Is Quartz Countertop Healthy?

Quartz countertops have become increasingly popular in recent years as an attractive, durable, and low-maintenance option for kitchen and bathroom remodeling projects. However, some concerns have been raised over the potential health risks associated with quartz surfaces. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll examine the evidence behind the claims and provide recommendations for consumers considering quartz countertops.

What is Quartz?

Quartz is a man-made engineered stone composed of ground natural quartz crystals combined with resins, polymers, and pigments under high heat and pressure. The quartz content typically makes up 90-94% of the material, while the rest consists of binding agents like polyester resins.

Compared to natural stone like granite and marble, quartz offers consistent coloring and patterning since it is manufactured. The resins allow quartz to be molded into a variety of shapes and designs. Quartz surfaces are non-porous, making them resistant to stains, scratches, heat, and bacteria growth.

Brands like Caesarstone, Cambria, and Silestone have popularized quartz for countertop surfaces with claims of beauty, durability, and low maintenance needs. Quartz now accounts for over 10% of annual countertop installations.

Is Quartz Toxic? Concerns over Quartz Emissions

In recent years, concerns have emerged about the potential toxicity of quartz surfaces. Here are the key concerns that have been raised:

Silica Dust from Fabrication

Crystalline silica makes up a significant portion of natural quartz. Cutting and fabricating quartz produces silica dust which is known to increase risks of lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, kidney disease when inhaled over time.

Fortunately, OSHA regulations require countertop fabricators to use water and vacuum dust collection systems to control silica exposure. Consumers should verify their fabricator follows OSHA standards for a quartz installation.

Respiratory Irritation from VOCs

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are released as gases from the resins and polymers used to produce quartz slabs. At high concentrations, VOCs can cause eye, nose and throat irritation.

However, studies show that quartz emissions fall within indoor air quality standards once installed, especially as the slabs fully cure within a few weeks. Proper ventilation is recommended during the initial curing phase.

Radioactive Radon Gas

Since quartz surfaces contain natural stone, some have raised concerns about radon gas emissions. Radon is a radioactive gas that occurs naturally in granite, marble and other rocks. High radon levels are linked to an increased lung cancer risk.

Extensive testing by the EPA and consumer groups has found radon emissions from quartz are well below the EPA’s threshold of concern for indoor air. Granite emits more radon on average than engineered quartz.

Potential Carcinogens

A 2018 story by Consumer Reports highlighted concerns that crushed quartz could potentially leach trace amounts of carcinogens like nickel and formaldehyde.

However, follow up studies by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) using standard foodCONTACTlab testing protocols did not detect concerning levels of these substances leaching from quartz countertops.

Are There Any Proven Health Risks?

To date, no scientific studies have conclusively linked quartz countertops to adverse health effects once installed. Here’s a summary of the evidence:

  • Silica dust is a concern during fabrication if proper precautions aren’t taken, but not during use.
  • VOC off-gassing meets indoor air quality standards shortly after installation.
  • Radon emissions are negligible – less than from granite.
  • No carcinogens have been detected leaching at concerning levels per standard food contact tests.

While occasional claims of quartz toxicity persist online, a review of the scientific literature reveals a lack of hard evidence implicating quartz countertops as a health hazard in the home.

Tips for Consumers Considering Quartz

Based on the current evidence, quartz surfaces pose minimal health risks for household use when installed correctly. Here are some tips for consumers considering quartz:

  • Ask about fabrication – Inquire about your fabricator’s safety standards for controlling silica dust. Require water-cooled cutting and vacuum dust collection.
  • Ventilate after install – Allow fresh air circulation to dissipate any initial VOCs – open windows and use fans as needed.
  • Seal properly – Ensure countertops are completely sealed, especially around edges, sinks, and faucets to prevent moisture intrusion.
  • Clean regularly – Follow manufacturer guidelines to keep surfaces clean and free of residue buildup. Avoid abrasive chemicals.
  • Consider alternative materials – If you remain concerned about quartz, natural stone, wood, laminate, and tile may meet your needs.
  • Compare benefits vs risks – Quartz offers many advantages that warrant consideration if health risks are minimal in context.

With basic precautions, quartz countertops should not pose any unique health hazards compared to other common materials used in home remodeling.

The Pros and Cons of Quartz Countertops

Now that we’ve examined the potential health concerns around quartz, let’s take a balanced look at the pros and cons compared to other popular countertop options.

Pros of Quartz Countertops

  • Attractive consistent colors and patterns
  • Highly durable and scratch/chip resistant
  • Resists stains from spills and oils
  • Non-porous – inhibits bacteria growth
  • Low maintenance needs
  • Molding capabilities for integrated sinks/backsplashes
  • Neutral tones suit modern and traditional kitchens
  • Adds value for home resale

Cons of Quartz Countertops

  • Higher cost than laminate; more affordable than natural stone
  • Limited very dark and very light colors
  • Requires periodic resealing of seams and edges
  • Can chip from heavy impacts
  • Heat sensitive – requires trivets for hot pans
  • Manufactured appearance lacks natural stone variation
  • Concerns about off-gassing, though not proven risky

Comparisons to Other Countertop Materials

How does quartz stack up against popular alternatives on factors beyond health impacts? Here’s an overview:

Granite Countertops

Pros: Natural beauty with unique veining; heat and scratch resistant

Cons: Requires more sealing; can stain; higher maintenance

Cost: $80-150 per sq.ft. installed

Granite is more prone to harboring bacteria but otherwise lacks the health concerns of quartz. Consumers preferring natural stone may find granite more appealing.

