Your Luxury Amenities May Be Trying to Kill You

Recent reports are questioning the safety of the new marble countertops that are pervasive throughout new luxury condo kitchens, many of whose buildings are pursuing third-party green building certifications.

Apparently, even if your floors are bamboo and your finishes low-VOC, that luxury green condo may be giving you cancer anyway. The cause is that ubiquitous must-have mostly used for holding take-out containers: the granite countertop.

“It’s not that all granite is dangerous,” a radon-detection technician was quoted in the New York Times. “But I’ve seen a few that might heat up your Cheerios a little.”

Granite, particularly the varieties imported from Brazil and Namibia, can release both radon and radiation, according to reports and analysis by the Department of Health.

The radiation/radon claim is fervently denied by the Marble Institute of America, which claims it’s “ludicrous” and perpetuated by competing materials manufacturers and makes of radon-detecting technologies. They have released their own study to refute marble’s danger.

Indeed, usually the amounts are insignificant compared to what is called “background” radiation we’re exposed to everyday – coming from outer space or inside the earth’s crust, as well as x-rays, luminous watches and even smoke detectors. In fact, the EPA and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission tell us to only get worried if our annual rate of radiation is around 360 millirem – a granite countertop would release just a fraction of a millirem per hour if you were right next to it.

Then again, the EPA also recommends action of radon levels exceed 4 picocuries per liter of air, or what they equate to “about the same risk for cancer as smoking a half a pack of cigarettes per day.” Considering that the woman interviewed for the piece in the Times had about 100 picocuries per liter in her kitchen (which may or may not be a typo, you never know these days), maybe it is best save the money on granite to put toward those $9 packs of smokes.

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4 Responses to Your Luxury Amenities May Be Trying to Kill You

  1. Lisa Williams Tuesday, August 5, 2008 at 5:23 pm #

    Interesting article, our RMLS just began including a Green Certified field and we’ll soon be posting that search criteria on our site. It’s great to see how important this issue is becoming to home buyers. We’d also like to share an article about what other factors make
    Hood River Real Estate
    special. Great blog, thanks for the opportunity to comment! Best, Lisa

  2. Katie Friday, August 8, 2008 at 5:12 pm #

    Hello! mentioned this thread and topic on a post I recently did here http://www.djc.com/blogs/BuildingGreen/2008/08/05/is-green-building-dangerous/ FYI.

  3. Stephen Del Percio Wednesday, August 13, 2008 at 4:28 pm #

    Thank you both for your comments. I think this post helps make the important point that due diligence is an absolute imperative when specifying purportedly green materials, products, or systems for green projects.

  4. stephen earnest Wednesday, August 27, 2008 at 2:35 pm #

    That radon coming from your granite is killing you… And the neighbor is an alien from another planet with special powers to turn you in to a rat at night and you don’t even know it. You feel nothing but wonder why you are so exhausted in the morning. And it might be a well known fact that bamboo is filled with microscopic sized worms that give off a noxious gas we have not been able to define yet. It is reported to have the same effect as two martinis up with a twist.