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Are Granite Countertops Health Risk?

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Most modern kitchens have them -- granite countertops.

Many people probably never thought twice about their safety, but some scientists say there are potential health risks with granite countertops.

"It's not something I would have thought of right away," said Paul Saxman of Lake Mary, whose home has granite countertops. "I realize it's a stone, but I wouldn't have thought that it would have been a problem."

But William Llope of Rice University said, "There's no question that there is the potential for risk."

Llope tests granite slabs to find out if they are radioactive. His testing shows most granite gives off harmless amounts of radiation, but he said "some of these granites I've measured resulted in doses that were hundreds or thousand times this natural background."

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Is that granite counter in your home emitting radon?

Fears about granite surfaces are largely unfounded, experts say, but a test can quell homeowners' worries.

Homeowners seeking just the right granite for their countertops have something new to ponder, besides which color complements their cabinets. Some are wondering about the radiation and radon gas that might be emanating from those showy slabs.

The topic sent online forums buzzing last summer after a few high-profile media reports, including a New York Times story featuring a doctor who removed her granite after it tested high for radiation, then replaced it with a different granite.

Now scientists, including a Minnesota physicist, are testing slabs, producing papers and debating each other's findings. The Marble Institute of America recently announced it will launch a "Home Approved Stone" program to reassure consumers about granite's safety. And radon professionals say some homeowners now want their countertops tested along with the rest of the house.