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Basic knowledge about hydraulic beds Hydraulic beds are made with 2 to 3 sets of gas springs (similar to those used in hydraulic office chairs and tailgate lift supports) and metal lifting frames which are installed under the bed boards. With the aid of the pressure tube and piston rod, you can lift the bed board and mattress with ease and access the storage space underneath. How to make your selection? The material must be sturdy: Check if the material, gas springs and wood boards are solid enough, and that the metal lifting frames are firmly secured. The gas springs should provide sufficient support: Since the mattress, bed board and bed frames are to be lifted in one go, the gas springs (hydraulic arms) must be strong enough and provide sufficient support. Consumers should check for information regarding the manufacturer, brand and load capacity (such as 1000N (~ 100 kg), 250lbs or 60kg) with respect to the gas springs when making purchase.Some mattresses are extremely heavy, and therefore will need stronger gas springs for lifting / supporting actions. On the contrary, if the mattress and the bed board are relatively light, you may find it difficult to “close” the bed if you use a heavy-duty hydraulic system. The gas springs must be securely installed: Ensure that the gas springs (which are attached to the metal lifting frames) are symmetrically and securely installed and without any obstruction, and that all screws are tightly fastened. Otherwise, the safety, ease of operation and durability of the hydraulic system and the bed might be compromised. Safety support: If the model is not fitted with self-locking gas springs, then additional support device should be installed. Pay attention to the following areas when operating a hydraulic bed: Remove items on the bed: Before operating a hydraulic bed, remove all heavy or loose items on the bed. Do not operate alone: Make sure someone is with you and can assist if things go wrong. Keep an eye on children, elderly and pets: Children and elderly are not strong enough to operate hydraulic beds, and accidents could easily happen. Pets may jump around and cause accidents too. Ensure that it is locked into the position: After lifting the bed, ensure that the gas springs are locked to prevent sliding and potential collapse. If the bed does not have additional support device, consumers can put furniture or household items (such as suitcases or chairs) on each side and the middle for support. In the event of an accident, these items could provide a good cushion. Maintain a proper posture: When you lift / close the hydraulic bed, ensure you do it in a proper posture to avoid injury. Lifting: Stand with your feet apart, bend your knees and make sure your back is straight. Hold the bed frames firmly and lift the bed. Closing: Don't just use your wrists. Use also your arms and body weight to press down the mattress. Folding tables – potential household hazards There were a number of fatalities in Hong Kong involving children and folding tables. Most of these cases happened when a folding table was turned upside down, and a young child sat on the horizontal bar of the table causing the legs to close / collapse and the child got trapped and subsequently died from strangulation. Once trapped by the table legs, it is almost impossible for a child to escape, as the legs will get tighter when the child struggles harder. How to avoid the accident According to the Consumer Goods Safety Ordinance, all folding tables are required to comply with the general safety requirements, for instance safety locking devices are in place to ensure that the legs will not fold up if the table is accidentally turned over. Notwithstanding the legal requirements, consumers should still pay attention to the following matters before purchasing / using folding tables. Safety lock (a metal cross bolt with built-in spring): Consumers should not buy a folding table without a safety locking device. Choose a table that is sturdy – e.g., all screws on the legs should be securely fastened, and there should not be any loose part. After opening up the table, remember to put the safety lock in place so that the table will not close / collapse accidentally. Put it in a safe place: If you have toddlers at home who are learning to crawl or walk, they often like to climb over furniture or lean against them for balance. So, it is best to put the folded (closed) table against the wall so that it will not fall (and turn over) easily, causing harm to children. Teach your child: Teach children about the dangers of folding tables and how to use them properly. They need to learn why not to turn over the table and crawl or hide between the table legs, and why not to climb over a table or exert excessive pressure on one end causing the table to turn over, etc. Keep an eye on your child: Even if it's just a few minutes, accidents could happen. So, make sure that the children are always being supervised by adults! For further information, please refer to the articles “Hydraulic Beds Are Potential Death Traps at Home.” CHOICE Magazine, Issue 404 (Chinese version only), and “Two-Year-Old Boy Being Killed. Safety of Folding Tables Arouses Concerns Again.” CHOICE Magazine, Issue 420 (Chinese version only). Consumers could get more information about hydraulic beds and folding tables, including how to order custom-made hydraulic beds.
