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Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Emporer, once wrote that nothing is new, all has gone before. In the case of granite testing and the fight to prevent it from happening, one can look into the granite industry’s play book. The parallels between big tobacco, lead paint manufacturers, asbestos manufactures, and many other industries that sucessfully delayed standards on their products are right there to read.
David Michaels is an epidemiologist and director of the Project on Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. He once served as the Assisant of Energy for Envirnomental, Safety, and Health, an agency devoted to protecting those working for and living near nuclear plants. Mr. Michaels wrote a book called “Doubt Is Their Product”, and expose of the Product Defense Industry, those who work with manufacturers of dangerous products in an attempt to slow down the day of reckoning.
The Product Defense Industry has many methods, which bring back memories of the tobacco wars going on back in the last century. Most over 45 years of age will remember watching tobacco officials standing before congress, defending their product as harmless.
One of their methods is to hire their own scientists, then publish in captive “scientific journals”.
Or they will request the data from reputable studies, then apply unusual methods to dilute the conclusions, trashing the original study.
Then there is the tactic of attacking the activists or scientists on the other side, attempting to discredit when they have no other methods. This one ought to be familular with this blogs readers.
Another method, is to use Freedom of Information requests to steal info from Federally funded scientists, even before the study is done, which the granite industry is currently doing with several researchers. One of the Radon forums I am a member of recently had several state officials mentioning the letters they had recieved from the MIA, demanding all info on the subject, as well as requesting that Build Clean be forced to turn over their data on the as of yet unfinished Houston countertop survey.
Then there is the DAQ, or Data Access Act and the Data Quality act, which the hazardous material industry can use to force government scientists to change their studys and their conclusions. Considering that epidemiologist studies can take 20 to 30 years, interfering with the studies can eliminate any truly damaging studies from coming out.
So from the lead paint industry’s use of purity, health, and prosperity to brand their product, we now have the granite industry using anti bacterial, natural, and safe to brand their product. The MIA even has a brocure with an infant playing with granite blocks! So it should come with no surprise that the granite industry stoops to personal attacks and strong arming researchers.
But, apparently the hiring of Cohn & Wolfe, the big tobacco PR firm, is changing their ways. If you look up the “Truth about Granite and Radon” on the MIA website, you will find that they removed the picture of the baby playing with the granite blocks from that brochure.
Absolutely lacking in morality and concern for their customers, these guys will do anything to continue selling the hot granite.
One of the dodges the stone industry is using to minimize the risks of granite countertop Radon emission is that a little ventilation will solve the problem. The info below is from an University study were a 2 1/2 square foot opening was added to the normal leakage present in a home (ACH).
Now stop and think of the effect that a 2 1/2 square foot hole would have on our homes heat and cooling bill. Then consider how much of the Radon is still present even with this large amount of fresh air.
One of the reasons Radon levels are kept lower despite a continual exhalation of new Radon from granite is that outside air is continually leaking into a home at varying rates. Exactly how much fresh air coming in is usually a guess, but there have been studies showing from .5 ACH (Air Change per Hour, or how many times the air is completely replaced) to .035 ACH, with .35 ACH being that adopted by ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers).
In an effort to bring some facts to bear, there was a study done by two scientists at the University of Colorado. These two Physicists looked at the air exchange rates in multi room house models.
The Correlation Between Small Ventilation Rates And Indoor Radon Concentrations Using A Multi Room House Model.
Their model was six rooms, interconnected, but with one room having an operable window to outside air. With the window closed, the rooms reached the maximum levels quickly, around 12 hours, assuming an air sharing rate of .5 ACH between rooms and and leakage rate of .35 ACH (normal air leaks present in all homes). Their result mirrored the result they got from figuring the home as one large room. See graph 2.
In the next graph result, Figure 3, a window was opened 10″ six hours after the test started and left open for the duration of the test. Note that the Radon levels dropped severely in room 1, the one with the open window, but the other rooms didn’t drop that much in comparison. Air exchange for room 1 (open window) was 1 ACH. The air exchange remained at .5 ACH between rooms, with the same .35 ACH from leakage.
The next graph, Figure 4., had the air exchange between rooms increased to 2 ACH per hour which is thought to be a normal rate for rooms open to each other. Room 1 still had an open window and remained at 1 ACH. More Radon reduction, but only about 20% for the farthest room. Strangely enough, room 1 had a slight increase due to the Radon being brought in from the other rooms.
