Quartz countertops have become an extremely popular option for kitchen and bathroom remodeling projects in recent years. Made from ground quartz crystals combined with resins and pigments, these engineered stone slabs are praised for their durability, low maintenance, and customizability. However, some homeowners have expressed concerns about potential radon emissions from quartz countertops. Here is a detailed look at what radon is, whether quartz emits it, and how to ensure your countertops are radon-free.
What is Radon?
Radon is a radioactive gas that occurs naturally when uranium breaks down in soil, rock, and water. It is invisible, odorless, and tasteless. Radon escapes from the ground and moves up through the soil where it can enter homes through cracks and openings in the foundation. Long-term exposure to elevated radon levels can increase one’s risk of developing lung cancer. In fact, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.
The EPA estimates that nearly 1 out of every 15 homes in the U.S. has elevated radon levels above 4 pCi/L, which is considered dangerous. Because you can’t detect radon without testing, homes should be checked for radon. Levels can vary greatly from house to house, even on the same street.
Do Quartz Countertops Emit Radon?
Quartz is an engineered stone made from roughly 90% ground quartz crystals and 10% polymer resins and pigments. The quartz used in countertops is mined from the earth, which means there are trace amounts of naturally-occurring uranium. As the uranium decays, it produces radon gas.
However, quartz countertops do not typically emit dangerous levels of radon for a few key reasons:
- Dilution – When quartz crystals are combined with resins/polymers, any radon is significantly diluted.
- Processing – Heating and pressurization during manufacturing forces any radon out of the slabs.
- Sealing – After installation, quartz counters are sealed which contains any remaining radon gas.
Studies by the Health Physics Society, Marble Institute, and EPA have not found any evidence of quartz countertops emitting radon at levels that would be considered dangerous by homeowner standards.
How to Ensure Your Quartz Countertops are Radon-Free
While the risks are minimal, it is understandable for homeowners to want to take extra precautions concerning radon and quartz counters. Here are some tips:
- Test your home – Hire a certified professional to test the radon levels in your house. This will establish a baseline before installation.
- Ask about sourcing – Inquire with your fabricator about the source of the raw quartz crystals used in your slabs. Some sources have higher uranium content.
- Seal properly – Ensure your installer properly seals the quartz counters during fabrication to contain any radon. Use low-VOC sealants.
- Increase ventilation – Improve air circulation under and around the counters with vents to dilute any gas.
- Re-test levels – Have a radon test performed after installation to confirm levels are still safe.
- Add a vent fan – If follow-up testing reveals elevated radon, you can install a radon mitigation vent fan on an exterior wall which draws gas outdoors.
With proper sourcing, sealing, testing, and ventilation, homeowners can confidently install stylish, durable quartz counters that are radon-free. Talk to your fabricator if you have any concerns.
Frequently Asked Questions About Quartz Countertops and Radon
Does quartz countertops have radon?
In most cases, no. While quartz contains trace uranium that decays into radon, studies show countertops do not emit dangerous levels due to dilution, processing, and sealing. Home radon tests before and after installation can confirm your counters are radon-free.
Should I be concerned about radon in my quartz?
Radon exposure risks from quartz countertops are very low. Have your home’s radon levels tested annually, ensure proper sealing during fabrication, increase ventilation, and re-test after install for peace of mind.
How much radon do quartz counters emit?
Negligible amounts, if any. Countertop industry groups have found quartz emits radon at background levels well below the EPA’s 4 pCi/L action level. Proper sourcing and fabrication contain any radon in countertops.
Do some quartz counters have more radon than others?
Potentially. Raw quartz from certain sources may have higher natural uranium content. Ask your fabricator about the specific quartz source and any radon testing. Reputable manufacturers utilize low-radon quartz.
Should I seal my quartz counters annually?
Sealing is recommended every 1-2 years for optimal stain resistance. While not mandatory for radon, re-sealing ensures counters remain properly sealed if any cracks or pinholes develop over time. Use low-VOC sealants.
The natural beauty and durability of quartz makes it a coveted countertop material, but radon concerns are understandable. With proper home testing, counter sealing, and ventilation, quartz countertops pose a negligible radon risk. Being an informed buyer, asking the right questions, and taking safety precautions allows you to confidently install stylish, low-maintenance quartz counters that are radon-free. Work with reputable professionals to ensure your counters do not have radon.