Widening gap between pump price and crude oil price / import price The Consumer Council has always been concerned and monitoring the impact of local auto-fuel prices on consumers. After reviewing the data over the past 7 years from 2013 to Q1 2020, we have observed the following: Average pump price vs. Brent crude oil price: the highest and lowest monthly price gap has widened by 85.2% Average pump price vs. import price: the highest and lowest monthly price gap has been increased by 107.9% In the past 7 years, the gaps between the pump price and both of Brent crude oil and import prices have widened. For example in March 2020, although Brent crude oil price and import price returned to the same price level in Q1 2016, and with the same auto-fuel tax and stable auto-fuel demand, the pump price still increased by more than HK$3 per litre. Any sign of “Quick Going Up, Slow Coming Down”? The Government has been emphasizing that it has urged oil companies to reduce their retail prices as soon as international oil prices fall. According to the data collected, we can see that from January to April 2020, oil companies had decreased auto-fuel prices for 11-13 times. During this period, international oil prices had significant fluctuation since March, and oil companies did adjust their prices more frequently than before (in total 7-9 times), the "Quick Going Up, Slow Coming Down" phenomenon did not appear to exist during this period. A clear sign of “More Going Up, Less Coming Down ” Using the data from 2013 to Q1 2020, we have compared the cumulative change in pump price and the cumulative changes in Brent crude oil price and import price over the 7-year period, and found that: Cumulative changes in pump price vs Brent crude oil price: during price drop, the reduction in pump price per litre was $2.4 “less”; and during price hike, the rise in pump price was $1.99 “more” Cumulative changes in pump price vs import price: during price drop, the reduction in pump price per litre was $0.68 “less”; and during price hike, the rise in pump price was $3.09 “more” According to the data, except for 2014, sign of “More Going Up, Less Coming Down" in pump price was observed over the 7 years. High conformity in pump price across oil companies Looking at the database again, in the past 7 years, percentage of days that all the 5 oil companies having the same pump price was generally on an upward trend and had reached a historical high of 92.3% in Q1 2020. Is auto-fuel really so expensive? Even that the international crude oil prices remain depressed and there are Government’s efforts in promoting competition, such as changing the tendering system of petrol filling station (PFS) sites in 2003 to make it easier for new entrants to scale up their operation more quickly, why then the pump prices in Hong Kong have not dropped accordingly, but instead have edged up conversely? According to the oil companies, the 2 major reasons are as follows: • Other operating costs: Import price is only one of the factors in determining the retail price. Other costs / expenses such as discounts, insurance, land costs, government rates, transportation, and inflation, etc., have yet to be reflected. Therefore, the range of pump price adjustment may not necessarily follow closely with the changes in international crude oil prices. Some companies specifically pointed out that the rise in the bid price of PFS sites in recent years has increased the operating costs of PFSs; • Lack of local oil refinery facilities: All auto-fuel products sold in Hong Kong are imported as refined products, not crude oil. Crude oil and refined products (such as unleaded gasoline and auto-fuel diesel etc.) are very much different. Therefore, changes in international crude oil prices and local auto-fuel prices may not necessarily be in tandem. But here comes the dubiety…... From public records, we observed that the bid prices of PFS sites have indeed risen considerably in the past 10+ years. However, these tender bids have been mainly won by the 2 new entrants. As such if land cost is a key cost component, the operating costs of different oil companies should, in theory, be different. That’s why one would be puzzled as to why there has been a high degree of conformity in the pump prices across different oil companies in Hong Kong…... Transparency is the key Unfortunately, due to the lack of transparency in the current auto-fuel market, the Consumer Council finds it difficult to examine if the level of gross margin is reasonable. In this connection, the Consumer Council urges the Government to increase the transparency of information disclosure, including more frequent release of import price data and price trend analysis, as well as reports on cost structure, so that consumers can better understand and monitor auto-fuel price fluctuations. Smart tips If you want to keep up with the oil (auto-fuel) price anytime and anywhere, you can use the “Oil Price Watch” website and smartphone application developed by the Consumer Council. Simply enter the estimated volume and auto-fuel type, it will help you to find out which oil company would offer better cost-saving and discounts / promotional offers, thus helping consumers in making a smart choice! For more detailed information, please refer to the report “Auto-fuel Price Monitoring Analysis 2020”, https://www.consumer.org.hk/en/advocacy/study-report/autofuel_2020
