We recieved copies of these form letters designed by the MIA’s PR firm, Cohn & Wolfe. I won’t go over the innacuracies and outright missinformation in the form letter, that has been addressed in other blog articles.
It is important to point out that Dr. Sugarman’s new granite countertops were of a low radiation color, tested prior to fabrication. This is what all of us in the effort are saying, test before buying, but some granites are just fine for use in a home.
Letters For Stone Industry People to be Sent to Ad Reps for Stations and Newspapers Covering the Radon Issue
City, ST Zip
Dear (Ad Rep):
I have a longstanding business relationship with your news outlet, and am shocked at the story you ran last week on granite countertops.
Your story portrayed granite countertops as an imminent danger, and my customers are panicking. But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has this to say about the issue:
“EPA has no reliable data to conclude that the types of granite used in countertops are significantly increasing indoor radon levels.”
Your story, based on junk science peddled by people who will gain financially from a public panic because they test for radon or sell competing products, did not contain the EPA’s statement, which was based on real science. By not quoting the EPA, you fuel groundless consumer fears. I have customers who literally are afraid to live in their own homes!
In addition, your reprint of the New York Times story failed to note that the home of Lynn Sugarman, a pediatrician who replaced granite countertops, is in Lake George, N.Y., a region with some of the highest levels of naturally-occurring radiation in the U.S. It would have been helpful for your readers/viewers to know this. I think it’s also shocking that you didn’t notice the article says the granite countertops were replaced with – GRANITE COUNTERTOPS. If granite is so dangerous, why buy more?
I expect the story to be corrected as quickly as possible, with the EPA’s statement cited as prominently as the junk science was in your previous piece. Your (readers/viewers) deserve to hear the true science behind this, and it’s your responsibility as a respected news outlet to make sure that they do. If you need more information, please let me know.
Then here is the MIA’s second letter to be sent to local media or advertisers. It will hardly endear them to the media.
City, ST Zip
Dear (ad rep):
We have been doing business together for a long time, and in the last year alone I have spent XXX on advertising at your (NEWS OUTLET).
That’s why I am shocked that you would run a story that fundamentally attacks my business. Your piece last week on granite countertops was based on junk science, and the people you quoted – who are in the radon-testing industry – stand to benefit from the pain the story will cause me. The sources’ personal interest in passing along misinformation about granite countertops’ supposed safety hazards should have been noted by your editors before the story ran.
Last Friday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a statement based on true science saying it has no reliable information to conclude that types of granite used in countertops are significantly increasing indoor radon levels. How come that statement wasn’t cited in your story?
I expect you to follow up with a story based on the EPA’s statement that will correct the misinformation you distributed earlier. Doing so would not only be responsible journalism; it would also help ease the minds of my many customers in your community, who because of your coverage are now panicking. I have customers who are afraid to be in their own homes.
I hope to see this follow-up story in the next several days – the sooner the better – and would like it to have the same prominence you gave your earlier piece. Please call me if you wish to discuss, or if you need me to direct you to the EPA’s statement. It is a news outlet’s job to report all sides of an issue, and you have failed to do so in this case.
There is always some risk that someone skimming a website will not understand why we posted the MIA’s info on our blog. So please add a comment if you have any questions.
Normally, something like this is a closely guarded secret, after all, it makes a PR firm look sloppy and worse, the effort is doomed once the talking points are discovered. After all, they are saying say what we tell you to say, the letters or posts are hardly personal.
The following is a form letter the MIA’s PR firm wrote and distributed to the MIA members to use in responding to the media. Lucky for consumers, the MIA has plenty of members who do not support their attempt to discredit the granite study effort. We received many copies of their latest member email blasts shortly after it was sent out.
The EPA, alarmed that the MIA was using the EPA statement as if it supported the MIA’s claims, had already changed their public statements and website info so that it would be less likely taken out of context. I guess the MIA’s PR firm didn’t get the memo….
For more info from the EPA on the dangers of Radon from granite countertops go here. They have a variety of questions addressed, if not completly answered.
The Consumer Reports study was two small granite remnants left in an empty room for a few days with a meter. It takes 30 days for the Radon to reach maximum levels, so that alone proved that the test was hardly worth bringing up. The type of granite was not mentioned, in fact, it would be impossible to reproduce their test without further details.
This is all that Consumer Reports has released on their Radon/granite countertop test.
“Consumer Reports has done limited radon testing on granite counters. Using a radon meter in a room with the door closed, we tested one sample of granite from two national companies and one slab from a local stone yard. None added any radon to the air. (Look for our report on short-term radon tests kits in the September 2008 issue of Consumer Reports, on sale and online this August.)”
