28 July 2008

And away we go

My beloved New York Times ran an article in their Home and Garden section last week that has me bracing for a fallout. The piece was titled What's Lurking in Your Countertops and it talks about the radioactivity of granite counters.

OK, disclosure time. I have always known that granite counters were radioactive, but I have never mentioned it to a client. I've never mentioned it specifically to avoid the paranoid ramblings embodied by that Times article.

Here's what I know to be true. All igneous rocks (many sedimentary and metamorphic ones too) are radioactive. Granite is an igneous rock. Therefore, granite is radioactive. There, I said it. But so too is brick, drywall, concrete, bananas and the potassium in multi-vitamins. So for that matter are other people. People who sleep with someone are exposed to more radiation than people who sleep alone! Go ahead, make a headline out of that.

I have never heard another kitchen designer or granite supplier mention it. I can't imagine very many of them are aware that it is. Until last Thursday, I thought it was my cross to bear alone. But wait, it's not a cross at all. Granite is radioactive. So what? Radiation isn't any more inherently bad than rain is. People flip out when they hear that word. Radiation. There I said it again. Radiation isn't the boogey man under the bed. It's a natural process that you and I are surrounded by at all times. Natural, background radiation is to a nuclear bomb what a raindrop is to a flood. You can no sooner control or eliminate background radiation than you can the rain.

If you read the article closely enough, there are some calm and rational voices that are all but drowned out by the hypochondriacal author. To Wit:

Indeed, health physicists and radiation experts agree that most granite countertops emit radiation and radon at extremely low levels. They say these emissions are insignificant compared with so-called background radiation that is constantly raining down from outer space or seeping up from the earth’s crust,not to mention emanating from man made sources like X-rays, luminous watches and smoke detectors.

And this:

David J. Brenner, director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University in New York, said the cancer risk from granite countertops, even those emitting radiation above background levels, is “on the order of one in a million.” Being struck by lightning is more likely.

But most telling of all was this little tidbit:

Allegations 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. The Marble Institute of America has said such claims are “ludicrous” because although granite is known to contain uranium and other radioactive materials like thorium and potassium,the amounts in countertops are not enough to pose a health threat.

I can see all of the quartz manufacturers getting their press releases together already. But newsflash; quartz is another radioactive, igneous rock. And since quartz countertop materials like Silestone and Zodiaq are made from quartz and other stone aggregates they're going to be radioactive too.

None of this is any kind of breaking news nor is it in any way a health threat. The final point from that article I needed to see in order to judge the whole flap ludicrous was this:

Personal injury lawyers are already advertising on the Web for clients who think they may have been injured by countertops.

Sadly, when it comes to science versus the cult of personal injury in the courtroom, science seems to lose every time. Don't believe the hype!

1 comment:

  1. we have had issues with customers telling us they heard granite is radioactive but trying to explain there is no real harm put some people off granite worktops


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