Granite Countertop Worries?

Since the NY Times printed an article What’s Lurking in Your Countertop in the Home & Garden Section of the July 24 edition there has been considerable concern on the part of home owners as well as by the radon and science community. Radon Done Right began receiving calls almost immediately as concerned home owners became alarmed due to this article and that trend continues.

You may rest assured that the situation portrayed by that article is not as fateful as it appears. Using our palmRAD 907 we tested several granite counter tops and indeed there were some that indicated elevated radioactive emissions compared to background levels. One home in particular had approximately 75 sq. ft. of granite countertop from Brazil. The home owner performed follow-up tests for radon in air utilizing State of Maine approved devices and analyzed by a State of Maine registered lab. One device was placed in the basement and another in the kitchen with the granite counter tops. The lab report revealed no significant elevated level of radon in the kitchen area, 0.7 pCi/L. The report for the basement was 1.0 pCi/L. Had the test reports indicated a higher level in the kitchen than in the basement there would have been a greater suspicion that the new granite countertop was the culprit however that was not the case. Indeed it is typical that radon gas levels are slightly lower on the first floor than in the basement.

The phone calls continue from unduly concerned homeowners asking to have their granite countertops tested. I refer them to the several resources from the science community on granite countertops and radon gas such as the following:

- American Association of Scientists and Technologists August 4, 2008
(click on the AARST logo)

- National Environmental Health Association & National Radon Proficiency Program    August 6, 2008 (click on the NEHA-NRPP logo)

- Health Physics Society August 1, 2008

- The University of Akron, Radon Testing of Various Countertop Materials, Final Report is an excellent read – PDF file

All of the position statements from those institutions support the fact that most granite will have no impact on the level of radon gas and in the worse case scenario granite countertops might contribute as much as 0.2 pCi/L to the radon in air of your home. The average outdoor level of radon is 0.4 pCi/L according to the EPA. If you are concerned about radon in your home, have it tested or test it yourself.