansas, where laws keep the fixed rates low. At press time, the Pulaski Bank and Trust Company (800-980-2265, www.pulaskibank.net) in Little Rock was charging 7.99 percent on its fixed card. And Simmons First National Bank (800-636-5151, www.simmonsfirst.com) in Pine Bluff was offering 8.95 percent on its Platinum Visa rewards card.

You’ll pay even less if you go for a variable rate card. Currently, offers are in the 6 to 8 percent range for people with good credit histories. Your interest rate will increase when general rates go up, but you can offset those costs simply by charging less on the card.

“Free” merchandise

Many cards offer rewards for every dollar you spend. You might get “free” air travel miles or points toward “free” merchandise you pick from a catalog.

Why did I put free in quotation marks? Because you pay for rewards in the form of high interest rates and fees. Butyou can make the system work for you if you choose a card that has no annual fee and you pay your bill in full every month.

Or choose a cash-back card that automatically credits a certain percentage of your annual spending-usually up to 1 or 2 percent or sometimes as much as 5 percent-to your account. Two good cash-back choices: the Chase Cash Plus Rewards Visa and the Citibank Dividend Platinum Select.

Invicta watches review for the sophisticated and tasteful men and women

Some people are not aware that watch spells out personality. They just strap on anything they get their hands on. For such people wrist watches are just instruments to keep them punctual. But for tasteful people, it is a fashion jewelry. Here you will find the exclusive Invicta watches review for both sophisticated men and women.

For men

  • S1 vintage racer

It is very suitable for men who have a taste in art and like speed. The strap is made up of black polyurethane rubber and fits perfectly around the wrist. The case will be either silver or gold toned matching with the dial. The watch is powered by a Miyota 8N24 movement. The dial is skeletonized and can be clearly viewed from the backside. The seconds hand is Tritnite made. The minute and hour hands are of black luminous Tritnite that sweep Arabic numerals on the dial.

  • Leviathan Evolution Swiss

This cheap Invicta watches for men gives the look of a dignified, proud person. It has a unidirectional bezel that rotates and a case which is made up of stainless steel and plated with silver. A Ronda 5040.D quartz movement from Swiss powers the working the watch. The dial is available with matte blue, gray or green silver toned. The index marking on the dial is luminous. If you search online, you will realize from the Invicta watches review that it is a favorite among people for its sharp looks and working.

  • Ocean Ghost collection for the Pro divers

The bracelet is made up of silver toned, satin finishing links that instill attitude and style.The coin edged bezel is unidirectional and rotates. It is polished with gold tone. It is perfectly fitted over the silver toned stainless steel case. The casing comes with a cabochon and screw down crown. The index markers are pyramid shaped. The watch runs on a Shock resistant Japanese Automatic movement that has twenty one jewels. This helps to luminate the minute and hour hands.

For women

  • Venom Swiss

This exquisite timepiece comes with the correct blend of feminity and style. The rotating unidirectional bezel is available in silver tone, gold tone and rose tone which is fitted on top of a stainless steel case round in shape. The color of the dial is mother of pearl and has a date display window. There are three sub dials for 1/10 second, second and minute. The Tritnite accent is applied on all hands. The watch runs on a Swiss Ronda quartz 5040.D movement.

  • Ceramic Ocean Elite

This piece of time keeping jewelry might just become the center of your collection. Because the entire watch including bracelet, bezel, case is made using a fashion ceramic material. This material retains its appearance for a long period. The dial comes in black, blue, silver or white color which is swept over by Tritnite accentuated silver toned hands. The dial also consists of date and day subdials with silver toned index markers. The case is available in black, white, pink, chocolate and butterscotch colors.

Bad Cat Trem Cat

Powered by four EL84s, and sporting tremolo, reverb, and selectable tone controls circuits, the Bad Cat Trem Cat draws from its Vox and Matchless origins, while adding some hip new tricks all its own. Painstakingly hand-crafted to stand up to years of hard service, the Trem Cat offers an impressive range of Vox-vibed tones and textures that are further enhanced by its great-sounding tremolo and reverb.

