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A1. SAFE DRINKING WATER
Is the water safe?
These were questions asked during the 1950's once fluoride adjustments to the water supply began in many American cities in an effort to improve the dental condition of children.
Today these questions are being asked not out of irrational fear of a foreign nation's designs on our teeth and minds, but out of some very real scientific discoveries that foreign agents - as in the chemical kind - are indeed in much of the nation's water supply. It isn't a rumor this time. It's real, and your water supply is likely affected.
Common municipal water treatment has three stages: primary, secondary, and tertiary. Primary treatment screens solid matter like tires and paper out of the supply. Secondary water treatment usually involves settling and separation of fine solids from liquid. Tertiary treatment can involve natural bacteria to cleanse the water, or reverse osmosis to remove salts and other factors from the water. Often the reclaimed water is pumped back into underground aquifers. Solid wastes are disposed of in a variety of ways, from spreading on non-edible crops to ocean dumping, and the cycle repeats. These methods have served us for generations.
But what if the ground water is contaminated from the beginning? There are many chemicals that can naturally occur in ground water, from high iron concentrations to high salt and mineral concentrations, and many others in between. But for many years, manmade chemicals have been leeching into the groundwater supply, sometimes from fertilizers and runoff; other times ground water is sullied from illegal dumping and even legitimate use by manufacturers, farmers, and industrial users. Sometimes it is from the antibiotics used in cattle and chicken production that wind up in manure, and by virtue of runoff, in the water. Recently, blood thinners, heart medications, and other pharmaceuticals have turned up in municipal ground water supplies.
Traditional water supply management methods do not cleanse the water of rocket fuel. And believe it or not, 35 states and the Colorado River have water supplies tainted by exactly that: perchlorate - rocket fuel is in the water. It is in the lettuce irrigated by Colorado River water. It shares the water with trichloroethylene, an industrial degreaser, and the plants, fish, and other wildlife on earth that use water. In short, it's a big problem that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not yet regulate.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is looking into the problem and holding hearings, but what can we do at home now?
The first thing to do is check your annual "Consumer Confidence Report." The EPA requires all water systems to prepare and deliver these reports annually to their customers. Their reports show the lead concentrations in your water, the presence of E. coli bacteria, and even chlorine. Make no mistake: many municipal water systems are contaminated beyond federal limits for safety and health, so be sure and read the entire report. Private wells are even more problematic because there is no reporting on the well on your lot, and pollution deposited many miles away will migrate. Large plumes of perchlorate exist in the groundwater, and they travel.
EPA maintains a Safe Drinking Water Hotline, (800) 426-4791, where you can find contact information for state-certified testing labs, or local health authority contact information for low-cost, or no-cost home water testing kits. Or click here: http://www.epa.gov/safewater/labs
Think filtration after you've reviewed the state of your particular municipal system and your own test results. Use the information you gather to choose the correct filtration for your needs. Why not just buy bottled water? Because many bottled waters come from municipal water supplies! It is less regulated than tap water, and as a result, is less safe. Additionally, there is a rising concern about the plastic bottles leeching polymers into the water they hold, not to mention the debate over tens of millions of water bottles winding up in our trash each year.
There are reverse osmosis filters for easy under-sink installation, and larger systems for filtering your main water line that require installation by a plumber. There are charcoal filters that are appropriate for certain uses, but may not be effective in others. There are ozone filters that kill bacteria. Some mount on your faucet head and are completely disposable, some employ a cartridge that is to be replaced periodically, and some can be found in a handy pitcher that is kept in your refrigerator.
Whatever type of filtration you might use, begin with a study of your water quality, do your homework on the types of filtration available to serve your particular needs, and enjoy clean water for improved health for yourself and your family.
Additional health-related information for seniors
can also be found at:
A2. TIME TO RE-PLAN RETIREMENT?
Did you plan your coming retirement ten years ago? Five years ago? Perhaps it's time to plan again....
Oh the difference a few years can make! Remember how life was a decade ago when you planned your retirement? Our economy was booming. Real estate prices were rising. Interest rates were the lowest they had been in a generation. Jobs were plentiful, and the world was even buying our exports despite our strong dollar.
