Some types of kitchen countertops – including the popular granite styles – may emit a radioactive gas known as radon. Learn more about what radon is, its link to lung cancer, and how to find out if radon is in your countertops.
Radon, a carcinogenic natural radioactive element, is an odorless, colorless gas produced by the breakdown of uranium that seeps out of the earth. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that about 21,000 lung cancer deaths are caused by radon each year. In the home, radon sometimes enters basements through concrete cracks and becomes concentrated in the air that we breathe. It can also be present in natural materials that are brought into the home - including granite countertops. Some granite and other natural stones contain trace amounts of uranium. If these emit radon, they typically do so at very low levels. But in some instances, tests have found that granite countertops give off potentially dangerous levels of radiation.
The New York Times reported in July 2008 that the increased popularity of granite countertops over the past decade has resulted in an expansion of the kinds of granite available and that reports of "hot" countertops seem to come from "the more exotic and striated varieties from Brazil and Namibia."
The EPA advises that all homes be tested for radon. If significant levels are found, you can take steps to protect your family's health. Visit the EPA's website for more information on testing for radon levels.