Marble Countertops

Pros: Elegant classic look; easily polished; heat resistant

Cons: Easily etched/scratched; stains easily; high maintenance

Cost: $100-250 per sq.ft installed

Marble is susceptible to damage from acids. Baking soda or vinegar spills can etch the surface. Marble requires diligent sealing and polishing to stay beautiful.

Laminate Countertops

Pros: Most affordable option; wide variety of colors/patterns

Cons: Prone to scratches, burns, and water damage.

Cost: $20-50 per sq.ft. installed

Laminate counters are the most budget-friendly choice but lack durability compared to stone and quartz. Health concerns are minimal.

Butcher Block Countertops

Pros: Warm wood tones; easily renewable finish

Cons: Prone to scratches; needs resealing; can warp

Cost: $60-100 per sq.ft. installed

Wood brings natural beauty without toxicity concerns, but requires regular maintenance to retain its look.

Ceramic/Porcelain Tile Countertops

Pros: Durable, heat/stain resistant, easy to clean

Cons: Grout needs resealing; tiles can crack/chip

Cost: $10-50 per sq.ft. installed

Tile makes an affordable countertop option, though grout lines can trap bacteria. Glazed ceramic resists scratches well.

Maintaining Healthy Quartz Countertops

When properly sealed, cleaned and cared for, quartz countertops will provide many years of reliable, low maintenance service. Here are some tips for keeping quartz surfaces in top condition after installation:

  • Inspect seals around edges and joints periodically and reapply caulk or silicone as needed to prevent moisture intrusion.
  • Use trivets, hot pads or cutting boards to protect quartz from excess heat or heavy knife impacts that could cause chips.
  • Clean spills promptly with a soft cloth and mild soap/detergent – avoid abrasive pads.
  • Disinfect surfaces regularly with diluted bleach or quartz-safe products to kill germs.
  • Reseal quartz every 1-2 years using a penetrating sealer made for engineered stone.
  • Check manufacturer care guidelines – some advise avoiding acidic cleaners that can dull the surface.
  • Do not place extremely hot pans (over 300°F) directly on quartz surfaces.

With routine care, quartz offers the best combination of health safety, beauty, and convenience compared to natural stone and other countertops. While occasional health concerns persist in some consumer circles, scientific evidence does not indicate any serious risks associated with quartz surfaces. Consumers should weigh the benefits and alternatives when choosing countertops while following basic usage and maintenance best practices. With prudent precautions, quartz offers homeowners an attractive, durable, and safe option for kitchen and bath remodeling projects.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is quartz more toxic than granite?

No, quartz is not medically proven to be more toxic than natural granite. Granite actually emits slightly higher levels of radon gas on average but is not considered dangerous. Both materials are safe for countertops with basic precautions.

Can quartz make you sick?

There is no scientific evidence that properly installed and maintained quartz countertops cause illness in otherwise healthy people. Occasional consumer anecdotes of symptoms exist, but quartz emissions meet indoor air quality standards.

Is quartz cancerous?

No tests have detected carcinogenic materials like nickel or formaldehyde leaching from quartz slabs at levels that would pose a cancer risk based on current research. Quartz is considered non-toxic for household use.

Is quartz safe for food prep?

Yes, quartz is NSF/ANSI certified safe for food contact and preparation when properly sealed. Its non-porous nature resists bacteria growth. Maintain cleanliness just like other countertops.

Does quartz off-gas VOCs?

New quartz counters can emit low levels of VOCs that dissipate over a few weeks. Keeping the kitchen ventilated during initial curing is recommended but emissions fall within safe limits once fully aired out.

Can you seal quartz countertops?

Yes, sealing quartz every 1-2 years is recommended to enhance stain resistance and moisture protection, especially around edges and seams. Use a penetrating sealer formulated for engineered stone.

What are signs of unhealthy quartz?

Cracking, pits, and etching from chemical damage can allow bacteria growth. Make sure quartz is properly sealed all around, especially near sinks. Disinfect and clean regularly. Replace damaged quartz.


In closing, quartz countertops remain a popular choice for busy kitchens and baths due to their resilience, beauty, and modern appeal. Concerns around potential toxicity are understandable, but current research indicates quartz poses minimal health risks with prudent use and care. For homeowners seeking an attractive, durable, and low maintenance option, quartz still warrants consideration along with natural stone, wood, laminate, and tile alternatives. With proper fabrication, sealing, cleaning and use, quartz countertops provide a safe, stylish addition to any home.