October 23, 2008

Kitchen & Bath Design News Managing the Granite Radon Scare

October 21, 2008

Managing the Granite Radon Scare

By Eliot Sefrin

The American public is entitled to nothing less than the truth about the safety of granite.

Granite has been making a lot of news lately – although it’s not the kind of news the material made in recent years, when its usage as a countertop surface soared in upscale kitchens and baths.

More recent news, in contrast, has been far more sobering, focusing instead on charges – emanating from unbalanced media reports – that the material emits potentially unhealthy levels of radon gas and radiation.

And that’s unfortunate.

Particularly since there’s no evidence that the charges are true.

The Marble Institute of America has been working diligently to address issues related to the safety of granite, and has done a commendable job in protecting the interests of the dimension stone industry while addressing consumer concerns (see Industry Update [http://www.kitchenbathdesign.com/article/index.jsp?siteSection=40]).

As the MIA notes, there has been no corroborated scientific research to date suggesting that granite countertops pose any type of significant health risk. Furthermore, the MIA points out, not a single state or federal health or environmental agency has taken a position supporting any such charge. In fact, a growing body of scientific opinion has concluded that, based on existing studies, most types of granite used in countertops are not known to be major sources of radiation and radon in the average home.

What those studies have found is that the amount of radioactivity in most granite is far less than people are regularly exposed to from naturally occurring background radiation normally present in the environment. And while most earthen materials, including granite, emit gamma radiation, and release radon gas, the level of those emissions is so low as to not be harmful to human health.

While more balanced news stories about granite have been published lately, kitchen/bath designers should be ready for consumer questions – and should be armed with the information needed to communicate the facts about granite.

Consumer concerns should neither be dismissed outright nor be a source of panic. Honesty and objectivity is critical. The most appropriate way to handle questions is simply to steer concerned consumers in the direction of environmental and health agencies for objective, up-to-date information, and for reassurance about the safety of granite countertops.

In the meantime, continued testing is encouraged.

Kitchen & Bath Design News supports the MIA’s efforts to establish universal standards and procedures for testing granite.

Those standards and procedures do not currently exist. They should.

The American public is entitled to nothing less than the unbiased, unfettered truth about the safety of granite. Homeowners have the right to know if granite – or any material in their kitchens or baths – poses a legitimate health risk.

Until testing proves conclusively that such a danger exists, it is irresponsible for anyone to make those charges, particularly if they’re tied in any way to efforts at selling competitive products.

The truth should be the only objective here. Scare tactics, in contrast, are nothing less than shameful.

Publisher’s Note: With healthy living and environmental concerns becoming increasingly important factors in today’s market, KBDN turns its attention this month to the practices that leading cabinet manufacturers are employing in an effort to address issues such as sustainability and resource responsibility.

Please be sure to take note of the exclusive 60-page supplement bundled with this month’s issue of KBDN – examining the innovative Environmental Stewardship Program administered by the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association.

Like the MIA, the KCMA is doing its part to protect the business interests of members, while performing a genuine public service in terms of awareness.

Design professionals can assist on that front.

Like keeping homeowners informed about the facts regarding granite radon emissions, specifying ESP-certified “green” cabinets represents a substantive way to address the needs of today’s consumers.

Eliot Sefrin is Editorial Director and Publisher of Kitchen & Bath Design News and KitchenBathDesign.com.

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