As you can see, it hardly rates bringing up except that it is one of the three pillars the MIA is attempting to use to supporting their arguments. Now that even the MIA has admitted the EPA doesn’t support them, now that we see the Consumer Reports “study” is a near fabrication, all that is left is what few works the MIA has paid for.
Other Radon scientists like Dr. Steck and Dr. Kitto are finding granite samples that would raise Radon levels signigicantly. Calling PhD level University Professors work “Junk science” is hardly an unbiased opinion. Radon engineers like Bill Brodhead of PA, Stan Liebert of NY, and William Levy of FL are seeing that some granites may well contribute enough Radon to a home to cause a problem. Of the three, only Levy has not yet tested samples of the granite that we are providing, which will be quickly done once our samples arrive. Levy has 18 years of experience with concrete emitting Radon.
The University of Akron study is the Chyi study, read the post where I provide Chyi’s email proving that unlike the other scientists, he is not going to answer any questions.
And the MIA claiming that granite emits from 200 to 400 times less than the EPA action level?
Well, their own study that they paid Chyi to do showed one granite adding .27 pCi/L of Radon to the home in their example. Few independent scientists will support that unpublished study, but if we accept it as good science, it shows only 14 times less Radon than the action level, so how can the MIA claim 200 to 400 times less Radon when their own study says 14?
The “one millionth” less Radon from a granite countertop? Again, not according to their own Dr. Chyi! How can a trade association publish such contradictions and remain credible?
And testing for Radon using Geiger counters? No, what a Geiger counter does is show absolute proof that there is radioactivity present which proves that Radon is present (if the radioactivity is Uranium based, and the majority of it is). The parent element is Uranium which slowly decays until it reaches Radium, which decays into Radon gas. So the Geiger counters are simply showing both the source of the Radon gas, and the daughter products (or what radioactive particles remain after the Radon decays).
A test for Radon takes a while, but one can show that radiation is present with a simple meter.
And they claim “wristwatch faces, smoke detectors and television sets.”?????
Laughable! A TV set is hardly detectable except for the Radon radioactive daughter particles that stick to it. That is right, after the Radon decays, it turns into a heavy metal atom, Polonium, Bismuth, or Lead. These atoms like to stick to dust particles because of the negative charge, which in turn are attracted to TV and Computer screens, even dryer lint can be slightly radioactive from the Radon decay progeny.
A wristwatch face gives a yearly dose of from .6 to 3 mR, which many granites emit per hour, making a granite countertop give off a thousand times more radiation based on strength of the radiation. Now factor in that the Radium or Tritum in a watch face is a few milligrams or picograms, then consider a ton of granite that is your granite countertop. Laughable!!!
A smoke detector exposes us to less than a millirem of radiation each year. Again Laughable!!!
And their claims that this is all motivated because Quartz products are losing market? Not true, while no true fan of Quartz, it was the fastest growing countertop product last year.
So as you can see, the MIA has little to use in their defense, but plenty of misinformation in their post. I wonder if this is a case of a PR firm needing fired or is it more about an out of control client?
Here is the MIA’s talking points intended for use in debates.
UPDATED RADON MESSAGES
July 28, 2008
This is an artificial crisis. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Consumer Reports and repeated independent studies have shown granite countertops pose no health hazard.
o EPA stated Friday: “EPA has no reliable data to conclude that types of granite used in countertops are significantly increasing indoor radon levels.” (http://iaq.custhelp.com/cgibin/iaq.cfg/php/enduser/std_alp.php)
o University of Akron researchers found no threat. (www.marble-institute.com/industryresources/radontesting_u-akron2008.pdf)
Radon is all around us. Radon is common throughout the United States, typically entering homes through cracks in their foundations or through the water supply.
o The EPA’s prescribed remedy for radon is to ventilate a home affected by the problem.
Research shows granite countertops pose no threat. An independent scientific analysis of a variety of studies shows that, accounting for normal airflow in the typical home, radon contributed by granite countertops ranges from 0.01 – 0.02 pCi/L – levels that are 200 to 400 times lower than the EPA guideline of 4 pCi/L.
o By some measures, the amount of radon emitted by a granite countertop is less than one millionth of that already present in household air from other sources. Many granite countertops do not emit radon at all, and those treated with sealant reduce emissions even further.
