What Are the Health Risks of Granite Countertops?

Granite countertops are one of the most expensive countertops, but they make up for the price with their beauty and durability. In geological terms, granite is an igneous rock, meaning it was formed when magma (molten rock) cooled very slowly until it solidified in a process that can take many of thousands, or even millions of years.

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Since the rock forms so slowly, minerals have a long time to grow into the crystals that give granite its decorative appearance.

So, granite countertops are durable, extremely heat resistant, and of high quality.

Granite countertops last for many years and add value to your home.

Advantages of Granite Countertops

Granite is beautiful.  It is not a trend, but a real timeless beauty. As a countertop, granite gracefully withstands abuse. It is nearly impossible to scratch. If you don’t mind damaging your knives, you can chop fruits and vegetables on the countertop without a cutting board.

Granite has depth.  Sunlight reflects on it in a way that you can actually see depth in each piece. No two pieces of granite are the same.  Veining patterns, specks, swirls, and pitting all vary.

One of the biggest benefits of granite countertops is that they can be formed into any shape that you like.  Granite can be cut into curves, arches, squares, ovals, 90 or 45 degree angles, special edges and the like.

Granite countertops are actually heat resistant. Hot pots, pans and cookie sheets cannot hurt it either. You can set hot pots and pans, use fryers or toaster ovens, right on the countertops without worrying that they will scorch or burn.

Even though granite is one of the hardest and strongest stones, the polished surface of most granite can be damaged by acidic things, like orange juice or cola left on the countertop too long.  Sealing and using stone cleansers prior to this happening hinders any staining.

The Health Risks of Granite Countertops

1/ Bacteria: Granite, especially natural granite or granite tiles that have not been fully sealed, can easily absorb water and are an excellent habitat for growing bacteria.

Not all bacteria are harmful, but with absorbent granite that is not regularly cleaned, the chances of spreading dangerous bacteria are higher. Homeowners should make sure to sanitize their granite countertops.

2/Radon: If you have granite countertops in your home, you might consider testing them for the amounts of radon gas they give off, experts say, due to the potential that those amounts are above levels considered safe. Any naturally formed rock material has the potential of containing varying amounts of naturally occurring radiation.

And radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in America, and claims about 20,000 lives annually.

Because the popularity and demand for granite countertops has grown in the last decade, allegation that granite countertops may emit dangerous levels of radon and radiation have been raised periodically over the past decade, mostly by makers and distributors of competing countertop materials.

However, since granite is generally not very porous, less radon is likely to escape from it than from a more porous stone such as sandstone.  It’s important to know that radon originating in the soil beneath homes is a more common problem and a far larger public health risk than radon from a granite countertop or other building materials.

Also, any radon from granite in kitchens or bathrooms is likely to be somewhat diluted in the typical home since those rooms are among the most ventilated.

What can you do? For your peace of mind you should test the air in your home.

3/ Gamma Radiation: In addition to radon, some granite counters also produce gamma radiation. This poses a more difficult problem for homeowners. Gamma radiation can also cause cancer, but based on exposure levels for individuals. But, like radon, high levels of gamma radiation in granite counters are very rare.

However, for any homeowner considering a granite countertop, the best advice is to do your research. Have your slab tested before it is installed.

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