CAT TALE

As with the earliest Vox AC30s, the Trem Cat’s first preamp stage is designed around an EF86 pentode tube. With its great headroom, incredible gain, and lively response, the EF86 establishes the amp’s initial tone, texture, and dynamic response. But here’s where it gets interesting: While the Trem Cat is functionally a single-channel amp, it features two switchable tone control circuits. The knob labeled Tone is actually a 5-position rotary switch that inserts different value capacitors to vary the low-end roll-off frequency. The second tone circuit–which is driven by a 12AX7 and offers Bass and Treble controls is similar to the Top Boost circuit initially added to the rear panel of early Vox AC30/6 amps. A rotary Select switch lets you reconfigure the preamp’s circuitry in four different ways. In positions two or three, you can use either the 5-position Tone control or the “Top Boost” circuit’s Bass and Treble controls. For the most tone-shaping potential, position four combines the two circuits (with the Tone control preceding the 12AX7 and Bass and Treble controls). And for the shortest signal path, position one bypasses both tone control circuits. The Vox AC30-style Cut control adjusts the output stage’s high frequency response, and the post-phase inverter “cross-feed-style” Master volume allows the phase inverter tube to be overdriven by the preamp. An In/Out switch adjacent to the Master disconnects the Master volume pot from the circuit. The Trem Cat’s tube-driven tremolo circuit (which modulates the output tube grids) offers controls for Speed and Depth. An unusual Hi/Lo switch enables the circuit cover a very wide range of tremolo speeds. The 3-spring Accutronics reverb tank is driven by a 12AX7, and another 12AX7 serves as the reverb recovery tube. Both the Tremolo and Reverb are footswitchable.

Our test amp came dressed for the party sporting mother-of-bowling-ball vinyl that complemented its silver-sparkle grille-cloth, gold piping, and illuminated cat’s-eye logo (Bad Cat offers a wide variety of covering and grille-cloth choices.) But while the Cat’s exterior is truly striking, hardcore amp geeks are sure to lust after the industrial art hidden inside.

Built using the same vintage-style point-to-point wiring techniques that were resurrected by Matchless founders Mark Sampson and Rick Perrotta (who were also instrumental in Bad Cat’s start-up), the Trem Cat flaunts carefully braided and sutured wire harnesses, expensive carbon-comp resistors, and proprietary coupling capacitors. This type of “board-less” point-to-point wiring is extremely time consuming, as each component lead has to be carefully wrapped around the eye of its terminal lug to ensure an extremely secure and vibration-proof connection.

TREMENDOUS TONES

Like most EL84-powered amps, the Trem Cat loves guitars with single coil pickups. Its distinctive chime, complexity, and expansive dimension were never less than astounding–especially impressive was its miraculous ability to transform an otherwise ordinary-sounding Strat copy into a vividly hued fountain of tone. Tele bridge pickups also rang with an incredibly lively resonance that was enhanced by the amp’s clucky punch and highly touch-sensitive dynamic response. Tests with several humbucking-equipped Gibson and PRS guitars showed how easily the TremCat could be tailored to wail with fatter-sounding guitars, too.

While the Trem Cat demonstrated its compatibility with a variety of guitars, it also proved capable of a wide range of tones and textures. Its effective Master volume allows it to cover everything from deeply burnished jazz to crunchy overdrive and beyond. Rockers will dig its broad and malleable palette of fresh-sounding distortion tones–the TremCat is a great choice if you’re looking for that special tone to bring a modern rock track to life. And, if you dig tremolo, you’re going to love the Cat’s lusciously rotund throb. Its reverb is exceptional too, as it sounds warm, deep, and rich, without a trace of top-end splatter or sproing.

TOP CAT

While its circuitry is rooted in the classic designs of the past, the Trem Cat brings a new level of flexibility and refinement to those time-tested platforms. Its tones are never less than outstanding, and when you consider its impressive sounding tremolo and reverb, it quickly becomes clear that this amp has few rivals. An exceptional amplifier that sets an extremely high standard for tube-powered 1×12 combos, the Trem Cat absolutely deserves an Editors Pick award.

Tone hounds seeking a wide range of Vox-flavored textures.

KUDOS

Selectable tone control circuits. Great-sounding tremolo and reverb. Beautiful, rugged construction.

CONCERNS

No effects loop.

SPECS

* Footswitchable Tremolo and Reverb

* Selectable tone control circuits

* Bypassable Master Volume control

* One Svetlana EF86 preamp tube

* Four Chinese 12AX?s

* Four Groove Tubes GTEL84S output tubes

* One Slovakian JJ GZ34 rectifier tube

* 12″ Celestion Vintage 30 speaker

* 30 watts

Do you have a latex allergy?

