Friday, August 1, 2008

Radioactive Countertops?

A report released recently found that granite countertops often contain uranium and are emitting serious amounts of radon into many homes. Sound crazy? Well here's a quick geology lesson - the earth's crust contains minerals which emit small amounts of radiation. Uranium deposits, are often found at the boundaries between igneous rocks, such as granite and other layers of rock. As uranium decays, it emits radon gas. Rice University physics professor Dr. W.J. Llope found that some granite countertops contain high levels of uranium, which releases radiation and radon gas that can cause cancer. Llope tested 55 stones of 25 varieties of granite purchased from local dealers and found some homeowners would be exposed to 100 millirems of radiation in just a few months, exceeding the annual exposure limit set by the Department of Energy for visitors to nuclear labs. In a document published on his website, Llope said there is no safe threshold for radiation and the general guideline is that each rem of radiation would cause cancer in 4 people in a population of 10,000. Some granite countertops he tested released one rem of radiation in just 250 hours or 10 days. Do you need to rip out your granite countertops? Not necessarily, you are exposed to radiation from many sources - TVs, x-rays, flying in a commercial jet, etc. That being said, no radiation is good radiation, especially when you have young kids around. Llope recommends that homeowners who have granite countertops in their homes keep their windows open at least for half a day every few weeks to dilute the indoor radon concentration. If you are planning a remodel or choosing new counters for your home, consider the many eco-friendly, safe countertop options that are now available. Check out,,, and other great choices like bamboo and recycled aluminum.

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