Don't Take It for Granite That Your Countertop Isn't Radioactive

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I have a lot of issues with granite countertops, the cherry on top of the McMansion sundae; they are heavy, expensive and cost a lot to ship. I have heard stories of Brazilian granite being shipped to China for cutting and then to Toronto for installation. Now the New York Times tells us about another problem: some of it glows in the dark.

The Times reports that demand for granite has increased tenfold in the last decade, and the stuff is coming from 63 countries; some are more radioactive than others.

"It's not that all granite is dangerous," said Stanley Liebert, the quality assurance director at CMT Laboratories in Clifton Park, N.Y., "But I've seen a few that might heat up your Cheerios a little."

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The E.P.A. recommends taking action if radon gas levels in the home exceeds 4 picocuries per liter of air (a measure of radioactive emission); about the same risk for cancer as smoking a half a pack of cigarettes per day; a few granite countertops exceed this, but not many. But others, like Lou Witt of the EPA, say "There is no known safe level of radon or radiation." Moreover, he said, scientists agree that "any exposure increases your health risk." New York TImes

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The Marble Institute, the trade flack site for the industry, says "It's misleading to even hint that we would knowingly sell a product that might harm consumers! The report was prompted by a group that claims to be independent, but is actually funded by two companies that manufacture synthetic stone countertops made of quartz gravel, resins, coloring agents and other chemicals."

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I wondered what they were talking about and found a site for the SolidSurfaceAlliance, which seems to be dedicated to making an issue of this, and their blog goes so far as to link granite counters with Osama Bin Laden. (his family's construction company is big in the stone biz) -clearly there are extreme positions on both sides of this issue.

I have never been fond of the stuff; it is expensive, heavy, impossible to fix damage or mistakes, and has a huge carbon footprint. But Radioactive? That's the nail in its coffin. ::New York Times