Blogging Tulsa Real Estate: Is There Uranium in Your Granite Countertop? -- Perhaps A Radon Test Is Appropriate

Is There Uranium in Your Granite Countertop? -- Perhaps A Radon Test Is Appropriate

An out-of-town buyer asked me the other day if we had to worry about radon in our area.  I told him, "No, it's typically not something we worry about here." 

We have very few basements in Oklahoma and radon just isn't something we have to worry about...  or should we?

A friend sent me a link to an article from The New York Times called, "What's Lurking in Your Countertop?"  After reading this article I think I need to rethink my response when someone asks about radon.

I know I have seen gold specks in granite.  It only makes sense that uranium could be present in some slices of granite. 

Granite is an igneous rock formed under heat and pressure.  Generally it will have heavier materials like copper and zinc.  A typical ton of granite is a composite of materials and can include iron, uranium, platinum, gold, silver, and lead.  Other rocks in granite are generally melted down into their constuent materials. 

Uranium releases radon gas as it decays.  Therefore, it makes sense that if there is a little bit of uranium in your granite countertop, then there could be some emissions of radon gas in your home. 

Perhaps when recommending home inspections, I should recommend radon tests for homes with granite countertops, even though the local geology typically would not lead one to believe that radon gas is a problem

http://TulsaRealEstateWeb.com

http://NortheastOklahomaRealEstate.com

http://BixbyOklahomaRealEstate.com

http://dsolano.homesandland.com

View Debbie Solano's profile on LinkedIn

 

Debbie Solano, CRS, ABR, CDPE, CHMS, e-PRO, GRI, REOS, SRES
Coldwell Banker Select, Realtors -- Land & Ranch Division
4408 S. Harvard Avenue
Tulsa, OK  74135

Office:  918-712-4473

Cell:  918-724-8201

FAX:  918-712-4310

 

Tulsa Short Sale Agents

Midtown Tulsa Real Estate

Midtown Tulsa Real Estate

Oklahoma Land and Ranches

Oklahoma Horse Properties

Tulsa Real Estate Web

Northeast Oklahoma Real Estate

Blogging Tulsa Real Estate

Cancun Beach Vacation Villa Rentals

Riviera Maya Beach Vacation Villa Rentals

 

View Debbie Solano's profile on LinkedIn

Facebook Buttons By ButtonsHut.com

 

Comment balloon 16 commentsDebbie Durkee • November 19 2008 11:27PM

Comments

Wow, very interesting information. I had never thought of that and I will be checking out the links asap. Thanks for the info.

Posted by Michelle Roethle, Your NorthWest "Real Estate Solution" (Windermere Peninsula Properties) over 11 years ago

I had heard this...nver thought about it, but guess it makes sense,

Posted by Pat Tasker, Your Milwaukee Metro Area Agent (WI) (Shorewest Realtors) over 11 years ago

I'll let my hubby know aobut this, he fabricates concrete countertops and this is a good reason to go with concrete!  Here's his website: http://cementitiousart.com

Seriously though, this is important.  It makes you want to grab a radon test kit and check it out.

Posted by Kim Hamblin (Bella Casa Real Estate Group) over 11 years ago

Kim,

The countertops on your website are pretty.  How durable is the concrete?  What happens when you slam it hard with a block of frozen beef patties?  (Not that you should do that, but I have been known to be stupid.  I once put a little dent in my freezer door when I hit it with a bag of ice cubes rather than throwing it on the floor.)

Posted by Debbie Durkee, ALC, CRS -- Land & Country Estates near Tulsa (RE/MAX T-town) over 11 years ago

Here is the EPA's radon map for Oklahoma.  http://www.epa.gov/radon/zonemap/oklahoma.htm.  You are correct in saying Oklahoma typically doesn't need to worry about radon, but it is recommended by the EPA to have a radon test performed. 

Posted by John Sopher (SOSI Inc. DBA Southside Homes, DBA HLC Home Inspections) over 11 years ago

John,

Thank you for the link.  I added it to the Buyer's Guide on my website where I discuss evironmental inspections.  That will be very helpful to my buyers. 

Posted by Debbie Durkee, ALC, CRS -- Land & Country Estates near Tulsa (RE/MAX T-town) over 11 years ago

No problem, glad I could help.

Posted by John Sopher (SOSI Inc. DBA Southside Homes, DBA HLC Home Inspections) over 11 years ago

It is quite true that granite countertops emit radon gas.  However, it is largely dependant on where the stone was mined from, and also to a large extent, how your granite countertops are sealed.  Most people simply apply the sealant to the top surface of the countertops and seal the pores.  What this effectively does is 'push' the radon gas down under your cabinets.  In other words, it doesn't stop the radon from emitting, but rather shifts it to the bottom.  One solution is to seal both sides.  A better solution is to pay a little extra for your sealant and get the good stuff, which will still allow the stone to 'breathe' - instead of sealing off everything, it is more like sealing the veins, but still allowing the blood to flow.


And of course, this is also a great reason to go with an engineered stone countertop which is 93% quartz based. 