Your symptoms could start with swollen lips after your child’s birthday party. Or some welts on your hands after washing dishes. Or an itchy mouth after a visit to the dentist. What could be causing such reactions? Increasingly, the surprising answer you’ll hear from experts is latex, or natural rubber. And it’s everywhere – party balloons, dish-washing gloves, dental gloves and countless other items. Sometimes it’s even in the air.

Unlikely as it may seem, latex allergies do exist. How could you be allergic to latex? Just like ragweed, latex comes from a living thing, a rubber tree, and contains proteins that trigger allergic reactions in some susceptible people.

The incidence of latex allergy, though still low, is growing rapidly. It was virtually unheard of as recently as 1988. But today, perhaps 8 percent of the general population has latex-allergic antibodies (although only about a quarter of these individuals go on to develop clinical signs of latex allergy). Two groups in particular stand a greater chance of actually developing the allergy: (1) those with high latex exposure at work, especially health-care workers and (2) people who’ve undergone multiple surgeries, especially children when operations begin in infancy.

Should you be worried? “No,” says B. Lauren Charous, M.D., chairman of the latexallergy committee of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. “But you should be aware,” he says.

Here’s what you need to know to detect or prevent a latex allergy and, if you are allergic, to cope with it.

SOURCES OF TROUBLE

Latex has been in common use for over 50 years. It’s in our underwear, clothing, socks and shoes, underneath the carpet we walk on and in the rubber plant in the corner. It’s in the rain slickers that keep big people dry, and the pacifiers baby-bottle nipples and toys that keep little people content. Contact may come from unexpected sources, as when restaurant sandwiches are prepared by someone wearing latex gloves. The list of examples is nearly endless.

What’s more, latex also forms “a significant proportion of air pollution, in the form of particulates from tires,” says P. Brock Williams, Ph.D., of the Allergy Respiratory Institute of Colorado, in Denver. The direct-contact sources mentioned above may be more problematic – indeed, relatively few people seem affected by airborne latex particulates. But experts suspect that these few may be more significant than previously realized. In fact Dr. Williams believes airborne latex particulates may partially explain the continuing rise in asthma cases despite a decrease in auto emissions. The scientific jury, however, is still out.

For health-care workers, airborne latex takes a somewhat different form: The powder in medical gloves can become airborne, carrying latex allergens, which are then inhaled, sensitizing susceptible people or triggering reactions in allergic individuals. This form of airborne latex is considered a significant problem.

SUSCEPTIBILITY FACTORS

No one is free of the risk for developing a latex allergy, says Dr. Charous. However, some factors have been associated with increased likelihood:

High exposure to latex The factor linked most strongly with latex allergy is total exposure. Though the overall risk of developing a latex allergy is low, greater exposure increases this risk.

Allergic history If you’re a health-care worker and you’re an allergic person to begin with, you’re more likely to develop an allergy to latex, says Jay E. Slater, M.D., of Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. So far, this link between previously having allergies and then developing a latex allergy has been observed only in health-care workers. But experts suspect the link exists in other groups.

Multiple surgeries Young children who’ve had multiple surgeries since infancy – including children with spina bifida – may have a 30 to 60 percent risk of developing latex allergy. (Many surgeons now routinely take precautions with such children, assuming they may be latex allergic.) Older children, teens and adults undergoing multiple surgeries may face a slightly increased risk. Doctors suspect multiple direct contacts between latex and internal tissues may account for the increased susceptibility.

Food allergies One shocking aspect of latex allergy is that people who have certain food allergies appear to be more likely to react to latex. Why would this be? Some vegetables and fruits contain proteins that are similar to the proteins found in latex. In essence, what can happen is that our bodies can generalize an allergic reaction from one protein to another similar one. This is called cross-reactivity.

Over the past two to three years, the list of foods shown to cross-react with latex has grown longer and longer. And although food allergy is relatively rare, affecting less than 1 percent of the population , the following foods have been reported to cross-react with latex: bananas, water chestnuts, kiwis, raw potatoes, tomatoes, celery, carrots, hazelnuts and stone fruits (e.g., peaches and cherries), figs, avocados, papayas and passion fruit.

For some, having a known allergy to one or more of these foods may even serve as an early-warning sign of possible latex allergy. But while having allergies, especially these food allergies, is a risk factor for developing latex allergy, it is not a guarantee that you will. And the reverse is also true: Just because you don’t have other allergies doesn’t mean you can’t develop a latex allergy.

