Are Your Beautiful Granite Countertops Full Of Uranium? Maybe.

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.

What’s Lurking in Your Countertop? [NYT]
(Photo: Getty)

Comments

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  1. rellog says:

    Maybe there’s something already on the books, but I have to say this type of situation begs for a regulation. Those pulling the granite from the ground (or importing) should be required to measure radioactivity levels and should be banned from selling anything above the recommended norm.

    Que the morons that will blame the consumer for not knowing the counter-top was radioactive before they bought it…

  2. Ahoatam says:

    @rellog: Because that’s what we need. More regulation.

  3. mike says:

    This is a rather strange situation. I’ve never heard of rocks emitting radiation…

  4. Daemon_of_Waffle says:

    Regulators! Mount up.

  5. Necoras says:

    @linus: Um, Uranium Ore? Most rocks are mildly radioactive, so this isn’t all that surprising when you think about it.

    @Ahoatam: Regulation, when done correctly, is done for the public good. Then there’s regulation for regulation’s sake. Personally I’d rather the contractor I hired test to make sure that the materials he’s using are safe, and I have no problem with regulating that at some level along the supply chain.

  6. sir_eccles says:

    Phew, it’s a good job all those radiation detectors installed at the ports to stop terrorists bringing in a dirty bomb caught this in time!

  7. Joe_Bloe says:

    @Ahoatam: What alternative do you propose? I’m all for “buyer beware” when I’m taking my car to the shop, or buying electronics online. Current regulations for things like car dealers selling me a lemon, or whether that baby seat performs adequately, meet my needs. But how the hell am I supposed to “beware” of radioactive countertops? Be waiting at the front door with a geiger counter when the installers arrive?

  8. racermd says:

    Radon, by itself, isn’t all that bad. Sure, it’s not exactly healthy but it’s not the worst of it.

    See, Radon is a particle (see Rn on the periodic table). As it decays, it turns into (among other things) isotopes of lead. As a particle that floats around your home, you will eventually inhale, eat, drink, and absorb these particles. Once there, the decay process continues until it turns into stable lead. And, if we’ve learned anything from the semi-recent scandal from a certain country in east Asia, lead == bad.

    Finally, here’s a site that you might find helpful about Radon.

  9. SacraBos says:

    I hear that Iran is installing about 1,000,000lbs of granite countertops in the Presidential Palace. The Iranian Ambassador insists this is for peaceful dining and bathroom purposes.

  10. cf27 says:

    @Necoras: So, regulation should be a last step taken when everything else breaks down and when the risk from not regulating is greater than its cost.

    If you read the article, the industry is developing a testing protocol that would help solve the problem. Plus, if somebody’s granite countertops are emitting levels that are dangerous, they have the ability to sue. And, a few lawsuits have a wonderful way of getting industry to change its behavior. If these things fail to protect consumers, then you have to look at how much harm is being caused — the article did not find much. Given that, it seems to me that the EPA probably has more important things to spend its time on.

  11. silkyjumbo says:

    i knew there was a reason i prefer butcher block countertops.

  12. @Ahoatam:
    yes. In this case. it is exactly what we need.

    Do you think regulations are bad? A stop sign is a regulation. How about regulations regarding food? Should corporations be allowed to sell you whatever crappy contaminated product they want?

    If you don’t think regulations are good, you probably shouldn’t be reading “The Consumerist”

  13. fostina1 says:

    @Ahoatam: better than more cancer i would think.

  14. The_Gas_Man says:

    “So what do you do if your suspect your granite is radioactive?”

    What would prompt someone to suspect that? Other than this story.

    Indeed, health physicists and radiation experts agree that most granite countertops emit radiation and radon at extremely low levels. They say these emissions are insignificant compared with so-called background radiation that is constantly raining down from outer space or seeping up from the earth’s crust, not to mention emanating from manmade sources like X-rays, luminous watches and smoke detectors.

    David J. Brenner, director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University in New York, said the cancer risk from granite countertops, even those emitting radiation above background levels, is “on the order of one in a million.” Being struck by lightning is more likely.

    So it’s actually very rare and pretty unlikely to make any difference. Even still, I’ll bet manufacturers will soon be testing all their materials and placing labels on them before too long, either on their own or when the EPA comes knocking. And in the meantime, if you’re really that worried about it, it’s pretty cheap to check by yourself.

  15. @suburbancowboy: -Some- regulations are good. However, If you want the goverment to hold your hand cradle to grave though and dictate your whole life you need to leave the US and find a country a bit more socialist in nature. As big and evil as big corps can be, if they kill off their customer base by nuking them there will be no more income flow to buy their products. It is not in their best nature to hurt us.

  16. asthecrowspins says:

    Us long-time New Englanders have always known that granite is unstable. That’s why New Hampshire is “the way that it is”.

  17. m4ximusprim3 says:

    @Daemon_of_Waffle: It was a clear black night, a clear white moon,
    Warren G was in the house, trying to defume
    some ray to the D-on, emitted by the kitchen
    so his skirts dont get no cancer cause nate dogg don’t stand no bitchin’

  18. Mollyg says:

    Under current regulations, unprocessed items containing naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) are exempt from regulations. NORM is quite common, it is found in bricks, many rocks, kitty litter and other common items. The radiation levels are so low that even if you ate them, you would have no health effects from radiation.
    P.S. I am a nuclear engineer.

