Wow Granite with Concerns OR safe, neutral Cambria?

southernmumMay 13, 2013

I know this could be a big debate. As with any topic, you can google this to death and find all sorts of supporting/non-supporting info. Here's the deal: we originally were going with quartz in our kitchen. Liked the low maintenance and sanitary qualities of it. Then went to the granite shop the other day and found a slab they just got in and it's gorgeous. (I posted it previously here, because I like it so much! It's called Winter Springs.) Anyway, with some research (initially just on the Absolute Black that's going on my perimeter cabinets) I discovered that in all the research on radon & granite, that most of the "hot" slabs are exotics from Brazil. OF COURSE Winter Springs is an exotic from Brazil! I will state: many years ago we had a radon issue with a house and it almost didn't close. Radon is a concern of mine, but there is no real way to test the slab while it's in the middle of a huge granite warehouse with about a thousand other slabs, dust, etc. SO, should we just go with the granite we really like and say YOLO, or should I get the Windermere Cambria that will probably be lovely in my kitchen? (Windermere was my first initial selection, so I do like it...) The granite is more like WOW, and the Windermere is a nice safe neutral that will really allow me tons of decorating freedom. The granite is kind of strong so the kitchen paint color, accessories will always be a bit neutral. **I know it's my decision, but I like getting input from GW. My husband is a totally "whatever you want, babe" kind of person, and my 3 little boys don't really get a say! (Although I want them to be HEALTHY and not get radon exposure!) Many thanks! :)

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Sophie Wheeler

Knock all of the fear mongering and rumor mill BS off the table and just pick what you prefer. Either is safe, so it comes down to a decor choice only.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2013 at 11:42AM
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lazy_gardens

Radon is far down on the list of things that are health concerns for the general public. I'd worry about something more controllable, such as car seats, seatbelts, not driving drunk, nutrition, exercise and vaccine-preventible diseases.

Scientists estimate that 15,000 to 22,000 lung cancer deaths in the United States each year are related to radon, (mostly in persons who smoke or have other high risks such as hard rock miners) ... and there are 32,000 deaths from firearms.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2013 at 12:02PM
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debrak_2008

I would get the granite you want unless you or someone in your family has some type of health issue where doctors have advised that you must avoid radon at all costs.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2013 at 12:12PM
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snookums2

I guess I'd want to test it first. See if the yard goes off the radar, lol. Is there any information on how much can be emitted from a counter? Are there food prep concerns? What is a safe level and how does this stone compare? Are we surrounded by it all the time anyway? I don't think a counter is worth any health risk, but is it really a valid concern? I'd see what geologists say.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2013 at 1:22PM
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Angie_DIY

I, too, am in the camp that thinks your concern is overblown. However, here is a way to find out. Can you get a sample? You could put the sample in a closed container with a radon test kit. I believe that any radon present in such conditions would be vastly more concentrated than in a regular home installation. If such a test shows activity below the allowable level, then you will have no reason to be concerned about a regular installation. (You may run the test for 3 to 7 days.)

Here is a link that might be useful: radon test kits

    Bookmark   May 13, 2013 at 1:24PM
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oldryder

Radon is not an issue with natural stone. In many places in the country you get FAR more radon from your basement than you could ever get from granite countertops. A couple of years ago a very large local slab supplier did a test when they moved into a new building.

They measured the building before any slabs were brought in. There was no measureable radon present. Then they brought in several thousand slabs including many many "exotics' which are generally claimed to be the problem colors. After 3 months with thousands of slabs in place the radon measurement was ... zero.

This is a particularly telling example because the sq. ft. of granite slabs per cubic foot of air was thousands of times greater than you'd ever get from 100 sq. ft. of countertops in a 3000 sq. ft. house.

The advice you got earlier to pick the color you like was the correct advice.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2013 at 1:43PM
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karin_mt

When do you need to decide by?
I found a research article about radon in various granite slabs but I have not read it yet. But I can dig into it and see what their results were.

But even without doing that, I can tell you the bottom line, which is that the vast majority of these stones are perfectly fine. But some apparently are not. But these are truly rare. How do you know if yours is one of those rare exceptions? That is the real question at hand.

Anyway, let me know your deadline and I will check out that article and post a summary of it in English. :)

OldRyder - that warehouse you describe, their radon result was truly zero? If it was something low, I would believe it more, but to have it be zero makes me question it.

