Question

Is it really possible to get a radon-free granite counter?

Asked by Michelle
Washington, DC

I love the look of granite but hate the fact it contains radon. If it is not possible to get radon-free granite are there other materials for counters similar to granite in appearance and durability?

Answer

Molly McCabe, AKBD, CGP, CAPS

Answered by Molly McCabe, AKBD, CGP, CAPS

Bainbridge Island, WA

A Kitchen That Works LLC

January 13, 2012

 

Dear Michelle,

To the best of my knowledge, yes it is possible to get a radon free granite countertop.

  • However, figuring out which one in your local stone slab yard will be 100% radon free will be the tough part because two slabs coming out of the same quarry can have completely different levels of radon.
  • That is, one can have none and the other could have some.

Please note that radon is a naturally occurring odorless, tasteless radioactive gas in our environment. A known carcinogen, it becomes harmful to humans when it is found in high concentrations in unventilated areas occupied by people. A common place could be in the basement of a home where by the radon is leaching out of the soil and into a home.

Testing for radon

There are radon kits that you can purchase at your big box retailer.  

In order to get an accurate reading on the slab of your choice you will need to “tent” the entire slab with the kit installed inside the tent and leave it there for at least 48 hours to get a proper reading – not very practical.

EPA says there's little health threat

Based on studies/statements released by both the US Environmental Protection Agency  (here) and the Marble Institute of America (here), it has been concluded that granite poses little if any health threat, due to its radon content, to the average person – there are always exceptions.

  • You should be much more concerned about the sealants that are used in the fabrication of quarried stone products due to their high volatile organic compound content.
  • To find out more about radon contact your state radon office or local American Lung Association for more information on where to purchase a test kit.

Consider a quartz countertop

An alternative countertop choice with equal or better durability and lower maintenance requirements than granite is engineered stone also called quartz.

  • Quartz has a more uniform appearance than quarried stones but there are some new colors/patterns out there that do a great job of mimicking quarried stone.
  • There are several manufacturers of quartz products but note that most of them are overseas.
  • Quartz products do not require sealing by your fabricator or period resealing during the life of the countertop.

Good luck!

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