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Al Gerhart of the Solid Surface Alliance discusses Granite Countertops

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Oklahoma City, OKAl Gerhart, of the Solid Surface Alliance is concerned about the use of unsafe granite countertops in homes. He says that not all granite is unsafe, but some of it is—and the dangerous granite is what the Alliance is trying to get taken off the market. Most of the news recently has been about granite countertop radon emissions and radon exposure. Some analysts say that people are being too quick to panic over granite countertops: however, Gerhart says that is not necessarily the case.

Granite CountertopGerhart runs a countertop and cabinet company, which he says fabricates everything available in countertops. "What concerns us about some of the granites is that some can be pretty radioactive and our position is that those shouldn't be sold," Gerhart says. "Almost all have some radiation, but we think there are some that can be sold relatively safely, as long as you tell people what they're buying."

Gerhart says that people who are interested in buying granite countertops should first have the slabs tested by an independent party. "I sell granite but I recommend someone from outside check the granite," Gerhart says. "I don't feel customers should just trust me to test this properly. The more I know about it, the harder it is to test. The trick is in knowing the limitations of the Geiger counter.

"We've been testing granite from day one. We've only sold stones that were proven to be safe. Not 100% safe, but not a huge concern. [Consumers should] get the granite tested—if it's hot [hazardous] replace it."

According to Gerhart, hair loss and fingernail abnormalities are not associated with radon. "In our research, we haven't found that radon can cause hair loss," Gerhart says. "Radon is known for third brachial tube cancer. Studies have found links between Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and radon. When radon decays it turns into radioactive particles (such as lead 214 and polonium 218) that put radiation in your lungs."

However, Gerhart says the problems with granite countertops may extend beyond radon and into heavy metals, such as selenium. Although he notes that not a lot of research has been done on the topic, he says that some granites have been found to contain selenium, which is beneficial in small doses but toxic at higher levels.

The Solid Surface Alliance manages an email list that includes a number of countertop fabricators, researchers, including Dr. William J. Llope who was cited in The New York Times' article on granite and radiation, a radiological chemist, a uranium geologist, a radiation measurement specialist, an industrial hygienist and four radon labs all sharing information regarding radon and granite. The E-mail list's goal is to develop the facts on this matter and help get dangerous types of granite off the market for good.

More research needs to be done on granite, radon and heavy metals. Until that time, it seems that the controversy over using granite countertops in homes will not die down. The best thing that people can do is get the granite tested before putting it in a home or replacing that granite countertop if it is found to have high levels of radon.

"Our goal is to learn something from this because we want bad granite off the market," Gerhart says. "We don't know what's dangerous and what's not—we can keep [radon] levels as low as possible but we're just guessing. We're trying to determine safe levels."

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