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Granite Countertops Pose No Serious Health Risk: MIA

Armen Hareyan's picture

EPA confirms that granite countertops pose no significant health risk, undercutting ‘Junk Science’ fear mongering, says Marble Institute of America, releasing 2008 Radon study.

New U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) statements reaffirm that granite countertops pose no significant health risk, discounting recent alarmist reports about the safety of granite countertops, said the Marble Institute of America, the nation’s leading natural stone association.

The EPA issued its new statements late Friday, following media reports citing junk science and inconsistent testing results that created public concern about granite countertops as a source of radon gas.

“While natural minerals such as granite may occasionally emit radon gas, the levels of radon attributable to such sources are not typically high,” the EPA statement said. “EPA believes the principal source of radon in homes is soil gas that is drawn indoors through a natural suction process. “Granite is a natural mineral formed by earth's geology,” the statement continues. “It is mined and used to produce commercial products such as countertops. It is possible for any granite sample to contain varying concentrations of uranium that can produce radon gas. Some granite used in countertops may contribute variably to indoor radon levels. However, EPA has no reliable data to conclude that types of granite used in countertops are significantly increasing indoor radon levels.”

The EPA also issued a new statement on the presence of radiation in granite, which said: “Construction materials such as concrete, cinder blocks, bricks, and granite contain small amounts of radioactive materials that are found naturally in the materials used to make them.” That statement can be found at the EPA website here. Citing recent studies by university scientists and Consumer Reports, Jim Hogan, president of the MIA, said the new EPA statement confirms findings that have consistently shown granite countertops pose no health risk in the home.

“Every time researchers have applied rigorous scientific standards to testing, the results have found that granite countertops pose no risk,” Hogan said. “Repeated studies have found that granite is safe. Unfortunately, some recent junk science being reported as fact only serves to panic the public, not inform it. Our goal is to end this fear mongering by facilitating the creation of a real scientific standard for testing granite countertops.”

Two recent studies by researchers at the University of Akron and Consumer Reports found no grounds to fear granite countertops. Consumer Reports, America's foremost consumer protection institute, recently conducted its own limited independent tests of granite countertops and found no evidence that granite countertops pose a health risk. In fact, none of the granite countertops tested by Consumer Reports were found to be emitting radon.

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According to Consumer Reports, similar findings were recently generated by other well-conducted studies of granite countertops, and those studies found that, of a large number of countertops tested, only a few samples emitted minute levels of radon.

Dr. L.L. Chyi, who conducted the Akron study, said, “Radon in countertops is not an issue.”

To eliminate confusion resulting from junk science or inconsistent testing, the MIA is working with scientists and other experts to establish universal standards for testing granite countertops for radon emissions. The goal is to build a scientific consensus around testing protocols so that all research can be done consistently.

Results of the Akron study are available on MIA’s website, www.marble-institute.com.

2008 Radon Study Released

The Marble Institute of America has announced the conclusion of a four-month study of thirteen of the most popular granites used for kitchen countertops in the United States during 2007. The study shows conclusively that granite is a safe material for kitchens.

The issue of granite containing radon has surfaced repeatedly over the years. The origins of these concerns are advertisements and other communications from the manufacturers of radon detection devices and the producers of competing countertop materials. Each time, the MIA has responded by researching the matter to determine if potential health hazards exist. MIA's most recent testing was conducted by L. L. Chyi, a PhD and professor of Geochemistry and Environmental Geology at Akron University, Akron, OH. Dr. Chyi studied thirteen of the most popular granites used in the US as determined by an industry-wide survey. Due to their popularity these 13 materials, based on a limited survey, are believed to represent a large majority of the stone countertop market in recent years.