Figure 5., represented a “tight” house with an ACH of .1, exactly what Bill Brodhead was reporting in his concrete high rise condo Radon study. This ACH is reported to not be uncommon. The ACH between rooms remains at 2, with room 1 still having an open window and a 1 ACH rate. Now the Radon levels are much lower, with room 1 having a 60% drop, even room 6 is at half it’s normal Radon levels.
Finally, Figure 6 represents the same conditions in Figure 5 graph, with one exception, the window being open for only 24 hours. This affected the final values quite a bit, with a 30% Radon decrease in room 1 and a 26% decrease in room 6.
One of the conclusions was that a window opened 10″ will cut the Radon levels by 10% to 50% if the window remains open. What struck me as important was that even a large amount of ventilation did not eliminate the Radon buildup, but merely reduced it. With 1.3 pCi/L of Radon (the average level in US homes) having a death rate of 21,000 per year, it would seem that ventilation alone will not eliminate the danger.
The entire study can be found at http://www.uccs.edu/~physics/docs/multiroom.pdf
I would guess that an average window was around 36″ wide, which if opened 10″, would give you a 2 1/2 square foot hole in the wall. For those that argue that ventilation alone will solve the problem of hot granite emitting Radon in homes, this should give them some pause.
Another reason to reject the claims that ventilation alone will allow hot granite countertops to be sold is the long term efficiency of the ventilation systems.
Here is a study, Post Mitigation Radon Concentrations in Minnesota Homes,
by Dr. Daniel Steck, one of the Radon scientists leading the granite testing effort.
A total of 150 homes were chosen from past clients of six professional Radon mitigators and the Radon levels rechecked after from six months to seven years. The study found that the mitigation dropped the levels from an average of 10.3 down to .8 pCi/L.
Potential causes loss of mitigating ventilation are blockages, fan failures, someone turning the unit off, and leakage. A previous study in 2005 by Dr. Steck found some homes that did not do well after mitigation efforts, with an average of 2.9 pCi/L and 28% exceeding the EPA action level of 4 pCi/L. But 12 of those homes were professionally mitigated and had lower Radon levels, averaged at 1.7 pCi/L with only 8% exceeding the action level.
In the recent study we are discussing, 3% of the 129 homes returning measurements had average Radon levels over the EPA action level of 4 pCi/L and 6% had at least one measurement above 4 pCi/L. Homes with 3 pCi/L were about 6% and 9% of the homes were at 2 pCi/L.
Dr. Steck also addressed the costs of mitigation per life saved. Keeping in mind that these are sub slab depressurization systems so the only air exchange is that seeping through the floor, not air being sucked out of the interior of the home. Despite that, installation costs can be as much as $1,800 for a home, $110 for each test to ensure the system is working (once per year, is that safe enough?), heating costs between $70 and $500 per year, six replacement fans in the 70 year life span, and electricity costs all can add up to one percent of the EPA’s value of a statistical life ( $6,900,000.00) or $69,000.00 for each life saved. Far less than a fraction of the medical care needed for a single cancer case.
Now, if we use the common estimates of air infiltration in homes (.35 ACH) we find that up to one third of your yearly heat and cooling costs are wasted.
Looking back at the Colorado study where they used an open window (10″ gap), this would allow 40 cubic feet of air exchange per minute. Imagine the cost to heat and cool a home with that amount of leakage on top of the usual waste from normal air exchange.
No matter how you look at this, the Radon mitigation costs to remove any Radon from a granite countertop would be much more than anyone would imagine, some where between $69,000 and $13,230 for the life of the home. In this day of concern over the planet, carbon foot prints, and energy costs, it just makes little sense to add more heat loss so one can have a granite countertop.
The AARST (American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists) annual conference concluded this after noon. We were able to attend on Tuesday when most of the granite countertop information was presented. This article will be a short description of the significant papers and studies presented, with an indepth article on the most important studies coming soon.