Who are more prone to mosquito bites? If you fall into one these categories, don’t be surprised that you would be the “main” target of mosquitoes among friends: people who sweat a lot; people with higher body temperature; pregnant women; and people who just finished exercising. What do these people have in common? The answer: higher body temperature and carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration in exhaled breath! It is said that people with higher body temperature are more likely to attract mosquitoes. At the same time, mosquitos can use their "radars" to detect the level of CO2 in the surroundings. "Where there is CO2, there will be people"! Mosquitos infer that someone is nearby based on the increase in CO2 level and move towards the target. Therefore, when we exhale more CO2, we attract more mosquitoes. It is also said that certain body odor can attract mosquitoes, especially lactic acid or uric acid excreted by the body. Genetics, eating habits, place of residence, and surrounding environment all affect body odor. There are all kind of “hypothesis” and more research is needed. 5 common mosquito repellent ingredients - how to make a smart choice? For people who are “magnets” of mosquitos, mosquito repellents are essential to have. Listed below are the 5 most common ingredients used in mosquito repellents. Let’s learn about their differences and characteristics. DEET (N,N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide or diethyltoluamide): It has been widely used for many years, but its safety has been debatable. When applying products with a high concentration of DEET on children, it might lead to skin rashes, blisters, skin and mucous membrane irritation. The Department of Health, Centre for Health Protection of Hong Kong (CHP) has also advised against the use of DEET-containing insect repellents on infants under 6 months of age. At the same time, DEET can dissolve plastic materials and certain synthetic fibers! Touching items containing plastic components such as cameras, mobile phones, handbags, plastic glasses frames or clothing with hands covered with DEET may cause damages to these items. Picaridin or icaridin: Commonly found in anti-mosquito products in Europe and Australia. It is almost colorless and odorless, and is non-sticky and less irritating to the skin than DEET, and will not damage plastics and clothing made of synthetic fibers. However, it may still cause irritation to the eyes, so Health Canada has advised against the use of repellents containing such ingredients on infants under 6 months of age. Ethyl butylacetylaminoproprionate (also known as IR3535): It is also colorless and almost odorless. But it may dissolve plastic materials or certain synthetic fibers. Its mosquito repellent effect is lower than that of DEET and may cause irritation to the eyes. The U.S. relevant bodies have advised against the use of mosquito repellent products containing IR3535 on infants under 2 months of age. P-menthane-3,8-diol (PMD): Usually extracted from lemon eucalyptus or oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE). The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended only using refined OLE products because the mosquito-repellent effect of unrefined lemon eucalyptus essential oil is questionable. At the same time, PMD may cause irritation to the eyes, so PMD products are not recommended for children under the age of 3, and avoid contact with eyes. Methyl nonyl ketone (or 2-undecanone, also known as IBI-246): A relatively new mosquito repellent ingredient which is a natural substance extracted from wild-grown tomatoes. Some products may label the ingredient as wild tomato extract. Methyl nonyl ketone is almost non-toxic and can be used in cosmetics and as cat / dog repellent. Are natural ingredients absolutely safe? If you want to stay away from chemical substances and switch to natural mosquito repellent products, you should still be cautious as these “natural” ingredients are not without risks. Citronella oil: It is a natural mosquito repellent extracted from citronella grass. Its main ingredients are citronellol, citronellal and geraniol. It is classified as “Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS)” in the U.S. and does not require