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?
One of the many heavy metal radioactive elements that Radon decays into is Polonium 210, one of four Polonium stages that Uranium goes through as it decays. It has been known for more than 40 years that tobacco smoke contains the radioactive substance polonium-210 (PO-210), publicity surrounding the poisoning of former KGB agent Alexander V. Litvinenko with PO-210 in 2006 has heightened awareness of its presence in tobacco smoke.
Here is a link to a very well documented article on Polonium’s links to tobacco smoke. Lower levels will be found in homes with granite, but the radioactive element will be present and present not only a radiation hazard, but a chemical hazard from poisoning.
The ICRP, International Commission on Radiaological Protection, has set the standards for low level radiation protection for many years, but recently some scientists are challenging their risk assesment levels. This comment came from Radsafe, a radiation protection email type forum.
ICRP model in trouble
Scientist report on Uranium toxicity reveals a massive gap in the
scientific modelling of the International Commission on Radiological
Protection (ICRP). There are massive implications for all aspects of
nuclear policy and Uranium weaponry.
“Secondary Photoelectron effect”
The dangers of Uranium may have little to do with its inherent
radioactivity. The Low Level Radiation Campaign’s Dr. Chris Busby has
proposed that genetic damage is caused by the interaction of natural
gamma and other radiation fields with Uranium or any element of high
atomic number. The impact of the gamma causes localised showers of
ionisations close to particles and even single atoms of elements of
atomic number. Research by Busby in conjunction with Pr. Ewald Schnug,
colleague at Germany’s Federal Agricultural Research Centre, is about
be published [see footnote].
All elements absorb gamma radiation and re-emit its energy in the form
of secondary photo-electrons. Their ability to do this varies with the
fourth power of the atomic number of the element; Uranium absorbs gamma
rays 585365 times more effectively than water does. The shower of
localised ionisations caused by the secondary photo-electrons creates a
mechanism for genetic damage which is ignored by the conventional model
of radiation risk. (The arithmetic is in LLRC’s journal Radioactive
Times April 2008 page 8. www.llrc.org/rat/subrat/rat72.pdf)
In 2003 Busby reported this “Secondary Photoelectron effect” to the
British Government’s Committee Examining Radiation Risk of Internal
Emitters (CERRIE). It was one of the many important topics omitted by
the CERRIE Majority Report. Subsequently Busby published two papers
footnote] and described the effect to the UK Ministry of Defence
Depleted Uranium Oversight Board and CoRWM (Committee on Radioactive
Heavy metal poisoning
The New Scientist has discussed the Secondary Photoelectron effect only
in relation to Depleted Uranium, although it has far wider relevance.
has potential to explain why heavy metals are toxic. Heavy metal
toxicity exists despite wide differences in chemistry; until now no-one
has understood the reason.
Uranium DNA affinity
Uranium itself has a high affinity for the phosphates in the DNA
molecule and it is known that, at small total body burdens of Uranium,
very high proportion of it will be on the DNA. Meditated by the
Secondary Photoelectron effect, Uranium focuses the energy of natural
gamma radiation onto DNA. This has the potential to explain observed
high risks of genetic diseases associated with nuclear facilities and
events like Chernobyl which are ignored by the ICRP and sneered at by
the pro-nuclear International Atomic Energy Agency and the World Health
Organisation (which has to defer to IAEA in matters of radiation and
The mining, processing, use and disposal of Uranium must now be seen as
creating health hazards far greater than predicted by the ICRP’s out of
date modelling. There are extremely important policy implications for
nuclear power, disposal of radioactive waste, and nuclear weapons
(including depleted Uranium and new generations of weapons containing
other types of Uranium).
As LLRC has said since 1992, the effects of other types of radioactive
pollution have probably been underestimated too, but it now seems that
Uranium is the dominant problem.
New light on Busby’s “Second Event theory”
In the last 20 years Chris Busby has proposed his “Second Event theory”
as a possible explanation of how radioactive elements that decay more
than once (Strontium 90 is an example) may have a greater effect on
genetic mutation. A first radioactive disintegration that hits a cell
without killing it forces the cell to repair itself. If a second
disintegration hits the same cell during the repair process, which
a few hours, it may cause a mutation that the cell cannot repair. This
is all in Wings of
Supporters of nuclear power have attacked the theory, not least because
they said radiation could not initiate the repair process in cells, but
in the New Scientist article the ICRP’s Hans-Georg Menzel accepts that
“double hits of energy are known to be the most damaging to cells.” The
Majority Report of CERRIE denied this in 2004 after long arguments. See
Report (http://www.llrc.org/wobblyscience/subtopic/cerrie.htm) for the
true state of the debate on the Second Event theory.
The Secondary Photoelectron effect is now seen to be another case of
general Second Event theory, describing how sequences of radiation
events can be concentrated into very localised cellular targets. These
considerations make nonsense of the conventional model of radiation
biology, which views radiation in terms of average energy transfer
across large volumes of tissue. The old concept of “dose” is now useful
only for those exposure regimes where the radiation truly is
well-averaged. The regulation of radioactivity in the environment is
about to enter a new phase in which “ionisation density” will be the
In the New Scientist article Mark Hill of Oxford University is reported
as saying that Compton scattering would reduce the importance of the
secondary photo-electron effect. However, Hill only discusses high
energy gamma; the low energy part of the natural gamma spectrum will
create relatively high ionisation densities with a correspondingly
enhanced probability of causing double hits to DNA.
accessible to subscribers
but it is free on
The Low Level Radiation Campaign plays a key role in all this. LLRC
funds much of Dr. Busby’s research. It was LLRC’s publicity material
that alerted Professor Schnug to Dr. Busby’s existence, and our office
put them in touch with each other. It was our journal Radioactive Times
that alerted New Scientist to the imminent publication of Busby and
Schnug’s new paper.