Here is a link that might be useful: Radioactivity and radon in granite countertops

    Bookmark   May 13, 2013 at 2:34PM
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Circus Peanut

Even IF the granite puts off some tiny amount of radon, your kitchen will have a range hood, right? Run that for a few minutes every time you cook, and this will be the same as expensive mitigation systems they put into basements that actually DO have radon problems.

Your kitchen is not a walled-off, contained room like a basement. Presumably you have windows and doors that let in fresh air on a regular basis. :-)

    Bookmark   May 13, 2013 at 2:45PM
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southernmum

karin mt - I'm good for a few more days. I've already paid my deposit for all my quartz and granite for the entire house, but we're not close to cutting yet. Still waiting for the finishing touches to be put on the cabinets. Yes, how to know if MY slab is truly a problem slab, that is the question! I like the idea of testing just the sample I have. That's a good idea - Thanks, Angie DIY!

    Bookmark   May 13, 2013 at 4:11PM
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southernmum

I called the company that sells the radon test kits. They have to have the slab actually installed in your house before testing is accurate. I can't use the small sample i have - boo! Anyway, they suggested I buy a radiation detection device from a company called Polimaster. Guess what? She (the rep from the kit co.) thinks the machine would cost way over the cost of my granite slab! No surprise there... Oh well. Angie, I'm going to keep the link for the test kit co. for future reference. Thanks again!

    Bookmark   May 13, 2013 at 4:21PM
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Holly- Kay

I understand your concern especially with young children but honestly there is more danger to your health driving a car to and fro. Get your WOW granite and enjoyit!!!!

    Bookmark   May 13, 2013 at 4:57PM
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oldryder

Karin_mt:

"OldRyder - that warehouse you describe, their radon result was truly zero? If it was something low, I would believe it more, but to have it be zero makes me question it."

actually, it would have been more accurate to say it was unmeasureable. The result was surprising at 1st because even concrete emits trace amounts of radon. However, the building was so large (40' celiings) that any radon gas that might have been present was lost in the vast volume of air in the building. 8 truck doors and their less than perfect weather seal also probably contributed. Regardless, several thousand slabs at an average of 60 sq. ft. each means the building has something in excess of 250,000 sq. ft of granite.

figure it this way:

50,000 sq. ft. warehouse X 40' celiings = 2 million cu. ft. of air
3000 sq. ft. home X 8' ceilings = 24,000 cu. ft. of air

250,000 sq. ft of granite in the warehouse = .125 sq. ft./cu. ft. of air

75 sq. ft. of granite in the home = .003125 sq. ft..cu. ft. of air

so the warehouse had 40 times the amount of granite per cu. ft. of air and still had no measurable radon.

case closed.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2013 at 7:08PM
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karin_mt

Thanks for providing more details Old Ryder.

Definitely a solid result for those slabs.

The report I linked earlier today found levels that are lower than anyone needs to worry about. BUT, all the slabs they tested accounted for less than 30% of the market share of granite. They tested 27 types and these intentionally include the most popular ones. So it's safe to say that the majority of slabs are perfectly safe. I still wonder if there are outliers though and what rocks those are.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2013 at 12:16AM
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srosen

Yes I agree with old ryder. The Marble institute of america had addressed this years ago. The research done have shown that actual levels of radon gas emissions from granites are so low as to be insignificant and generally represent no threat to the health of humans living with granite. Think of it in this respect-radon is a very volatile gas that comes from the earth but doesnt stick around.
It cant be stored in a material. So even a granite quarry that is rich in radon produces slabs how much could be stored in a slab after in has been quarried and processed?
Radon emmisions from other building materials such as concretes,cements and gypsums may be of greater concern. There should be some info on the MIA website regarding research done on this subject.
Also I think the concerns regarding radon were introduced by the solid surfaces industry.The same industry that stated granite harbored bacteria which I think was also dispelled as a myth.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2013 at 11:23AM
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kitchendetective

Here is what I believe to be a useful study.

Here is a link that might be useful: Canada Health Study 33 granites

    Bookmark   May 14, 2013 at 1:58PM
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blfenton

Waaaay too technical for me. However, what I did pick out was the granite could contribute less than 1% of the radon concentration in a home. And if your house is properly vented it shouldn't be of any concern at all. Radon is found in all building materials including drywall, cement, tiles, ground, etc (which I already knew) so if you're worried about radon you'll have to live in a tent suspended from a tree.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2013 at 2:18PM
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southernmum

thanks, kitchen detective! very interesting article! thanks, also, to everyone for your advice!

