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Granite Countertops May Be a Health Threat?

I have something to be relived about this week: I don’t have a posh kitchen, no granite countertops, so this story doesn’t ratchet up my mom-anxiety.

This week, CBS reported on a story that granite kitchen countertops are releasing radon gas into homes, and may pose a serious health hazard. Granite naturally contains low levels of radioactivity, which gradually releases radon gas over time. Radon is a radioactive gas and a carcinogen, and causes an estimated 20,000 lung cancer deaths every year in the USA. Granite countertop manufactures say the risk is totally negligible, and the amount of radon that could be released by a countertop is minuscule.

The Environmental Protection Agency says that the sealing process tends to keep radon gas in, and consumers should be more worried about testing their whole home for radon from other sources, like from rocks in the earth.

So to put the risk from granite countertops in perspective, If there is radon in your house, the vast majority of it is coming from the rock underneath your home. The bedrock – all those millions of tons of it that your home is built on – is often granite or other rocks that also release radon.

And eating food that has been prepared on a granite countertop, is very unlikely to be dangerous

Many states’ health departments sell subsidized radon test kits, usually by mail order. (Google <your state> health department, then search for “radon test” on their website, or use the search feature on the EPA website.)

I live in Minnesota, and the Minnesota Department of Health sells radon test kits for under $10. You would hang up the test in your home for a couple of days, then mail it into a laboratory to be analyzed. You’ll receive a result in a couple of weeks.

Here’s the EPA’s advice on testing, and what to do if you do have elevated radon levels in your house.

So I’m not currently panicking about my mom’s or my friend’s granite countertops, but I think I might get one of those radon test kits.

And who thinks the next health scare will be about fake granite countertops?


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