to be registered with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). However, citronella oil may cause mild irritation to the skin, eyes and throat and cause coughing. Prolonged or frequent contact may cause skin allergy. Moreover, its strong fragrance may not be acceptable to certain individuals. The Canadian Government considers citronella oil not suitable for infants and young children. Other mixtures of natural plant-based ingredients: lemon eucalyptus oil, lemongrass oil, cedar oil, and soybean oil are some of the common ingredients. The US EPA considers these ingredients as “minimum risk pesticide” and as such registration is not required. However, low risk is not the same as being absolutely safe. Using these ingredients may still cause skin irritation. For example, citronellol contained in lemon eucalyptus oil, geraniol and limonene contained in lemongrass oil are all allergenic substances. During day time, certain plant-based ingredients may also cause allergies when exposed to ultraviolet rays. Mosquito repellent and sunscreen – which one to put on first? Some people may want to prevent mosquito bites as well as sunburn, and as such apply both mosquito repellent and sunscreen at the same time. But the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend using sunscreen and mosquito repellent products concurrently. Consumers should apply a sunscreen product first, and wait for about 15 to 30 minutes for it to dry and be completely absorbed by the skin before putting on any mosquito repellent product. In the article “69 Natural/Chemical-Based Mosquito Repellent Products Market Survey. Pay Attention to Ingredient Concentration and Allergens” CHOICE Magazine, Issue 524 (Chinese version only), the Consumer Council has compiled information on the ingredients and usage patterns of 69 common mosquito repellent products on the market, so that consumers can compare and choose the right mosquito repellent product.
Facing a new wave of epidemic cases, there may be another round of panic-buying of epidemic prevention items. We would like to remind consumers to pay attention to the following 4 areas when making online purchases to avoid potential scams. Mobile payments can be difficult to recover Mobile payment services (or P2P payments) are widely used these days. However, consumers may not be able to ascertain whether they are transferring to a business or personal account. On the contrary, consumers choosing bank transfer will know the account number and name of the transferee. In addition, credit cards and some payment platforms also have complaint and refund mechanisms. If sellers fail to deliver the goods, consumers may get the money back through the above mechanisms, thus making the process more secured. Sudden disappearance of online sellers Nowadays anyone can sell goods on social media platforms. Some scammers may open social media accounts, pose as sellers of certain anti-epidemic items, and disappear after payments are received. Therefore, consumers should scrutinize the particular seller / merchant before placing an order. If you find that a seller has only opened the account recently, does not provide an address or contact details, and only uses mobile payment service, then you should be alert. Consumers can also browse previous posts and reviews to gauge the merchant’s credibility. Pre-orders – can you afford to wait that long? It is the seller’s responsibility to state if the goods are "available" or need to be "pre-ordered", and the estimated arrival date for the pre-orders. However, if you choose to pre-order an item, you must also be prepared that its arrival date may be affected by factors such as transportation and customs clearance. Therefore, consumers should make a thorough evaluation before ordering an item if it is for emergency use. Pay attention to refund policies Before placing an order, consumers should read the product description and terms of sale thoroughly – going through them word-by-word carefully! This is especially important for pre-orders, and consumers should understand the refund policies and associated costs (if any) if the goods are not delivered within the agreed timeframe. Consumers can keep screenshots of the original posts as proof. If sellers fail to supply the goods or simply disappear, consumers can contact the Consumer Council or report the cases to the Customs and Excise Department or the Hong Kong Police Force. If necessary, consumers can also call the “Anti-Scam Helpline 18222” hotline for assistance. To learn more about the complaint cases received by the Consumer Council regarding purchasing anti-epidemic items online, you may refer to the article “Buying Anti-Epidemic Items on Social Media Platforms Can Be Risky. Keep a Level Head to Avoid Potential Scams.” CHOICE Magazine, Issue 522 (Chinese version only).