LLRC does all this and much more on a microscopic budget, but we need
money. Please consider a donation. http://www.llrc.org/donation.htm
tells you how you can give money – cheques, Standing Orders, transfers,
and Paypal (you don’t need to have a Paypal account of your own)
Clicking on this
charset=UTF-8> link takes you to our Paypal account, which is a safe
to send money and costs you nothing.
You can do this even if you don’t have a Paypal account – when the
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1. “Advanced Biochemical and Biophysical Aspects of Uranium
Contamination”. Chris Busby and Ewald Schnug: Institute of Plant
Nutrition and Soil Science, Federal Agricultural Research Centre (FAL),
Bundesallee 50, D-38116 Braunschweig, Germany in “Loads and Fate of
Fertilizer Derived Uranium”, pp. xx-xx Edited by L.J. De Kok & E.
(c) 2007 Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, The Netherlands
2 Busby C (2005) Depleted Uranium weapons, Metal Particles, and
Radiation Dose European Journal of Biology and Bioelectromagnetics Vol
No 1 p 82-93 www.ebab.eu.com
3. Busby C (2005) Does Uranium Contamination amplify natural background
radiation dose to DNA?
European Journal of Biology and Bioelectromagnetics Vol 1 No 2 p
This news anchor has the news brought too close to home in this interview.
Dr. Subash Rashat of Hera Tech inc, Cherry Hill, NJ, talks about the heath effects of Radon from granite countertops. Dr. Rashat is an environmental Toxicologist. His English could use some work, but his answers are firm and unequivocal.
Three of my favorite quotes from this video.
“So we should have our granite tested for Radon and if we find it we should get rid of it?”
“Why are they using granite at all if in fact it is dangerous to our health?”
Great segment on the issues, with a Phd in Environmental Toxicology setting the record straight.
This article is about the differences between a govt funded study and an industry funded study. Most of us would be skeptical of any study funded by an industry group, but is it chicanery or subtle biases that skew the results?
In looking at studies done on plastic bottles with BPA content, this is what was found:
” More than 90 percent of the 100-plus government-funded studies performed by independent scientists found health effects from low doses of BPA, while none of the fewer than two dozen chemical-industry-funded studies did. ”
A close rorrelation between the funding source and the studies result is called the “funding effect”. Apparently the scientists make decisions about methods, exposure methods and definitions they use and each decision affects the result of the study.
There is little debate about the existence of the funding effect, but what was suprising was how it often effected the studies. Assuming it was shoddy science or manipulation turned out to be quite wrong, malpractice happens, but it seems that the quality of the studies was not the problem.
Instead, the problem turned out to be asking the right question in the study. If the scientist wants to make his sponsors product look better than the competition, all he has to do is compare the product to one that doesn’t work well, use a higher or lower exposure or dose or publish a single study many times to creat the appearance of supporting studies when in fact there is only one.
There was no surprise when the tobacco companies were found to be experts at this type of “research”, and the editors of scientific journals concluded that having a stake in the outcome made studies suspect regardless of the reputation of the scientists involved.
De linking the research was found to be the answer, something that your average Joe or Jane could have pointed out without a study.
Some one should tell this to the MIA. The major difference between our effort and theirs is that our effort is depending completely on independent researchers and organizations to do the science. Having little cash is an asset, no money to hire it done and the ability to interest researchers to look into these issues will insure that we don’t fall into the trap that the MIA has blundered into, using unpublished studies from hired consultants.
This Italian study lays out the issues of Radon and Thoron based radiation issues clearly. They lay out the strict correlation between Radon/Thoron and health risks while admiting that sometimes building material based Radon or Thoron are the most likely cause of high levels in a home.
Their materials in the study come from the Lazio region of Italy. Mostly igneous rocks, lava based, although they include some travertines. They point out that as much as 30% loss of result from leakage and back diffusion of the Radon. Back diffusion is where the Radon returns to the material instead of accumulating where it can be measured.
Another point is that moisture content actually raises the Radon release, the water inside the pores stops the Radon atom from recoiling into another crystal matrix inside the stone, stopping the Radon inside the pores and crevices where it can find its way out of the stone. Looking at Table 2, you can see the huge diference in Radon versus Thoron emitted in some stones, yet many of the Radon tests specifically omit any Thoron results as irrelevant. As much as 750 times more Thoron as Radon emitted.
The study has five conclusions, that building materials need to be classified by their Radon/Thoron exhalation rates, that leakage and back diffusion must be accounted for since it can reduce the measured levels by up to 30%, that the exhalation rates are dependent on grain size, humidity and temprature, that Thoron gas is a serious health concern and should not be dismissed, and that there should be catalogs of materials with Radon and Thoron exhalation rates so that builders could choose low level materials.
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.
The Attorneys have been adversting for granite countertop clients for a while now, but this one makes one realize just how important getting in front of the issue will be for the stone industry.
This lady may have a strong case, but what I read is more about her health problems being blamed on her granite countertop. I could be wrong, but I would have liked to have seen some mention that it was a high level Radon or radiation granite before pinning the blame on the countertop.
But the granite industry has left a problem hanging out there and this should be expected.
This is an older study, but it is important because it shows that the issue of radiation in building materials has been brought up again and again over the years. Granted that in Europe this issue of radioactive building materials was dealt with with regulation, it still took some time to get it passed.