Quartz countertops have become immensely popular in recent years due to their durability, aesthetic appeal, and low maintenance. However, some concerns have been raised about whether quartz countertops may contain toxic substances. Here is a comprehensive look at the question – are quartz countertops non-toxic?
What is Quartz?
Quartz is a mineral found abundantly in nature. It is composed of silicon and oxygen atoms. Natural quartz is considered very stable and non-reactive. Engineered quartz is made by combining ground natural quartz with resins, polymers, and pigments. This creates a durable, flexible, and customizable surface for countertops.
Are Quartz Countertops Toxic?
The short answer is no – quartz countertops are generally considered non-toxic. Here are the key facts:
Made from Natural Ingredients
Quartz countertops contain a high percentage of ground natural quartz crystals, which are non-toxic. The resin binders used to form the material are also non-hazardous.
Quartz has very low emissions of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). VOCs can have short-term health effects. Quartz emits negligible levels of VOCs, comparable to background levels found in nature.
NSF/ANSI 51 Certified
Most major quartz countertop brands meet NSF/ANSI 51 standards for food safety. To gain certification, products are tested for hazardous substances and compliance with health and safety regulations. This confirms quartz counters are non-toxic.
Quartz contains trace levels of natural radiation from the quartz crystals. However, research indicates quartz counters emit radiation far below health concern levels and meet EPA standards.
Quartz counters are made with recycled materials like glass, mirrors, and natural stone. They require less energy and water to manufacture than other countertops. The material is also recyclable.
Why the Toxicity Concerns?
Some early studies raised concerns about potential toxicity in quartz counters:
- Breast Cancer Study: A 2013 study found quartz counters may leak estrogenic chemicals, linked to breast cancer. However, the study did not assess actual health impacts. Subsequent reviews found quartz tops emit negligible levels of chemicals that pose no significant health risk.
- Silica Dust: Cutting and fabricating quartz can produce silica dust, linked to lung disease. However proper precautions minimize risk. Finished installed counters do not release silica dust.
- Resin Concerns: Some claimed the resins used in quartz contain toxic substances like formaldehyde, acrylic, and styrene. However, reputable manufacturers use FDA-approved, food-safe resins that are non-hazardous.
- Radioactivity: Natural quartz contains trace uranium, thorium, and radium. However, quartz counters emit radiation far below danger levels set by health organizations. Other common materials also contain natural radioactivity at similar trace levels.
Are Quartz Countertops Safe for Your Health?
With over 20 years of use, quartz counters have demonstrated an excellent health and safety record. Extensive testing by health agencies has found quartz materials safely meet regulatory standards for hazardous substances and radiation. When installed and maintained properly, quartz counters do not release any toxic substances that pose a significant health risk in home environments. Leading cancer and health organizations, along with environmental watchdogs like Greenguard, have certified major quartz countertop brands as meeting strict health and safety standards.
How to Choose Non-Toxic Quartz
To ensure you select non-toxic quartz, follow these guidelines:
- Reputable Brands: Stick with top brands like Caesarstone, Cambria, and Silestone that have excellent safety records and certifications.
- NSF Certification: Look for the NSF 51 seal to confirm food-safe resins. Also check for NSF Radon certification.
- Low VOC: Choose low VOC emitting quartz verified by UL Greencard or SCS Global Services.
- Radon Testing: Ask your supplier to provide radon test results for their quartz material. Levels should be negligible.
- Product Specs: Review product technical specs for assurances of meeting safety standards for chemicals, VOCs, and radiation. Reputable brands provide detailed docs on their materials.
Are There Any Alternatives to Quartz?
For homeowners concerned about any potential toxicity issues, some alternative countertop materials also offer non-toxic choices:
- Soapstone & Concrete: Made from natural materials soapstone and concrete counters are praised as eco-friendly non-toxic options. However, they require more maintenance.
- Wood: Sustainably sourced and finished hardwood provides a warm non-toxic surface. But it can be prone to scratching and water damage.
- Laminate: Affordable and safe laminate counters are available but not considered as durable or stylish as quartz.
- Ceramic Tile: Tile makes an economical non-toxic countertop. But the grouted seams can trap bacteria and require more cleaning.
- Stainless Steel: Hygenic and non-toxic steel counters are ideal for restaurants and industrial kitchens but show wear in homes.
The Bottom Line
When sourced responsibly from reputable brands, quartz countertops provide a durable, stylish, and completely non-toxic surface for kitchens and bathrooms. Extensive research and strict safety certifications verify quartz counters do not pose health hazards from dangerous chemicals, VOCs or radiation. With proper maintenance and cleaning, quartz countertops are considered one of the safest non-toxic modern countertop choices.