For those who normally use plastic spatulas (turners) for cooking, if these are not used properly, the plastic spatulas may melt or deform, or even release contaminant residues or harmful / toxic substances! There are 3 main aspects about plastic spatulas that consumers should beware of: The residues / substances released may affect the liver and kidney or even cause cancer When in contact with heat during cooking, stir-frying or mixing, or with prolonged exposure to sour, alcohol-infused and greasy food, plastic spatulas may release the following residues or chemical substances which may migrate to the food being cooked and cause potential health issues after consumption. Incompletely-polymerized nylon monomer: If the spatula is made of nylon, substances such as caprolactam or hexamethylene diamine may be released. When ingested in large quantity, they may cause irritation to the skin, eyes and respiratory system, and cause harm to the respiratory system, liver or kidney. Chemical substances: such as primary aromatic amines (PAA) (some of which may cause cancer), other additives (e.g. stabilizers, colorants, etc.), or degradation products, etc. Therefore, it is very important to choose a plastic spatula that complied with international standards in terms of residue migration (i.e. not exceeding the recommended level). Immersion in hot oil may accelerate aging Although many spatulas have warnings (both in Chinese and English) reminding consumers not to keep the products in the hot pots. However, we often remove the notice before using the utensil, and then totally forget about the reminder. We may leave the plastic spatula in the cookware or immerse it in oil while cooking and as a result, melting, deformation or blisters may occur, and harmful substances may also be released. Therefore, consumers should be cautious not to soak the plastic spatula head in hot oil for too long to avoid damage or rapid aging. Alternatives to plastic spatula If deep frying or prolonged heating or stirring of food is required, it is suggested that wooden or bamboo-made kitchenware are to be used. Some wooden or bamboo-made spatulas also have smooth edges which won’t scratch the non-stick coating on frying pans. As wooden or bamboo-made spatulas are made from natural material, they are more environmentally friendly than plastic products! Tips on using wooden or bamboo-made spatulas Before switching to wooden or bamboo-made spatulas, you should take note of these characteristics: Flexibility: Wooden or bamboo-made spatulas generally have thicker heads than plastic ones, and the handles are also straighter and firmer. As such they may not score well in “flexibility” . Discoloration: The spatula head may turn dark after prolonged contact with hot oil, colored food items or sauces. Expansion / contraction with heat change: The spatula head may crack and food particles may get trapped within the tiny crevices making the utensil difficult to clean. Beware of mold: Wooden or bamboo-made spatulas are more difficult to dry when wet and are more prone to molds during humid days. As such consumers should dry the utensils thoroughly after use and keep them in dry places. The Consumer Council conducted a test earlier on 17 models of Chinese-style plastic spatulas in the market. If you want to know which one has the highest score and is safer to use, click here to read the article “Over Half of Plastic Turners Had Excessive Overall Residue Migration in Acidic Environment. 1 Model Deformed in Heat-Resistance Test”, CHOICE Magazine, Issue 523 (Chinese version only).
Without a breathable and highly protective sports top or sports bra, you can easily harm yourself while trying to get fit! The following sets out the 5 must-knows when choosing sports tops and sports bras! Sweat wicking and quick drying During exercise, our sweat cannot evaporate quickly if the sportswear has poor performance in sweat wicking and quick drying, it would cause our body temperature to rise and lead to fatigue and overheating. On the contrary, if you stay relatively still after exercise, the sweat on the skin will lower your body temperature, and with the presence of wind you may feel clammy, shiver and even get sick. Therefore, the sweat-wicking and quick-drying functions of sportswear are very important as they help to maintain proper body temperature. Antibacterial and deodourization can save us from embarrassment During exercise, your body temperature will rise and you may drench in sweat. In a hot and humid environment, your sportswear becomes a breeding ground for microorganisms, which is also the culprit of unpleasant odour! Therefore, the better the antibacterial performance of the fabric, the more it can inhibit the growth of microorganisms and thus reduce the chance of producing an unpleasant smell. Even if the antibacterial performance of the fabric is notgood enough in inhibiting the formation of odour, as long as it has the good performance in deodourization, it can still reduce or even eliminate the unpleasant odour. Fading after the first wash? Colour fading and staining can be very