The panic is being fueled by parties hoping to benefit financially. Consumer fears benefit companies that manufacture synthetic countertops, who are funding some of the fear-mongering efforts, and by radon detection consultants, who will benefit through the sale of their services.
o Many accusers improperly test for radon using Geiger counters, which cannot measure radon concentrations.
o The emissions they record would be similar to those from wristwatch faces, smoke detectors and television sets.
o Sale of synthetic stone countertops have declined as the popularity of granite has grown in recent years.
Well, heck. I would fire the PR group that thought this one up. Here it is in it’s enitirety. Not exactly subtle.
Thanks to KN, MIA member, who provided this info.
Follow-up Letter to Customers Concerned About Radon
I just wanted to write as a follow-up to our conversation today. I appreciate your taking the time to share your concerns about granite countertops – and I’m only sorry that irresponsible people are spreading fear that preys on consumers’ concerns.
As I mentioned to you earlier, the safety of granite countertops has been studied repeatedly in the United States. Every study has consistently found that the granite most commonly used in countertops is safe.
Unfortunately, some people who sell synthetic stone counters, have sought to raise needless concerns about granite – and, ultimately, drive sales of their own products – by conducting a fear-mongering campaign aimed at convincing consumers to buy products that don’t have the history, durability, safety and beauty of granite.
I remain confident in granite. That’s why I chose it for my own family’s home. But I understand your reservations. If you’d like to see some of the scientific research undertaken in the area, please visit www.marble-institute.com. If there is anything else I can help with, please don’t hesitate to call me.
The MIA sent out an email to their members admiting that the EPA did not support their claim that granite was safe. The message is below in it’s entirety.
They start out with a complete fabrication, that they were meeting that very day with the EPA. In fact, their meeting is sceduled for Wensday morning.
From: Marble Institute [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Tuesday, July 29, 2008 3:35 PM
Subject: MIA Radon Update – 7/29/08
Visit us online at:
For more information contact:
Dear MIA Member:
On Tuesday, we are meeting with the EPA to solicit their support. But the Agency appears to be backing away from last Friday’s strong reassurances about granite countertops. We hope to engage them in efforts to allay groundless fears, but it’s not clear what the reaction will be.
However, we continue to wrestle with lingering media coverage of the NYT story based on junk science that suggests granite countertops may pose a health risk.
Here’s what we’re doing to fight the situation:
We are meeting with the U.S. EPA right now to ask their cooperation in aggressively publicizing the agency’s support for granite. While the EPA normally does not make such public statements, we are urging them to do this since their comments in last Thursday’s New York Times contributed to the public panic we face.
To expand our efforts to recruit independent, qualified experts to calm the groundless fears, we are working with scientific consulting firms that have access to researchers with impeccable credentials. We have yet to find any scientists who demonstrate any concern about granite countertops. In fact, they seem overwhelmingly supportive of our efforts and incredulous that the media are reporting the junk science.
We are working with independent researchers to assess the implications of past scientific studies on granite countertops. While opponents have exaggerated the import of these studies, one research group advises us that most findings reported to date are flawed because they ignore ventilation and air transfer commonly found in homes. That means most radon-scare studies assume people lived in totally sealed buildings, not homes with windows, doors and vent fans that allow radon gas to escape.
We are doing media outreach both nationally and locally. Reporters are most interested in the story angle that consumers are being needlessly panicked by junk science. Several journalists have asked for access to affected consumers. We have anecdotes – someone reported that they heard a consumer moved his family into a hotel to get away from the granite counters in their kitchen – but we need to offer up specific consumers. Please forward any specific names (email@example.com), contact information and stories if you have them.
Now we want to take the effort to the grassroots. To that end, we have developed some draft letters that we ask MIA members to send to their advertising contacts in local media. The letters express disappointment that the media outlet ran the New York Times story – or another ill-informed story – and demand that factual stories be published to provide balance. We are not advocating a media boycott, but we do encourage you to send a personalized version of these notes to the loc
We also recommend that you individually engage in media communication – by sending letters to the editor using the draft letters as a guide or by posting entries on the blogs where you see granite maligned. Attached to this note, please find some messages you should feel free to use in these posts.
We are rallying international members to get involved. They are concerned about the false allegations and support for our defense of the industry. We hope to report on additional progress on this front.
We are working with a researcher who has done preliminary radiation assessments of granite and other solid surface material. Preliminary findings suggest that several synthetic stone products are as radioactive as granite.
We have created updated radon messages that can be used in conversations with customers and all concerned parties.
All this is really only the tip of the iceberg. In coming days, we’ll try to provide you more information about specific activities underway – as well as more information you might be able to use as you deal with clients.
As always, visit the MIA Website for the latest information.
Keep monitoring the situation and share any public feedback you notice.
