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Remodeling Nightmare

Is it possible that your gorgeous, gleaming granite countertops emit more than beauty? Could they be putting your family’s health at risk? Recent news reports have fingered granite countertops as a potential source of radiation and radon gas – both cancer-causing agents to which unborn babies and young children are especially vulnerable. But despite the spotlight on several spectacularly toxic cases, the consensus of experts is that most types of granite countertops remain safe.

“While it’s possible to get a measurable level of direct radiation from some granite, in general, it emits less radiation than we’re regularly exposed to from background radiation,” reports the Texas Department of State Health Services. “These levels are so low that they’re not harmful to human health.”

Dallas granite and stone professional Thomas Whitehurst of Countertops Etc. agrees with reports that toxicity claims seem to be linked to financial interests of competing countertop materials manufacturers. “Granite’s been in buildings for hundreds of years,” he observes, adding that he currently installs 10 granite countertops for every one of another type of product.

While the Environmental Protection Agency believes that the soil beneath homes is a more significant source of radon than the granite countertops inside them, the agency does recommend that families test their homes for airborne radon. Inexpensive, simple home-testing kits are readily available at hardware stores and online for about $20. There are, however, no do-it-yourself radiation testing kits; for radiation testing, contact the American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists (866/772-2778; www.aarst.org).