Does Boulder Real Estate Have Radon In Granite Counters?

I don’t know if you’re concerned about radon, or if you have concern about issues in New York, but a recent Sunday New York Times article was forwarded to me from a friend in Seattle last week that you might find interesting. It outlines some surprising accounts of Radon Gas emissions coming from Granite Counters in a Lake George, N.Y. home.

A woman from Teaneck, N.J., planning on purchasing the home did a very common thing, and had a radon gas test performed during a typical home inspection. What’s not clear from the story is why she didn’t have the inspection done prior to purchasing the home. The test, as far as I can determine, was done after the buyer completed the purchase and moved into the home.

Since radon levels tested higher than she liked, she went a step further and called a radon measurement and mitigation firm to find the source of the invisible, odorless gas.

Using a Geiger counter, which measures levels of radiation, to determine that the granite counters were a very high source of radiation in the home (at ten times the levels in other parts of the home). As it turns out, the this homeowner had the counters removed and sent to a lab for testing. The test results reportedly showed that the counters contained high amounts of uranium. Uranium is radioactive and it releases radon gas as it decays, according to the article.

Before you get overly concerned, you should know that there are many things in your home right now that may be emitting radiation. I was in a recent training where the instructor at our CERT class used a Geiger counter to show us all sorts of things in the typical home that have radiation.

I do think though that you need to choose carefully what the source of your granite might be if you think you still want to use it as a countertop in your home. Granite is available from over 60 countries in over 900 varieties. The granite that’s showing up as having higher levels of radiation and radon emissions is typically coming from Namibia and Brazil.

This might be another great reason to move over to man-made products such as quartz-based counter solutions. The quartz products are reported to be more durable, more resistant to stains and heat, and also require less or no maintenance. We used a quartz product from silestone in the Water Street condo I listed and sold last year in downtown Boulder. I’m thinking of installing quartz in my home sometime next year.

Even though allegations that granite counters may emit unacceptable levels of radon and radiation have come up occasionally over the last ten years or so, the Marble Institute of America says these claims are “ludicrous”. They claim that the amounts of the objectionable material isn’t enough to substantiate a health risk. I wonder if that’s the same as the tobacco company executives refusing to acknowledge the risks of smoking cigarettes?


3 Responses to “Does Boulder Real Estate Have Radon In Granite Counters?”

  1. Huligar on September 3rd, 2008 4:28 pm

    The nsra is installing a hot slab and testing a home live on the net for all to see. Here is a link just in case you all would like to see.

  2. Huligar on September 17th, 2008 4:32 pm

    Thanks for waiting. I just got back from Vegas where the people who come up with programs to deal with Radon and Radiation were having a conference and one of the topics was building materials.

    I personally spoke to Stanley P. Liebert of CMT Laboratories who denied any direct or indirect correspondence with our Al or the SSA. Mr. Liebert went on to say that the only thing that he is hoping to point out is the fact that 10 out of the 2000 granites emit some radiation. This however, does not directly translate to what we have been reading on the web. That is, if you have a slab that has some traces of radiation it will give off radon with in the next ten generations. Mr. Liebert is also the proud owner of granite as well. He thinks it’s crazy for someone to remove a counter top simply because of one area that may show a reading.

    I also had the pleasure of speaking with Erik Listou of Build Responsible, Gary Hodgden of AAIR Professionals, Bill Brodhead of WPB Enterprises Inc, and Shawn Price of Air Chek, Inc. These guys gave me a crash course in radiation and radon while confirming that we had the hottest stone measured to date.

    Everyone that I spoke to all had the same conclusion. At this time the radiation from natural stone has no significant bearing on the radon levels in a home. It was also explained and demonstrated that the meters on the market are not the best tools to go hunting for radon coming from natural stone. The areas of a slab can be easily avoided or even removed if deemed necessary.

    In the NSRA test kitchen, the numbers before the installation were all very low. All were less than 0.3 pCi/l on the days of testing (about as low as anyone can measure.)

    The test kit in the hall was 0.6 pCi/l
    The test kit hanging in the door way was 0.8
    The test kit hanging from the cabinets was 0.7
    And the one we hung 12″ over the “hottest” spot was 1.0 pCi/l

    This test was done in a way to make sure we got the highest readings possible. We now intend on testing the home as if we were simply testing for radon in the home.

    You can see the rest of the testing live at

  3. Al Gerhart on December 25th, 2008 9:48 pm

    Good article on the subject. Your last sentence will be proven true.

    Speaking of that, Huligar is a stone restoration guy trying to mislead the public on these issues. Please allow me to respond to his post, which is cut and pasted word for word in hundreds of places on the internet. I just look at it as another proof of the lack of the stone industries lack of crediblity.

    First off Huligar quotes Stan Liebert completely wrong as one can easily find out by watching his many interviews or reading the NY Times story. I know Stan, since back around March of this year, spoke to him twice this week, he called me once and I called him back on Wendsday. Stan has always said that perhaps 20% of granites might be of concern, not 10 out of 2,000.

    Now Huligar’s reprsentation of the AARST convention attendees such as Brodhead, Price is 100% opposite to the truth. Both the CRCPD (state radiation officials) and AARST (Radon scientists) are currently meeting to set maximum allowed radiation/radon standards and measurement protocols for granite countertop materials. This controversy has been embraced by the scientists as being truly of concern.

    As far as radiation from granite not affecting the Radon levels in a home, Brodhead published two papers on that very subject at the AARSTconvention, as did Dr. Kitto and others. Two special sessions on the problems lead to the CRCPD and AARST forming the committees. Indidently, go to the AARST site, look up Brodheads papers on granite and you will find my name mentioned, thanking me for providing the hot granite samples in his test.

    As to meters being used to test for Radon, one of the guys that Huligar mentioned, Shawn Price of AIr Chek, is now selling the same meter that we have advocated for testing from last March. The meter doesn’t measure Radon, but it detects both the parent element (Radium) and the daughter products in the decay chain below Radon.

    And Mr. Huligar recently clammed up on his Radon test after he found out his earlier readings were caused by a very leaky apartment. No one has heard a peep out of him since mid November after he did a CO2 ACH test on his apartment.

    We currently conducting a full scale radon test, 18 square feet of granite in a 96 square foot room has elevated the Radon levels to over 10 pCi/L, about like smoking 1 1/2 packs a day according to EPA information. Here is a link to veiw the test and the current results. Our equipment has been provided by some of the leading independent researchers of Radon in the US, with their advice and interpretation of our results.

    Don’t get taken in by the Huligars in the stone industry. There are plenty like me that sell stone but aren’t willing to sell unsafe stone if we can avoid it. It is so easy to test and just not buy the hot slabs, but with so much money at stake, many guys like Huligar are afraid of past sales getting them sued.

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