Marble Institute of America
It looks like they are going to try to twist the EPA’s arms or something. And hiring consultants to do studies? No one is going to believe the study if they set the protocol and the study isn’t published.
And AARST, American Association of Radon Scientists and Technicians, met with the EPA today on setting proper protocols for testing granite for Radon and radiaition. Far better that a impartial group with much experience in Radon set the protocol than the MIA itself.
The references to some Radon studies being flawed, hardly that. In fact the MIA study followed the same protocol. Test the samples in a closed container, then extrapolate the results using cubic footage and square footage of countetop, then adding a air exchange factor.
Notice that they don’t really have any scared consumers just yet, but they will when the manufacture a few. Give em a few days. That and their form letters for granite shops to fill out and send off or post on forums, they will fabricate some buzz.
They mention the researchers that claims radioactive engineered stone. That would be Dr. Hans Henson, a thoughly discredited geologist who according to one of his friends, was hired to “dirt up” the engineered stone industry. I have personally ran up against Dr. Hans, he refuses to answer simple questions on his claims.
So the MIA must be getting pretty discouraged by now. It would be much better to just get it over with.
One could be charitable and say that the MIA was caught flat footed by recent events like so many organizations that touch the countertop industry, but that wouldn’t be accurate considering the fourteen year long suppression campaign. One could say though that they aren’t responding to the issues, or shall I say issue.
We received an email last week outlining their position, along with a list of “Talking Points” for use when scared or irate customers called the granite yards or fabrication shops. This week, a local supplier of ours, Architectural Granite & Marble (AG&M) used some of the MIA response near word for word in their own warning and advice to fabricators.
The FAX starts off by saying that no doubt we were inundated by phone calls about the recent “radon scare”. They continue by telling of a conference call with the MIA that convinced them that there is absolutely no evidence that the radon emitted by granite is of harmful amounts. They close by saying the EPA statement is attached to the FAX along with AG&M’s own “Talking Points”.
The next page in the FAX has contact info for a PR firm, Cohn & Wolfe.
Their Headline screams: “EPA Confirms that Granite Countertops Pose No Significant Health Risk, Undercutting”Junk Science” Fear Mongering, Says Marble Institute of America.
They go on to say that the EPA’s recent statements (last Friday, the 25th of July) reaffirmed that granite countertops posed no significant health risks and discounted alarmist reports about the safety of granite.
They go on to quote selectively from the EPA’s statement, while seemingly ignoring that the EPA simply is saying “We don’t know, test your countertop”. They continue by mentioning that brick, concrete, and granite contain small amounts of natural radiation, ignoring the fact that some granites contain enough Uranium for profitable Uranium mining operations.
They then link to the EPA statement, which is a good thing as we will see in a minute or two.
The Press Release goes on to quote Jim Hogan, president of the MIA. Hogan claims that recent tests by university scientists and Consumer Reports show no risk. He continues by saying that every time researchers apply rigorous scientific standards, they show no risk from granite. Claiming “fear mongering”, he says their goal is to facilitate the creation of standards for testing granite countertops.
What was left out of this statements was that the “university scientists” were actually one scientist, Dr. Chyi, who refuses to answer even the most basic questions about the “study”. This “study” was not published after peer review, and while some of the actual measurements are credible, the introduction and conclusions seem to be written toward marketing efforts, not scientific goals.
The Consumer Reports “study”? Two granites,tested in a completely non scientific method. Neither was pretested to see if it warranted testing, just two random samples of granite.
No one is claiming that the majority of granites are hazardous, just that a few are potentially hazardous with enough exposure.
The MIA is attempting to put together a team of scientists and experts, but one should ask if any have recently jumped ship. No reputable scientist would remain once they realize there is actual proof that numerous granite colors pose a serious problem, nor would they be welcome to contribute if they became convinced of the issue.
What is simply hilarious is that the EPA was working to change their Friday statements as this FAX was being delivered. By 8:08 p.m that very day, Monday the 28th , a new statement was on the EPA website, complete with an extensive list of granite/Radon/radiation FAQ questions.
That will be another article, let’s continue looking at the EPA’s newest stance compared to their new stance last Friday, three day ago, a single working day ago.
The FAX closes by listing AGM’s “Talking Points” for fabricators to use when panicked or angry consumers. I have paraphrased their remarks below, will link to or scan and post the entire statement later.
* EPA says Granite Counters Are Safe They go on to claim that the EPA reviewed the studies cited in the news reports and saw no need for additional research
into the safety of granite. They claim the EPA said they had no reliable data to conclude anything.