Occupational exposure People who work in the rubber industry or related industries (e.g., tire manufacturing) face the highest level of exposure. But by far, health-care workers comprise the largest group affected. They come in contact with latex through a broad range of medical equipment, from blood-pressure cuffs to surgical tubing, but especially through powdered latex exam gloves. One recent study found some gloves to be extremely high in latex allergens, containing upwards of 16,000 arbitrary allergy units as opposed to, say, less than 5 units in many baby-bottle nipples (Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, May 1994). From their occupational exposure to latex allergens, as many as 10 to 17 percent of health-care workers may be predisposed to latex allergy.

CONFIRMING THE PROBLEM

For any person who may be at risk for developing a latex allergy, early detection is the key to possibly keeping nuisance reactions from becoming more dangerous ones. Be aware of any symptoms you might have that correspond with latex contact. And if you do notice a trend, see your doctor. Since no single test can diagnose a latex allergy, you and your doctor will need to look at multiple clues.

Medical history In taking a medical history, your doctor will also look for links between symptoms and possible contacts with latex. The two most sensitive indicators are hives (urticaria) and, much less frequently, anaphylactic shock. Other symptoms can include sneezing and nasal congestion, along with watery and itchy eyes.

To obtain a full medical history, the physician must leave no stone unturned. Your doctor will need to find out, for example, if you have had any kind of reaction to household goods like balloons, rubber bands or rubber handles, or reactions during a dental or pelvic examination or prior surgery. Women may report that they’ve had cramps or itching and swelling following intercourse using a diaphragm or condom. These symptoms should be taken as possible indications of latex allergy.

Not all reactions to latex are allergic ones: Some are considered reactions to chemicals used to make gloves or other products, not latex per se. However, if you’re having some reaction, you can’t assume it’s not an allergy. This is especially important if you are facing surgery.

Allergy tests Only after your doctor has taken a careful medical history and evaluated risk factors will he give you an allergy test. “Allergy tests can be used only to confirm suspicions of a latex allergy,” says Dr. Charous. That’s because the chance is too great that the test will fail to spot the allergy, or conversely, raise a false alarm where noallergy exists.

Your physician has either of two standard allergy tests available to help determine if you have latex allergy: a skin prick test, where a small amount of latex is scratched into the skin and the patient’s reaction is monitored, or a radioallergosorbent test (RAST), where blood is drawn and examined for levels of antibodies to latex, an indication the patient is at least predisposed to the allergy.

PREVENTION TACTICS

If you’re at some risk for latex allergy, you may be able to keep an allergy from ever developing by modifying your exposure to latex. (If you’re not at any notable risk, modification is probably not necessary.) Generally a latex allergy takes time to develop. With repeated exposures to the allergenic proteins in latex, the immune system of a potentially allergic person is switched on, producing antibodies to the allergens. But these antibodies must reach a critical level before an allergic reaction is triggered. By limiting exposure, you may be able to keep antibodies from reaching that level.

One symptom may be especially important to be on the lookout for: “The appearance of a latex-glove-associated contact rash may precede the development of latex allergy, particularly in people with other allergies,” says Dr. Charous.

If you’re at risk, here are some steps you can take to try to keep from developing a latex allergy and avoid a medical emergency:

Minimize exposure. If you’re a healthcare worker with an allergy – particularly an allergy to one of the previously mentioned foods – try switching to nonlatex gloves. They may not be quite as comfortable, but there’s nothing comfortable about a latex allergy. (“Hypoallergenic” latex gloves do not necessarily offer protection.) You should also request that those around you wear nonpowdered latex gloves to reduce your exposure to airborne latex allergens.

Your own doctors, including your dentist, should be prepared to examine you with nonlatex gloves if necessary. If you’re concerned about whether or not they can accommodate your request, call in advance. If worst comes to worst, you can always bring your own latex alternatives.

At home as well, highly susceptible people should minimize contact with latex items, including the most-innocent-appearing rubber bands and balloons, which turn out to be extremely high in latex allergen.

Women at high risk for a latex allergy might want to be especially careful about the use of diaphragms and condoms made with latex. (Allergic reaction from condoms and diaphragms are a concern for women more so than for men because they come in direct contact with women’s mucous membranes.) Discuss options with your gynecologist or physician.