  19. BigPapaCherry says:

    @racermd: Actually, the danger posed from radon has nothing to do with lead. Yeah, too much lead in our systems could hurt us, but it’s in fact the bursts of energy given off by the radon as it breaks down that could lead to lung cancer and ultimately death.

    It’s radiation poisoning, not lead poisoning, that a we need to worry about.

  20. dadelus says:

    Couldn’t they market this as a “feature”? Label them “Anti-Microbial” perhaps.

  21. Gopher bond says:

    @suburbancowboy: “A stop sign is a regulation.”

    Several experiments have shown that traffic can move more efficiently and safely without traffic lights and stop signs. Kind of like when the power goes out in a town and everyone is extra-careful because none of the stoplights work.

    Same thing with food regulation. If corporations were allowed to sell anything they wanted as food, the likely results would be people eating more locally from food sources they can identifiy and through seller reputation.

    Sometimes our initial thoughts about regulation need reviewing.

  22. Dobernala says:

    @testsicles: I highly doubt those studies based on my own experience.

  23. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    Plus, if somebody’s granite countertops are emitting levels that are dangerous, they have the ability to sue.
    @cf27: Yes, but they have to find out that their granite is emitting radon in the first place. Even if someone does get some dangerous enough for it to make them sick they won’t know until after the fact. Even then they wouldn’t necessarily suspect the granite as the source. This isn’t exactly common knowledge.

  24. Gopher bond says:

    @Dobernala: It’s no panacea but people get killed everyday in traffic accidents where people fly through stop signs and traffic lights. Some “experts” hypothesize that these regulatory items impart a false sense of trust where drivers assume the actions of others rather than actually paying attention.

  25. KernelM says:

    @testsicles: Are you sure those experiments were with normal intersections? I can see roundabouts being more efficient, especially as people get used to them, but a normal cross intersection? I find that highly doubtful. I’ve been through intersections where the power went out and it wasn’t fun.

  26. nudger says:

    There are dozens of things in your kitchen that are millions of times more likely to kill you than your countertops. The most likely way to die is simply falling down. Accidentally drinking the cleaning stuff underneath the sink is up there, as is eating something from the fridge that’s gone bad.

    To put it in perspective, drinking from BPA-coated bottles while sitting on your granite countertops for a few hundred thousand years increases your risk of death about as much as eating just one raw oyster.

    But hey, it’s good that the lawyers are on this one. They can help us sue the manufacturers, so we can all can take our winnings and go back to the familiar safety of our freeways, workplaces and extreme-sport vacations.

  27. warf0x0r says:

    After watching all those episodes of flip that house I’m pretty sure everyone in CA is radioactive by now.

  28. Skiffer says:

    Re: Needing regulation – Y’all are f***ing kidding, right?!?

    I don’t even know where to start…

    Uranium does occur naturally – and gets trapped inside everything in trace amounts – granite, concrete, top soil, wood.

    It’s not like they installed kitchen counters made out of pure Uranium…

    We’re still only talking about trace amounts of exposure.

    You all do realize we are constantly exposed to background radiation from the earth and cosmic rays, don’t you? That worrying about a couple extra micro REMs of exposure per year is nothing? Heck, radiation workers at nuclear plants are allowed to receive ~14x the normal background radiation per year. At these levels, the commonly quoted increased risk of long-term effects are ~0.1% chance of developing cancer.

    The extra exposure from “unusually” radioactive granite? I’d say at most would be ~1% of normal background exposure.

    By scaling, we’re talking 0.0001% chance of long-term effects from kitchen countertops…

    If you are that concerned about radiation:
    1) Don’t build a basement (Radon)
    2) Don’t stay indoors when it rains (causes concrete to off-gas)
    3) Don’t live anywhere near a coal plant (coal plants release more radiation to the environment than nuclear plants, do to natural uranium in the 80 rail-cars of coal they burn per day).
    4) Don’t fly on a plane (less atmospheric shielding, more exposure to cosmic rays).
    5) Don’t have any medical x-rays or CAT scans (one CAT scan >10x normal annual exposure)
    6) Don’t live in the Mid-west / Great Plains (higher background radiation levels)

    I suggest you all read some actual scientific facts about radiation risks and nuclear power

  29. A modern society can’t function without some degree of regulation. I’m glad the government regulates some areas.

  30. Gopher bond says:

    @KernelM: I thought the roundabouts were replacements for traffic lights at the busiest sections, such as in the town of Drachten.

    Anyway, I don’t know, just some article I read on the Internet, so, you know, it must be true. But it makes sense to me. If the Government suddenly said one night, that you no longer had to pay attention to Stop Signs and traffic lights, I’d be driving about 5 mph, tops, with my head on a swivel.