The first was a presentation on Natural Radioactivity in Building Materials – Czech Experience and European Legislation. The Czechs have had radiation standards for building materials, including granite, since 1987, with both Radon and Gamma radiation being covered. Gamma dose from materials like granite and concrete must not be over .3 to 1 mSv per year exposure. To convert that into mR, add two zeros (1 mSv=100 mR), so we are looking at 30 to 100 mR maximum extra Gamma exposure per year from the material. Our US standard for total extra radiation dose is close, 100 mR per year additional radiation above the normal dose. What is significant it that the Czech level starts at 30 mR, which is close to the US suggested limit of 25% of the 100 mR from a single source.
At the show there was a small 3″ diameter core sample from a granite countertop, with 1 mR of Gamma radiation per hour being emitted. This level was measured with a very expensive and accurate meter used by Health Physicists, considered the most accurate meter available that mimics a true dose to a human. At that 1,000 uR (same as 1 mR) level, thirty hours of close contact would put you over the limit from that hot spot alone, much less the rest of the countertop. Another interesting point was that our small PM 1703’s measured the core sample at the same rate, 1,030 uR/hr or 1.03 mR, only .03% high.
Another interesting point of this paper was the finding of .1 air change rate per hour, ACR. Other papers also identified .1 as being a common result for a new home built to energy efficient standards. The MIA paid Dr. Chyi to do a paper in the spring of this year, but they claimed that up to 6 ACH was common, or 60 times the rate that the Czech study found possible. A more recent paper that the MIA paid Dr. McCarthy to put together claimed .5 ACH (although they called it AER). The MIA continues to use both papers, despite the contradictions, and now it seems a far lower rate should be used.
Another interesting point was the perception of the risks from these contaminated homes. The risk from Radon and the risk from the Gamma radiation were roughly equal, but the public tended to worry far more about the radiation than the Radon.
The Czech levels of allowed Radium were 120 bq/Kg, or 10 pCi/Kg of Radium maxium allowed in a building material. Compare that 10 pCi per kilogram to the 1,030 per gram found in the Houston granite countertop. Thousands of times over the Czech allowable level.
The paper ends by saying that low radiation level material should be used whenever possible and that the public should be aware of their choice in the matter.
Next up of interest for the countertop fabricator or consumer was Elevated Radon Levels In High Rise Condominiums From Concrete Emanation. The author, Bill Brodhead, has also been helping on our granite testing effort.
What was relevant about this study was that concrete, as in concrete countertops, can also add to the Radon levels in a home. From 35 to 74 pCi/Sf/Hr of Radon was exhaling from these concrete samples, more than some low level granites. Moisture was found to raise Radon exhalation levels from 10 to 15%, which was predicted by our Uranium Geologist. Also, this study used the “meter under a bowl” testing method which has been lambasted as being an improper method of measuring Radon from granite countertops, yet the method is completely accepted in the Radon industry for this very purpose, measuring large objects like floors, walls, ceilings, and now granite countertops.
The paper also addressed elevated Gamma levels from the concrete, not a lot, only 10 uR/hr, but with so much mass emitting that 10 uR/hr, it increases a persons cancer risk a small amount. We feel that this should be a choice, an informed choice, for a consumer, whether or not to expose themselves and their families to this low level dose.
Air Change Rate, the percentage of indoor air that is replaced in a home per hour from leaks, doors opening and closing, and so on. Once it was thought that 1 ACH was the average, now it seems that homes built in the fifties and sixties are around .5 ACH, recently built homes are now assumed to be around .3 ACH, with an energy efficient home (most new homes are built to those standards) being at .1 ACH. Since the ACH is the largest factor in Radon buildup, this is a very important development. However, this study found even lower actual ACH rates, as low as .08, .03, .04 and .035 ACH. Taking the recent McCarthy paper, which used a .5 ACH rate, this shows that that rate can be from 5 to 16 times too low in some cases.
Next up was Emission of Radon From Decorative Stone by Dr. Kitto, Haines, and Hernando DiazArauzo. Dr. Kitto has been supporting the granite testing effort since late last year, initially sponsored by Build Clean, Cambria, and Sensa (Silestones natural stone product). The study linked to above is what was supposed to be published this fall, but newer stone samples that tested far, far, higher than the 35 stones tested in the study caused Dr. Kitto to hold off publication till he can add more stones to the study.
The Solid Surface Alliance provided most of those new super hot samples, which made this study turn from a pretty good resource to support the theory that some granites are dangerous and turned it into a slam dunk, debate over with, let em attempt to spin this study.
