It is one of those little known facts that granite counter-tops emit radioactive gas called radon. Radon gas is caused by the radioactive decay of elements in minerals found in the ground. Every single person breaths radon gas every day of his or her life. Depending on where you live in the world, the amount of radon gas in the air varies and contributes to the background radiation that we are all exposed to every minute of the day. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer.
In most parts of the world, the background radiation is relatively low and the amount of radon in the air is also low. As long as you are not exposed to concentrated levels of radon, it seems to pose little risk. The biggest risk factor for radon exposure is living in a house with concentrated levels of radon that exceed what is normally found outside in the fresh air. Traditionally, Northern Homes were more at risk because they had subterranean basements with radon gas seeping through cracks in the walls and floors of the basement as well as the pores in the concrete itself. As homes became more energy efficient, the amount of radon gas trapped in people’s homes became greater. Homes that lacked fresh air had higher concentrations of the gas because it could not escape from the home. Energy efficient homes were often referred to as airtight. It saves energy, but the exchange of outside fresh air is sacrificed. The problem is even worse during the winter when most people cannot afford to leave the doors and windows opened.
Enter the new fad of granite counter-tops. Their 100% natural material quarried from granite mines. They make beautiful and durable counter-tops, but they contain radon gas. Just like all other minerals, granite produces radon gas. It is still debatable whether or not granite counter-tops increase the amount of radon found in a person’s home. Studies have showed mixed results. Studies have also shown mixed results when the counter-tops were tested with Geiger counters . Results often fall between 20 to 90 clicks per minute. To put that in perspective, the background radiation in the United States falls between 15 to 80 clicks per minute.
Other sources of radiation in the home include smoke alarms, fluorescent lights, and CRT television tubes as well as old CRT Computer monitors. Most of these sources of radiation seem to pose little risk individually. In most cases, granite counter-tops are probably no worse than any of these other things.
It is possible to test the level of radon gas in your home by purchasing test kits that are sold at some Home Centers. The reliability of these test kits are questionable. Some people prefer to measure the overall radiation in their home using an inexpensive Geiger counters . The Geiger counters are sometimes even used by some home inspectors. Usually, you would find the background radiation your home to be a little higher than the rate found outside. If it is considerably higher, you may have a buildup of radon gas inside your home.
Sealing up cracks in your slab and getting better ventilation in your home can go a long way to stopping in the problem. If weather permits, opening your home once a week to allow fresh air to replace the stale air can also help to make a healthier home. Obviously there are other factors such as allergies that may make it undesirable to simply open doors and windows. A professionally installed ventilation system with filtration could be used to provide fresh air without the pollen. It may also be an option for people who live in neighborhoods where leaving the doors and windows opened is dangerous.