* Junk Science Spread By Competitors. Misinformation campaigns have been fianced by manufacturers of synthetic stone to scare customers.
* Only Real Studies Financed by the MIA. Some are critical of the MIA’s scientific studies, but no one else has been willing to fund the research. If not for the
MIA, there would be no real science, only junk science.
* Consumer Reports confirms Safety Americas foremost consumer protection institute recently conducted its own limited independent tests and found no evidence
of health risks. They said none of the samples tested emitted Radon.
* Radon Emissions Tend to Be Insignificant. Some granites emit the gas, but they claim that the most active granites tested were below the EPA remediation levels.
* Solution to Radon Gas is Simple. Open a window, install a venting system. They continue to claim that soil based Radon is the largest source.
* Other Natural Stone Unaffected. They say the rumors and misinformation is about igneous stones only. They say marble, limestone, travertine, slate and
soapstone are not being questioned.
* If Appropriate. “I would never have installed granite countertops in my own home if I thought they pose any health risks at all”.
Wow! Is this not amazing?
This isn’t the first time they said the testing is over with, they said that in their June Newsletter as well.
By Junk Science, they are referring to Dr. Llope of Rice University who is testing granite samples using Gamma Spectrometry. This device counts the decays, but also gives an energy level for the radiation being produced, allowing an expert to prove what radioisotope is in the granite. With that info, the radiation readings can be corrected to show exactly how much radiation a person is being exposed to.
Only Real studies financed by the MIA? The Chyi study wasn’t published, which is the only true mark of a truly scientific study. The only other “study” was a few years ago when they paid a retired geologist to say that the average granite countertop has only one decay per year! Even a low level granite will have many decays per square inch per minute. A medium level granite will have billions, even trillions of decays per year. The MIA has a long history of paying for opinions and then calling them studies.
Consumer reports, well, two small samples put in a room with a radon detector. Hardly a real world test, hardly scientific.
Radon emissions. Most of the average granites, Uba Tuba, Santa Cecilia , are low. Maybe 4 to 6 pCi/Sf/Hr Radon emitted. Then there are some that emit over 600 pCi/Sf/Hr. We are talking about tens of thousands of pCi of Radon per hour. Without a constant flow of fresh air or ventilation, the Radon levels will rise. Radon has been proven to add to a homes Radon level.
Sure ventilation will help, after you spent thousands to build energy efficient. I have no problem with ventilation being used, just tell the consumer that it will be needed before you take the deposit.
Other natural stone, well some Marble has been tested. Some slate has been found to be elevated. I’d check all natural stone before installation.
And the last “Talking Point”, well, when is it appropriate to lie to a consumer? When is it okay to convince them to use a product because you yourself used it? Why is it germane what you “thought”? Why not make it scientific by measurements?
While writing this article, I took some time to call our local AG&M location to warn them of the EPA’s changing position, that they really needed to read the new statement and reconsider AG&M’s position in light of the new info. In return, I got a earful of “Harmful plastic vapors, poisonous dust and glue used in solid surface”. I calmed her down, reminded her that I knew far better than she did that solid surface had none of those issues, reminding her of solid surface’s NSF51 rating, it’s FDA approved materials, and the vast number of tests that are done prior, during, and after solid surface is made. At the end, I reminded her that we were her customers, we wanted them to stay in business, that we had helped in the past (We had done a quick survey of her yard, even her desk that showed slightly hotter than normal), and would be here if they needed any help in the future. Kim agreed to pass the info along to her company president.
Sadly, it was no surprise that we received an email a few minutes later, firing us as a customer and requesting that we remove any links to the AG&M website. They also requested that we remove any reference to them being a supplier.
Not a problem, I’ll refer to them as a former supplier that fired us for supporting the testing of granite. Here is the email off our website contact form.
“name = Kim Redbird
email = firstname.lastname@example.org
Comments = If you reference AG&M anywhere on your website, our owners
have asked that you please remove AG&M as one of your vendors, suppliers
or anything related to your company.
I was replying to a few forums today on these issues and decided to save some of the more repetitive excuses not to take this seriously.
First is the distance the radiation can travel. We have run tests in our own shop with a 220 uR/hr source (Niagara Gold, the parent slab of that chunk in both the NY Times and the CBS Morning show.
At four inches, celery chopping length (!), 2,280 counts per minute (each count is a burst of radiation hitting the meter) That meter is buzzing pretty good.
At 12″ 840 cpm 14 times background radiation
At 24″ 600 cpm 10 times
At 36″ 480 cpm 8 times
At 60″ 180 cpm 3 times
Even at six feet, the radiation is still high, double background. That is hardly non existent radiation.
