Q. Should I Be Worried About My Granite Countertops?

Q. Hey Mark,

I’ve been hearing that Granite counter tops might be dangerous. I’m concerned because we just spent a lot money putting some in our new home. I don’t understand it all and just need to know if I should have the granite removed.

Thanks,

Tammy

A. Hey Tammy,

I’ve been reading and hearing a lot about granite too, both positive and negative. It is possible that those in the composite counter top industry have been capitalizing on some research showing that some granite does emit radiation. On the other hand, those in the granite industry are saying that granite is perfectly safe. If you Google this, you are going to find articles that support both sides.

I suspect the truth is somewhere in the middle.  That is, while granite does have the potential to emit radiation, I suspect that in most cases a counter top is not going to contain enough radon producing materials to affect your exposure levels significantly. Yes, I have heard that if you hold a Geiger counter next to a granite counter top it may go off, but I’ve also been told that if you hold one next to a banana it will go off due to the potassium. Knowing what to believe is hard to discern.

The first thing I would suggest is  having a radon test ran in your home. This is something that every homeowner should have done anyway, and it will help you determine whether you have anything to worry about. The test is normally done at the lowest habitable level of your home. A test can also be performed separately on the main level if you are concerned about your building materials producing radon. If your radon test comes back high, then it is more likely that the high levels are coming from the soil gas under your home rather than granite. But, then you will know whether you even have a problem before you proceed.

Yes, your beautiful $4000 granite counter top may be a source, and you can have your granite tested very easily, if necessary. However, please don’t rip out your counter top completely based on a bias source on the internet. Also remember that the most likely source for elevated radon levels is soil gasses. So check the air in your home first, if you find that you have elevated levels, have the home mitigated and see if that solves the problem. If not, then you might need to consider taking a closer look at the granite.

Mark Nahrgang is the owner of Kingdom Inspection Network Group – St. Louis and is a professional NACHI certified building inspector in the St. Louis metro area. Mark performs home inspections as well as commercial inspections throughout St. Louis and St. Charles County.

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2 Responses

  1. The nsra is installing a hot slab and testing a home live on the net for all to see. Here is a link just in case you all would like to see.

    http://www.nsraweb.com/forums/news-5/live-testing-kitchen-radon-before-granite-9010.html

  2. I went to the site, but didn’t notice that they said anything about a “hot slab”. Just a granite counter top. One test, either positive or negative isn’t going to prove anything, except for that one situation. My recommendations still stand. Test your air, ventilate soil gases if necessary, test again. If levels are still high, then start looking for other sources.

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