annoying. They can also happen to sports tops or sports bras. In our previous tests, some samples transferred colour onto other cloth fabrics after one wash and being soaked in simulated sweat. Therefore, consumers must pay attention to this issue when choosing sportswear. There are different types of sports bras for ladies? When women exercise (especially running and jumping, etc.), their breasts typically bounce in a figure-8 formation. Sports bras can help to minimize the amount of breast movement during exercise and prevent Cooper’s ligaments from being excessively stretched and damaged which may lead to sagging breasts. Therefore, choosing the right sports bra is critical! Sports bras can generally be divided into either the “compression” or “encapsulation” type. Compression type: Without individual cups, this type compresses the breasts tightly against the chest wall to reduce the bouncing of the breasts. Encapsulation type: Similar to an everyday bra, both breasts are wrapped and supported individually. In appearance, the encapsulation type can keep the breasts in their natural shape, while with the compression type the breasts are being compressed. More Knowledge re Sports Bras Some research projects show that when women exercise (especially running and jumping, etc.), their breasts typically bounce in a figure-8 formation. The main purpose of wearing a sports bra is to minimize the amount of breast movement during exercise, and thus preventing the Cooper’s ligaments from being excessively stretched and damaged. Excessive bouncing and movements of the breasts may tear or even break the Copper’s ligaments causing sagging breasts. Sports bras fall into either the “compression” or “encapsulation” type. A compression type sports bra does not have individual cups. It works by compressing the chest area and pushing the breasts against the chest wall, thus limiting the bouncing movements of the breasts. An encapsulation type sports bra is similar to an everyday bra. Both breasts are wrapped and supported individually. In appearance, the encapsulation type can keep the breasts in their natural shape, while with the compression type the breasts are being compressed. Different sports can have different impact level on the breasts. In terms of protection, the bras can further be divided into low-, medium- or high-support category. Therefore, consumers should choose sports bras according to the type of exercise they do: 1. Low-support suitable for low-intensity sports, e.g. yoga, Pilates and stretching, etc. 2. Medium-support suitable for jogging, dancing, fitness training and cycling, etc. 3. High-support suitable for running, boxing, ball games or other strenuous / high-intensity exercises. Apart from considering style, consumers should also take the following factors into account: Choose a suitable sports bra according to the exercise and breast size. Women with larger breasts should choose medium- or high-support type to prevent injuries. It is also better to have medium – or high-support type when doing aerial yoga with certain hanging-up-side-down poses. The wider the shoulder straps, the better it is to relieve the pressure on the shoulders and chest. Therefore, it is advised not to choose a sports bra with thin shoulder straps when performing high-intensity exercise. For those with difficulties of pulling on sports bras, choose one with hooks at the back or a zipper in front. A fit sized sports bra can provided a good support to our breasts. But it should not be too tight. If the shoulder straps or underband leave marks, it could be a sign its too tight. Try them on before purchase. Try jumping, rasing your arms and turning sideways to see whether the underbands would ride up during these movements. The protective function of sports bras Different sports can have different impact level on the breasts, so you should choose sports bras with different level of support according to the type of exercise you do: Low-support: suitable for doing yoga, Pilates, stretching, etc.; Medium-support: suitable for doing aerial yoga (which involves certain hanging-up-side-down poses), jogging, dancing, fitness training and cycling, etc; High-support: suitable for running, boxing, ball games or other strenuous / high-intensity exercises. Apart from the type of exercise, breast size is also an important factor to consider when choosing a sports bra. Women with larger breasts, it may be best to choose medium- or high-support types. At the same time, the wider the shoulder straps, the more effective they are to relieve pressure on the shoulders and chest. Therefore, don’t choose a sports bra with thin shoulder straps when performing high-intensity exercise. In the article, “Several Models of Men’s and Women’s Sportswear Score Poorly in Performance Tests and Were Below Par on Odour Suppression”. CHOICE Magazine, Issue 525, the Consumer Council has shown the test results of 15 sports tops and 15 women's sports bras on the market. Click into the article (Chinese version only), you can easily find out which model has more functions and provides better protection!
