A while ago a story was published in a solid surface trade publication about the use of granite countertops and the release of Radon gas. This produced a myth that granite countertops are dangerous. It was quickly discovered that the author of the story worked for a company making laminate countertops. They were trying to scare people away from buying granite.
Once again this is being raised, this time by BuildCleanTM, a Houston-based group that claims to be a “pending not-for-profit organization that educates consumers and the building industry about safe, healthy and environmentally friendly materials.” The organization appears to be funded by Silestone and Cambria, two companies that manufacture synthetic stone countertops. If you visit the BuildClean site at www.BuildClean.org you will see that the organization appears to be narrowly focused on stone countertops and nothing else.
Here are some facts. Some rock contains small amounts of radioactive material. As they decay to a more stable state, they give off radiation (alpha, beta or gamma). Granite and sedimentary rocks and weathering products like clay minerals are all potassium rich. Potassium has a radio-isotope that emits radiation. When potassium decays, one of the bi-products is radon gas, which itself is radioactive.
But there is no danger from granite countertops. Remember your food was grown in clay rich soils or your meat once ate grass that was grown in such soils. Also, many people live in granite areas without any ill-effects.
A university researcher on the geochemistry of radioactive elements for nearly 20 years at Penn State University and the Colorado School of Mines stated,
“I would suggest that a good way to reduce our exposure to the radon present in outdoor air, would be to build an air-tight house out of granite slabs”
Above granite image courtesy of Zoonie.