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Beware of granite radon scare crossing the Atlantic

14 September 2008

A story about radioactive radon gas being emitted by granite kitchen worktops has been given increased credibility in America this month (August) by being published in the respected New York Times. It can only be a matter of time before someone pursues it in the UK.

The story emanates from a company called BuildClean, a Houston-based group that says it has been set up “to educate consumers and the building industry about safe, healthy and environmentally friendly materials”.
According to the Marble Institute of America (MIA), of which Stone Federation Great Britain are members, BuildClean appears to receive funding from quartz composite manufacturers.
MIA said earlier this month: “We fear it is no coincidence that Cambria and Silestone [quartz manufacturers] both issued advertisements and announcements in the last week that their products are certified to be radon-free – just as the public furore over this issue boiled over.”
On its website, BuildClean says “new evidence supports the possibility that utilising natural stone products indoors – especially in homes or workspaces with limited air circulation – may emit harmful levels of radon over time”.
But BuildClean makes it clear the evidence is not conclusive. It says: “It is scientific fact that granite – an igneous rock – emanates radon and radiation. But at this time, there isn’t enough scientific data available to definitively say which colours of granite, if any, may emanate dangerous levels of radon and radiation over time.
“That’s the problem. With the help of individuals and the public and private sectors, BuildClean is funding laboratory research and conducting in-home testing of natural stone surfaces, beginning with its pilot project in Houston.”
The story appeared first on television programmes in the USA and has now been picked up by the New York Times. And ‘instant experts’ are spreading the warning on the internet.
MIA say: “We have been fighting the fallout from the New York Times article… we have been extremely busy identifying and developing spokespersons and material needed to defend our industry from this unnecessary panic.
“Unfortunately, we do not expect the attacks on granite to end soon. Opponents have learned that partial truths portrayed out of context often gain media attention.
“What continues to frustrate us most, however, is that the efforts by opponents of granite seem less aimed at truly protecting the public than simply destroying our industry and the jobs we support.”
The MIA maintains its position that studies repeatedly show granite countertops pose no health risk.
Yes, all stone emits radon to some extent and there have from time to time been scares about houses built on granite becoming contaminated with radon. But MIA say the highest emission rates ever reported in scientific studies regarding worktops show concentrations hundreds or even thousands of times lower than the USA’s Environmental Protection Agency guidelines.
Jane Buxey, Chief Executive of Stone Federation GB, told NSS: “Following consultation with experts at BRE, their understanding of this is that materials used in the home aren’t an issue. It’s more what the house is built on than what’s put in it.
“We have never come across any scientific evidence that suggests granite in the home causes a radon problem.”
She said nobody in the UK had raised the issue of granite worktops emiting radon and Stone Federation supports the use of granite in domestic premises.

 

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