Quartz countertops have become increasingly popular in recent years as an alternative to natural stone and solid surface countertops. Often made from engineered quartz slabs, these countertops are praised for their durability, aesthetic appeal, and low maintenance requirements. However, some concerns have been raised over potential health and safety issues with quartz countertops, especially those manufactured in China. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll examine the key facts and latest research to determine if there is truly anything dangerous about quartz countertops made in China.
What is Engineered Quartz?
Engineered quartz is made from crushed quartz crystals combined with resins and pigments. The quartz powder provides strength and hardness, while the resins bind the material together into a cohesive slab. Other ingredients like recycled materials or glass can also be added to the mix.
The resins used are usually unsaturated polyester or epoxies. Pigments are added to achieve the desired colors and patterns. Unlike natural stone, engineered quartz can be crafted into vibrant colors and bold designs far beyond what is found in nature.
The slabs are created by pouring the engineered quartz mixture into a mold and allowing it to cure under intense vibration and pressure. This compacts the material into a dense, non-porous slab that can then be finished with a glossy polish.
Why Choose Quartz Over Other Countertop Materials?
Quartz counters are valued for their aesthetics and performance:
- Durability: Quartz is harder and more scratch resistant than materials like laminate or solid surface. It maintains its glossy look for years.
- Low maintenance: Quartz resists stains, etching, and heat better than natural stone. It never needs sealing or polishing.
- Stylish appearance: With a wide array of colors and patterns, quartz offers more design flexibility than natural stone. The colors run throughout the slab.
- Non-porous surface: Liquids don’t penetrate the dense surface, making quartz resistant to stains and microbes.
- Consistent patterning: Since it is engineered, the patterning and veining stay consistent across slabs.
- Affordability: Quartz costs less than natural stone, yet maintains many of the same virtues.
With this winning combination of form and function, it’s no wonder quartz has become a top choice for countertops.
Is Quartz Healthier Than Other Options?
One of the major selling points of engineered quartz is that it lacks the potential health hazards found in some other countertop materials:
- No radon: Natural stone can emit trace amounts of radioactive radon gas. Quartz does not contain radioactive elements and emits no radon.
- Non-porous: Unlike natural stone, quartz won’t harbor bacteria, mold, or mildew in pores or crevices.
- Easy to clean: Quartz resists stains from spills better than porous natural stone. Germs have nowhere to hide.
- No VOCs: Unlike solid surfaces, quartz emits almost zero VOCs (volatile organic compounds).
- Durable and repairable: Chips and cracks in natural stone can gradually worsen over time and require replacement. Quartz is more durable and usually repairable.
- Fire resistance: Quartz doesn’t burn or emit toxic fumes in a fire like some solid surfaces.
With proper cleaning and maintenance, quartz presents no alarming health or safety issues compared to other countertop materials. But is this true for quartz from all sources?
How is Quartz Countertop Manufacturing Regulated in China?
Most major quartz brands rely on manufacturing plants in China to produce their engineered quartz slabs. Lower labor costs allow Chinese plants to produce quartz very economically.
However, China has faced criticism over lax manufacturing regulations in some industries. Does this extend to quartz production?
Surprisingly, quartz manufacturing in China is held to very high standards:
- Chinese quartz plants must comply with ISO 9001 standards for quality management systems.
- They adhere to strict ISO 14001 environmental management standards.
- The plants follow ANSI product guidelines used by US and European quartz makers.
- Leading brands only partner with GS-certified plants, meaning they passed a stringent safety certification.
- Major quartz suppliers impose their own rigorous quality control and testing requirements.
In fact, much of the equipment and materials used in Chinese quartz plants comes from the US and Europe. The manufacturing process itself adheres to western standards.
Brands also send their own technicians to train the plant workers and oversee production quality. They thoroughly test all slabs to verify compliance and safety before export.
So while environmental and safety regulations may be lacking in some Chinese industries, quartz manufacturing is held to very high international standards by leading brands.
Are There Any Chemical Concerns with Chinese Quartz?
Despite strict regulations, some still voice concerns over potential chemical exposures from quartz made in China:
The resins used to bind quartz particles may contain traces of chemicals like styrene or formaldehyde, which can be toxic at high levels.
However, the resins undergo full curing during manufacturing. Any volatile compounds released during curing are vented away. Numerous studies confirm quartz releases insignificant VOC emissions after installation.
Independent lab tests show Chinese-made quartz complies with health standards for VOC emissions. Any residual traces are firmly bonded within the inert quartz material.
Trace metals in some pigments have raised concerns, like cobalt, copper, and chromium. However, brands choose non-toxic pigments that meet regulatory safety standards. Independent lab tests confirm Chinese quartz contains no alarming levels of toxins or heavy metals.
Some have suggested quartz made with Chinese granite scrap could contain radioactive elements. However, radiation testing shows levels well below health concern limits and comparable to quartz made elsewhere.
Cutting or fabricating quartz produces dangerous silica dust. But this applies to all quartz, regardless of origin. Installers should always use proper protective gear and dust collection systems. Homeowners face no silica risk from installed counters.
With oversight by major brands, China’s advanced manufacturing standards, and extensive product testing, there is no credible evidence of increased chemical risks from quartz countertops made in China compared to other locales.
Does Chinese Quartz Pose a Cancer or Health Risk?
A few past studies suggested a possible link between quartz countertops and cancer risk. However, numerous experts have rejected these initial claims as flawed and inconclusive.
Here is a brief overview of the scientific research on quartz countertop health risks:
- In 2008, a study found elevated lung cancer rates among workers who produced quartz surfaces. However, they were exposed to high silica dust levels over many years of fabrication work. This does not apply to consumers.
