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Are Granite Countertop Radon Emissions Dangerous?

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Houston, TXWith people becoming increasingly concerned about granite countertop radon emissions, some organizations are taking matters into their own hands, offering to conduct tests to determine radon exposure in homes. Meanwhile, the debate rages on as to whether people who have granite countertops in their homes are exposed to unsafe levels of radon.

EPAOne organization that is conducting a study of granite and radon emissions is BuildClean, a non-profit organization from Houston. BuildClean is currently in the process of conducting a study to determine whether or not natural stone products can emit harmful levels of radiation (it is important to note that the study is a project and is not considered a scientifically conducted, peer-reviewed study).

According to BuildClean, "The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set an 'action' guideline level for radon exposure at 4 picocuries per liter of air. However, that does not mean that potential health risks do not exist at lower levels of exposure. Recent scientific studies have indicated that some granites may emit as much as 735 picocuries per square foot."

BuildClean goes on to note, "In 2005, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a health advisory specifically warning that indoor radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer and the EPA has said that radiation exposure can increase the risk of cancer and gene mutation."

BuildClean's study involves testing in 300 homes. Two hundred of the homes have granite while the other 100 homes have other materials. BuildClean anticipates that the study will be completed in November.

Until more information is available on granite and radon, consumers are left with many questions. They wonder what the symptoms of excessive radon exposure are and what effects radon exposure can have. They worry that their health problems are related to their granite countertops and wonder what they can do.

"For starters…the padding on my feet has become very thin," says Peter M. "It became so painful, I was almost in tears and it cost me two jobs because I could not concentrate with the very extreme pain in my feet, which the foot doctor could find no reason for. Friends would come over and say they were tired (and so were we, all of the time) so we asked the fire department to measure the oxygen levels and other gases. They said all of the levels were fine."

While some granite countertop manufacturers say that all granite is fine, others are not so sure. They warn that different granites, from different parts of the world, may emit higher levels of radon. In fact, there are many different granites imported to the United States—1,600 varieties from 64 countries, according to Physorg.com.

Furthermore, they worry that although the levels of radon emitted by granite countertops may be low, it could be compounded when added to levels of radon people are naturally exposed to daily.

Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that is naturally released when uranium decays. If possible, granite countertops should be tested before they are installed in kitchens, to measure their radon levels. For granite that is already installed, consumers can purchase an at-home testing kit to see if radon levels are safe. If unsafe levels of radon are detected, the granite should probably be removed from the home or action to properly ventilate the area should be taken.

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