Radon gas is a serious health hazard, causing nearly as many cases of lung cancer each year as smoking. For this reason, a lot of homeowners take steps to protect themselves, testing for radon and installing abatement systems whenever necessary. Because one of the ways in which radon gas is given off is through the decomposition of granite, it has led to the misconception that radon gas can be given off by your granite countertop. This is categorically untrue, however; granite counters are safe to have in your home.
Most stones that are sold as “granite” and used on countertops today, are not actually granite. These stones are known as “commercial granite”, but may actually be dolomites, gabbros, or quartzites. So the vast majority of stones that you may select to have in your home may not actually be an igneous rock.
Even if you do choose a real granite for your home, the stone itself is still unlikely to have an issue with radon gas. This is because radon is produced when uranium begins to decompose. This uranium may be found in some types of igneous rock and granite, but not all types. It also needs to be broken down, usually through a great deal of pressure and time, before it begins to produce gas. Your granite countertop is not in a state of decomposition when it is installed in your home. Therefore it will not produce or give off radon gas.
Radon becomes a problem when large amounts are being produced by the rock or soil beneath your home. When the gas rises, it becomes trapped in your home where it mixes with the air you breathe. Even if your stone does contain minimal amounts of uranium, it should not produce radon in quantities that will become a hazard for your home. Numerous tests have been carried out on homes with granite counters, and no counters have ever tested with high enough levels to indicate a need for abatement.
If you are truly concerned, you can have a sample of the granite you are considering for your home tested for the presence of uranium by sending it out to an independent lab before you purchase or install the slab. Or, you can choose to install a different type of stone, such as soapstone or quartzite, which are not igneous in nature.
While radon gas is a serious issue for some homeowners, your granite counter will not produce the same type of problems or cause a health hazard. Be confident that your new counter will be a beautiful addition to your home, and not something that could be considered a negative.