  31. rellog says:

    @cf27: So what you’re saying is that consumers should have to buy a product, then determine that is has the potential to kill them, then sue the company that sold it to them, with ZERO guaranty of success (if you can’t hold lead paint manufacturers accountable, why would the granite counter-top miners/manufacturers be?) and not only be out the thousands from installing the counter tops, but the thousands from the lawsuit, plus possibly have contracted a fatal disease…
    If the industry is ALREADY developing methods, then why not simply put something concrete in writing? And if it is SELF-regulated, then no one is obligated to follow that protocol and people are still at risk of buying unclean granite.
    That’s the problem with people that object to any regulation… they don’t care about anyone else. They’d rather people suffer first AND THEN make those people work to make themselves whole again, often against insurmountable odds. That’s why I’m happy to see things like this happen to people that believe in the “all for yourself” mentality. Either they see the light (as I did) or they go down in flames… either way is fine with me…

  32. Darn no edit. Don’t think counter tops need to be regulated though

  33. rellog says:

    @nudger: Spoken like a laymen that has ZERO scientific experience but who DOES watch Fox News as his/her source for information…
    You comment has ZERO credibility. Not just because it is blatantly wrong scientifically, but because your scenario assumes people KNOW that they are risking their health by installing granite counter tops and/or drinking from BPA lined products.

  34. Yurei says:

    @asthecrowspins:

    So THAT’S why all us New Hampshirites are so dang weird! Here I was thinking it was something that got slipped into the drinking water. It must be all this radioactive granite our houses are sitting on… our counter tops are made from… our front stairs, multiple state and large buildings, sidewalk and curb pieces, stairs and far too many other things to even think about made of granite. Doesn’t seem to be a higher rate of cancer in the state correlating to the granite… but then again, maybe our types of granite are “safe”?

    What I really want to know is, do we all glow in the dark? :3

  35. Fredex says:

    Earth itself is radioactive. We will have to leave.

    One of the problems with modern science is that we can detect things now that we weren’t aware even existed before. (Oh noes! We buried Great Grandad under a radioactive tombstone!) Ignorance is bliss and in most cases not all that dangerous.

  36. cyclade says:

    @testsicles: Ha – you read the Atlantic Monthly, too. @KernelM: Actually, the point is that, as compared to the UK (where there are far fewer road signs, stop signs, etc.) there are proportionally more accidents in the US because we are required to look at and read road signs rather than just drive our cars safely under the circumstances. Stopping and starting is more dangerous (and much more environmentally harmful) than moving at a constant speed. It may seem counterintuitive to the “safety conscious,” but I think pulling out some stop signs and setting more lights to blinking yellow is worthy of serious consideration.

    To get back on topic, though: Separate and apart from Radon gas that may enter a home through natural processes — if someone is installing natural stone countertops that contain minerals that emit ionizing radiation, that seems to be something to consider regulating to the exent that the amounts involved exceed recommended safe exposure levels. Perhaps residential buidling codes need to contemplate banning natural stone use if there’s a real risk there.

  37. Gopher bond says:

    I wonder if I could get these radioactive countertops purposely, like for keeping food warm before it’s served.

  38. chrisjames says:

    @rellog: True, which is why a better tactic than regulation is education.

    A regulatory agency might do some good, but I think in the long run there needs to be more certification programs in the industry. If granite countertops are known to be sources of radiation, then some contractors need to band together and form a certification program that explains that part of their purchase and installation procedure is to inspect the product for harmful radiation and other quality measures.

    Private certification would be about as effective as regulating radiation at the quarry. Though both working together would be best, I don’t stand behind layers of regulation controlled by who knows what interests. I’d prefer an industry-backed standard, like the Kosher seal, or at most regulation requiring either contractors or homeowners to test their countertops and other products for radiation.

  39. MikeGrenade says:

    Everyone would be jumping right on the regulation wagon if it was in the name of the War on Terror.

    Granite Countertops: Fuel For Dirty Bombs?

    There, now can we regulate it?

  40. jjeefff says:

    There is no danger from these granite counter tops. I have a Ph.D. in the field of radiology.

  41. TCameron says:

    Radon, maybe. But the granite double the value of the kitchen. Fabulous!

  42. Mollyg says:

    @jjeefff: Very ell put.

  43. Skiffer says:

    @jjeefff: Thank you!!!

  44. ironchef says:

    @jjeefff: assuming it’s granite. What if one of those mining companies can’t tell the difference between radioactive ore and granite?

  45. jjeefff says:

    @ironchef: Assuming the mining companies are not purifying the rock they mine to purposely increase the Uranium content (as the Iranians are famously doing now) then there is no danger that they will accidentally dig up anything with a dangerous level of radioactivity.

  46. mrxcel says:

    that would explain why my kitchen was so bright at night…

  47. jjeefff says:

    I want to point out that the articles compare the radiation levels in the granite to the recommended radiation levels from gaseous radon. A radioactive gas is far more dangerous because it is inhaled and can remain in your lungs. Granite is not inhaled and thus the radiation source remains much further from your internal organs and for a shorter time. As soon as you walk away from the granite, your exposure stops.

  48. perruptor says:

    New Hampshire is the Granite State. You know the Old Man of the Mountain, the guy on the New Hampshire Quarter? Well, his freakin’ face fell off! Musta been the uranium. That’s why the license plates read LIVE FREE OR GLOW.

  49. jayohem says:

    There has been a long association between granite, an igneous rock, and radon.

    For an unbiased report see the posting by Idaho State U Physics dept. on the subject.

    [physics.isu.edu]

    That probably will tell you more than you wanted to know, but the fellows at Al’s Snug Cafe (with genuine granite table tops) might be impressed.

  50. PDX909 says:

    @The_Gas_Man:

    ‘David J. Brenner, director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University in New York, said the cancer risk from granite countertops, even those emitting radiation above background levels, is “on the order of one in a million.” Being struck by lightning is more likely.’

