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Countertop Concerns

November 13, 2008, 9:59 PM by Courtney Zieller

Countertop Concerns
If you have granite counter tops, bath tiles or even fireplaces in your home, you could be inhaling a harmful and toxic gas.  According to a 2008 study by the University of Akron, the dangers of radon could be lurking where we share some of our happiest moments.  

Granite in your home is always a stunning sight but looks can sometimes be deceiving. Your high-end granite spaces could be emitting unhealthy levels of radon gas. 

"It is potentially out there," says Mike Stelling with Granite Transformations. 

Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the ground and can be very dangerous if inhaled daily. 

"70 percent of it is formed just in the earth, in the ground. As it pertains to rock, rock is formed in the earth so you have the same contractions with gases," says Stelling.

Stelling says the granite his company gets in from Italy is processed differently then most companies. 

"Our stones, they actually compound the rock, they break it into smaller pieces so they're disassembling the rock which takes out all the problems," says Stelling.

Stelling says when the radon is released in the air during the breakdown process -- it has little to no affect on the homeowner. However, finding out where your granite comes from is always a good idea since some pieces might have high levels of radon in them. 

"There are some that do, there are very few and most are exotic colors and come from other parts of the world, typically you find those in areas like China and Brazil," says Stelling.

Some studies show lung cancer is linked to high radon levels -- Avera McKennan Oncologist Dr. David Elson says only *some people should worry about the toxic gas. 

"People who work in coal and uranium mining especially. There's high radon in the environment and they're working in an enclosed area where air doesn't circulate so well," says Elson. 

The National Cancer Institute says radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer, but Elson says there's an even bigger threat. 

"Smoke and second hand smoke is much greater risk factor for cancer than the radon would be," says Elson.

Although radon exposure can increase your risk for lung cancer -- Elson says people who have granite in their homes shouldn't worry too much. 

"I think evidence that radon causes cancer in the home environment is not extremely compelling in my view. I think is a theoretical risk based on explanations from data obtained from the miners," says Elson. 

And not all granite is dangerous -- in fact, Stelling says there's a slim chance that your granite is hazardous.

"I would say there are probably 95% to 99% of stones out there that don't have a measurable rating as far as emissions of radon gas," says Stelling.

The Federal Envrionmental Protection Agency agrees, according to it's website, the "EPA does not believe sufficient data exist to conclude that the types of granite commonly used in countertops are significantly increasing indoor radon levels."

If you're looking to put granite in your home and you're worried about Radon, the best advice is to talk with the company your thinking about working with as they may have testing available.

"I know our company does that because there's other things we do with bacteria testing and we also do shock impact with the stones," says Stelling. 

If you'd like to test for radon on your own, you can order a test kit online or pick one up at most home improvement stores. 

University of Akron: Radon-Countertop Study

Learn more about radon from the Environmental Protection Agency.

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