    Bookmark   May 14, 2013 at 2:20PM
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Angie_DIY

So even a granite quarry that is rich in radon produces slabs how much could be stored in a slab after in has been quarried and processed?

Stu, I agree it is not a concern, and I value your contributions to this forum, but I think you are missing the process and why it matters. The radon in question started life as U238 (the most common isotope of uranium) in the granite. That uranium decays (through a series of reactions that do not concern us here) into radon (Rn222). As you point out, radon is chemically inert, so it is no longer bound to the rock. It is free to migrate and diffuse out of the rock and into the air. You are correct that this would not be such a big problem -- how much is in your lungs at any one time, after all?

However, it decays to an unstable isotope of polonium (Po218), which, of course, is NOT chemically inert. Let's say it reacts and sticks to a dust particle. This dust particle may make it into your lungs and stick. The Po218 goes on to decay into lead (Pb214), then bismuth (Bi214), then back to polonium (Po214), then back to lead (Pb210), then back to bismuth (Bi210), then back to polonium (Po210), then finally to a stable isotope of lead (Pb206), giving off energy at each of these steps. So, the real problem arises because all of these subsequent decays are taking place in the same spot, viz., your lung. (Although, truth be told, the antepenultimate step in that chain takes 22 years, so the last 3 decays are probably not going to take place in your body!)

The saving grace, however, is that the levels are low, as assessed in the papers that Karin provided.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2013 at 2:59PM
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srosen

Wow you are right-I am missing that process.I had no idea that it changed chemically so many times-I get the energy part but didnt understand it was the radical changes that caused that. That was a scary explanation Angie.
If granite counters, walls and floors are the least producing component of radon emmisions in a dwelling or office what should we do about the materials that cause the highest numbers. I am much happier talking about sealing issues and removing etches!

    Bookmark   May 14, 2013 at 6:07PM
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snookums2

It's often the cumulative load in things like this.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2013 at 10:08PM
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Angie_DIY

Sorry, it wasn't meant to be scary.

what should we do about the materials that cause the highest numbers.

Well, as I understand it, the greatest source of radon in homes is the gas that creeps into your basement from the ground below. And what to do about it is well established: venting.

Also, note that the amount of extra radiation exposure due to living in a concrete or brick home for a year is about 1/5 the amount of radiation you receive from a single mammogram. It is also about 1/5 of the radiation you receive from the radioactive decay of the naturally occurring POTASSIUM (!) in your body. Who woulda thunk it?

    Bookmark   May 14, 2013 at 11:40PM
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southernmum

"Also, note that the amount of extra radiation exposure due to living in a concrete or brick home for a year is about 1/5 the amount of radiation you receive from a single mammogram. It is also about 1/5 of the radiation you receive from the radioactive decay of the naturally occurring POTASSIUM (!) in your body. Who woulda thunk it?"

WOW! Very, very interesting. That really puts things in perspective!

The one thing I have learned from this thread is that there are a lot of brainiacs here at GW, and for that, I am thankful! I appreciate all the time and thought on this topic. (Seriously.) Many thanks!

    Bookmark   May 15, 2013 at 12:35AM
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oldryder

Karin_mt:

"OldRyder - that warehouse you describe, their radon result was truly zero? If it was something low, I would believe it more, but to have it be zero makes me question it."

actually, it would have been more accurate to say it was unmeasureable. The result was surprising at 1st because even concrete emits trace amounts of radon. However, the building was so large (40' celiings) that any radon gas that might have been present was lost in the vast volume of air in the building. 8 truck doors and their less than perfect weather seal also probably contributed. Regardless, several thousand slabs at an average of 60 sq. ft. each means the building has something in excess of 250,000 sq. ft of granite.

figure it this way:

50,000 sq. ft. warehouse X 40' celiings = 2 million cu. ft. of air
3000 sq. ft. home X 8' ceilings = 24,000 cu. ft. of air

250,000 sq. ft of granite in the warehouse = .125 sq. ft./cu. ft. of air

75 sq. ft. of granite in the home = .003125 sq. ft..cu. ft. of air

so the warehouse had 40 times the amount of granite per cu. ft. of air and still had no measurable radon.

case closed.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2013 at 7:48AM
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miruca

Southernmum- what did you go with? We are looking at those two choices too.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2013 at 3:04PM
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