    Isn’t David Brenner the Incredible Hulk? Seems like his opinion on radiation might be a little bit questionable.

  51. TVarmy says:

    @testsicles: What’s your point? Are you conceding that we need stop lights, or do you think the roads would be better with everyone traveling at 5 MPH and being constantly alert? It’d be safer, but it’d be an awful big waste of gas and pretty much defeat the point of driving. The point of traffic regulation is to ensure that pedestrians and drivers are safe AND able to move efficiently.

    Also, it’s nice to source locally grown organic food when you can, but without regulation, what about the quick meal you need? For a single parent, it’s hard to spend time and money driving down to farmers’ markets and investigating which farmers are ethical and which ones are lying about their food. The single parent is much more likely to go to the supermarket, and buy some contaminated junk that fit in her budget, and drive home, and feed it to her kids who then exhibit developmental problems from the junk. Also, say you do go to the farmer’s market. Truth-in-advertising laws are regulations, so you’d need to actually do some research to see if these people were honest or not about their farming.

  52. perruptor says:

    Banner David Banner is the Hulk.

  53. Imaginary_Friend says:

    @m4ximusprim3:
    Just hit the topside of the food prep scene
    on a mission trying to find excessive picocuries
    Seen a reading on the Geiger that made him freak
    ain’t no hotter counter in the 213!

  54. rellog says:

    @chrisjames: Ok, but then again, you’d have non-mandatory compliance. I know plenty of contractors and home builders that wouldn’t think twice about installing “rejected” granite into an unsuspecting home buyer’s house of as a remodel.
    I’d think that the manufacturer would have the most controllable environment and would ease the litigation that would inevitably develop if it had to wait for the contractor or home owner to identify the bad rock. Add to this that since there is no “safe” regulatory levels, the homeowner or contractor would have little to no recourse if the granite was radioactive.

  55. JiminyChristmas says:

    That article is written in a somewhat confusing manner, maybe that explains all the reading comprehension problems in the comments. Here’s the key graf:

    The granite, it turned out, contained high levels of uranium, which is not only radioactive but releases radon gas as it decays.

    Even though radon is a much greater hazard than the radiation emitted from granite the rest of the article is mostly about the radiation.

    So, in the case of Dr. Sugarman the additional radiation from her granite countertops is negligible compared to background levels. However, the radon gas from those same countertops is 25x EPA guidelines.

    If 4 picocuries is equal to half a pack of cigarettes, then the elevated cancer risk in that kitchen is equivalent to 12.5 packs worth of cigarette smoke blown in every day. That seems non-negligible to me.

  56. CarpenterShop says:

    What you all don’t realize is just how toxic some of these granites are. And what you don’t realize is where this stuff is coming from. In one of the very first news stories about this there was a Juparana Bordeaux granite top in Houston. It was torn out after it was shown to have increased the home’s radon level and replaced with a safer granite. We have the lab report from that granite that was torn out. It shows over 1100 pCi/g of Radium and even a trace of Cobalt 60. The EPA says the “average” soil concentration of Radium should be 5 pCi/g or less. So essentially the soil your house sits on should be cleaner than your countertop.

    We have sent another sample of a granite called Niagara Gold which clocked in at 500 pCi/sq. ft. of Radon. This test was initially only conducted for 19 hrs. This color & other exotics come from Namibia. The quarry is smack dab in the middle of Uranium country. There is an operating uranium mine just to the east of the quarry & a nuclear fuel EPL (exclusive prospecting license) owned by Bannerman Resources which borders the quarry’s license. There was actually another stone company fighting for the land against Bannerman.

    You can find more information on the effort here:
    [solidsurfacealliance.org]

  57. cf27 says:

    @rellog: I’m suggesting that product liability laws do a good job of keeping dangerous goods away from consumers in the first place. It’s a deterrent — companies go through a lot of product testing because they don’t want to risk the liability of bringing an unsafe product to the market. Now that this radioactive risk has been made apparent, you can bet your tush that granite suppliers will be testing their granite.

    Manufacturers of lead paint have been held accountable under product liability laws and have paid many millions of dollars in damages. The industry rapidly switched from lead-based paint to non-lead paint in the early- to mid-1970s when the problems with lead paint became apparent because of the liability. (Most lead-based paint had already been removed from the market when the CPSC finally banned it in 1978.)

    Of course, there are cases where people are hurt by dangerous products. But, that is relatively rare and is true in regulated industries as well as non-regulated.

  58. Gopher bond says:

    @TVarmy: My point is that donkeys don’t often fly high enough to take advantage of the heliosphere.

  59. alice_bunnie says:

    @Skiffer:

    Oh, god, thank you for saying that so I don’t have to. I remember back in the 80s when they first started all the scare about radon collecting in your basement. So, now they’ve found another big scare. I guess the sales of those test kits was going down and they had to come up with another big media scare. :p

    And, as my father still jokes, it’s just because the houses are all sealed up too tight and no one opens their windows any more. He says they need to open the windows and turn on the attic fan every morning and get some nice fresh air in and clear out the “radar” gas. (Yes, he knows it’s radon). ;)

  60. rellog says:

    @cf27: Actually, it was well established that lead paint was harmful… back in the late 1800’s. It was banned in Europe starting in the 1920’s and was PROVEN to cause problems in the 1940’s.
    As for the product liability that lead companies have been held liable for, what figures do you know of? In NJ, they can’t be held liable for a public nuisance, nor under product liability, since that law excludes toxic effects…. and it is much the same in other states. And that is EXACTLY why we need specific laws and regulations that deal specifically with these types of situations.

