Morning Show Fuels Countertop Cancer Fears

     Harry Smith, co-host of CBS’s “The Early Show,” warned viewers on July 25 that radioactivity what might be “lurking inside” their granite countertops despite the risk being close to “one in a million.”


     “I mean some people have gone so far as to tear their kitchen counters out because of the concern,” Smith said to Stanley Liebert, the quality assurance director at CMT Laboratories. “There’s granite all over the place in modern kitchens, sometimes have a little breakfast nook. You sit there; you may sit there hours and hours and hours in a day.”


     Accordign to Liebert, radon gas is a “carcinogen gas that we inhale [that] causes lung cancer,” and it is emitted from certain types of granite and could be harmful.


     Smith showed some skepticism, though, saying, “I’m having a difficult time getting my head around the idea that the countertops in your home might literally be dangerous.”


     Despite that, no representatives for the granite counter industry were included in the CBS report.


     The New York Times covered the story July 24 and cited the Marble Institute of America, a trade group that represents the makers of granite.


     The Times said allegations of radon and radiation in granite counter tops have been raised periodically over the past decade, “mostly by makers and distributors of competing countertop materials.”


     The Marble Institute of America told the Times the recent claims were “ludicrous” because although granite is known to “contain uranium and other radioactive materials like thorium and potassium, the amounts in countertops are not enough to pose a health threat.”


     David J. Brenner, director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University in New York, pointed out to the Times the cancer risk from granite countertops is “on the order of one in a million.”


     But Brenner also said, “If you can choose another counter that doesn’t elevate your risk, however slightly, why wouldn’t you?”


     The Times also talked to Liebert, the source CBS used for its story. He was quoted in the article saying, “It’s not that all granite is dangerous, but I’ve seen a few that might heat up your Cheerios a little.”