Get evaluated before surgery. Many experts suggest that people in high-risk groups have a full medical evaluation for latex allergy before undergoing surgery. Though rare, individuals without any previous history of latex allergy can have their first reactions during surgery, and the risk would seem to be greater for those who are allergic to the foods mentioned previously. This reaction is potentially dangerous because it could lead to anaphylactic shock, which can interfere with breathing and disturb heart rhythms. Remember, though, the possible risks from surgery to a small minority of allergic persons shouldn’t cause you to avoid – or delay – a needed operation. Steps can be taken to provide a latex-allergic person with a safe surgical environment.

Wear a medical-alert bracelet. Emergency medical technicians are trained to look for a medical-alert bracelet. This can provide important information since many pieces of first-aid equipment may contain latex. Include the warning “possible latex allergy” and other appropriate information (e.g., “allergic to bananas”).

MANAGING LATEX ALLERGY

If you are latex allergic, follow all the precautions we gave you under “Prevention Tactics,” plus a couple more.

Carry some adrenaline. Symptoms of an allergic reaction, including difficulty breathing (wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath), generalized hives, rapid heartbeat and faintness, all may indicate that a systemic (whole-body) reaction is occurring, and that’s never a minor reaction. So if you’ve ever had a severe reaction to latex or one of the listed foods, you should carry a personal adrenaline syringe, available by prescription. Some are available with an automatic release. This allows you to easily inject yourself with a dose of epinephrine, to slow an anaphylactic reaction. But be advised: You still need to call 911, or have someone transport you immediately to an emergency room.

Find a latex-free operating room. Today most hospitals can create a latex-safe operating room. Some medical equipment parts need to be replaced with nonlatex pieces and alternative gloves substituted for latex, among other precautions. But when proper care is taken, the risk from surgery is absolutely minimized.

Be the first patient of the day. The day’s first surgery is when airborne latex allergen levels, which tend to build through the course of the day, are at their lowest. Being first to see your dentist might also be beneficial.

The ride of your life: how to find paradise on a bike

Let us praise the perfect ride: It comes from nowhere, and from everywhere. It’s an exquisite stretch of freedom in which you are your bike, the terrain is your canvas and the ride is a work of art. While you can prepare for it (and we’ll show you how), you can’t stage it.

On a bike, perfection is improv. Years ago, I experienced two all-time great rides in one. The first was up, and the other was down. My friend Mark and I were doing the 450-mile Natchez Trace Parkway from Mississippi to Tennessee, and we detoured into Vicksburg National Military Park, scene of a bloody Civil War showdown. On every climb of that 20-mile, lung-busting loop of hills, we grew less interested in challenging each other to the top, and more concerned with the 19,223 soldiers who died there. We traveled through history at human speed, struggling up the hills among those dead men. This was more than a ride; it was a memorial service.

The struggle switched to pure adrenaline when the historic parkway ended with a peak that fell away into nearly 2 miles of winding turns. Mark, a triathlete, had been busting my legs all the way up. But tri-geeks can’t corner. I willed my hands off the brake levers and laid into the turns with insane confidence. It felt as if my tires were cornering on their sidewalls. This more than a ride; it was a freefall.

No other form of travel gives you that combination of mobility and intimacy. You’re not behind glass. You’re not being told which sights to see from the top deck of a bus. On a bike, you don’t see sights, you live life.

Which leads me to the greatest trip I ever took. In 1998, I went to Madagascar in the midst of a famine that killed 40,000 people. Accompanying three doctors from an aid group called ASOS (Action Sante Organization Secours), I biked medicine into villages reachable only by jungle footpaths too rough for a four-wheel-drive. It would have taken two days to hike in–too long for the cold-packed drugs in our backpacks to stay effective.

The paths were so narrow, the jungle brushed my shoulders; but every hour or so, the walls of green would suddenly fall away and we’d ride onto vast stretches of red topsoil, laid bare by erosion. Blinking, we’d look up at a 7-mile-long swarm of locusts infesting the sky; then search the edges of the dead zones until we picked up the trail again.

Seven hours into the jungle, we came to a village. The doctors used the meds in my pack on a woman who had malaria, parasites and diarrhea, along with gonorrhea that she had contracted when she was raped. We charged her 1,200 Malagasy francs: about 23 cents.

It was the perfect ride. Sure, I’ve climbed the legendary Tourmalet road in France. I’ve crunched millions of red leaves in peak Vermont foliage season. I’ve ridden the big rocks out West. I’ll remember those rides, and my other pilgrimages to cycling’s Meccas, all my life; but that one in Madagascar changed my life.

