Deadly Countertops?

July 27, 2008 at 2:38 pm | Posted in Bizarre News | 5 Comments

I’m posting this in the “Bizarre News” category even though it’s a little bit different than what I would normally place in BN. I just don’t know where else to put it!

Apparently a Physics Professor at Rice University (W.J. Llope) has some unpublished data indicating that granite countertops pose a radiation risk.

Using a Rice University spectrometer, Llope has examined 55 stones, representing about 25 varieties of granite purchased from Houston-area dealers. Some, he said, could expose homeowners to 100 millirems of radiation — the annual exposure limit set by the Department of Energy for visitors to nuclear labs — in just a few months.

Llope, who said he plans to publish his findings in a peer-reviewed journal, declined to name the most hazardous varieties of granite he has thus far examined. But he said dangerously radioactive varieties include striated granites from Brazil and Namibia.

As many as 1,600 varieties of granite from 64 countries are sold for household use in the United States. None of them is routinely tested for radioactivity.

While this could be good news for the makers of Corian, it’s also somewhat unsettling. Granite countertops are becoming more and more common. What’s even more alarming is the response to this research by an industry group.

Jim Martinez, spokesman for the Marble Institute of America, a trade group which also represents the granite industry, cited a University of Akron study that found granite varieties used in 85 percent of such countertops are safe.

Apparently they aren’t concerned that this study found that 15% of such countertops are made with unsafe varieties of granite. I’m not sure if the rest of their response reflects true concern, pandering or an attempt to CYA and control the research.

Still, he said, his organization is assembling a panel of scientists to develop a protocol for testing granite for radioactivity. He said that panel should be in place by summer’s end.

“There’s been a lot of junk science passed off as real science,” Martinez said. “We want to establish scientific standards and protocol that would allow consistent testing in a logical way.”

The trade group said reports of granite’s radioactivity have been sensationalized by competitors who market non-granite products.

I’m not comfortable with the idea that the industry wants to take charge of regulating itself. I think it makes more sense to have the EPA involved in some fashion as Professor Llope suggested in the same article.

I hope that Dr. Llope’s manuscript survives the peer review process and that the publicity leads to increased research and safety regulations based upon the body of scientific evidence.

For the full article from the Houston Chronicle, go here.

UPDATE:  Dr. Llope has a page dedicated to radiation and radon from natural stone on his website.  You can view it here.  There is a Q&A section at the bottom of the page and he includes an email address you can use if you have comments or questions.  Also, be sure to check out the pdf file titled “Radiation and Radon from Natural Stone” if you want more information about the problem and his research.



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  1. 100 mrem is a lot! I’ve stood on top of a shutdown nuclear reactor quite a bit and I only got like twice that in 3 years.

  2. Yikes! I was honestly hoping you would make a different/more reassuring comment. Dr. Llopes CV made me think it’s highly unlikely he would engage in “junk science” though, so the story and research did have me a bit concerned.

  3. I did not know their are problems like that with granite. I guess its good I am too poor to have any granite in my house.

  4. I guess I am glad that I could not afford a custom granite countertop for my kitched. That is becouse the island I built was non-standard. I did a granite 1 inch by 1 inch mosaic countertop instead. It is nice, but tough to clean. I hope it does not radiate….

  5. 1 inch by 1 inch does sound like it would be tough to keep clean in a kitchen. I hope you used a dark grout!

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