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Posted by Caryn Colgan | Oct 15, 2009

The Health Risks of Granite Countertops

Granite emits radon, a cancer-causing gas.

Granite is the most popular natural stone and countertop material not only because it is available in a wide variety of colors and designs but it is a natural addition to any eco-friendly home. Most realtors and many home buyers seem to agree, granite countertops add value to your home. Quarried in huge blocks weighing up to 35 tons, are cut into smaller slabs 3/4" or 1-1/4" thick. The face of the stone is then polished to the desired finish.

Advantages of Granite Countertops

As a countertop, granite gracefully withstands abuse. It is nearly impossible to scratch. If you don't mind damaging your knives, you can chop fruits and vegetables on the countertop without a cutting board. Hot pots, pans and cookie sheets cannot hurt it either. Because the surface of a polished granite countertop is non-porous, bacteria cannot hide on it. Even though granite is one of the hardest and strongest stones, the polished surface of most granite can still be stained if not properly sealed with a few exceptions. Some varieties of granite are so dense that they do not need to be sealed. Absolute black and galaxy black granite are not only nearly indestructibly they are among the most expensive. For most consumers, selecting a lovely countertop and sealing it every few years will suit their needs.

The Health Risks of Granite and Radon Gas

As with most natural stones, granite emits radiation. However, granite emits more radiation than most. On July 25, 2008 The Early Show aired a program called Granite Countertops: A Health Threat? They suggested that homeowners have their countertops tested for harmful radon gas emissions. Radon is a known cancer-causing radioactive gas that is commonly found in homes in some areas. The gas is commonly found in low-lying parts of the home such as basements. Not only is radon invisible, it has no taste or smell according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA says, "Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in America and claims about 20,000 lives annually. Learn how you can protect your family. Test Your Home for Radon -- it's easy and inexpensive. Fix your home if you have a radon level of 4 pCi/L or more."

For homeowners interested in learning more about radon, the World Health Organization offers a handbook, available by download, entitled WHO Handbook on Indoor Radon, A Public Health Perspective.

Even if radon is found in the home and a granite countertop or floor is a contributing factor, there are easy and inexpensive mitigation solutions available. Granites with reds seem to emit the highest radiation, though each piece should be tested.

The Marble Institute of America refute the evidence that granite can be harmful, pointing to their own research on the topic.

For any homeowner considering a granite countertop, the best advice is to do your research. Have your slab tested before it is installed. Consider the beauty and durability of the countertop and the fact that it will add value to your home. If a time comes when you want to sell your home, you can provide potential buyers with test results to allay any concerns.

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