  61. bohemian says:

    I find this rather amusing. When we purchased our last house Mr. Bohemian really wanted granite countertops. I could care less and thought sold surface or good old formica was fine. Now I can flaunt this in his face that my frugal ways saved him from radon poisoning!

  62. rellog says:

    @jjeefff: Well…. this guy…
    [dcegpreviewqa.cancer.gov]
    disagrees with you.

  63. rellog says:

    @bohemian: Well, don’t gloat too much, unless you went eco-friendly, your formica is probably off-gassing VOCs…

  64. MorrisseyTheCat says:

    @racermd: Radon and lead are entirely separate, and radon is the number one cause of lung cancer deaths in non-smokers, so very dangerous. Here’s a site with no shopping cart:
    [www.epa.gov]

  65. rellog says:

    @cf27: I forgot to mention… thanks to the LACK of restrictions on lead paint for decades (some 50 years after Europe adopted it)after its harmful effects were noted, we now have generations of mentally underdeveloped and challenged individuals- most of which are the poorest of the poor and have little to no recourse to remedy the situation themselves. So please… tell me again why we should allow corporations to regulate themselves?

  66. snoop-blog says:

    Now if I could only figure out a way to enrich my counter top…

  67. cf27 says:

    @rellog: As to the question of whether product liability law actually protects anybody, Morgan Lewis published a note on the relatively new Japanese law, including (p. 7) a blurb on the effect that Japan’s new Product Liability law had on manufacturers — it’s at [www.morganlewis.com] .

    Call up Ralph Nader’s Public Citizen group if you don’t think products liability laws have a significant effect on company behavior.

    If New Jersey product liability law doesn’t protect against toxic substances, then you need to take that up with the NJ legislature. In every state I’m aware of, selling a product that can kill you or lead to brain damage is exactly the type of thing that will lead to a product liability suit, often with serious punitive damages.

  68. SacraBos says:

    @snoop-blog: Not needed. My wife already cook diskes of mass destruction.

    Hey Fido, could you move over a little bit…

  69. varro says:

    @rellog: Lead paint is a delicious, but deadly, supplement to poor children’s diets.

    A hypothetical problem of granite countertops generating radon is a bigger threat to the people who count the most – upper-middle-class and higher people afraid of their own shadow.

    Unmitigated lead paint is a threat to poor children, whose parents can’t afford much more than fast food and snack food – not a good target market.

  70. varro says:

    @Fredex: Yes, and Pepto-Bismol is radioactive – bismuth is not entirely stable, but has a half-life of 1.9 x 10^19 years.

    IS THERE RADIOACTIVITY IN YOUR MEDICINE CABINET? ARE YOU CHILDREN SAFE? TUNE INTO KPNC- 8 “Panic News” at 5!

  71. cerbie says:

    So, is it dangerous? Naturally occurring uranium really isn’t all that bad. You shouldn’t be eating it anything, but it’s not going to stalk you and give you cancer by being exposed a little here and there.

    I would generally be worried more about the nastiness from the sealing epoxy in most granite countertops that a little radiation. Unlike many materials we come in contact with today, we have the natural ability to handle a little uranium, thanks to mother nature.

    A granite countertop that emits an extremely high level of radiation, as a small number of commercially available samples have in recent tests, could conceivably expose body parts that were in close proximity to it for two hours a day to a localized dose of 100 millirem over just a few months.

    …and that’s where I’d say to start worrying. You’re gonna get radiation. But, as long as it is basically neglible compared to background, I don’t see any worry (AKA, call to regulation). But, when you could get nearly 1/3 of a normal “safe” dose by cooking….well…maybe we should think about it.

  72. cerbie says:

    (hit submit too soon)
    But, I don’t think hard and fast regulation is the answer. It really is a hard decision, because we genuinely don’t know how bad it can be.

    I would totally support a, “California thinks this may cause you to sprout a third arm,” kind of label; and, require some type of warning to the potential buyer, so that they can make the decision with the potential risk (which is probably negligible in the scheme of things) in mind.

  73. trujunglist says:

    @rainmkr:

    As big and evil as big corps can be, if they kill off their customer base by nuking them there will be no more income flow to buy their products. It is not in their best nature to hurt us.

    The tobacco companies just sacrificed another kitten to Satan in appreciation of your comment.

  74. Angryrider says:

    I saw this on Colbert.
    Regulators get to work, or sit down and grab a beer paid by Big Granite.

  75. shagybones says:

    For anyone who is buying a house, a radon test is very important. As for the reading supposed to be below 4p/l that is not true. After an extensive education from my local EPA they advised me that you should not live anywhere where the reading is above a 2.0 (even that is pushing is) without a mitigation system installed in the house. Fortunately for us we had an initial reading of 4.0, but that was due to an incompetent home inspector who administered the test incorrectly (as well as missing several big issues with the house…)

    Just some info for people, as radon is a serious issue.

