Have you seen the rather depressing article in the New York Times about how our kitchen countertops are going to kill us all one day?
OK, it didn't exactly said that. The article was specifically about granite countertops--most of which are apparently only a little bit radioactive.
Gosh, that's reassuring.
The article goes on to talk about scary things like radon emissions and lung cancer. And it notes that the EPA has been getting more and more calls from homeowners and radon inspectors lately, saying they're getting "radiation measurements several times above background levels" from their granite countertops.
“It’s not that all granite is dangerous,” said one expert, “but I’ve seen a few that might heat up your Cheerios a little.”
Of course there are conflicting quotes from various sources, some saying the risk is so minimal you should worry more about being struck by lightning; others saying any radiation exposure is a bad thing, and that some countertops are really freakin HOT. (And not in a good way).
According to the EPA's radon guide, radon is "a cancer-causing, radioactive gas," something you'd probably rather not have much of in your house. And it's not just granite countertops: "radon comes from the natural (radioactive) breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water and gets into the air you breathe."
Yikes. I'm kind of attached to the air I breathe and would have difficulties giving it up.
The only way to know if you have a radon problem, either in your countertops or your house generally, is to test for it. Doesn't matter if you don't have granite surfaces and live in an area without a known problem, you could just be unlucky and have this creepy stuff silently poisoning you even as you're scurrying around making sure you're using green cleaning products and fragrance free toiletries and eating only organic food.
Great. Another new scary might-give-you-cancer thing to worry about. My list is ridiculously long already, guess I might as well throw radon on there too.
Fortunately, if you're concerned, you can test for radon yourself. Apparently there are inexpensive test kits out there, though none of the helpful radon sites I went to seemed to link to where you could order one. I'm thinking testing might make more sense than worrying, so I may need to spend a few minutes on Google to find a good test kit--unless any of you radon-savvy folks have recommendations.
But anyway, I was not thrilled to read about the killer granite countertops. When we moved to the East Coast this spring we did some renovations on our new place. And one of the first things we did... can you guess? Yep, we replaced the aging synthetic something-or-other countertops with brand-spankin'-new granite countertops.
Who's to Blame for the Shocking Health Hazard in our Home?
Blaming "mother nature" for a "natural radioactive breakdown" is a bit unsatisfying. Perhaps we could fault the governmental regulatory agencies for not warning us, or the granite countertop makers for not testing the stuff to make sure it was safe before sending it to our houses?
But that's the same old rant again, right? Let's look for another culprit, one that may be lurking in your house too...
Hmm, why did we pick granite countertops in the first place? Why not go with, say, ceramic tile: a humble but durable material we were perfectly happy with back in our old California place?
Here's why: we watch HGTV.
And the reason we may now have a radioactive kitchen is because the Home and Garden Network bullied us into putting in granite countertops!
It's true. They made us do it!
Have you ever watched HGTV? Whether it's a show about searching for a home, buying a home, selling a home, or renovating a home, one is left with a consistent message: Should you ever want to sell someday, no one will ever, ever buy your place if your kitchen does not have granite countertops and stainless steel appliances.
Who made up this stupid rule? What if you don't even like stainless steel or granite? Well, tough luck. Doesn't matter. Buyers "expect" it, so you better have it.
We know, of course, that this is the height of idiocy.
In fact, we scoff at these shows--the way they insinuate that we should toss out perfectly good appliances because they are the wrong color. We laugh at spoiled young couples who wouldn't think of living in a house unless it had ginormous walk-in closets and bathrooms the size of bus stations.
But... we also couldn't help paying attention. Having just sold, bought, and remodelled ourselves, we were fascinated by the whole subject. House shows are like porn for the middle-aged, and you don't even have to draw the shades to watch it.
Some of the shows are like little morality plays. Hard work pays off! Greed gets you in trouble! Look before you leap! Use your head before spending money!
We really didn't want to be that family who replaced their dining room with an indoor hot tub--and then couldn't figure out why their house wouldn't sell.
So when we realized the aging countertops in our new place needed to go, how could we ignore the constant HGTV imperative to buy granite? To ignore that would to become those poor hot tub people.
But I do wish at least one of the hundred times they mentioned a glorious granite countertop, they could have maybe slipped in, "on the down side, it might give you lung cancer?"
Maybe it's about time to just turn off the tv.
Anyone else have thoughts on the increasingly carcinogenic world around us, the lure of home and garden shows, kitchens, remodeling, or anything else?