Is that the environment you planned to retire in? Because the opposite is true of our economy today, and by nearly every measure. As a result, many people are planning to work during their retirement. There can be pitfalls, however. You may be putting your retirement income at risk because your earnings can determine what your payout is. Lower your weekly earnings by working part time and poof there goes part of your hard-earned retirement benefits.
Are you thinking about taking your social security benefits early? There are substantial benefits to waiting until you are 65. Social security payments are calculated on how long you worked, how much you paid into the Social Security system, and how your earnings rose before retirement. Many people earn most in the later stages of their career, so ending it early has a negative effect on your Social Security benefit payments. What's more, there are substantial penalties if you take benefits before retirement age and need to return to work later penalties such as $1 charged against your monthly benefits for every $2 you earn once you cross the $13,560 threshold.
This is not a small consequence for the taxpayers who had to return to work. Nearly one-half of "retirees" are still working part time. The Senate Special Committee on Aging is working on a fix to this with a bill to address these issues, including reduction in the penalty. But there will still be a penalty against earnings over a certain threshold level after you've started receiving Social Security benefits, regardless.
Another situation to be aware of when working after retirement is a defined benefit pension plan's payout calculation. If you have a defined benefit plan you've probably been proudly piling up the funds you'll live on in retirement for years. For decades, these plans were the favored method for employers to reward years of loyal service to an employee by providing for a steady income stream once that service ended.
Today, most working employees have a 401(k) or other plan, if anything at all. But in the world of today's retirees, many people are reviewing their pension plan statements. They put in 20 years and they deserve their reward. But perhaps it isn't quite enough after retirement with today's depressed dollar and rising prices? So, some workers return to the old firm and work part time. For those in a defined benefit plan this can permanently lower the amount of your benefits because they are partially calculated upon the amount you earned at the time of your retirement! You won't be making more working part time than you did working full time at the same shop, that's for sure. Benefits can be sharply reduced as an unintended result.
Not to mention the health benefits: yes, if you are insured by your company when working post-retirement, your Medicare benefits will be impacted, as well.
Plan early, and review your plans often. Talk with your family members about your plans. Your adult children might not relish the idea of selling off the old-income generating duplex building. Or, conversely, they might not relish the idea of keeping and managing it for you while you're off fishing! What kind of income will you need to maintain your lifestyle? What about managing your personal debt?
Your estate lawyer can help, too, when you're planning for retirement. You don't have an estate attorney? Better find one. Depending on the state you live in, probate can be very expensive and time consuming. The choices you make for retirement can have direct impact on your estate plans, as well. You worked hard all of your life to provide for your kids, your spouse, and for yourself through good times, and bad. Why let the retirement, and inheritance benefits from all of that hard work become fouled up now?
As only one in one hundred Americans retires independently wealthy, retirement requires a well thought-out plan. Speak with your HR representative and retirement planning professionals when making your initial plans. Check in with them annually when you get your annual benefits statement from your employer, and from Social Security. And then check with them again later before you act on those plans. In the world of retirement, a little pre-planning and review goes a very long way!
To begin, take a look at some of these web sites:
Additional financial information for seniors can also be found at:
B. DID YOU KNOW...?
Property Tax Postponement
Check with your state and/or local government to see if they have a similar program. If they do, let us know and we will let our website visitors know about your state's program. firstname.lastname@example.org
See a disaster supply checklist at:
C. THOUGHTS FOR THE MONTH
We present here some words from those with a birthday this month
More "Thoughts" at: http://www.seniorresource.com/thought.htm
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D. SPECIAL OCCASIONS THIS MONTH
1. U.S. Flag Day
2. World Environment Day 2008
E. SPECIAL SURFING SITES
Digital Television Transition
The United States Air Force Art Collection
F. OH MY AGING FUNNY BONE
Visit 1000's of jokes of interest to people who have lived a long and
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SPONSOR AN ISSUE
This issue has been edited by Betsy Day (Betsyjday@aol.com).
Aging in Place