It’s October, and Halloween is right here. It’s time for pumpkins, skeletons, and spooky stories—the perfect time for us to re-visit the “ghost story” of granite kitchen counter tops emitting radioactive gasses in millions of households.
In 2008, news outlets including the New York Times and The Houston Chronicle began reporting about a household toxin problem few people had previously thought about…the potentially hazardous content of their kitchen countertops. Both articles reported stories of elevated levels of radon, a radioactive gas that causes lung cancer, being given off by granite countertops.
Since granite countertops are the most popular choice for American countertops, this, naturally, created quite a stir. And every now and then, when the media are trying to generate ratings, we see the subject resurface. In fact, we saw a similar story from a media outlet in Green Bay, WI this past spring.
The bottom line…it’s an alarming, scary tale that’s really just an “urban legend.” Granite countertops do not emit a significant amount of radon into the home.
All natural products, especially stone, minerals, and sand, contain trace amounts of some radioactive elements called NORMS (or Naturally Occurring Radioactive Mineral) that can produce “measurable” amounts of radiation, and sometimes radon gas. But the key word here is “measurable.” It’s not true that all granite countertops emit alarming amounts of radon. Most of those tested register no release of the gas, or such a small quantity that it was statistically insignificant when compared to ordinary background radiation we all live with.
Scientists have spent years studying the facts behind this recurring rumor only to consistently prove that granite countertops are perfectly safe when properly installed in a home. For example, the Marble Institute of America has poured countless resources into studying this topic, all resulting in the same conclusion: granite countertops are safe.
Sources of Radon
So what are common sources of radon around the house? Soil is the most common source of radon gas, followed by well water, and just regular outdoor air. Here’s a pie chart that helps break down sources of radon.
Graphic: Air Check, Inc. http://www.radon.com/radon/granite.html
Do you have granite countertops and still have questions about radon? Marble and Granite, Inc. is happy to help provide answers and give you peace of mind. Radon testing in the home is generally a good idea no matter what kind of countertops you have. We recommend picking up a home testing kit for about $25. If you see high levels of radon present, call in a specialist. If you have any questions about radon and your granite countertops, don’t hesitate to call us.
You can also learn more by checking out these sites: