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Urban Legends Do Get Around - How About Radon In Granite Counter Tops?

Urban legends to get around - how about radon in granite counter tops?

They are out there - lurking - the urban legends, and they are rife! 

Just yesterday the Realtor asked me if I am finding a lot of radon in granite counter tops.  I said that no, that's an urban legend and it doesn't seem to want to go away.

He said, and this is pretty close to a quote, "Well, you're wrong!  I have heard story after story about granite counter tops having radon!  I would never have granite in my house!"

Alrighty then!

It would be nice to be able to say that urban legends come and go.

But they only seem to come, and continue to come.

You know, how the moon landings were filmed in a big NASA warehouse, and living near high-tension power lines causes illness and birth defects.

Both those are examples of recycling!

As to radon in granite counter tops, this was published by WebMD in 2008, “The [granite] counter top story emerges every 10 years or so,” Columbia University Center for Radiological Research Director David J. Brenner, PhD, tells WebMD. “This is about the third time I remember it coming around.”

And I was reminded of it again just yesterday.

So, what of it?  Is there radon in granite counter tops?  Probably.  But, is it dangerous?  And, can it be measured?

This has been on the EPA website for years, "Any type of rock could contain naturally occurring radioactive elements like radium, uranium and thorium. Some pieces of granite contain more of these elements than others, depending on the composition of the molten rock from which they formed.

However, since granite is generally not very porous, less radon is likely to escape from it than from a more porous stone such as sandstone. It’s important to know that radon originating in the soil beneath homes is a more common problem and a far larger public health risk than radon from granite building materials. Also, any radon from granite countertops in kitchens or bathrooms is extremely likely to be diluted in the typical home since those rooms are usually well ventilated.

In addition to radon, the other natural radioactive material in the granite can emit radiation. However, it is extremely unlikely that granite counter tops in homes could increase the radiation dose above that the normal, natural background dose that comes from soil and rocks."

Note their use of the word "extremely..."

"But," you might hear, "I've seen news shows on TV showing radon that's detected in granite counter tops!" 

Aren't these the same kinds of "news" shows that blew up a car to "prove" that the gas tank was dangerous, and slipped employees under cover into a grocery store to film them dipping meat in chlorine to "prove" that the chain was selling tainted meat?

From a national radon website are the following facts:

  • "All natural products, especially stone, minerals, and sand, contain trace amounts of some radioactive elements called NORMs (Naturally Occurring Radioactive Mineral) that can produce measurable amounts of radiation and sometimes radon gas."
  • "This includes all concrete products, clay bricks, most non-plastic plates and dishes, coal and the fly ash produced in coal-fired power plants, natural gas (contains radon), phosphate fertilizers used in your garden (ALL contain potassium and small amounts of uranium and thorium), and the vegetables grown using those fertilizers."
  • "However, the key word is 'measurable'. As an illustration, compare the radon produced by your naturally-occurring stone surfaces, such as granite, to the heat produced by a birthday candle.  The candle cannot heat your house."
  • "Recently, many radon labs reported that consumers are placing their radon-in-air test devices on granite surfaces under bowls, buckets, baking pans, or other similar containers. BEWARE of suggestions to place an ordinary radon test kit under an inverted container of an unknown volume. Such an experiment will, 99% of the time, grossly over-report the radon levels."
  • "Testing has shown that a "pancake" detector equipped Geiger Counter (like those used on TV for dramatic effect) will over-respond 10 to 20 times more than a professional grade radiation detector like those used in hospitals and nuclear power plants.  In fact, up to 95% of the Geiger Counter clicks may come from Potassium in the granite.  Potassium does not produce radon gas."
  • "Granite also contains an element called Thorium.  This can show up in testing and thought to be radon.  Thorium produces a different type of gas called Thoron. Thorium is a shorter-lived element, which is similar to radon but decays about 6,500 times faster than radon. Thoron has a half-life of about 51 seconds, whereas Radon has a half-life of just over 92 hours. Because most of the Thoron never makes it very far from the granite's surface, the US EPA does not consider Thoron a major contributor to health problems."
  • "The bottom line. Gamma measurements made with simple hand-held meters alone CANNOT tell you how much radon is being produced by your natural stone materials. These simple meters grossly over-respond to the actual radiation coming from the stone surface."

          So, is this enough information to sway you one way or the other?  Is the granite/radon urban legend still alive and well?  I bet it is!  Personally I am not worried.  The photo above is part of the island in my kitchen!  We have a microwave too!

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 29 commentsJay Markanich • December 29 2013 01:53AM

Comments

This radon in granite counters is a totally new one to me. Maybe it's because I'm usually to busy to pay attention to  urban myths!

Posted by Nina Hollander, Your Charlotte/Ballantyne/Waxhaw/Fort Mill Realtor (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage | Charlotte, NC) almost 5 years ago

Good morning Jay.  I had never heard or thought about granite counter-tops having radon but I can see how it could be detected. SUGGESTED  FYI.... We're keeping our granite counter-tops.

Posted by John McCormack, CRS, Honesty, Integrity, Results, Experienced. HIRE Me! (Albuquerque Homes Realty) almost 5 years ago

The fact is granite does emit radon. You should never place your testing device on a granite counter top. However, the amount of radon emitted is, as stated, negligible. That rumor was started by a NY Times article. I dealt with the granite counter top questions for quite some time after. Haven't heard much about for quite some time. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) almost 5 years ago

Hi Jay,

Really? You had the Realtor ask you that? There are a lot more serious issues out there than finding minuscule amounts of radon in a granite counter top. C'mon man.

Have a great years end and a even better 2014 in Bristow.

Best, Clint McKie

Posted by Clint Mckie, Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586 (Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections) almost 5 years ago

Well, Nina, get with the urban legend gig!

We are keeping ours too John!

That Times article got another TV documentary on it and it was that article that the WebMD quote comes from in my post Jim!  It was the third time around apparently!  It had been a while for me too, until yesterday!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 5 years ago

Clint - they had a segment on ESPN about him - C'mon maaannn!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 5 years ago

Good morning Jay,

I have heard of it in the countertops and have had only one client that asked.

Make yourself a great day.

Posted by Raymond E. Camp, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson Greater Rochester (Howard Hanna Real Estate Services) almost 5 years ago

Oh this annoys me, too.  There is much more to worry abt from the ground. Personally, I think the places that make quartzite, etc and their sales people push this. I often hear abt this from people after they've met w/ someone like that.

Posted by Women of Westchester Working Together, Women helping Women get ahead (Women of Westchester Working Together) almost 5 years ago

Oh, and I love your countertops.  Nice selection.  I also have granite and a microwave.

Posted by Women of Westchester Working Together, Women helping Women get ahead (Women of Westchester Working Together) almost 5 years ago

Raymond - and after your answer they did nothing further?

WOW Cuz - yep, over 60% comes from the ground.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 5 years ago

I thought that myth had died some time ago--have not heard anyone ask about it in years now.  Of course the entire radon issue should be revisited anyway.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 5 years ago

Flooring Wow - it's called "Classico."  Expensive, but lovely.

Charlie - and should be.  But if they raised the level 99% of the remediation jobs would go away!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 5 years ago

Better they ask before settlement than after. 

BTW, I tried and tried to reblog this post and kept getting tossed out. 

Oh well.

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) almost 5 years ago

Now would be the time Lenn!  Sorry about the reblog.  You had others this morning.

It's my toothpaste...  AR cans a lot of my stuff!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 5 years ago

Jay, that's a new one for me. Clearly there are a lot of products used in home construction that people could say "this product will adversely affect your health if you grind it up and put it in your cereal"! C'mon.

Posted by Tom White, Franklin Homes Realty LLC, Franklin TN (Franklin Homes Realty LLC (615) 495-0752 or www.FranklinHomesRealty.com) almost 5 years ago

Jay,

Some of the folks asking about radon in granite are also using their smart phone to access Google to look it up. No radiations in or near a smart phone...right?

Rich

Posted by Richard Iarossi, Crofton MD Real Estate, Annapolis MD Real Estate (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) almost 5 years ago

That's usually it Tom.  Remember saccharin?  Didn't they feed enough to rats to the equivalent of 63 tons a day and said it caused cancer?

While they are standing at their toaster heating Pop Tarts, Rich.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 5 years ago

I have heard this story creep up a few times Jay, and I'll bet that it comes back again.

Posted by Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366, General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage (Dry Rot and Water Damage www.tromlerconstruction.com Mobile - 916-765-5366) almost 5 years ago

It will, after the others recycle again Tom.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 5 years ago

" I've heard that I can collect enough energy from the EMF's around transmission lines to light my house", and " the radon emitted from ceramic toilet can cause colon cancer", etc. I don't know why people want to believe some stories that get passed around. Yes, I saw the geiger counter clicking above the granite counter top on tv. Seems like that is all people want to remember about radon.

Posted by Jeff Pearl, Full Service Full Time Realtor (RE/MAX Distinctive / LIC in VA) almost 5 years ago

People seem to want to believe whatever is fed them, even when the "news" organizations feed them set ups Jeff!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 5 years ago

Excellent stuff. But we are installing quartz, and not becauae of radon. Just liked the texture nad that it is not porous

Posted by Jon Zolsky, Daytona Beach, FL, Buy Daytona condos for heavenly good prices (Daytona Condo Realty, 386-405-4408) almost 5 years ago

Jon - quartz is as natural a material and contains the same other elements!  It is more sanitary, however, than granite.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 5 years ago

This legend may lessen soon....our kitchen remodeling sources tell us that granite is  yesterday's news and not as popular as it once was in updating and new construction.

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) almost 5 years ago

I think it's here to stay, but there are more choices available now than when it first came out S&D.  The product I no longer see is Corian.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 5 years ago

Jay - but while they cut granite into slabs, and, usually do not modify its structure, in other wrods, do not engineer it, this is what they do with quartz, don't they? Don't they have to take sand mix it, and then "bake" at very high temperature? Ans, as far as I understand, there is a binder there as well?

Interesting, does quartz have any RA gases?

Posted by Jon Zolsky, Daytona Beach, FL, Buy Daytona condos for heavenly good prices (Daytona Condo Realty, 386-405-4408) almost 5 years ago

Yes, Jon.  Quartz is a composite product, man made and very hard.  Hence it's considered sanitary.  And you can get many colors.  Granite is entirely natural.  Both products will be around a while.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 5 years ago

 Good morning, Jay. Like so many urban legends, someone takes a half truth and spins a yarn to make it sound like the Gospel according to John.

Posted by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc., Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029 (Complete Home Inspections, Inc.) almost 5 years ago

I think many, if not all, urban legends share that criteria Michael.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 5 years ago

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