What's Lurking in Your Countertop?

In 2008, homeowners became fearful after reading newspaper articles about granite countertops containing radium, which can emit radon, a radioactive gas that can cause lung cancer. Before you go thinking that your kitchen has become a Three Mile Island, read on. Some granite countertops have been found to give off trace amounts of radon, and reporters cited a few kitchens with radon levels as high as 25 times the EPA’s safety limit. Granite is mined from the earth, where radium and naturally occurring radioactive materials are not uncommon. Certain regions have higher levels of radioactivity than others, and scientists have worked for years to determine where they are. However, Bill Broadhead, President of WPB Enterprises, a Pennsylvania radon mitigation company, says that very few granite countertops pose a real threat. In fact, after reviewing the test data submitted by manufacturers, the EPA issued a statement saying there’s not enough evidence to suggest granite countertops are a source of radon. Broadhead went on to say that real radon threats are normally found in basements dug into the ground. If you’re worried, pick up a home testing kit for about $25 and if you see that your levels are at or above the EPA’s limit, call in a specialist. The Marble Institute of America, which sets standards for natural stone, is developing radon testing methods for granite countertops.