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When marketing a product, one expects a bit of hype. The idea is to show that the product is the best over the competitor's line of product. That is the trade of advertisers and the history of marketing. Some tactics used to sell can be humorous or as serious as the competition between manufacturers. Marketing tactics that play on fears of the general public can be a very powerful tool. In the present day, there's a very popular angle of "green." This is prevalent everywhere in the media. So what happens when you mix a scare tactic under the guise of environmental concern? Buildclean found the answer to that question. The premise seems of the nonprofit organization seems to be admirable but the fact that the "awareness campaign" that Buildclean is currently using seems to be curiously slanted. In fact, the target seems to be the natural stone industry. When Sara Selber of BuildClean was asked how she got involved in natural stone and radon, she explained how she was approached by the owner of C&C North America, a company that produces two products – granite and a quartz product called Silestone®™. "C&C North America then recruited a quartz company called Cambria, after they learned quartz was an issue, she further explained that the two companies hired her to test quartz, granite and other surfaces for radon emission. Both companies are testing their products through BuildClean, and they contracted two labs – one in New York and one in Israel. We have looked all over the C&C website but cannot find any mention of natural stone. When ask what granites emit radon, Sara Selber said; "Not all granites emit radon or radiation. There are some that clearly do. There are some that absolutely don't. We don't know," she said. They're being set up as a non-profit, and they're funded with two large donations. The first is $250,000 from the makers of 'Silestone.' They manufacture quartz countertops, which is a direct competitor to granite. Silestone finance records show that they started out in April of 1998 with a an initial investment of $410K, made there first million in 1998, sales in 2002 was over $70M, and sales in 2006 was well over $260M. it is not hard to see that they have the money to invest $250,000 in a new advertising campaign. BuildClean is also getting money from Cambria, another quartz manufacturer. In fact, Cambria's marketing director is on BuildClean's board of directors. When asked about the funding Sara responds: I don't believe the issue is who our founders are. And I'm not going to have that debate." That answer seems to be clear enough. In a recent interview Mrs. Selber mentions teaming up with Al Gerhart who has some interest in the granite \radon scare. Al Gerhart is a carpenter whohappens to own a website called the Solid Surface Alliance .org. He educated himself, regarding materials he works with that may expose him to harmful elements." Upon further review it seems this "personality" is well known for his view of natural stone. All one has to do is look at the website to get the gist of his viewpoint. Coincidentally, there also seems to be a new business venture for Solid Surface Alliance as the website now sells Geiger counters to detect radiation… His debates have earned him quite a place online in forums discussing the subject. After a certain debate on a well known residential forum, a renowned geoscientist in the industry concluded: "Al attempts to hijack debates by choking the system with verbal diarrhea. The problem appears to be that he has a bit of knowledge about some things but not enough sense and understanding of the subjects. In that debate on the Garden Forum he threw in so many fabrications (plain made up lies) that his credibility just plummeted to zero. Anyone who operates this way (by including a number of facts to gain an element of credibility in the eyes of a generally uninformed audience, twisting facts deliberately or because of his lack of understanding, and then throwing in a number of lies) does not deserve extended airtime. Many years ago when doing science psychology I still remember my professor giving the advice to his students that you should never engage a nutter in debate. You can never win an argument with such people. I recognized this early in the forum and that is why I would not engage him in "debate". One of his major problems is that he does not know what the numbers mean and how they are derived." In response to the buildclean tactics, The Marble Institute of America is in the process of doing their own independent study: "The Marble Institute of America (MIA) is grateful for the preliminary response from the members to the newly established Truth About Granite Fund. Based on this positive response, it's clear that their colleagues share their commitment to protect consumers from needless fear mongering by establishing standards for the testing of granite so consumers can safely and comfortably enjoy the beauty, durability and practicality of this natural stone." When we asked the MIA why Sara Speer Selber consider The Truth About Granite Fund as a draconian move that is being waged against BuildClean(TM), they simple responded: "The Truth About Granite Fund was established to help raise funds to develop unbiased, scientific standards for the granite industry, including the testing of granite for radon. No such standards currently exist in the natural stone industry. Previous tests of granite samples have found they are safe. However, the Truth in Granite Fund aims to take advantage of new, advanced scientific instruments that make testing both more practical and more accurate. Our goal is to make sure testing follows consistent protocols, so that future studies are meaningful and based on consistent, approved science – not isolated methodologies or unapproved instruments. Ultimately, our goal is to make sure the granite we sell is safe." This latest sales tactic received the attention of an independent group called the Natural Stone Restoration Alliance (NSRA). The NSRA saw Radon testing as an added service that their members could provide to the homeowners along with all their other services for natural stone. Josveek Huligar, one of the lead testers and trainer for the NSRA , invited times Members of the Solid Surface Alliance dot org to discuss and provide proof of this threat to the home owners. The Solid Surface Alliance dot org agreed to provide an alleged radiation producing granite sample that they claim to have in their possession to do independent testing. After an initial agreement between the two groups it seems the Solid Surface Alliance dot org has reneged on the delivery of the alleged material. Mr Huligar was disappointed of the outcome. The NSRA than requested the name of the company that Mr. Gerhart claimed to just have rejected over 10k worth of radon producing granite. When the information was not provided, Huligar ask if he could purchase the next slab that Mr. Gerhart rejected. But for some reason Mr. Gerhart could no longer find a sample for testing. Mr. Huligar went on to say: "All we care about at this point. As for whether are not Stone adds a measurable amount of "radon" in a home, Mr. Gerhart had agreed to come to NY and pick out a hot slab that I would place in my own home after testing my home for radon. Once the granite was installed I would test my home again as described by the EPA and have it tested by someone approved by the EPA. Not only would we do the short and long term test, we would also video tape the whole event, the selection, the creation, the install, and than setting up cameras for anyone to view the stone and meters on the net. I was looking forward to do this, but at this time it appears that Mr. Gerhart has no plans on doing as he said which is a big disappointment." The NSRA plans to push for this simple test, they feel that the consumers only care about one thing; "whether or not adding granite in your home would significantly change the radon levels in a home". At present, the most prudent consumer should watch the outcome of this debate and make an informed decision, not taken in by a scare tactic by advertisers. EPA Confirms That Granite Countertops Pose No Significant Health Risk http://nsraweb.com/index.php/Latest/EPA_Confirms_That_Granite_Countertops_Pose_No_Significant_Health_Risk.html