  76. bwcbwc says:

    @Skiffer: Can you quote some measurements? The article quotes a measurement of 100 picoCuries/liter, when 5 picoCuries/liter is supposedly the equivalent of 1/2 a pack of cigarettes. Now they could be exaggerating the danger by comparing the radiation emissions of cigarettes without accounting for the other carcinogenic effects from the smoke and nicotine. But 100 pc/l is not 1% of normal background, it’s about 2000%.

    What I don’t understand is how this whole issue wasn’t raised 5 years ago when granite countertops started becoming popular. Folks in the NYC area know all about granite being radioactive, since Manhattan is basically filled with the stuff (it holds up the skyscrapers). Seems like someone (Big Granite?) was able to the lid on this for a good long run.

  77. bwcbwc says:

    @trujunglist: Well as long as they don’t kill you off until after you’ve bred your replacement, they don’t really care.

  78. ironchef says:

    those countertops will match nicely with these….

    [www.angelfire.com]

  79. u1itn0w2day says:

    What about the people have to cut the stuff wether they’re a contractor or factory worker cutting a custom granite counter top.I realize it’s not just the airborne particulate matter but what do concentrations of that dust do to a person-it can’t be good.Does a polished countertop contain the particles molecules what ever.

    Even if you watch these do it yourself or flipping shows you see people cutting tile all the time.Wonder if so much as drilling holes in granite can increase the effect?

  80. CarpenterShop says:

    What you all need to know is where this radioactive granite is coming from. It will help you understand why it is so “hot”. A lot of reporters will mention its just the exotics from Brazil & Namibia but the largest portion of colors, I would argue is coming from Namibia. Brazil exports so many different types of granite that are perfectly safe but there are only a few granite colors within the same “family” that could be hot. Our supplier got wind of this a few months ago & sent a gamma scintillator down to his buyer in Brazil who found 3 bundles of Four Seasons out of 8 that were acceptable for radioactivity & looks. Who knows what happened to those other 5 bundles.

    At the processing plant in Brazil, they use two saws to cut the granite, one cuts the “common” granite, St. Cecilia, etc. while the other cuts the exotics, Bordeaux, Crema Bordeaux, etc. The sludge under the common saw was not very hot, but oh the sludge under the exotic saw was. And then they thought about the lagoon where all this water run off goes to. From 100 ft. away the scintillator went nuts. The processing plant has been in the family for generations & now they’re worried about their own workers.

    Now for Namibia, the primary quarry where most of the “African” colors are coming from is called Stone Africa. Stone Africa is situated in the middle of uranium country. There is Rossing open pit uranium mine (the Iranian gov’t has 15% share) to the east of the quarry & bordering to the south is a nuclear fuel license owned by Bannerman Resources. Bannerman & another stone company were actually fighting for the same piece of land. There are about 4 operating uranium mines in central Namibia.

    By the way, there is no difference between the uranium in your granite & the uranium that the mining companies want. With the price of uranium increasing it makes mining for low grade uranium profitable. Did you know only high grade uranium exists in Canada?

  81. dottat1 says:

    You guys are going to find this funny…

    But most government buildings (capitols, post office’s, etc) are emitting this very same radiation..

    It’s been know for a very long time.. Let’s talk about bananas too.. since eating too many of those can set off the radiation alarm at a nuclear power plant.

  82. SJActress says:

    Formica for the win!

  83. CarpenterShop says:

    Some quick facts.

    I was the guy that provided the granite samples in both of the stories. The reddish black broken piece of granite was Niagara Gold, 220 uR/hr Gamma only, on contact.

    Several things that stand out in the comments. First is the distance the radiation can travel. We have run tests in our own shop with a 220 uR/hr source (Niagara Gold, the parent slab of that chunk in both the NY Times and the CBS Morning show.

    At four inches, celery chopping length (!), 2,280 counts per minute (each count is a burst of radiation hitting the meter) That meter is buzzing pretty good.

    At 12″ 840 cpm 14 times background radiation
    At 24″ 600 cpm 10 times
    At 36″ 480 cpm 8 times
    At 60″ 180 cpm 3 times

    Even at six feet, the radiation is still high, double background. That is hardly non existent radiation.

    I’ll tell ya, I furnished those samples, they came from scrap from my competitors dumpsters or I bought remnants from them. They are too hot to put in a home, but they were.

    “We’re still only talking about trace amounts of exposure.”

    No we are not talking about trace amounts of radiation, why would you assume that?

    First is the distance the radiation can travel. We have run tests in our own shop with a 220 uR/hr source (Niagara Gold, the parent slab of that chunk in both the NY Times and the CBS Morning show.

    At four inches, celery chopping length (!), 2,280 counts per minute (each count is a burst of radiation hitting the meter) That meter is buzzing pretty good.

    At 12″ 840 cpm 14 times background radiation
    At 24″ 600 cpm 10 times
    At 36″ 480 cpm 8 times
    At 60″ 180 cpm 3 times

    Even at six feet, the radiation is still high, double background. That is hardly non existent radiation.

    “That worrying about a couple extra micro REMs of exposure per year is nothing?”

    How about .7 mR/hr Gamma? Saturday I sent a sample that read just that. Want an extra 511 mR/yr per year with your Cheerios?

    The Niagara Gold in the stories, .220 mR, 160 mR/yr. How about that?

    “The extra exposure from “unusually” radioactive granite? I’d say at most would be ~1% of normal background exposure.”

