Indianapolis expert comments on radon in granite countertops
Who we talked to
Dave Esslinger, owner
Granite By Design Inc.
2360 Executive Drive Indianapolis
Recent news stories have fueled debate about radon in granite, so we asked highly rated countertop installer Dave Esslinger to talk about it. At levels exceeding 4 picocuries per liter, radon can be deadly and is the second-leading cause of lung cancer. The Environmental Protection Agency believes all homes should be tested for radon, although they don't believe sufficient data exists to conclude granite countertops pose a health risk.
Is there any danger in the possibility of granite countertops emitting radon?
"As far as the problems with radon coming from granite, I've looked at a lot of information on it. With the studies I've read, I don't think there's anything to be concerned about. The Environmental Protection Agency has no reliable data that indicates the granite used in countertops significantly increases radon levels. The EPA has set a guideline of 4 picocuries per liter [pCi/L] as the recommended maximum exposure to radon. Independent research found that for the granite used in countertop applications, the radon level ranges from .01 to .02 pCi/L, so that's 200 to 400 times less radon than the EPA's maximum level."
What is radon and where does it come from?
"The natural decay of trace amounts of uranium causes radon, and basically all materials have some uranium. Soil, drinking water and water sources all have naturally occurring uranium in them, and a lot of building materials have it, too. The easiest way to avoid radon is through good ventilation. Your average home's ventilation will turn over or refresh the air inside it about one to one and a half times per hour, which pretty much takes care of it."
What do you recommend if someone is seriously concerned about radon emissions from granite countertops?
"I don't think it's necessary, but there are companies out there that can test granite for radon. I don't know any of them well enough to recommend one. If they're a person who's really concerned, I'd recommend using the man-made or engineered stones. They're priced around the mid-range for granite. An average price for standard-range granite is about $60 per square foot, where the engineered stone can cost around $75 to $80 per square foot. I typically use CaesarStone or TechnaStone - they're the ones that come the closest to looking like real granite. The upside to the engineered stones is that unlike granite, you never have to reseal them. Natural granite will have to be resealed about every 15 years. The downside to engineered stone is that it looks man-made - it resembles a uniformly patterned granite."