- A 2013 study suggested trace radiation in some quartz could increase stomach cancer risk. But later reviews found research flaws, with radiation far below concerning levels.
- In 2019, a small study hinted at a lymphoma risk from quartz emissions. But larger studies found no increased risk, even for installers and fabrication workers.
- Consumer Reports, NSF International, the Breast Cancer Fund, and other leading health groupsagree there is no credible evidence that installed quartz counters pose a health risk.
While a few questionable studies sparked fears, the overall body of research confirms quartz countertops pose no increased health or cancer risk to consumers. This applies equally to quartz from China versus other regions.
Does Quartz Made in China Have More Quality Issues?
Early on, there were some quality concerns with Chinese-made quartz:
- Minor color variations between batches
- Visible seams between slabs
- More repairs needed during fabrication
- Chips or cracks appearing over time
However, these issues stemmed from the industry’s early learning curve, not China’s manufacturing capabilities. Most brands were applying new manufacturing techniques pioneered in the US and Europe.
Over the past decade, quartz plants in China have improved enormously in their skills and mastery of the production process.
Major brands now impose stringent quality control and pre-shipment inspection requirements. Defective slabs are rejected. Samples from each batch undergo lab testing too.
By all accounts, leading Chinese quartz manufacturers now routinely meet or exceed international quality benchmarks:
- Their quartz offers consistently uniform patterning with smooth, glossy finishes.
- Improvements in resins and curing methods result in a more durable material.
- Precise engineering of slab dimensions allows nearly invisible seams after installation.
- Companies stand behind their products with strong warranty programs against defects.
While variances can occur with any manufacturer, most experts agree high-end quartz from China now rivals anything produced across Europe or North America.
Choosing Safe, High-Quality Quartz from China
Consumers can feel confident choosing quartz countertops from China as long as they follow some basic selection criteria:
- Stick with reputable brands. Trusted manufacturers like Caesarstone, Cambria, and LG impose stringent oversight and standards on their Chinese suppliers.
- Review product certifications. Look for brands that adhere to voluntary safety standards like NSF 51 food safety certification.
- Check warranties. Long warranties (10 years+) show the brand’s faith in its quality and durability.
- See current testing data. Ask retailers for access to the brand’s latest VOC emissions testing, radiation levels, and other lab results.
- Look for signs of quality. Inspect countertops closely for consistent coloring, minimal veining gaps, smooth finishes, and tight seams.
- Ask about quality control. Reputable brands should detail their oversight processes, production standards, and how they test products.
Buying premium quartz brands made in China following rigorous quality protocols virtually ensures you’ll receive an exceptional, safe product that equals quartz made anywhere else worldwide.
Is There Anything Dangerous About Quartz Countertops Made in China?
Based on the available scientific evidence and manufacturing expertise, quartz countertops made in China present no increased health or safety risks compared to quartz produced elsewhere.
When produced by leading brands under strict oversight and testing, Chinese quartz meets or exceeds all international safety and quality standards. Their state-of-the-art manufacturing processes yield exceptional, durable countertops.
While occasional defects can occur with any quartz producer, top China-based manufacturers now rival the highest quartz quality found across Europe and North America. Their advanced technologies, skilled experts, and stringent brand testing result in products that are perfectly safe for homes.
Consumers should feel confident choosing quartz countertops made in China as long as they select reputable brands who adhere to the highest standards. With a stunning array of colors and patterns, durable Chinese quartz offers homeowners an ideal balance of beauty, functionality and peace of mind.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can quartz from China make you sick?
No, there is no scientific evidence that properly manufactured quartz countertops from China pose any health risks from VOC emissions or other factors. Reputable brands meet strict international safety standards.
Does Chinese quartz contain radioactive materials?
No. Extensive radiation testing shows quartz made in China has extremely low background radiation comparable to quartz produced elsewhere. Levels are well below health concern limits.
Can quartz counters cause cancer?
Despite a few small questionable studies, no scientific research has linked installed quartz countertops to increased cancer risk. Major health groups see no credible evidence that quartz counters pose a health hazard.
Is Chinese quartz as good quality as American?
Major quartz brands use the same manufacturing equipment, techniques, and quality standards in their Chinese plants as their US plants. Experts report Chinese high-end quartz now rivals the best American or European quartz.
Does quartz have to be sealed?
No, quartz is non-porous so it never requires sealing. This applies equally to quartz made in China or the US. Occasional cleaning is all that is needed to keep quartz pristine.
Can you repair quartz countertops?
Minor damage like chips or cracks can usually be smoothly repaired. Experienced technicians can restore the visual appeal and integrity of quartz countertops using color-matched epoxy fillers.
Is Chinese quartz prone to cracking?
Early on, some lower quality Chinese quartz had issues with cracks forming. But improved engineering and production methods now yield very durable slabs comparable in performance to US brands.
Does imported quartz contain formaldehyde?
Trace amounts of formaldehyde may be released from resins during initial curing. But emissions testing shows installed quartz contains insignificant amounts well below health concern levels, whether produced in China or elsewhere.
Should I seal quartz counters yearly?
No, sealing quartz provides no benefit and is unnecessary. Quartz is non-porous and never needs sealing. Occasional cleaning is all that is required. Avoid using sealants on quartz, as they could damage the surface.
With advanced production technologies and close oversight by leading brands, quartz countertops made in China offer the same virtues found in other quartz worldwide. Their gorgeous designs, durability, and low maintenance make them a top choice for today’s homeowners. While occasional defects can occur in any manufacturing process, Chinese plants now routinely equal or surpass international quality benchmarks. By selecting reputable brands who adhere to strict standards, consumers can confidently choose Chinese quartz to beautifully transform their homes with a safe, high-performance material made to the highest standards anywhere worldwide.