Radioactive Kitchen Countertops

Outdoor Environmental Education classes are at their peak this time of year. While I have been busy teaching outdoors, an indoor concern came up in conversation with other teachers. So since my blogs have been in a lull the past two weeks due to my great outdoor teaching schedule, this blog is about the sometimes not so great indoors.Do you have granite countertops in your kitchen or bathrooms? If yes, then you need to know the truth about granite countertops:

Yes, “some” pieces of granite “may” emit naturally occurring radioactive elements such as radium (radon), uranium and thorium. Some granite contains more of these elements than others and this is just a fact about any igneous rock. The process for granite starts by forming as molten rock, then cooled and solidified over tens of thousands of years. This slow forming granite has beautiful and distinctive patterns in many colors from the various minerals growing into crystals.

Does this mean you should avoid buying or rip out your granite tops?

No, but some people have done so because of reports the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been receiving from Radon Inspectors about granite countertops with radiation measurements well above the normal background levels.

EPA states action should be taken in a home where radon is seeping into a house’s basement from the naturally decaying uranium underground that exceeds a measurement of 4 picocuries per liter of air. Equivalent to smoking half a pack of cigarettes per day. This is found in types of ground that are heavily infused with rock formations. Sandy soil doesn’t have a radon issue.

Most granite tops are safe and have no measurable readings, others are within the range of normal or low readings, but there seems to be a relationship between granite with dark and/or exotic colors to higher radiation measurements. For example, the New York Times reported on a salmon-colored granite that had readings of 100 picocuries per liter while the homeowner’s basement, where radon is expected to be high, was only 6 picocuries per liter. Now does this mean all salmon-colored granite will have these readings? No, each cut of granite will be different in the amount of radon gas being omitted, if any at all.

For the vast majority of humans, we are hit with background radiation constantly from our sun, earth’s crust and man made radioactive items such as luminous watches or X-rays. The average person can receive an annual level of 360 millirem (amount of energy absorbed by the human body). So if you had a granite top giving off 100 picocuries per liter and you were only inches from the granite for one hour, you would absorb a fraction of one millirem. Taking a flight from New York to Europe will give you about 3 to 4 millirem. Yet, if you are cooking in the kitchen every day for two hours a day, thus hovering over a potentially high emitting countertop, the numbers may add up to over 100 millirem in less than the stated one year time period.EPA doesn’t study health risks associated with granite that gives off higher readings due to a “lack of resources,” so I would like to suggest the following for consideration:If you are concerned that radon may be seeping into your basement, get tested. Radon test kits are for sale in most Home Improvement stores if you wish to do this yourself. However, if readings determine action is necessary, have all the cracks in the floor and corners of your basement sealed professionally.

If you are concerned with countertops giving off any level of radiation, look into natural quartz countertops. However, like any natural stone, there may be a trace amount of radon escaping from them. So seek out quartz countertops that are actually made from resins, glass and quartz and are sealed when manufactured. When countertops  are permanently sealed, if any radon was present, none will be released.

Bill Lauto, GTG
Environmental Scientist at
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Bill Lauto
Bill Lauto is an Environmental Scientist and Energy Consultant who came on the scene in 1981 to present facts and teach details about how we can save money, energy, and our environment, without making sacrifices. His voice was one among the few who taught green facts long before anyone else talked about Going Green.

Mr. Lauto has an Environmental Science degree from St. John's University, Energy Auditor Certification from New York Institute of Technology, and Certification in Thermal/Heating from S.U.N.Y. at Farmingdale. He interned at Equitable Environmental Health that brought him to evaluate the environment at LILCO's Nuclear power plant that never opened. As an entrepreneur, he operates, and holds a U.S. Patent with a Trademark on an environmental and energy-related product.

Mr. Lauto has done and managed thousands of energy audits for homeowners. Not one recommended a single action that implied sacrifice. He never stated once that to save money and energy one must turn down their thermostat and wear a sweater. During the 20th Anniversary of Earth Day, Bill Lauto was the Energy Advisor to the Earth Day Committee in New York. Mr. Lauto was the attending expert witness to the press conferences of former New York’s Major Dinkins and Commissioner Mark Green. His expertise has been utilized by power companies such as: the New York Power Authority and the Long Island Lighting Company as well as by Mr. Mark Green, former Commissioner of Consumer Affairs, NYC.

Mr. Lauto has served as the Environmental and Energy expert on several television news and radio talk shows. He has provided information and consulting services on topics such as: air, cooling, heating, lighting, appliances, recycling stations, solar, wind, bio-fuels, hydrogen and water to: Clearwater, Consumer Report Magazine, European American Bank, Home Depot, LILCO, NBC, Macy*s, New York Power Authority, NYPIRG, Time Warner, EPA, thousands of homeowners, celebrities, small businesses, nonprofit organizations, and many government accounts.

Information about Mr. Lauto, his articles, and work have been published in newspapers across the country, including: Consumer Report magazine, Kiplinger's Financial magazine and Business Ethics magazine. Mr. Lauto has been interviewed by ABC news, the New York Times, Cable News L.I. and was in a special television home audit hosted by Al Roker of NBC, but was never aired due to breaking news.

For over twenty years, Mr. Lauto has been stating that we don’t need foreign oil, we have the technology to make America energy independent. serves to educate the public for free on how to lower energy cost by 60% or more, while uses videos and Mr. Lauto's Blog to help dispel mis-information and provide the facts about truly Going Green.