What Dr. Kitto revealed at the Radon conference on this subject is not on the link above. The study has been reopened, and what isn’t finished isn’t published. The initial study was submitted for peer review though, so one can use the info safely, plus the presentation in front of the packed room at the Radon conference was the toughest peer review process possible.
I can however, reveal some of the new info provided. We have to be careful, the MIA has been sending demand letters to those testing granite, demanding data and protocols even before the studies are finished, even in cases where third parties had paid for the work. Also, the MIA filed a Freedom of Information request on Dr. Kitto, attempting to steal his work for their own uses, or perhaps so that they can have months to attempt to discredit the work prior to publication. Two representitives from the MIA, including their Tech advisor were present though, so a littl released now will cause no harm.
One of the samples was found to be emitting 40,000 counts per minute, or 40,000 radiation decays per minute, 40,000 gamma rays. Compare this to the MIA/Langmuir paper that claimed only .85 of a decay per year from an average granite countertop. My calculator won’t go that high, but it has to be in the trillions of times more radiation than that claimed by the MIA. The next dodge that has been used was that Potassium 40 was releasing harmless Alpha radiation. Not in this case, because this was a scintillator that measured only Gamma. Only 10% of this radiation came from Potasium 40, which emits 11% of it’s radiation as Gamma.
Thirty square feet of this material would have 7.25 million pCi of Radium. A lot huh? But don’t forget the rest of the radio nucleides that WILL be present with the Radium. There are 15 other radio nucliedes present in the Uranium decay chain as well! Don’t forget the Thorium decay chain for the Thorium present.
This same thirty square feet of granite in a home would raise the Radon level to 24 pCi/L, six times the EPA action level! . Average Radon levels in US homes are 1.3 pCi/L with 21,000 deaths per year associated with those average Radon levels. Remember this when the MIA claims that granite countertops are below the EPA action levels, even the .27 pCi/L they said Crema Bordeaux has a huge death rate associated with it, if you used .27 pCi/L as the average home Radon level, an extra 4,375 extra lung cancer deaths per year would result.
Dr. Kitto did say that normal ventilation would reduce this 24 pCi/L to half, or 12 pCi/L.
Another very revealing thing showed up in Dr. Kitto’s work, granite is far, far, far, more porous than anyone dreamed. He took a known high emission granite, put a known low emitting granite on top, then sealed his meter and cover on top of the low level stone. Guess what? The Radon was only a little lower, the high level slab’s Radon penetrated the other stone like it was hardly there. Dr. Kitto said that he found that any Radon emitted by Radium decay inside the stone will get out. Compare that with the .1 emanation Rate that the MIA/Dr. Chyi claimed was possible.
Sealers were also discounted as a way to prevent exhalation of Radon, Kitto said Radon easily penetrates sealer, or it just forces the Radon out the back or sides of the stone. Other researches like Brodhead and Levy have also shown that when one side exhales less, the other side exhales a whole lot more, sixty times more in one case. So fiberglass and resin on the back side is not a solution either, the Radon gas will find a way out.
Quartz was found to emanate no Radon in most cases, with extremely low levels found in some quartz colors, so low as to be of infestinally small risks.
Bill Brodhead presented another paper on Measuring Radon and Thoron Emanation From Concrete and Granite With Continous Radon Monitors and E-Perms.
Most of the 26 page paper deals with measuring concrete, but page 20 starts dealing with granite countertop materials. Hmmm, I wonder where he got the samples? He brings up the difference that can occur in exhalation rates from front of the stone to the back. One sample, a Juparana Bordeaux (usually called Bordeaux) had a very heavily mesh and resin back that stopped 98% of the Radon exhalation from the backside. The Crema Bordeaux sample had 8 times more Radon coming off the back side than the front side. The Niagara Gold had 40% more Radon exhaled from the back than from the front. It was recomended that any granite countertop tests include a test on the bottom of the stone as well as the top.
Next was a table of results in several formats, Table 10 in the study, pCi/Sf/Hr is the one column that interests us, the others will be useful in Europe where they use different units for measuring. Brodhead found as muc has 490 pCi per square foot of granite per hour. Compare that to the MIA/McCarthy paper that claimed only .1 to 34 pCi/SF/Hr Radon emanation, with the average being 1.9 pCi/SF/Hr. Looks like he is 14 times too low on his maximum Radon emission (it is far more, Kitto found one stone 8 times Brodhead’s maximum).
