A routine radon test revealed a surprise in Lynn Sugarman’s kitchen a few years ago. Usually, radon is found in your basement ( underground deposits of uranium decay and produce the gas) — but when the radon specialist inspected Dr. Sugarman’s house –he found radon in her kitchen.
From the New York Times:
“He went from room to room,” said Dr. Sugarman, a pediatrician. But he stopped in his tracks in the kitchen, which had richly grained cream, brown and burgundy granite countertops. His Geiger counter indicated that the granite was emitting radiation at levels 10 times higher than those he had measured elsewhere in the house.
Granite, even the stuff that is commonly used in kitchen countertops, can contain uranium or other radioactive elements. The granite in Dr. Sugarman’s kitchen was especially “hot.”
The E.P.A. recommends taking action if radon gas levels in the home exceeds 4 picocuries per liter of air (a measure of radioactive emission); about the same risk for cancer as smoking a half a pack of cigarettes per day. In Dr. Sugarman’s kitchen, the readings were 100 picocuries per liter. In her basement, where radon readings are expected to be higher because the gas usually seeps into homes from decaying uranium underground, the readings were 6 picocuries per liter.
“It’s not that all granite is dangerous,” said Stanley Liebert, the quality assurance director at CMT Laboratories in Clifton Park, N.Y., who took radiation measurements at Dr. Sugarman’s house. “But I’ve seen a few that might heat up your Cheerios a little.”
So what do you do if your suspect your granite is radioactive? Well, the NYT says that you can get some do it yourself radon kits from the Environmental Protection Agency, or your local hardware store. You could also choose to spend some money to have a professional come in. Expect to spend $20-$30 for a do it yourself kit, and $100 to $300 to have your countertop tested by a professional.