“Worrying about a couple extra micro REMs of exposure per year is nothing.”
How about .7 mR/hr Gamma? Saturday I sent a sample that read just that. Want an extra 511 mR/yr per year with your Cheerios?
The Niagara Gold in the stories, .220 mR, 160 mR/yr. How about that?
“The extra exposure from “unusually” radioactive granite? I’d say at most would be ~1% of normal background exposure.”
Background is 6o cpm, see the above list for that CBS/NYT slab. Looks like you are off by 84,000 times for the oncontact measurement of that sample.
“I suggest you all read some actual scientific facts about radiation risks and nuclear power.”
There is the problem, someone that thinks if we can’t sell radioactive granite countertops, we can’t have nuclear power.
“The industry is already trying to set some standards”.
The MIA is attempting to set some standards, about like letting the felons decide what we jail people for. One problem, one of their scientists they named a few weeks ago has jumped ship. Two of the others are jokes, one said only .85 of a radioactive decay per year from a large countertop. Idiot, each click on a Geiger Counter is a decay being detected and you have a very small target catching a tiny portion of the radiation being released. There are billions, even trillions of decays per year from a medium hot top.
Another of their “experts” has a habit of being hired as the second scientist for the EPA, after the first one won’t say what the powers that be want him to say.
The last one left, Dr. Chyi, sent me a very nasty email after I asked a simple question, was the report being used by the MIA the same one that he wrote. A scientist that gets offended at questions is a scientist that has something to hide.
Oh, the one that jumped ship? He not only answered questions, he offered to send me the data tables from the study I was asking questions about. Most scientists I have emailed have done the same.
This scientist, a good one in my opinion, is starting another group to set protocols for testing. Completely independent of the MIA or BuildCLean.org. I like it.
“Regulation is not what we need” .
The Chinese regulate granite radiation levels, Class A, B, C and Below C. Only Class A is allowed to be used in homes. Many other countries, including most EU countries regulate radiation in building materials.
“There is no danger from these granite counter tops. I have a Ph.D. in the field of radiology. ”
And you don’t know squat about the radiation levels being found. Are you saying that .7 mR/hr Gamma is okay for consumer products? Again, if you sell X rays or Cat Scans, you do want people to accept high radiation levels as “safe”. X rays are a risk, but it is a known risk that has a potential benefit.
“Surely these companies won’t dig up radioactive granite for home use”.
These companies know exactly what they are digging up and selling. They are actually conducting a lawsuit in Namibian courts, suing an Uranium company for the right to quarry granite next door to an Uranium mine in Namibia.
“How long has the granite industry known about this issue?”
This debate has been raging in the countertop industry since 1995, has been beaten down several times by the MIA. This time we organized, gathered allies, and broke the story. One huge granite importer (owns one of the Nambian quarry the Niagara Gold granite came from) admitted yesterday that their purchasing manager has known about this issue for about a year and a half. Strangely, they blame me for not calling and telling them, but their purchasing manager was debating the issue with me last may!
“Aren’t the workers most at risk?”
The worker is the most at hazard, and don’t let anyone cut a slab in your home (sink cut out) or drill any holes if possible on the higher level stones. In addition to the silica (silicosis), granite is loaded with heavy metals (Cadium, Arsenic, lead, Chromium, a very long and toxic list), as well as the radioactive dust inhaled. We started using HEPA filters after we learned of the high radiation levels in the dust.
“But bananas and brazil nuts are radioiactive too.”
Sorry, bananas aren’t very radioactive. I heard of a guy that reduced 100# of bananas to ash before he could measure the radiation.
A researcher with the Dept of Health at NY state, Dr. Kitto studied Brazil nuts and found around 1 pCi/G of Radium, less than the average soil content, far less than the 1,130 pCi/G of Radium found in the Bordeaux granite countertop found in the Houston story.
Twenty eight. grams of Brazil nuts would contain .008 uR of Radium, compared to a granite countertop that can have thousands, tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands times more radiation.
Thanks to Dr. Kitto for sharing the results of this study on Brazil nuts.
Associated Radon Services has been helping tremendously in the fight to get stones tested and the results in front of consumes. Now they have made an offer to provide homeowners a way to check countertop samples for Radon.
I would highly recomend this lab if you are worried about your granite. An inexpensive Radon test kit would be another way, but for a guaranteed result, send these guys a small sample. Perhaps a sink cutout or a sample knocked off the corner of a slab.