Next up is a table of data, Table 12 in the paper. This info is very unsettling to me personally because it de coupled the Gamma radiation levels from the Radon emanation. We thought that having a low Gamma rate would prevent high Radon levels automaticaly.
Look at Table 12, page 23 of the study. Compare the Gamma and the Radon exhalation for the Niagara Gold (NG), 99.3 uR/hr gives off 490 pCi/Sf/Hr of Radon, or a ratio of 4.9 pCi per uR/hr of Gamma. Then compare that to the Four Seasons sample, 25 uR/hr of Gamma but 508 pCi/Sf/Hr of Radon, or 20.3 pCi per uR/hr! Holy crap! Four times more per unit of Gamma.
This means that you can’t use high Gamma levels to screen for “safe” granites when it comes to Radon.
Brodhead then went on to calculate the increase in Radon levels with the Juparana Bordeaux (JB), the Crema Bordeaux (CB), and the Niagara Gold (NG). Look at Table 13 on page 24, .1 to .7 for granite and .8 pCi/L for a concret countertop. Pretty low, but notice the Four Seasons was not included in the chart. Before I say what it was, let me explain something. All researches will have a point they are trying to get across with their work, Bill is no exception. Bill believes, rightly so, that concrete is the larger danger for Radon because of the sheer quanity present in a condo. So he left the Four Seasons result out of Table 13, but he did give it to us verbally, as well as on a power point slide that went with his report.
He took a real world home that he tested in his previous study on concrete emitting Radon, 822 square feet with a .035 ACH, and 40 square feet of countertop. Using the Four Seasons granite sample, and it was an entire square foot measured, not a hot spot, he found 220,000 pCi of Radon coming off per hour.
The homes average Radon level would have risen 3.1 pCi/L, so if you had the average Radon level of outide air present (.40) you would have had 3.5 pCi/L present. If you had the average 1.3 pCi/L of Radon, you would have had 4.4 pCi/L of Radon present in the home. Brodhead said that the bedroom level would have been around 2 pCi/L of Radon, and the kitchen itself would have had 4 pCi/L of Radon from the granite countertop.
Absolute proof that granite countertops CAN significantly raise the Radon levels in homes. End of debate.
An interesting point for the concrete countertop fabricators, the cement accounts for most of the Radon, the sand is second, the gravel is the third largest emanation source. Most likely because of the size of the particle from what research I have done on Radon from aggragrete.
The last session of the day, and the longest, was a panel discussion on whether or not Radon testers should test granite countertops for radiation as well. The fact that they should test granite counter tops was not up for debate, all said that the papers presented by Brodhead and Kitto proved the need for Radon testing of granite countertops.
First off was Dr. Kitto, who repeated some of his findings, and said that granite tops must be measured for radiation but he wasn’t sure who should do it.
Next was a gentleman that was a Health Physicist who brought up the Health Physicist Society’s (HPS) position on granite countertops and radiation, and he was not kind to the HPS. I need to verify his name, as there were three panel members that I didn’t put name and
face together. But he had some definite opinons on Radon and radiation in granite. First off he brought up the HPS’s computation of only .13 pCi/L of Radon increase from a granite countertop which was supposed to be conservative. This Health Physicist said other wise.
He specifically pointed out the major flaws in the HPS statement, that using radiation measurments to attempt to show the Radium content was ridiculous. The HPS decided that 8 pCi/gram of Radium was average when they had no proof of that (Houston slab lab report said 1,030 pCi/g of Radium present).
Then he attacked the HPS exhalation rate of only 10% of the total Radon being emanated (emanation is the production of Radon, exhalation is how much actually gets out of the stone). Using Dr. Kitto’s test results, plus what he has learned in his very long carreer, he found the 10% claim utterly unsupported by any scientific proof.
Then he attacked the HPS claim of .5 ACH (Air Changes per Hour) to be far lhigher than reasonable, quoting other studies including Brodhead and Kitto.
He concluded that the HPS simply did not have any facts to back up their claim that granite is 100% safe nor did they properly support their finding of .13 pCi/L of Radon from a 20 uR/hr granite countertop.