4 selection criteria for face masks Normally, the protection standards of face masks are clearly marked on the boxes. For example, according to the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) standards, face masks can be classified into 3 levels according to their degree of protection: Level 1 (Low) Barrier, Level 2 (Moderate) Barrier, and Level 3 (High) Barrier. However, masks manufactured in different regions may adopt different protection standards, thus causing confusion. A simple and direct way is to look at the test results. Because regardless of the type of standards, the following criteria are important in determining the protection level: BFE (Bacterial Filtration Efficiency) PFE (Particulate Filtration Efficiency) Delta P ( Differential Pressure) Synthetic Blood Penetration Resistance BFE and PFE One of the most common ways of transmitting viruses or bacteria is through the droplets of patients of respiratory diseases. When patients speak, cough, sneeze or spit, they are likely to spread droplets carrying pathogens. Contact with these droplets may lead to infection. Therefore, it is important for masks to effectively block these droplets. BFE and PFE are key indicators of their effectiveness. According to the ASTM F2100-19 Standard Specifications: Level 1 (Low) Barrier: BFE and PFE must be 95% or higher Level 2 (Moderate) Barrier and Level 3 (High) Barrier: BFE and PFE must be 98% or higher Delta P Delta P measures a mask’s breathability. The higher the value, the harder it is for the wearer to breathe. According to the ASTM F2100-19 Standard Specifications: Level 1 (Low) Barrier: Delta P value must be lower than 4.0mm H2O/ cm2 Level 2 (Moderate) Barrier and Level 3 (High) Barrier: Delta P value must be lower than 5.0mm H2O/ cm2 Synthetic Blood Penetration Resistance Synthetic Blood Penetration Resistance reflects a mask’s water resistance. The test simulates scenario with blood or body fluid splashes that may be encountered by medical staff during medical procedures to assess if the mask can provide sufficient protection. However, in daily life, we rarely encounter these situations, so the protection standards of some masks do not include this criterion. According to the ASTM F2100-19 Standard Specifications: Level 1 (Low) Barrier: Pass at 80mmHg pressure level Level 2 (Moderate) Barrier: Pass at 120mmHg pressure level Level 3 (High) Barrier: Pass at 160mmHg pressure level Are you wearing the mask correctly? Even if you have purchased a mask with a high degree of protection, you must still avoid the followings in order to achieve effective epidemic prevention! Covering only the mouth and leaving the nose exposed Using only one set of ties when wearing a tie-on mask Pulling down the mask to talk and cough Touching the front of the mask while removing it 3 criteria for selecting hand sanitizers When you are outside, you’d never know which objects are contaminated with pathogens. If you touched those objects and then touched your mouth, nose or eyes, you might get an infection easily. Therefore, consumers should rub their hands with hand sanitizer frequently to reduce the chance of infection. Below are the 3 major selection criteria: Alcohol concentration Disinfection ingredients Hand moisturizing ingredients The higher the alcohol concentration, the better? According to the guidelines of the World Health Organization, disinfection alcohol with an alcohol concentration level of 60% to 80% is most effective. Alcohol of a concentration too high is less effective in disinfection.. Active ingredients in disinfectants Apart from alcohol, quaternary ammonium compounds (quats) are also common active ingredients found in hand sanitizers. Other major types of active ingredients include chlorhexidine, triclosan and lactic acid, etc. Alcohol Alcohol is generally capable of quickly and effectively killing viruses or common bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, or fungi, despite having a lesser effect on some non-enveloped viruses such as enterovirus. However, its effect is not long-lasting, and the number of bacteria on the skin surface may gradually build up after a while. Therefore, some alcohol-based disinfection products may add chlorhexidine, quats or triclosan to prolong their disinfection effects. Quaternary ammonium compounds (Quats) The main function of quats is to inhibit the growth of, rather than kill, bacteria and fungi. Quats do have certain effects on bacteria and viruses, but with a slower disinfection speed. Disinfectants containing quats are generally less likely to cause skin allergy and are commonly used to disinfect patient care products and equipment. Chlorhexidine and triclosan Both have good disinfection effects on common bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli. Chlorhexidine also has certain antiviral effect on influenza viruses and hepatitis B virus. On the contrary, triclosan has a weaker antiviral effect. Other active ingredients Studies have shown that aloe vera can inhibit the growth of some bacteria and lactic acid also has bactericidal ability, but they are yet to be recognized as active ingredients for hand sanitizers by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Some of the natural ingredients, such as tea tree oil and thyme, may kill certain bacteria, but their bactericidal properties are yet to be supported by medical researches. Moisturizing hand sanitizer – is it a better choice? Alcohol can take away the skin’s natural oils. Frequent application can leave hands dry and cracked. As compared with traditional liquid soap, hands do not feel as dry after using a hand sanitizer enriched with moisturizing ingredients such as glycerol (glycerin or glycerine). Important Notice! Apply the hand sanitizer evenly Alcohol can only kill bacteria and viruses when they come into contact! So, make sure that you apply the sanitizer thoroughly all over your fingers and hands, and don’t forget the areas between fingers, back of fingers, nails, and wrists. In fact, as long as sufficient protective measures are taken, there is no need to panic. The Consumer Council has developed the “Together, We Fight the Virus” page offering the public free download on test findings of anti-epidemic gears, and useful information on personal and household hygiene as well as important updates on COVID-19!
