Ali Kriscenski

Could your granite countertops be leaking radon gas?

by , 07/28/08

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A large part of the green building focus is on healthy indoor air quality – eliminating toxins, emissions and pollutants that can cause indoor air to be more polluted than outdoors. One common and potentially dangerous health risk inside buildings has recently been found in high levels in granite finishes. This highly popular countertop choice has become suspect as an emitter of radiation and an entry point for high levels of radon gas inside the home.

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You can’t see it, smell it or taste it, but radon occurs naturally as uranium in soil, rock and water breaks down. It is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is found throughout the United States and can seep into homes through air and water posing a health risk – radon causes lung cancer. In fact, radon is the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers and causes more deaths annually than drunk-driving accidents.

Recent radon testing (which often accompanies home inspections for property transfer) has revealed that in addition to potential radon exposure through foundations or water, uranium in granite finishes is releasing radon as it breaks down after installation in the home. While the presence of radiation from granite has been known, and been found to emit radon at low levels in the past, recent radon test findings are revealing higher levels. “With increasing regularity in recent months, the Environmental Protection Agency has been receiving calls from radon inspectors as well as from concerned homeowners about granite countertops with radiation measurements several times above background levels,” according to The New York Times.

While not all granite poses a problem, the recent test results are an important development that shouldn’t be ignored by health conscious consumers. If you’ve got granite in your home, you can reduce your risk of lung cancer from radon exposure by testing your home’s radon level. It’s fairly easy and inexpensive to test for radon, you can even do it yourself with the proper kit. No level of radon is safe, but at a level higher than 4 picocuries per liter of air, the E.P.A. recommends taking action which would involve mitigation or removal of the source.

+ EPA Indoor Air Quality: Radon
+ What’s Lurking In Your Countertop? @ The New York Times

Image via Natural Resources Canada

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10 Comments

  1. MichaelShap August 27, 2010 at 3:51 am

    Seems like people went crazy about this rumour, i have a granite countertops at home for more than 12 years, and i still in a good shape, each half year i go into hospital for a check-up. And guess what? No cancer! I even don\’t want to check my granite countertops radon capacity, because i know that there is less threat from that than from tv, or internet.

  2. Dafeesh June 16, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    Interesting. They have been dealing with natural radon for years without much fanfare.

  3. joh October 4, 2008 at 8:46 am

    As you are probably very aware, there have been on-going accusations that have been consistently made against natural granite products having the ability to cause cancer, because of the high levels of radon that they have been said to produce. These accusations have been going on for quite a while, and it is time to put them to rest.

    Who better to accomplish this, than professionals who strive to ensure the safety, as well as the satisfaction of all customers? The National Stone Restoration Alliance is ready to put accusations to rest. Josveek Huligar, a proud member of the NSRA is willing to conduct a very important test in his own home. This is a test that can ultimately change the world of granite, as we know it.

    Huligar plans to have the very slab of granite, which was said to be ‘hot’ and to have contained radon, installed in his own home. The entire process will be on camera no less, for the entire world to see. Before the slab of granite is to be installed, samples will be taken, and the air will be tested in the home, as described by the EPA, and then sent to be evaluated by AirChek (Air Chek – The Radon Information Center), to check for traces of radon and radiation. When this test is complete, the granite will be installed, and then his home will be tested once again to check the levels of radon and radiation. You can monitor this entire process yourself on a public web cam at Natural Stone Restoration Alliance | Home.

    The slab being used for this test has been provided by Mr. Tim Scarlata of Atlantic Granite & Marble (Atlantic Granite & Marble), located in Rochester N.Y. After searching extensively to find the perfect slab for the test, Scarlata was able to locate two slabs of granite that did in fact produce higher than normal readings of radiation. Atlantic Granite & Marble will also be fabricating and installing the counter top while on video for the public to view.

    There have been some individuals who have spent large amounts of money on not only the installation of natural granite in their homes, but then they have turned right around and paid tons more money in having the granite removed because of the scare that has been put on society with the radon issues. Huligar, being in the business of ensuring customer satisfaction and quality, also takes this issue very seriously, because the health and well being of his customers are at stake. He plans to do everything possible to ensure the continued safety and reliability of NSRA customers.

    You could certainly be seriously hurt, or even killed if granite were to fall on top of you, but at this time, this is the only way that has been proven to cause harm to anyone.

    It is the believed that the radon scare is nothing more than marketing strategies, and it has done exactly what it was intended to do, and that is cause fear of using granite in the general public. Huligar and associates of NSRA do not believe this to be true. However, he knows how important it is for the public to see that he stands behind the good name of The Natural Stone Restoration Alliance and their objective to supply clients with the natural beauty of stone, and that every effort will always be taken to do so in a safe manner. To further put the publics mind at rest, solutions to any unfavorable characteristics have already been found.

    This test is vital to the natural stone industry, and Huligar is ready to stand up to the test to prove that granite is not harmful to the general public. People need to be able to see these accusations called upon.

    The Natural Stone Restoration Alliance (NSRA) has already done their own research, and released their information that looked at both past and present studies, as well as the marketing strategies used by manufacturers that birthed the scare of radon in the home. The findings of this research are quite simply that levels of radon have no significant difference when granite has been installed in a home.

    Do not let yourself fall into the trap of letting unproven fears cost you hundreds of dollars, find out the truth yourself by watching the web cam at Natural Stone Restoration Alliance | Home, and let this door be closed once and for all. Viewers can also comment on the research that is being performed at http://www.nsraweb.com/forums/news-5/radon-granite-testing-9130.html (Live testing of a kitchen for Radon before Granite is install)

    Josveek Huligar
    Huligar Stone Restoration
    http://www.huligar.com
    Founder of the Natural Stone Restoration Alliance
    http://www.nsraweb.com

    Our Mission
    To provide quality natural stone care, restoration and maintenance through a network of qualified natural stone professionals.