This Health Physicist had one concern with Radon testers testing for radiation, he felt that they would need a Health Physicist’s support to set protocols for measuring, then also for interpreting the results. Measuring radiation is old hat for the radiation industry, but it is usually only one radioactive substance with maybe only one radio isotope. Granite has a lot of radioactive isotopes, making calibration of the meters a nightmare. It is looking like first a Gamma spectrometer reading will have to be done (think $20,000 for a good, accurate portable meter). Then a radio chemist can calculate the total radiation being emitted. Then a Health Physicist can tell you what human tissue damage will occur.
One thing though, the Health Physicists seem to restrict themselves to immeadiate damage, ignoring low level, long term damage. Their jobs depend on doing just that, witout exposing workers to radiation, you can’t fuel, run, or clean up a reactor. You can’t give a MRI or an X ray if you worry about low dose damage to DNA.
I belive that we must find oncologists, cancer doctors, to get an idea of the true danger of low dose radiation.
Next was Dr. Steck, who was eloquent but brief. He supported the other panelists concerns on granite, Radon, and radiation and said that granite must be tested for both. He brought up his earlier work for the granite industry (Cold Springs granite company back in 1988 or so) that was found to be low for American quarried granite. He pointed out that these imported granites were far different and that the potential for elevated Radon was there and had to be addressed.
Incidently, the two samples I sent Dr. Steck were 50 and 100 times more Radon emanation than anything he had tested before. He reconstructed the data from his notes back in 1988 (his original copy was lost) and sent it to me months ago, which is what most scientists will do if you express an interest in their work.
Now Dr. Steck is another of our wonderful scientists that is voluntarily supporting this testing of granite effort. He showed me graphs of the results from Radon emanation tests he had done on two of the samples the SSA has sent so far and is willing to test more samples as we find them. We have our hottest Niagara Gold sample out on loan to Air Chek (yes, the MIA’s ally in this, but they needed to be shown the truth) and our hottest Four Seasons sample out to Stan Liebert’s lab, but we are going to route them and other samples to Dr. Steck to support his research.
Bill Brodhead was next, and repeated his ACH findings that said some granites Radon will raise some homes levels of Radon. He also pointed out the combined levels being emitted by granite, tile and the concrete in a typical home. Bill said it was possible to get 20,000 pCi of granite Radon, 20,000 pCi of tile based Radon, and 70,000 pCi of Radon from the concret in a home. Added up, that is a huge Radon risk in a home. Brodhead repeated the need to test the bottom of the granite, as well as finding the hotter spots in the granite since they will be putting out the most radiation usually.
Bill pointed out that the 4 pCi/L of Radon caused by 40 square feet of the Four Seasons granite based Radon was equivilent to 600 mR per year of radiation, six times the recomended extra exposure over the normal radiation.
The official AARST position from the panel seemed to be that there was a real need to test for radiation, but they were concerned about liablitity and the experience needed to test properly. They fielded questions from the audience that tended to support the testing of granite for radiation. Finding a Health Physicist to partner will seemed to be the best idea if a Radon guy wanted to offer the service.
That is enough for tonight, missed a lot of sleep traveling and socializing at Vegas. I’ll write more tomorrow night on the conference.
AARST, the American Association of Radon Scientists and Technicians, is holding their annual conference this week. Some of our allies in this granite testing effort are presenting studies or papers at the conference, along with other researchers from around the world.
Here are some of the sessions that will be presented.
Kotrappa and Stieff will present a session on measuring building materials ,specifically granite slab samples using Electric Ion Chambers. It looks like they have already done some work on granite and they say their results match other methods of testing.
Hulka, Vleck, and Thomas will present a session on Natural Radioactivity in Building Materials, specifically the Czech experience and European Legislation. Thats right folks, Europe is way ahead of us on this issue, which is why the USA became the dumping ground for too hot granite.
The Czechs have lots of experience in this, with soviet run governments using radioactive mining waste being used for concrete, plaster, and mortar in many homes. Luckily, in the Seventies many of these homes were bulldozed after the problems were discovered, others taken care of in the Nineties.
Another session is from one of our allies, Bill Brodhead, Elevated Radon Levels in High Rise Condominiums From Concrete Emanation. See, it is not just granite countertops that can cause problems. Even if the Radon is coming from low level concrete, there is so much of it in a condo that it can seriously affect the Radon levels in the home. As low as 30 pCi/Sf/Hr will add more Radon than a super hot granite countertop when the floor, ceilings, and walls are made of slightly radioactive cement.
