Granite Counters & Radon

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With the popularity of granite countertops as part of many kitchen designs come concerns and fears over the emission of radon gas. While radon is a byproduct of many types of building materials, including granite, the source of radon gas which is most harmful to your health is not coming from your counter.


Most radon gasses will be coming from beneath your home, from the soil your home is built on, if radon is a problem in your home. Proper testing of radon levels in your home can provide the true answer to your concern about the level of radon gas in your kitchen or bath.

Radon Gas

  • Radon gas is the natural byproduct of the breaking down of uranium, a radioactive element found in soil and stone. Your home acts like a large vacuum, pulling up and collecting air and gasses from beneath its surface. When there is radon present in the soil beneath your home, this gas gets pulled up and trapped in the living space.

    Current recommendations state that the level of radon gas in your home should be below 4 picocuries per liter, or pCi/L. Levels higher than this can lead to health problems such as lung disease and cancer.

    Testing of radon gasses must be carried out over an extended period of time, away from materials that may contain trace amounts of radon, such as concrete or granite. Radon levels can vary depending on the time of year, how long the testing runs and where in the home the testing takes place.

Radon in the Home

  • Many building materials and household items contain trace amounts of radon. These materials include granite counters, stoneware plates and dishes, concrete blocks and cement.

    A trace amount of radon is defined as being virtually undetectable when using proper radon detection processes. A radon collection can placed directly on top of a stoneware plate or granite counter emitting a trace amount of gas will provide a falsely elevated reading.

    The EPA is aware of radon gasses in building materials but at this time does not regulate the use of any materials which may contain trace amounts of the gas. In the vast majority of cases in which radon has been detected in the home, the gas came from the soil beneath the home.

Radon in Granite

  • Reports of radon gasses coming from a granite countertop first appeared when a test for radon gas was carried out by the manufacturers of solid surface materials. A radon test can was placed on a granite counter, leading to a false reading.

    The Marble Institute of America has done further testing, leading to the conclusion that some stones do contain trace amounts of radon, but no stone yard, quarry or slab has yet to produce significant levels of radon gas. Levels of gas that have been detected through extensive testing by quarries and stone yards are negligible and nearly undetectable.

Testing for Radon in Your Home

  • If you have granite counters in your home and you wish to test for radon gasses, the collection can should be placed by a professional. Radon detection cans should not be placed directly on granite, or on other items or objects which may contain trace amounts of radon. Depending on the size of your home, several cans may be left at varying heights and levels around the home.

    An overall reading should be taken of the air in your home; not a reading of a surface within the home. If your home tests higher than 4 pCi/L, retesting should be performed, as levels can fluctuate.

Radon Mitigation Systems

  • If you are still concerned about radon gasses being given off by your granite countertop, or you have high radon gas readings within your home, a radon mitigation system can be installed.

    A radon mitigation system can consist of several methods for either barring the entry of radon to your home or removing the levels of radon in your home. The system you choose should be based on your home's construction, the level of radon in your home and the determined source of the radon. Most radon mitigation systems can reduce the amount of radon gas in your home to undetectable levels.

    If the concern is stemming from radon gasses coming from your granite counter, a radon mitigation system can be installed which flushes the air out of your home, cycling in fresh air. This will reduce the amount of radon by up to 90 percent, including any gasses that may be given off by a countertop.

References

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