[ RadSafe ] RE: [RADONPROFESSIONALS] Interesting perspective on granite counter tops
Dan W McCarn
hotgreenchile at gmail.com
Mon Aug 18 16:19:10 CDT 2008
Dan W. McCarn, Geologist; 3118 Pebble Lake Drive; Sugar Land, TX 77479; USA
<mailto:HotGreenChile at gmail.com> HotGreenChile at gmail.com
UConcentrate at gmail.com
<< Lou Witt is with the EPA's Indoor Environment's Division. He was quoted
in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel as saying earlier this month "there is no
known safe level of radon, or radiation," he said, adding that scientists
agree, "Any exposure increases your health risk.">>
I think there are those among the RadSafe group that may like to challenge
Lou Witt's assertion.
From: International Web Resource for Radon Professionals
[mailto:RADONPROFESSIONALS at LIST.UIOWA.EDU] On Behalf Of Field, R W
Sent: Monday, August 18, 2008 3:09 PM
To: RADONPROFESSIONALS at LIST.UIOWA.EDU
Subject: [RADONPROFESSIONALS] Interesting perspective on granite counter
n-emissions-exposure.html> Countertops: Nuke Your Food Without the
Lawyers and Settlements - USA
Granite Countertops: Nuke Your Food Without the Microwave
August 17, 2008. By Gordon Gibb
Lake George, NY: Is your granite countertop radioactive? Chances are good
that it is. However, is it harmful? That's the debate that is raging as the
health and granite industries lock horns.
The granite countertop has become de rigueur in high-end kitchens as
homeowners clamor for the natural esthetics and durability that a granite
countertop affords. But in recent weeks media reports revealing the
potential for radiation emitting from certain granites has left some
homeowners re-thinking their purchase.
In Dr. Lynn Sugarman's case, she ripped those countertops right outta there.
The Teaneck, New Jersey physician purchased her summer home two years ago
and was astounded to find elevated levels of radon in the home during a
routine inspection. After bringing in a radon measurement and mitigation
specialist, the source of the radiation was traced to the countertop in the
kitchen. It was reported in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that Geiger
counter readings were ten times higher over the richly grained granite
countertop, than elsewhere in the home.
When the technician recommended to Dr. Sugarman that she keep her pregnant
daughter, who would be visiting for the weekend, several feet from the
countertop to be safe, Sugarman took no chances and had her gorgeous
countertops removed that same day, and analyzed at a lab.
Her local Department of Health determined that the granite contained high
levels of uranium, which is both radioactive, and releases radon gas as it
decays over time. Sugarman admits the health risk to her and her family was
probably small, but she didn't want to take any chances.
And therein lay the debate: no one argues that granite has the potential to
emit radon gas, or has the propensity to be radioactive. The US
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Marble Institute of America
(MIA) admit as much. The bigger question, is just what IS safe? That answer
has a lot to do with personal opinion and tolerance, but according to the
EPA granite countertops pose no 'significant' health risk.
The key word there is 'significant'.
"While natural minerals such as granite may occasionally emit radon gas, the
levels of radon attributable to such sources are not typically high," the
EPA statement said. "EPA believes the principal source of radon in homes is
soil gas that is drawn indoors through a natural suction process.
"Granite is a natural mineral formed by earth's geology," the statement
continues. "It is mined and used to produce commercial products such as
countertops. It is possible for any granite sample to contain varying
concentrations of uranium that can produce radon gas. Some granite used in
countertops may contribute variably to indoor radon levels. However, EPA has
no reliable data to conclude that types of granite used in countertops are
significantly increasing indoor radon levels.
"Construction materials such as concrete, cinder blocks, bricks, and granite
contain small amounts of radioactive materials that are found naturally in
the materials used to make them."
Part of the problem may lie in the fact that there are upwards of 900
different varieties of granite available from 63 countries, and the amount
of radon, and radiation may depend upon where the granite hails from in the
world. Thus, granite itself is less of an issue than the ultimate source.
And it should be noted that there is agreement from health physicists and
radiation experts with regard to the extremely low levels of radiation
emitted from most granite countertops. However, the EPA found itself in the
midst of what has turned out to be the Great Granite Debate after receiving
scores of reports from radiation technicians, and from concerned homeowners
alarmed at the radiation clicking away the Geiger counter when the
instrument was passed over their expensive, imported granite countertop.
Lou Witt is with the EPA's Indoor Environment's Division. He was quoted in
the South Florida Sun-Sentinel as saying earlier this month "there is no
known safe level of radon, or radiation," he said, adding that scientists
agree, "Any exposure increases your health risk."
Whether or not the EPA is softening its stance with a nod to the huge marble
industry remains unclear. However, it has been reported that the EPA
recommends taking action if radon gas levels in the home exceeds four
picocuries per liter of air-which has been identified as carrying the same
risk for cancer as smoking a half-pack of cigarettes per day.
In Dr. Sugarman's kitchen, the readings were 100 picocuries per liter.
The debate rages on. "Every time researchers have applied rigorous
scientific standards to testing, the results have found that granite
countertops pose no risk," says Jim Hogan, President of the MIA. "Repeated
studies have found that granite is safe. Unfortunately, some recent junk
science being reported as fact only serves to panic the public, not inform
it. Our goal is to end this fear mongering by facilitating the creation of a
real scientific standard for testing granite countertops."
A recent study by Consumer Reports also concluded that there is no health
risk stemming from your granite countertops, and found no radon gas at all
released from any of the samples it tested. The specific samples were not
identified in the Sun-Sentinel report.
Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking and is
considered especially dangerous to smokers, whose lungs are already
compromised. Children and developing fetuses are vulnerable to radiation,
which can cause other forms of cancer.
And beyond that, is the responsibility of those vending the granite, to
communicate this fact to their prospective clients. Would most clients be
told that purchasing a granite countertop-and an expensive option at
that-could raise the radon level in the home? And perhaps more
significantly, were the buyer to choose one of the more exotic and striated
varieties originating from Brazil and Namibia, he or she could be raising
radon levels significantly over other varieties. Brazilian granite is a
As the two opposing camps dig in, it will be curious to gauge the response
of homeowners with a predisposition to cancer, and an invoice for an
expensive granite countertop amongst the rest of the paperwork for their
Perhaps it is low risk. But perhaps you would prefer no risk. Perhaps you
would have appreciated knowing about this risk beforehand. And perhaps you
are now living every moment of your life, afraid to go into the kitchen, but
unable financially to make a change. Hell, you might even still be paying
for that granite countertop.
Just maybe, a qualified attorney could help you find a way to pay for it.or
better yet, get it outta there.
The last word goes to Stanley Liebert. He's the quality assurance director
at CMT Laboratories in Clifton Park, New Jersey and the guy who took the
radiation measurements in Dr. Sugarman's home.
"It's not that all granite is dangerous," he said. "But I've seen a few that
might heat up your Cheerios a little."
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