Bill has done some ground breaking testing on granite samples at his Radon lab for us, finding that the backside of some granites can emit as much as 15 times more Radon than the polished front.
DIazAruzo, Haines, and Kitto are presenting a session on the Emission of Radon From Decorative Stone. Dr. Kitto is one of our allies in the testing effort, and this paper covers 35 random stones that were measured for Radon. Fourteen quartz samples were studied as well, which emitted little or no Radon. The study found that Radon from typical granties may be less than 1 pCi/L but can exceed 4 pCi/L in some cases.
Catelinois, Clinard, Aury, Pirad, Noury , Hochard, and Tillier will be presenting a study on the affects of Radon and Lung Cancer in France. They found the granite based Radon areas to be higher, but the sedimentry based Radon was more of a concern because of the increased number of people living in the lowland areas where the sedimentry Radon is present.
Dr. Steck, another of our allies, is presenting a paper on Post Mitigation of Radon Concentrations in Minnesota Homes. Rarely are homes followed up after mitigation systems are installed. This will be important to those who prefer to keep their granite and use ventilation to keep the Radon levels down.
Henry Stewart will be giving a paper on Radon, Thoron and Their Progeny in Lancaster PA Homes, with Dr. Steck, another of our testing effort allies. This study questions the conventional wisdom that Thoron gas can be ignored when testing for Radon because of Thoron’s fast decay times. Some surveys found the Thoron to be higher level than the Radon inside the homes tested.
Radon and Thoron progeny are the elements that the radioactive gases decay into. These heavy metal products can “plate” or stick to humans, clothing, hair, any surface in the rooms. Some of the radiation is stronger than that from the Radon or Thoron itself, in addition to being toxic heavy metals.
Bill Brodhead will be giving a session on Measuring Radon and Thoron Emanation from Concrete and Granite countertops with Continous Radon Monitors and E-Perms. This is the study where he found higher emanation rates from the backside, the unpolished side, of granite countertop samples.
There will also be a panel discussion on Radon professionals in measuring and mitigating Radon from building materials, including granite countertops. Bill Brodhead and Dr. Steck will co chair the discussion along with Wilson and Burkhart.
The issue of granite and Radon has been brought up before at AARST, with little traction on the issue. This time, the joint efforts of the allies in the granite testing effort have placed the issue of Radon and granite countertops at the heart of the conference.
One of our allies, an Industrial Hygeniest from California, found a Juparana Bordeaux (usually called just Bordeaux) that had some seriously high levels of radiation and it also raised the Radon levels in the home.
She used a Geiger counter which found between .1 mR/hr and .7 mR/hr of Alpha, Beta, and Gamma radiation. If the kitchen was used for 4 hours per day for one year, that would be between 146 and 1,022 mR per year exposure. One normally gets around 360 mR radiation per year, with an additional 100 mR per year being the maximum that a person should be exposed to.
When she shielded the meter with plexglass to prevent the Alpha and Beta radiation from being measured, she found between .04 and .06 mR per hour of Gamma radiation. That would give you an additonal gamma dose of 58.4 and 87.6 mR per year. A single source of extra radiation is not supposed to provide more than 25% of the 100 mR extra radiation allowed, with Linda’s measurements showing 58.4% and 87.6% of the allowable yearly dose.
Then the homeowner provided Gamma dosimeters, which measured the same as the blocked Geiger counter, .04 to .06 mR/hr, verifying that her Geiger counter was very accurate. This is the first time that a granite countertop was measured using dosimetery, which proves that the doses being recieved are correct.
Samples of this Bordeaux were tested using Gamma Spectrometry. Uranium 238 was found to be 90 pCi/g (90 pico Curies per gram of stone). Thorium 232 was found to be at 23 pCi/g, and Potassium 38 was at 38 pCi/g, proving that the majority of the radiation was Gamma and that most was coming from Uranium and Thorium, both of which emit a radioactive gas, Radon and Thoron.