1) Radon emanation from surface test result unit will be pCi/sq.ft./second
4-14 day turaround, sample size must accomodate ,minimum 9″ diameter circle,
$ 75.00 per sample
2) Radon emanating Radium 226 fraction test unit will be pCi/gram and euilibirum level Rn222 Pci/l inside chamber/gram (or area if I can come up with a K ), 8 – 30 day turnaround, sample size must pass through a 3.5″ dia hole and no longer than 6″ (can change if any demand ) , $ 75.00 per sample up to 9, 10 or more together $50.00 per
Must ship UPS, FEDEx ground, or DHL no motor freight ; at this time we have 52 emenation chamber capacity ; contect KMLevy@radonserv.com or email@example.com
ASSOCIATED RADON SERVICES
Fl DOH and NRPP Certified Analytical Radon Laboratory
5136 SE Orange St. Stuart, FL 34997
This says it all. But read the comment section, such a lot of people attacking the idea of testing granite.
Well, occasionaly one gets an email that starts a guy to thinking. I recieved this one today. In writing our blog, everything wound up being about granite and hardly anything about solid surface.
Here is the question we recieved:
“Why not devote a page to what solid surface is made from,
really. I know that it’s not made from 100% acrylic as the ads would lead
me to believe. No one seems to want to answer that question.
Excellent idea, a page on just that. I believe it may have been addressed in one of the pages, maybe not in depth.
What the ads are saying, in their own simple way, is that there is no polyester in their products, not that there are not other materials besides Acrylic.
Polyesters are a bit cheaper, or were at one time, tend to yellow in some colors. A bit more brittle as well, not from a homeowner’s standpoint, but from a fabricator’s standpoint. Of course, picking the right polyester based sheet color removes the yellowing issue, and the material has qualities that override the shortcomings. There is no perfect material for making a countertop, all have their flaws. Solid surface shops are well versed in these flaws, and follow strict rules in fabrication to avoid having problems with warranty claims.
Acrylic based solid surface is composed of Acrylic resins (from 90 to 65%) and ATH, Aluminum Tri Hydrate, an oxide of aluminum (from10 to 35% by volume.
The Bauxite comes from a common Bauxite mine, then finely processed until quite pure. At this point it like most materials from the earth, is very, very slightly radioactive until it is process. After processing, no radiation can be detected, because the clay is the primary source of the radio isotopes.
Once purified, the ATH is used in many products, toothpaste, paint, lots of common products. Solid surface takes a tiny portion of the amount made, which no doubt adds to the strip mining, but it would be done anyway. At least the ATH used is put in a very durable and long lasting product. Is it green? I wouldn’t say so, but I am no expert in those issues.
The Acrylic resins are blended with the ATH and pigments, into sheets which are either used intact as a solid color or ground into particles or chunks that are used in other mixed color sheets.
Once cured, there is no out gassing possible, it is a polymer reaction, where two molecules link up into a new molecule that even the original solvent will not dissolve.
To show the safety of the product, it is used extensively in dental work, both permanent and temporary. It has NSF51 rating for food contact, and all materials are FDA approved. The NSF51 is tough, not a simple approval, but a long term ongoing testing effort of everything that goes into and even everything that touches the product during manufacture and distribution.
Thanks for reminding me why we do the SSA site. We felt that exposing the granite industry’s lies were the best way to level the playing field. Soon we will be able to return to speaking about our product.
If you don’t mind, I am going to use your questions and my reply on the site, without your full email or name of course.
First some background. Jim Hogan is the current President of the Marble Institute of America, the trade association for the stone industry. Mostly a ceremonial position, a guy named Garren holds the puppet strings, commanding a mid six digit salary. The MIA has actively been attempting to squash any discussion of granite and Radon/radiation since 1995. I found this post from the MIA on GardenWeb.com
So here we go, hold your nose. I am going to add my comments in bold.
Posted by jimhogan (My Page) on Sat, Jul 26, 08 at 19:17
I’m extremely disappointed by all the recent media attention about granite countertops and radon. What’s most upsetting to me is there simply is no reason for consumers to panic. Why? Let’s consider the facts:
• On Friday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued statements that reaffirm that granite countertops pose no significant health risk. The statement says: “While natural minerals such as granite may occasionally emit radon gas, the levels of radon attributable to such sources are not typically high. EPA believes the principal source of radon in homes is soil gas that is drawn indoors through a natural suction process. Granite is a natural mineral formed by earth’s geology. It is mined and used to produce commercial products such as countertops. It is possible for any granite sample to contain varying concentrations of uranium that can produce radon gas. Some granite used in countertops may contribute variably to indoor radon levels. However, EPA has no reliable data to conclude that types of granite used in countertops are significantly increasing indoor radon levels.” Exactly, they have no reliable data yet, which is why everyone needs to test their granite. However, Mr. Hogan is leaving out much more in that EPA statement, selectively cherry picking his comments while ignoring the fact that despite the lack of funds to study, they are taking this issue seriously.