 

Please let me know if you have any other questions.  I love chatting about this stuff!

 

Thanks,

Rob

 

www.countertopsorlando.com

Posted by Pay attention to How Granite Countertops are Sealed over 11 years ago

Hi Debbie,

Thanks for the compliment, I'll let him know!  That is a concern with the concrete, one of his clients' friends was celebrating by opening a bottle of champagne and misjudged the pressure and the bottle hit the concrete just so and knocjed out a big chip!  Of coure, the friend felt awful, but it was fixable  They are also susceptble to citric acid, so you must use a cutting board or wipe it up relatively quickly.   Not good for those messy chefs that like to leave cleanup until the day after!

Posted by Kim Hamblin (Bella Casa Real Estate Group) over 11 years ago

This is turning into an incredible discussion.  I have already learned so much.  Thank you, Kim and Rob.

I saw the most beautiful granite counters in a home I was previewing today.  I, of course kept my mouth shut, but all I could think of was radon while I was in the kitchen and bathrooms.  That's pretty weird for me.

Posted by Debbie Durkee, ALC, CRS -- Land & Country Estates near Tulsa (RE/MAX T-town) over 11 years ago

Hi,

Good discussion on the problem.   I have a ton of info on this topic on a couple of websites.   The oldest info, but deals with the problems in depth, backed with scientific studies, is at solidsurfacealliance.org.   Some of the recent info was posted at solidsurfacealliance.org/blog

and the most recent info is at forum.solidsurfacealliance.org

We are about to start a full scale Radon test with a hot granite countertop in Oklahoma City.  Details are posted on the forum.

 

 

Posted by Al Gerhart over 11 years ago

Debbie, this issue has been kicked around on AR for several months and is essentially a non-issue ranking right up there with many of the other useless "official media scares" in my opinion.  If you use the AR search function you will find dozens of other posts about it.  This one in particular is a good one as many of the comments get to the lack-of-issue that this really is.  Radon in Granite Countertops?

 

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 11 years ago

Charles, I appreciate your comments.  I followed your link and it led me to to Caoimhín P. Connell's article entitled Radon - A Brief DiscussionIt says he is a Forensic Industrial Hygienist with Forensic Applications Consulting Technologies, Inc.  Anyone really concerned should read the complete article.

I disagree with you about it's being a non-issue.  It's been about twelve years since Sophie Burnham's book, Our Stolen Future, was published.  It took several years for anyone to notice what she was saying about plastics.  However, many of her warnings are now mainstream. 

I for one do not trust the media and don't pay much attention to "official media scares," because I think God gave us a brain to decide what to believe. 

I tell my customers that the home inspectors are not God.  They are professionals that clients hire to tell them what is wrong with the house -- everything.  The professionals provide information.  The clients decide what to do with that infomation.

I tell my buyers that for the most part the inspection will provide them with a honey-do list that they can work with after closing.  However, if a situation is really negative, they can then decide to start running away from the house.

To keep people in the dark about the slightest possibility of there being uranium in granite is not only not a non-issue, it is negligent. 

Again, we provide.... the client decides.  They should have information that allows them to make a decision as to whether or not to get a radon inspection.  Period.

Posted by Debbie Durkee, ALC, CRS -- Land & Country Estates near Tulsa (RE/MAX T-town) over 11 years ago

Debbie, uranium is not the issue.  Over thousands of years uranium decays into radium which over long periods of time decays into radon.  Radon itself is a gas that is very quickly released from the granite it is in.  The EPA says it is not a problem----as an inspector I try to provide my buyers with the most up to date information based on the best science I can find.  Most of everything I see that talks about radon in granite looks like junk science to me.  In fact a lot of the bad press came from other types of competing contertop material manufacturers.  The whole business of the dangers of Radon is VERY controversial and although there are a lot of people who would have us believe that what is known is a "given"----it is anything but.  There is very little if any hard scientific data to support the concerns raised regarding radon in granite countertops.  That said there is a lot of money to be made in keeping people scared of radon.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 11 years ago

Why do I predict another disclosure on the horizon for us to be concerned about.

Posted by Myrl Jeffcoat, Greater Sacramento Real Estate Agent (GreatWest Realty) over 11 years ago

Good point, Myrl.

All we need are more disclosures!

I really am showing my ignorance about this whole issue.  My guess is that most people pick their granite countertop based on how pretty it is, rather than based on what materials are in the rock. 

I am reminded of why I shouldn't be the one to buy my horses.  I have messed up every time because I like greys.  That's why I need to hire a professional to buy my next horse.  I would pick the horse based on it's color rather than based on its being "a good mover," etc. 

I know when I have scanned the internet for granite surfaces I have found the type and the name of the place it is from.  Do the suppliers list the components of the granite, giving percentages of particular metals?  Or do homeowners need to take geologists with them to look at their countertop samples? 

Posted by Debbie Durkee, ALC, CRS -- Land & Country Estates near Tulsa (RE/MAX T-town) over 11 years ago

Participate