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In addition to the radioactive elements in granite countertops, many of the elements are toxic as well. A wealth of information is available on ATSDR. This link is to the Radium toxicological profile. Click on the individual PDF for more information. There are also short version writen for laypersons that explains the risks in non technical terms.
They had this to say about Radium:
“There is no clear evidence that long-term exposure to radium at the levels that are normally present in the environment (for example, 1 pCi of radium per gram of soil) is likely to result in harmful health effects. However, exposure to higher levels of radium over a long period of time may result in harmful effects including anemia, cataracts, fractured teeth, cancer (especially bone cancer), and death. Some of these effects may take years to develop and are mostly due to gamma radiation. Radium gives off gamma radiation, which can travel fairly long distances through air. Therefore, just being near radium at the high levels that may be found at some hazardous waste sites may be dangerous to your health.”
To put this in perspective, the Houston TV report showed 1,115 pCi/Gram of Radium (adding RA 226 to RA 228) or 1,115 times higher than what is normally present in soil. This report on three hazardous waste sites show comprable levels of Uranuim, Thoruim, Radium and Lead.
At the SLAPS, a site used to store radioactive waste, the gamma exposure rate has been measured at 9 to 261uR/hr, with an average of 84 uR/hr. Some granite countertops are less than 9 uR/hr and the ones that concern us are from 25 uR/hr and up. So basically, this SLAPS hazardous waste site, protected by fencing and warning signs, is about the same gamma exposure that you would get from a higher level granite countertop! These hazardous waste sites have cost millions of dollars to clean up, control ground water and dust from escaping, and will cost millions of dollars to maintain. Yet we allow granite countertops with the same levels of contamination into our homes?
Here is a table showing the amount of contamination in pCi/Grams so you can compare it to the Houston Juparana Bordeaux.