What is door-to-door by-box storage or door-to-door mini-storage? By definition, they are “door-to-door” storage services. Some companies provide one-stop storage services for customers including pick-up services (door-to-door mini-storage), and sometimes may provide designated storage boxes to customers for their storage items (door-to-door by-box storage). These services can save you from the troubles of transporting the stored goods and their monthly rental seems be lower than that of self-storage services. Minimum charges vs minimum costs Although the monthly rental for door-to-door by-box storage seems lower, all service providers require minimum charges, and the charges are based on the number of storage boxes, rental period or the amount paid on the first order. For instance, a company may require a minimum charge of $500 which, based on a 1-month minimum rental period, is equivalent to renting 11 standard boxes. Some other companies require a minimum rental period of 1 year. Consumers should pay attention to the minimum charges by different companies and choose the appropriate service providers best fit their needs in terms of storage volume and rental period. Minimum transportation fees Door-to-door storage service providers are responsible for the transportation of the stored goods. This incurs transportation fee which is usually calculated on a “Base +”" basis (i.e. a basic transportation fee plus additional fee according to the number of storage boxes). Some companies charge a minimum transportation fee. At the same time, some companies offer discounts, e.g. waiving the transportation fee(s) for the first storage or if the storage boxes are returned to the delivery staff within 15 – 30 minutes after pick-up. Consumers are advised to estimate their storage volume, rental period and frequency of storage and retrieval, and calculate and compare the costs of various service providers. Beware of delivery surcharges Although the door-to-door pick-up and delivery services can save you a lot work as compared to self-storage, they may give rise to other delivery issues which may in turn increase the transportation costs. Take the pick-up / delivery time as an example, quite a few companies only operate such services before 7pm from Monday to Saturday, and some companies only operate till 2pm on Saturdays, thus making it difficult (timewise) for the general workers. There could be a penalty charge if you are not home at the appointed pick-up / delivery time. Moreover, factors like “remote area”, “change of address” and “staircase access” will also increase the overall transportation costs. Any damage compensation? The previous mini-storage fire which destroyed a large number of valuable items had left the storage customers without any compensation. A survey conducted by the Consumer Council, unveiled that mini-storages do not normally take out insurance cover for their customers’ stored goods. Only some companies include water damage and fire insurance, comprehensive property insurance and third-party insurance in their monthly rental. But a number of these companies only extend such insurance to cover (unless otherwise stated) the fittings, machinery and equipment of the mini-storages instead of the stored goods of the customers. Consumers should therefore pay attention! On the contrary, most of the by-box storage plans include insurance protection which cover each storage box. To make claims, consumers may need to provide evidence of lost or damaged items, together with the purchase receipts. Apart from the convenience factor, consumers should not overlook details concerning services and charges of storage services. For further information, please refer to the article, “Self-Storage vs Door-to Door Storage: A Comparison on Services and Charges”. CHOICE Magazine, Issue 521(Chinese version only). In this article, the Council made comparison of various door-to-door storage services, which should help you to make the right choice!