The Kitchen Designer

Thanks for stopping by! I'm Susan Serra, certified kitchen designer, and my mission is to take kitchen design style, function and analysis to a higher level. Here's why the kitchen has the most honored place in the home - all five senses reside in the kitchen.  Best...Susan  Contact: susan@susanserraassociates.com

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« Slate Countertop Test! | Main | When the French Country Kitchens Go Marching In... »

Hot Countertops!

No, I don't mean stylish, I don't mean beautiful, I mean hot as in radon hot!

At this moment, The New York Times' article "What's Lurking In Your Countertop" is the Number One most popular article that is being emailed!

I'm no scientist or geologist, but, I'm paying attention and passing it along for you too. Oh, if you have to register for The Times, it's worth it. They do not do anything with your email address, so I'm told. Definitely register.

What you may want to do is contact a certified technician who will test your countertop here, or for $20-$30 you can pick up a radon testing kit at hardware stores.

What's Lurking In Your Countertop? 

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Reader Comments (6)

I wish you hadn't given these people more publicity - it's been shown in multiple places that the techniques that these groups used are very shoddy, with huge sources of error. Additionally, the radon "problem" would apply to any product containing natural stone, including engineered "quartz" countertops, cement/concrete, etc. As a geologist (geophysicist, actually), I hate to see this sort of non-science propagated, since it devalues real science. This sort of junk is just like the earthquake predictions that were picked up by the media after the devastating earthquake in China - the journalists didn't even bother to figure out that this group was making predictions EVERY day and then deleting them from their web page when they proved to be false.

July 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRo

Ro, thank you for your insight. Obviously, I am not a geologist, so I cannot have an opinion of what is or is not correctly reported, but, having your dissenting opinion on this piece has much value too as it expands the discussion.

Thank you.

July 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

Sorry, I wanted to add a link from Consumer Reports regarding this topic. They also review the home test kits.

July 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRo

Ro, I really appreciate your contribution, thank you!

July 25, 2008 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

Here's additional information I received on behalf of the Marble Institute of America:

Fact: According to the U.S. EPA, Consumer Reports and other independent authorities, there is no evidence that granite countertops pose any type of health hazard.

Fact: Granite and Health

Natural granite was one of the first building materials ever used. Like many other rocks, granite contains a very small amount of radioactivity, so it has long been known that granite countertops can emit exceedingly low levels of radiation, either by release of tiny amounts of the gas radon, or directly from the surface itself.

The fact is, such emissions are an infinitesimal amount of the radiation that is all around us every day, from natural sources and from sources like concrete, wrist-watches and smoke detectors. They are simply not dangerous.

Most of the recent discussion focuses on radon. Granite countertop emissions contribute insignificant amounts of radon and are hundreds or even thousands of times below U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines. By some measurements 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 would reduce any such minute emissions even further.

EPA’s website (http://iaq.custhelp.com/cgibin/iaq.cfg/php/enduser/std_alp.php) advises:

While natural minerals such as granite may occasionally emit radon gas, the levels of radon attributable to such sources are not typically high… 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.

In addition, two recent studies by researchers at the University of Akron (www.marble-institute.com/industryresources/radontesting_u-akron2008.pdf) and Consumer Reports found no grounds to fear granite countertops. Consumer Reports found no evidence of health risk; in fact, none of the countertops they tested were found to be emitting radon and they reported that similar findings were recently generated by other well-conducted studies.

So, what explains the oddly high radon reading some “experts” have claimed to find? It is hard to know since some of their testing methods have not been open to scrutiny, but in part they are likely testing the granite incorrectly by placing testing devices directly on the surface. That is not the way that EPA or other experts would advise testing for radon; it provides misleading data since radon dissipates very quickly and its presence in the surrounding air is the relevant factor. Consultant Stanley Liebert (discussed below) has been shown incorrectly using a Geiger counter to measure radon. Similar readings would probably be generated by placing the device next to a television, wristwatch, etc.

July 29, 2008 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

Great follow up info. Thanks!

August 2, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPamela

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