    Our Vision
    We are the leaders of the natural stone community committed to the education of the consumer and fellow members. Through the network of our members, we provide dedication to quality and service leading the industry with our standards.

  4. carpentershop August 18, 2008 at 8:38 am

    Bill, (who seems to be a stone industry participant), my name is not Al. It seems you’ve got some kind of conspiracy theory mindset or you’re paranoid. The MIA is being investigated by a certain state attorney general’s office for consumer fraud. We’ll see which side of the fence you decide to stand on after that.

  5. Bill_Vincent August 10, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    Although there is a grain of truth to this, it’s being blown WAY out of proportion by people like Al Gerhardt (Carpentershop) who has a blog by the name of solidsurfacealliance.org .If you go to his blog, you’ll see it has absolutely nothing to do with solid surface, but rather it’s about knocking granite in any way he can. This whole thing is being blown out of proportion by him and the rest of the solid surface industry (two of their biggest manufacturers are behind BuildClean).

    If you want straight scientific facts, given in a way that any normal human being can understand, go to the following forum thread, and pay particular attention to posts by a gentleman by the name of Caoimhín P. Connell. His whole life is about problems like this, and as many times as I’ve challenged Al to rebut Mr. Connell’s assertions, not only has he yet to do it, but he’s admitted that Connell knows what he’s talking about. Check out the thread, and you’ll see what I mean:

    http://www.inspectionnews.net/home_inspection/building-interior-home-inspection-commercial-inspection/7515-stone-countertops-radon.html

  6. carpentershop August 9, 2008 at 10:56 am

    Radon emissions from your TV set & wrist watches?! ROFLMAO

    It’s sad when idiots have access to a little bit of information and post their so called “knowledge”.
    If your tv emits anything (other than a picture & sound) it is NON-IONIZING radiation along with your microwave & your cell phone. Even among the low dose LET ionizing radiation experts, the researchers screaming about t.v.’s & cell phones are on the fringe.

    If your granite emits something it is IONIZING RADIATION, which can be harmful. It’s not all granites & most will be safe but there is a small percentage maybe 5% that are 100′s x background and will increase your 100 mrem limit (+360 mrem background) in a matter of months or in some cases weeks. The ones most concerning are in the “Africa Range” collection from Namibia. This quarry is smack dab in the middle of uranium country, there are several operating & prospective mines surrounding this quarry.

  7. annamolly August 4, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    There are Radon emissions on your TV set, fridge, and wristwatch….so should you quit using them? Of course not….levels are so low, that they don’t pose a risk for you or your family…Same with your granite countertops: Dr. L. L. Chyi, PhD in Geology from the Universi-ty of Akron, OH, tested the most commonly used granites for countertops for radon and says: “The highest radon count on all samples tested accounted for only 7% of EPA´s recommended maximum level. The second highest to only 1%”. Granite countertops are perfectly safe.

    Something to think about: So why all this fuss about radon and granite? Natural Stone has been used for centuries! In the past years it has increased its market share tremendous-ly, and made some synthetic products manufacturers desperate. They started funding this mali-cious campaign, hoping to benefit from consumer fear!

    Synthetic products have similar radon readings to granite. Same with ceramics, glass or steel! Should we quit using all?

    Many cities in the world are surrounded by Granite Mountains, like Rio de Janeiro and Barcelona. Would you believe people who live there are in danger?

    If you’re still worried or uncertain, just contact the Environmental Protection Agency, or ask any serious geologist, and get rid of all your fears. There is nothing more powerful than the truth!

  8. SilviaOsante July 29, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    We understand why homeowners would be alarmed by this story, but the Marble Institute of America would like to assure people that research shows granite countertops pose no threat.

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Consumer Reports and repeated independent studies have shown granite countertops pose no health hazard.

    o EPA stated Friday: “EPA has no reliable data to conclude that types of granite used in countertops are significantly increasing indoor radon levels.” (http://iaq.custhelp.com/cgibin/iaq.cfg/php/enduser/std_alp.php)

    o University of Akron researchers found no threat. (www.marble-institute.com/industryresources/radontesting_u-akron2008.pdf)

    An independent scientific analysis of a variety of studies shows that, accounting for normal airflow in the typical home, radon contributed by granite countertops ranges from 0.01 – 0.02 pCi/L – levels that are 200 to 400 times lower than the EPA guideline of 4 pCi/L.

    o By some measures, the amount of radon emitted by a granite countertop is less than one millionth of that already present in household air from other sources. Many granite countertops do not emit radon at all, and those treated with sealant reduce emissions even further.

    Silvia Osante
    Cohn & Wolfe on behalf of The Marble Institute of America

  9. sassy01247 July 29, 2008 at 10:15 am

    Can\’t say the EPA is offering a clear picture of this issue.

    They state there is \”no risk\” then say they state there is \”insufficient data\”, and then say \”Granite countertops may emit some level of radon\”.

    What advice does the EPA have about radon for consumers who have granite countertops?
    http://tinyurl.com/63c5pn

    This issue has been knocked around since 2001.

    What\’s the truth here!!!

  10. lili July 28, 2008 at 11:47 pm

    This report is based on an US study.
    I guess that\’s a way more subjective than that.
    How long do we stay close to our countertops?
    How long do we spend outside close to the ground?
    Is there any studies based on this comparison?

    I feel a way more concerned by regions leaning on some granite stratum.

    Just to go further,
    In China
    http://www.raydetect.com/article/080524192412.html (measures in KBecquerels per cubic meter, 4 pCi/L equals to 148 Bq/m3 )

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