Do You Really Have To Worry About Radon In Granite Countertops?

Granite serves as the ideal material for low-maintenance, durable kitchen countertops, and comes in countless color variations to add style to any space. Despite its natural beauty and strength, some wonder if granite could pose health risks by releasing radon gas into the home. Fortunately, the majority of research on the topic makes it clear that the health risks from granite countertops sold by companies like GranBrazil Inc are infinitely small, and affordable test kits can help ease your fears so you can relax and enjoy the ease and look of this natural stone.

What is Radon?

Some rocks, including granite, contain radioactive elements like radium, uranium and thorium. As these elements break down over time, they can release a gas known as radon. Radon gas exposure is linked to lung cancer, and it is the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It's important to note that not all rocks -- or all granite -- contain these elements, and many granite products will produce no radon whatsoever. 

Where Radon Comes From

The vast majority of people who are exposed to elevated radon levels are exposed as radon gas seeps up from rocks below the home. Radon shields and other construction techniques can help reduce this exposure. Those concerned about granite countertops will be relieved to know that the risk of exposure to radon gas seeping up from under the home is hundreds of times higher than the risk associated with granite countertops. 

Occupational Exposure

Levels of radon gas in the majority of granite products are so low that even people who work with granite countertops on a daily basis are safe from exposure. Research conducted by the Marble Institute of America found no elevated risk for people who work in granite quarries or those who work in shops that fabricate granite countertops. This is true even in shops that use dry-cutting techniques, where one would expect the risk of exposure to increase.

Expert Insight

So what do the experts say? One scientist, in an interview with The New York Times, described the risk of developing cancer from granite countertop exposure as one in a million, even if you are unlucky enough to purchase a granite countertop which emits elevated levels of radiation. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency calls it "extremely unlikely" that granite countertops could increase radiation levels in the home above naturally-occurring background levels.The Marble Institute of America states that the majority of granite variations are safe, but warns that less is known about the rarest and most exotic granite due to a lack of testing. 

Reduce Your Risk

If you're still worried about the risk of radon gas in granite, you can always choose a manufacturer who has tested the stone before making your purchase. The Marble Institute of America has developed test standards for granite, and continues to create new standards for use in the industry. If your granite is already in place, ease your fears by having your granite tested through The American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists, who can give you precise information about radon gas levels coming from your granite.You can also pick up a test kit at a hardware or home improvement store to test your countertops yourself if you have concerns.