I don’t actually have granite countertops. But I want them. Badly.
And while I have precious little time for television, when I do indulge, HGTV is way high on the top of my list. I practically drool watching the crews go out and pick the perfect slab of granite for a home make-over.
This is why I have purposely turned a deaf ear to the recent stream of articles on the possible correlation between my decorating dreams and cancer.
The controversy became heated when the New York Times featured an article, What’s Lurking In Your Countertop, on July 24, 2008. The article featured a story about a home where radon was detected in the granite countertops in levels ten times higher than anywhere else in the home.
What is radon?
Radon is a radioactive, colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that is formed as natural deposits of uranium in the earth’s crust decay. In granite, radon is released due to uranium decay in natural stone. As radon decay products are inhaled, they can alter the cells in the lungs. Approximately 20,000 people die of radon related lung cancer each year. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer.
Radon is routinely tested in many areas of the country when homes are sold and purchased. Here in Colorado it is not unusual to have high radon levels reported. Radon is then mitigated by venting and fan systems which cost around a thousand dollars and upwards depending on the square footage of your home. Basically they bring in and circulate fresh air.
Here is a link to the EPA radon map showing areas of high radon in the United States.
So what’s the reality when it comes to granite countertops?
From the EPA:
“While radon levels attributable to granite are not typically high, there are simply too many variables to generalize about the potential health risks inside a particular home that has granite counter tops. It is prudent to limit your family’s exposure to radon whenever possible. EPA recommends that indoor air have a radon level as far below 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) of air as possible. There are easy ways to test the air in your home for radon, and high radon levels can be reduced with proven and inexpensive technology. EPA believes the most significant source of radon risk is soil gas. Regardless of source, all homes should be tested for radon.
EPA will continue to monitor and analyze the evolving research on this issue and will update its recommendations as appropriate.”
Radon testing kits are simple to do and in expensive to purchase. Check out the EPA site for testing experts in your state.
In the meantime, I’m looking into composite countertops!