Sara Benson Real Estate Expert and Consumer Advocate Delivers Advice

Could your granite be radioactive?

Posted in advice, condominium, homeowners association, money, Real Estate, Remodeling, value by sarabensonexpert on January 4, 2015

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Radiation is everywhere: in the soil, rocks, and the air. It is the amount of radiation exposure humans receive that is of concern.

Because of the exceedingly high demand for natural granite countertops over the past two decades, manufacturers have imported the material from all over the world. Some of that granite has been professionally tested and found to be “hot” or “potentially hazardous.”

In July of 2008, the New York Times reported on a homeowner who found her granite was emitting radiation. The radon level in her kitchen was an astounding 100 picocuries per liter. In her basement, where radon readings are ordinarily at their highest levels, the readings were only six picocuries per liter. (Remember, anything over four picocuries per liter is considered hazardous.)

The owner, Dr. Lynn Sugarman of Teaneck, New Jersey, called out a radon technician to find the source. “He went from room to room,” said Dr. Sugarman. But he stopped in his tracks in the kitchen. His Geiger counter indicated that the granite was emitting radiation at levels 10 times higher than those he had measured elsewhere in the house. Sugarman immediately had all of her granite counters ripped out and replaced with different granite, which she had tested before installation.

The Marble Institute of America has said such claims of radioactive granite are “ludicrous” because, although granite is known to contain uranium and potassium, the amounts in countertops are not enough to pose a health risk.[1] However, the debate remains open, as Daniel J. Steck, a professor of physics at St. Johns University, has stated that approximately 5 percent of all granites will be of concern, with the understanding that only a tiny percentage of the tens of thousands of granite slabs in the country have been tested.[2] The granite-radon connection and amount of public interest is prevalent enough that the EPA has a dedicated webpage on the subject.[3]

“It’s not that all granite is dangerous,” said Stanley Liebert, the quality assurance director at CMT Laboratories in Clifton Park, New York, who took the radiation measurements at Dr. Sugarman’s home. “But I’ve seen a few that might heat up your Cheerios a little.”

– – – – –

[1]. Kate Murphy, “What’s Lurking in Your Countertop?,” New York Times, July 24, 2008.

[2]. Daniel J. Steck, “Pre- and Post-Market Measurements of Gamma Radiation and Radon Emanation from a Large Sample of Decorative Granites,” Physics Department, St. John’s University, Collegeville, MN., 2009.


Excerpt from: Escaping Condo Jail: The Keys to Navigating Risks & Surviving Perils of the “Carefree” Community Lifestyle, by Sara E. Benson and Don DeBat. (c) 2014 Now available on Amazon.


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