Man has been using granite and other natural stones for thousands of years to erect statues and build buildings. However, occasionally we get asked the question, "Are granite countertops radioactive?" Usually, this question stems from a homeowner who has watched a video that shows an individual waving a Geiger counter near a stone countertop. We understand that these videos can scare a homeowner and make them question the safety of granite countertops; however, these misleading videos are designed to stir fear.
The simple answer to the question is yes, granite is slightly radioactive; however, the question you should be asking is whether granite is radioactive enough to pose a health danger. The answer is no. Granite is not likely to pose any health danger, significantly impact your home's radon levels, or cause you harm.
To help you understand, granite is no more radioactive than a banana and less radioactive than the soil your home is sitting on. In fact, all minerals and stones are radioactive. In addition to this, fruits and vegetables that are grown in soil or grown using fertilizer made from minerals are radioactive. The entire planet is filled with things that are radioactive, including the sun, the soil, watches, machines, medical devices, airplanes, and more.
Because radiation is found throughout the Earth, it is expected that you will be exposed to a certain amount of radiation. Problems like an increased risk of cancer occur when you are exposed to an excessive amount of radiation.
The minerals found in natural stones contain minute amounts of radioactive elements, including potassium-40, uranium, and thorium. Granite usually contains more of these minerals than other types of rock; therefore, granite is lightly more radioactive than slate or marble; however, the radiation levels are extremely low compared to other sources of radiation you are exposed to during a normal course of the year. In fact, the EPA found that the radiation in granite countertops is so minimal that a home's ventilation system would disperse and dilute the radiation before it can accumulate in a home.
When radioactive materials decay, they produce radon gas. For example, if the soil contains uranium, the uranium will eventually decay into radium. The radium will eventually produce radon gas, which has been shown to increase the risk of lung cancer. The primary cause of radon gas is geography, not items found in the home, including granite countertops. Radon test kits and professionals who check for radon in a home check the ambient air, not specific items in the home.
Videos that show a Geiger counter activating when placed near a granite countertop are inaccurate. Geiger counters are not calibrated for radon detection. Instead, they detect several forms of radiation, including potassium, which is an essential mineral found in numerous types of food, including potatoes and bananas.
Radiation in homes can occur; however, granite countertops are not the culprit. The main cause is the soil on which the house is built. The bottom line is the minimal amount of radiation found in countertops and other natural products are not a concern to homeowners and their family.