Quartz countertops have become increasingly popular in recent years due to their durability, low maintenance, and stylish appearance. However, some concerns have been raised about the potential health risks of quartz countertops. In this article, we will examine the evidence behind these claims and help you make an informed decision about whether quartz countertops are bad for your health.
What is Quartz?
Quartz countertops, also known as engineered stone, are made from ground natural quartz crystals combined with resins and pigments. The quartz content typically ranges from 90-94%. The remaining 6-10% consists of polymers and pigments that bind the crystals together and give the material its color and pattern.
Compared to natural stone countertops like granite and marble, quartz is non-porous, stain-resistant, and less prone to damage. The resins make quartz more flexible and heat-resistant as well. This makes quartz an ideal low-maintenance material for busy kitchens.
Potential Health Concerns of Quartz Countertops
One of the major concerns around quartz countertops is the potential release of radon gas. Radon is a radioactive gas that occurs naturally in some rock formations that contain uranium. Granite countertops have come under scrutiny for radon emissions, and some fear quartz may also pose a risk.
However, research shows that quartz emits significantly lower levels of radon compared to granite. Quartz is engineered from purified quartz crystals, minimizing radioactive contaminants like uranium. Levels of radon gas from quartz countertops are considered negligible and well below the EPA safety threshold.
Quartz is bound together by polyester resins that can off-gas VOCs (volatile organic compounds) for a period after installation. VOCs are carbon-containing chemicals that vaporize at room temperature. Short-term exposure can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation, nausea, and headaches in some individuals.
However, studies indicate that VOC emissions decrease substantially after the first few days and are undetectable after 3-4 weeks of proper ventilation. Quartz manufacturers also continue to develop low-VOC and zero-VOC resins to further minimize any potential VOC risk.
Cutting and fabricating quartz produces silica dust which can be dangerous if inhaled over prolonged periods. Chronic silica dust exposure is linked to lung cancer and silicosis. However, with adequate precautions, this is only a hazard for countertop installers and fabricators, not homeowners.
Quartz countertops purchased prefabricated will not release silica dust in your home. Professional installers also take measures like using wet cutting methods to control silica dust.
Tips to Minimize Health Risks from Quartz
- Ventilate properly after installation – Keep windows open to allow VOCs to dissipate. After 3-4 weeks, VOC levels subside.
- Select low or no-VOC quartz – Many brands now offer low-VOC or VOC-free options that off-gas minimal to zero VOCs.
- Seal countertops annually – Sealing minimizes surface pores where bacteria can grow. Look for food-safe sealants.
- Clean with non-toxic cleaners – Avoid harsh chemicals and abrasives. Use gentle, non-toxic cleaners.
- Check radon levels – EPA recommends all homes be tested for radon regardless of countertop material.
The Bottom Line
Available evidence indicates quartz countertops pose minimal health risks in the home environment with proper selection and maintenance. Radon levels are well below EPA safety levels. Potential VOC emissions subside within weeks after install. And prefabricated quartz does not release silica dust. With some basic precautions, quartz countertops are unlikely to present any significant health hazard. Their durability and easy-care properties still make them one of the most popular options for today’s busy kitchens.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can quartz countertops cause cancer?
There is no evidence that quartz countertops cause cancer. The biggest cancer concern with quartz is silica dust exposure to fabricators and installers. But for homeowners, quartz countertops purchased prefabricated do not release harmful silica dust. Radon levels are also below EPA safety thresholds.
Do quartz countertops emit radiation?
All stones contain trace levels of radiation, but quartz emits radiation at extremely low levels. Quartz contains barely detectable amounts of radioactive uranium, typically averaging around 10 Bq/kg. This is far below granites, which can emit over 200 Bq/kg. At these low quartz levels, radiation exposure is negligible.
Should I seal my quartz countertops?
Sealing quartz countertops is recommended to minimize pores where bacteria can accumulate. Look for food-safe sealants approved for use on quartz. Reapply annually. Sealing also makes quartz more stain-resistant.
How long does off-gassing of VOCs last with quartz?
Off-gassing of VOCs is most noticeable in the first few days after quartz installation. With proper ventilation, VOC levels substantially decrease within 3-4 weeks. Selecting low or no-VOC quartz further minimizes this concern.
Is quartz more sanitary than granite?
Quartz’s non-porous surface makes it more stain and bacteria-resistant than natural stone. However, granite and other stones can approach quartz’s sanitation if properly sealed. Regardless of material, all countertops should be cleaned regularly.
While no material is perfectly risk-free, quartz countertops present minimal health hazards for homeowners when properly maintained. With simple precautions like ventilation, low-VOC varieties, sealing and non-toxic cleaners, quartz makes an excellent choice for durable, hygienic and stylish kitchen countertops. Selecting quality prefabricated slabs handled by professionals also avoids any risks from cutting and fabrication. For most homeowners, the benefits of quartz outweigh negligible concerns. With proper care, quartz countertops are safe to enjoy in your home.