The perfect ride can last for weeks or a millisecond. It can cover a continent or the weightless span between a rock and the mud below. It can come at any time, in any place. But you can stack the deck in your favor. Read the following pages for the flawless saddle-up, the most meaningful places to ride and the best ways to tune body and bike for exquisite operation.

Then hang on.

How to Choose the Best Waist Cincher for Your Body?

Waist cincher is a very shapely and sexy dress that has to be worn beneath the breasts and over the hip. These kinds of outfits offer perfect support to the waist, abdomen and bust. These dresses make your tummy look flatter and your waist slimmer in appearance. With these outfits, you can reduce your bumps and improve your posture. Over the years, these dresses have been made of diverse types of materials such as plastics, advanced fibers and whale bones. The following tips will help you to choose the best type of cincher for your everyday use.

Choose the right material for your body

First of all, you should choose cinchers constructed of the right type of material for your body. Choose those made out of diverse types of materials such as polyester, nylon, spandex and Lycra. The ‘manage’ as well as the extent of stress tends to differ on the basis of the blend as well as the density of the material which is used for construction purposes. You should ensure that the cincher that you are going for does not cause discomfort in breathing or impede your ability to move about comfortably.

Look for a proper size

When you are going for the best waist cincher, always take care that you buy one which fits your actual body size. You should not buy one with the waist size that you want. Use a measuring tape to measure the size of your waist at present. When you have got the measurement, check the size chart in order to purchase the cincher that you want.

Choose those with custom measurements

A lot of women tend to suffer from bodily pains and aches, which usually occur when the wrong types of cinchers are selected. A poorly fitting cincher can always lead to physical damage. Even when you wear such an outfit for 20 – 30 minutes, you can experience a lot of discomfort. As a result of this, it is very important for women to wear cinchers which boast of custom measurements. These kinds of dresses always make your waist narrower than you can imagine. Decorative cinchers or those with good designs are always fabricated for the purpose of cosmetics.

Look for a good fit

The best cincher would also provide your body with the perfect stability. It needs to adjust to your body shape and hold your body in proper position. Cinchers can come stitched with metal spirals so that the entire structure is firm in shape. Cinchers of good quality do not need to flip up or roll down from the hips or tummy. Standard corsets are usually tightened with laces, which provide the spine with proper support. The shoulders are pulled back too, which improve your overall posture. These types of outfits support the waist and help you to wear any dress and look stunning to others.

With these 4 tips mentioned above, you will easily be able to choose the best cincher for your body and feel much more confident.

Buying Best Softball Bat – A Guide for Novices

Softball slowpitch bats have to be picked with a lot of care, so that they assist you in playing better and giving a more powerful performance. With the most suitable bat, you will be able to play well without investing a lot of time. It is important for you to know that a superior performance is not only about careful planning or superior abilities, but also about the bat that you select. Selecting the best softball bat does not mean that you have to enter the best store and compare colors, features, prices and discounts. There are multiple things that you need to do in order to choose the most suitable bat for yourself.

Consider the brand name

Brands and tags are very important to consider, when you are choosing the best bats for you softball playing. The best bats for playing slowpitch softball are constructed with the use of sophisticated scientific technology. These can be perfect for you as they can help you to improve the techniques of your game. Unlike conventional bats, these do not affect your efficiency in any way.

Look for affordable bats

You should also look for bats of a more affordable variety while you are going for the right choice. It is not sensibly expected that you go for a bat that costs 100 USD while you can get a similar one at a price tag of 40 USD. This means a big difference in what you have to spend and naturally, you should look around prior to deciding on the type of bat that you should purchase. A standard baseball bat that is constructed of wood can have a faster depreciation. On the other hand, a softball bat is fabricated in a process that is engineered technically from special types of materials. But the technicality involved in the process of production does not indicate that it has to be costly. With improvement in technology, the manufacturing process of softball bats has also been improved and this has made it more inexpensive. You will easily be able to get the best slowpitch softball bat for as low as 40 USD.

Go online for the best deals

You can also go online for buying the bats, if you know what works for you and do not need to try out bats before making a purchase. While purchasing these bats, you will be able to find affordable deals on the web stores. It is essential for you to ensure that the web store that you will be buying the bat from has a sound return policy. This will ensure that you will not have to be stuck with a bat which does not feel suitable while batting.

Try the bats before buying

It is best to try out some bats at local sporting goods outlets and retail stores, in order to understand which bat can be the most suitable for you. If you are not sure which bat can be ideal for you, trials can be a good way to find out.