    Where did you dig that fact up? Background is 6o cpm, see the above list for that CBS/NYT slab. Looks like you are off by 84,000 times for the oncontact measurement of that sample.

    “I suggest you all read some actual scientific facts about radiation risks and nuclear power.”

    There is the problem, someone that thinks if we can’t sell radioactive granite countertops, we can’t have nuclear power.

    The MIA is attempting to set some standards, about like letting the felons decide what we jail people for. One problem, one of their scientists they named a few weeks ago has jumped ship. Two of the others are jokes, one said only .85 of a radioactive decay per year from a large countertop. Idiot, each click on a Geiger Counter is a decay being detected and you have a very small taget catching. There are billions, even trillions of decays per year from a medium hot top.

    Another of their “experts” has a habit of being second scientist for the EPA, after the first one won’t say what they want him to say.

    The last one left, Dr. Chyi, sent me a very nasty email after I asked a simple question, was the report being used by the MIA the same one that he wrote. A scientist that gets offended at questions is a scientist that has something to hide.

    Oh, the one that jumped ship? He not only answered questions, he offered to send me the data tables from the study I was asking questions about. Most scientists I have emailed have done the same.

    This guy, a good one in my opinion, is starting another group to set protocols for testing. Completely independent of the MIA or BuildCLean.org. I like it.

    The Chinese regulate granite radiation levels, Class A, B, C and Below C. Only Class A is allowed to be used in homes.

    Granite fabricators are banding together, strangely enough, our only opponent is our own trade association, the MIA.

    “There is no danger from these granite counter tops. I have a Ph.D. in the field of radiology. “

    And you don’t know squat about the levels. Are you saying that .7 mR/hr Gamma is okay for consumer products? Again, if you sell X rays or Cat Scans, you do want people to accept high radiation levels as “safe”. X rays are a risk, but it is a confirmed risk that has a potential benefit.

    Iron Chef, they know the difference. They are actually fighting in court over one plot of land in Namibia.

    [solidsurfacealliance.org]

    Dr. Sugarman’s countertop was in the thousands of counts per minute, I forgot the exact level, but I’ll email Liebert and get the exact reading.

    Lots of bismuth in granite, the radioactive isotopes of Bismuth.

    This debate has been raging in the countertop industry since 1995, has been beaten down several times by the MIA. This time we organized, gathered allies, and broke the story. One huge granite importer (owns one of the Nambian quarry the Niagara Gold granite came from) admitted yesterday that their purchasing manager has known about this issue for about a year and a half. Strangely, they blame me for not calling and telling them, but their purchasing manager was debating the issue with me last may!

    The worker is the most at hazard, and don’t let anyone cut a slab in your home (sink cut out) or drill any holes if possible on the higher level stones. In addition to the silica (silicosis), granite is loaded with heavy metals (Cadium, Arsenic, lead, Chromium, a very long and toxic list), as well as the radioactive dust inhaled. We started using HEPA filters after we learned of the high radiation levels in the dust.

    Sorry, bananas aren’t very radioactive. I heard of a guy that reduced 100# of bananas to ash before he could measure the radiation.

  84. VincentErmine says:

    We understand why homeowners would be alarmed by this story, but the
    Marble Institute of America would like to assure people that research
    shows granite countertops pose no threat. The U.S. Environmental
    Protection Agency, Consumer Reports and repeated independent studies
    have shown granite countertops pose no health hazard.

    * EPA stated Friday: “EPA has no reliable data to conclude that
    types of granite used in countertops are significantly increasing indoor
    radon levels.”
    (http://iaq.custhelp.com/cgibin/iaq.cfg/php/enduser/std_alp.php)
    * University of Akron researchers found no threat.
    (www.marble-institute.com/industryresources/radontesting_u-akron2008.pdf
    * An independent scientific analysis of a variety of studies shows
    that, accounting for normal airflow in the typical home, radon
    contributed by granite countertops ranges from 0.01 – 0.02 pCi/L -
    levels that are 200 to 400 times lower than the EPA guideline of 4
    pCi/L.

    By some measures, the amount of radon emitted by a granite countertop is
    less than one millionth of that already present in household air from
    other sources. Many granite countertops do not emit radon at all, and
    those treated with sealant reduce emissions even further.

    Tiffany Daniels

    Cohn & Wolfe on behalf of the Marble Institute of America

    GCI Group is now Cohn&Wolfe

    tiffanydaniels | cohn&wolfe | accountexecutive | p: +1.512.542.2816 | f:
    +1.512.472.5970 | tiffany.daniels@cohnwolfe.com

    Privileged/Confidential Information may be contained in this message. If you are not the addressee indicated in this message (or responsible for delivery of the message to such person), you may not copy or deliver this message to anyone. In such case, you should destroy this message and kindly notify the sender by reply email. Please advise immediately if you or your employer does not consent to email for messages of this kind. Opinions, conclusions and other information in this message that do not relate to the official business of Cohn & Wolfe shall be understood as neither given nor endorsed by it.

  85. VincentErmine says:

    We understand why homeowners would be alarmed by this story, but the
    Marble Institute of America would like to assure people that research
    shows granite countertops pose no threat. The U.S. Environmental
    Protection Agency, Consumer Reports and repeated independent studies
    have shown granite countertops pose no health hazard.

