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Consumer Reports magazine: October 2012

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Can hard plastic mud flaps on vehicles compromise gas mileage?
Bob Reinhardt Canyon Lake, TX

Mud flaps (hard or soft plastic) will reduce fuel economy, but only slightly, and only on roads such as highways, where aerodynamics play a big part in fuel economy. It’s a bigger issue for heavy trucks, which have large mud flaps and spend more time on the highway.

How meaningful is the “best by” or expiration date on bottled water? How soon should I use it after I buy it?
     Rich Green Palo Alto, CA

The FDA considers bottled water to have an indefinite shelf life if it’s produced in accordance with regulations and remains unopened. So expiration dates on bottles are voluntary and may reflect concerns about taste and odor rather than safety. Bottled water should be stored in a cool location away from direct sunlight.

When my faucet-mount water filter cartridge stops working after about two months, I remove it from the unit and then reinstall it and it flows again. Am I compromising its filtering ability?
     Eric Morey Woodacre, CA

Yes. Follow the directions, and replace the filter when instructed. If you don’t, some of the contaminants the filter collects might be dumped back into the water flowing through.

We are considering granite countertops but have seen articles citing possible health issues such as radon and radiation risks. Should we be concerned?
     Jim Baker Malta, NY

Probably not. The EPA says radiation and radon emissions attributable to granite aren’t typically high, though spikes occur. Other sources, such as radon in the soil beneath homes, are more common and are a larger health risk than radon from granite building materials. Concerning radiation, it’s extremely unlikely that granite countertops in homes could increase the radiation dose above normal background levels, the EPA says. For more information, go to the EPA's radon page.

I am hearing impaired. Which cell phone should I buy?
Morris Sunshine Miami Beach, FL

At the store, try them out to find out not only which phone is louder but also which speech sounds most intelligible and natural to you. Adjust the volume to determine the range. Listen in a noisy-background environment. And ask about the phone’s Hearing Aid Compatibility rating.

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