• The statements can be found at the EPA website, here at this link.
• Consumer Reports, America’s foremost consumer protection institute, recently conducted its own limited independent tests of granite countertops and found no evidence that granite countertops pose a health risk. They sure were limited, two granites were checked, neither were checked for radiation levels before the test. Remember, no radiation, no Radon. But you have to qualify that because if you only test for Gamma, you might possibly miss some Radon producing granites or some serious Beta or Alpha radiation emitters.In fact, none of the granite countertops tested by Consumer Reports were found to be emitting radon. According to Consumer Reports, similar findings were recently generated by other well-conducted studies of granite countertops, and those studies found that, of a large number of countertops tested, only a few samples emitted minute levels of radon. This is an absolute lie. Hogan refuses to state which studies he is relying on, but the only ones that he has been shilling for was the ridiculous article written in 1995 by Langmuir and the article written by Dr. Chyi this may. Neither article was published, indeed only the Chyi effort even remotely approaches scientific standards, while falling short.
• Beyond the EPA statements and Consumer Reports tests, countless studies over the years have found that the granite commonly used in countertops is safe to consumers. One of the most recent studies was conducted by the University of Akron. Dr. L.L. Chyi, who led this study, concluded that “Radon in countertops is not an issue.” Results of the Akron study are available on MIA’s website, www.marble-institute.com. Uhh, you mentioned one unpublished study, were are the other “countless” studies
To eliminate confusion resulting from the junk science and inconsistent testing that’s been played up in the media these past few days, the Marble Institute is working with scientists and other experts to establish universal standards for testing granite countertops for radon emissions. So a professor of Nuclear Physics at Rice University conducting Gamma Spectrometry testing of granite samples is junk science? Are Radon lab experts showing strong radiation and Radon being produced (4 pCi/L in one sample, 500 pCi/L in the other), are these engineers also doing junk science? The goal is to build a scientific consensus around testing protocols so that all research can be done consistently. Were that the case, then why did one of the scientists you claimed were on your side also submit a list of qualified experts for consideration of a Protocol formation board to another group? Could it be that he thought your trade association was not looking for the facts, but just to show that all granite was safe? Who in there right mind would allow your group to set the protocols that set the rules for the testing?
Yes, the Marble Institute of America represents granite manufacturers and, yes, we’re committed to looking out for their best interests. But we’re equally committed to looking out for the best interests of America’s consumers. That’s because we understand that is in everyone’s best interest to confirm once and for all that granite is every bit as safe as it is beautiful, durable and practical. But what about the hot granite that has been proven to exist? Why did this not get studied 14 years ago? Why not five years ago when it arose again? This time, you found out that Build Clean was going to challenge you, why did you not have that “study” published after peer review so that it would have been a truly trustworthy study?
End Quote of MIA’s Jim Hogan.
Now, the MIA is renowned for using unpublished “studies” in their marketing efforts. They hired Dr. Snyder to do a test, without having it published after peer review. Peer review, as we probably all know, is where they take a submitted study to a committee of experts who scrutinize it closely. The info must be present to allow any other interested person to reproduce the study exactly, all statements MUST be supported by footnotes to previous PUBLISHED studies, then any weak points or alternative results must be considered. Only after the study has been vigorously questioned and the committee satisfied is the study allowed to be published.
As an example, we were quoted a rate of $1,500 to reproduce the study that the MIA had Dr. Snyder do, but this time including solid surface in the samples tested. We decided that Dr. Snyder lacked the credibility required for an honest test, although the thought of turning a hired gun on it’s previous master was pretty inviting.
So, now that one understands that experts come cheap for their opinion disguised as a “study”, one can understand that if the goal is to have a puppet to make your moves, that this is the way to go.
In comparison, our side supports independent scientists like Dr. Llope, Dr. Steck, Dr. Kitto, all of whom are widely respected and above making a mortgage payment by jotting down what pleases a trade association. The studies underway(one on Radon which has been submitted for peer review and the radiation study by Dr. Llope that is still taking measurements) will be published after peer review, earning them the right to be called scientific.
Truly, in all my 50 years, I have never seen such an incompetent trade association. One wonders how it was possible that they managed to keep this covered up for so many years.