    * EPA stated Friday: “EPA has no reliable data to conclude that
    types of granite used in countertops are significantly increasing indoor
    radon levels.”
    (http://iaq.custhelp.com/cgibin/iaq.cfg/php/enduser/std_alp.php)
    * University of Akron researchers found no threat.
    (www.marble-institute.com/industryresources/radontesting_u-akron2008.pdf
    * An independent scientific analysis of a variety of studies shows
    that, accounting for normal airflow in the typical home, radon
    contributed by granite countertops ranges from 0.01 – 0.02 pCi/L -
    levels that are 200 to 400 times lower than the EPA guideline of 4
    pCi/L.

    By some measures, the amount of radon emitted by a granite countertop is
    less than one millionth of that already present in household air from
    other sources. Many granite countertops do not emit radon at all, and
    those treated with sealant reduce emissions even further.

    Tiffany Daniels

    Cohn & Wolfe on behalf of the Marble Institute of America

    Privileged/Confidential Information may be contained in this message. If you are not the addressee indicated in this message (or responsible for delivery of the message to such person), you may not copy or deliver this message to anyone. In such case, you should destroy this message and kindly notify the sender by reply email. Please advise immediately if you or your employer does not consent to email for messages of this kind. Opinions, conclusions and other information in this message that do not relate to the official business of Cohn & Wolfe shall be understood as neither given nor endorsed by it.

  86. Anonymous says:

    I’m not a big government fan but this is the kind of thing that needs to be regulated and this is why.
    Radiation is an unseen thing and most people don’t even know anyone with a giger counter or however you spell it. The only way to tell what is going on is to have specialized equipment and people that can read them properly.

    Don’t get me wrong in that most people could handle it but I’ll use the example were you have someone that can’t and have a set of triplet babies then the innocent children’s lifes would be changed for the worse.

    In the mean time go vote for your favorite soup at soupwar.com

  87. Anonymous says:

    I see Cohn & Wolfe, the big tobacco PR firm that the MIA hired has found this thread. They cut and paste the same reponse every time. Let’s poke some holes in it.

    First off the EPA statement was posted on Friday, then promptly retracted on the next Monday. If you look at their current web page on this topic, they warn that the science hasn’t been done yet, that they are watching the situation, and that some stones are sold that are above radiation levels that are mined for nuclear fuel feedstock.

    The Universtity of Akron’s Dr. Chyi did a study paid for by the MIA, but it was chock full of problems. Since it was unpublished in any scientific journals, most scientists didn’t bother to address it as there is a difference between true studies intended for publication and PR fluff written to make the mortgage payment. Dr. Chyi isn’t anwering any questions about the study, has little background in radiation, so this use of this “study” just shows how little the MIA has to defend their opinion.

    However, if you take the time to read what Vincent Ermine wrote, it contridicts itself. First they claim that radon from granite are only .01 to .02 pCi/L and that the EPA action level of 4 pCi/L is 200 to 400 times lower. Then they claim granite countertops emit one million times less radon than the usual sources. Something doesn’t add up.

    The truth of the matter is that the latest study that came out, Dr. Kitto’s work, published in the April issue of Health Physics Journal, found that radon was emitted in a range of three orders of magnitude, which would mean up to 1,000 times more depending on which stone was measured. This particular paper didn’t address the hotter stones that were found and measured, just the processes that he used for measurement. The next study he publishes will address the actual stones that do have the ability to significantly raise a home radon level. Another expert, Dr. Steck from St. Johns Univeristy, is on record saying that only around 5% of stones sold as granite are potential hazards. Regardless, the experts are finding high radon emitting stones and the MIA knows this.

    However, the most troubling thing in the Cohn & Wolfe wrote was that “those treated with sealant reduce emissions even further.”
    This statement is completely unsupported as of this date. Israel has done some work on concrete sealers, but nothing has ever been developed that is capable of stopping a radon atom AND is suitable for putting on a pretty countertop. We aren’t going to slather a quarter inch thick coating on our expensive countertop. Keep in mind that we are talking about individual radon atoms, not molecules, little can stop an atom from escaping. So far, the only thing that has been found to be capable of keeping radon in is aluminum or stainless steel. Everything else can leak radon.
    But, let’s humor the MIA and say that sealer might slow down the radon. How about the bottom of the granite, is it sealed as well? How long will the sealer hold up to cleaning, will it’s capabilities degrade over time? But, the MIA itself warns consumers that no sealer can be so solid that it prevents water molecules from escaping, it would damage the stone according to the MIA consumer pages on their website. So if a sealer isn’t designed to stop a large water molecule, how can it stop a single atom of much smaller and gaseous radon?

    In short, Cohn & Wolfe are just parroting what the MIA told them to say without even understanding how contridictory it is. After all, this is what they are being paid for, misleading consumers whether it be the dangers of tobacco or the dangers of low level radiation from granite. It will get worse though as the scientists study this issue. Recently AARST, the radon scientist organization, gave the MIA a public spanking over their studies and their claims of AARST support. Their latest MIA funded study (the E, H, & E report) was savaged by some of the scientists who called it untrustworthy and unreliable. Would you believe that the instruments weren’t calibrated prior to starting the study? Despite that, their own MIA study says that 18 of 39 stones they tested were above level 6 on the hazard indexes, meaning that those stones could not be sold legally in any EU country.