The Radon was measured as well. When the meter was covered with a cover to prove that the Radon was coming from the granite countertop, the reading was 1,304 pCi/L, a very large amount of Radon. The kitchen Radon test showed 2.4 pCi/L, over the range that the EPA recomends something be done (2 pCi/L). The hallway test showed 2.4 pCi/L, and one of the bedrooms showed 1.4 pCi/L.
The EPA says that 4 pCi/L of Radon is risk equivilant to smoking a half pack of cigarettes per day, so 2.4 pCi/L is like everyone person that lives in the home smoking 6 cigarettes per day, except the bedroom where the levels would be more like 3.5 cigarettes per day.
One thing stood out from the Gamma Spectrometry that wasn’t confirmed by the test results, the expected Gamma radiation should have been around .17 mR per hour instead of the .4 to .6 actually found. One thing we do know about measuring radiation is that much of the radiation doesn’t actually register on the Geiger counters, being weaker than the minimum needed to penetrate the meter, or so strong that the radiation blasts right through the meter without registering. Another study has shown that as little as 2 to 3% of the radiation present actually is counted from the granite directly under the meter.
When one considers the number of square feet of granite countertop, the fact that the radiation is emitted in a sphere ( in all directions, not just toward the meter), and that the meters catch so little of the radiation, it doesn’t take long to realize that we really can’t say exactly how much radiation is coming off one of these granite countertops.
No doubt this is not enough radiation to immeadiately sicken a human being, but there is absolutely no doubt that it will raise cancer rates, birth defect rates, and misscariage rates for anyone living in the home. Add to that the effects on children, well there is no doubt that this is a potentially dangerous granite countertop.
It will be interesting to see if the granite fabricator replaces this granite top or if he refuses to do the right thing. No doubt there is no law preventing the sale of such high radiation level products, but will that protect him from being responsible for the damages and exposure of this family to hazardous radiation?
This Huligar guy is a bit nuts for doing this. If he is right, no harm will come of it, but if he is wrong, his family will have been exposed to some radiation and Radon needlessly. Furthermore, will anyone trust the results on the Radon levels found? Hardly an objective person to run a test despite a webcam.
It ought to be interesting though no matter the outcome. No mention of what they consider a hot slab to be, but I found the bunch some in Pennsylvania at around 150 uR/hr Gamma.
I spent a few weeks prior to the NY Times story educating this bunch, a few decent guys, a few that wouldn’t accept the scienctific facts. Most are not stone fabricators but stone restorers working out of the trunk of their cars.
But, they are trying something, so I should see where it goes. I’d like to see them get the granite up the four flights of stairs in this guys NY apartment.
Look for NBC to air a long segment on granite countertops on Thursday morning. They interviewed and filmed both Stan Liebert and Dr. Llopes, along with their labs. Some of the samples from the Solid Surface Alliance, look for larger slab remnants with lines and markings on the face and side edges (grid marks).
The MIA has also been interviewed but expect the same old same old dog and pony show. It will be interesting to see how the interviewers take any attempts to confuse.
The regular programing may well be preempted by the hurricane reports, if so, we will find out the next airing time and provide it here.
Note* The story was usupposed to show on Tuesday, but the weather pushed it back. Teases running on Wednsday said to expect the segment on Thursday.
Be ready to stop the video when their notepad listing the results comes on, almost to the end. They don’t mention that the background radiation is higher than most of what they measure, and they apparently don’t realize that you can’t eliminate the background radiation from the measurements.
So nothing under 16 (their background or Alone as they call it) is at all radioactive, in fact, the items tha are lower must be blocking some of the radiation from the countertop under the striped towel covering the countertop.
Since this is from the MIA, I wonder what type of countertop is under that towel? Could it be ……..Granite? Isn’t that special…..
Another thing is very suspicious. This exact meter was shown in the Air Chek video on Radon and geiger counters. Most of the meters read about the same as our meter read that paticular slab of Niagara Gold (yes, that was one of our samples we sent in to show them there were hot slabs out there), 220 uR/hr or so. Yet our meter says our background is around 7 to 8 depending on when and where you measure, but the MIA video is 16 background. What is under that towel?
These kids most likely didn’t know any better, but I bet they were put up to this by a parent that is a MIA member. What a sad lesson to teach a kid, that it is okay to fake video evidence.
And, was there any child labor involved? The young lady was apparently quite hungry, was food withheld before the video? Were the children paid for there work? I do have too much fun with this at times.