It all started with a story in The New York Times, ominously titled "What's Lurking in Your Countertop?" The article recounted the tale of a New Jersey homeowner who had recently learned that the granite in her kitchen countertops was emitting radiation at 10 times the level of other areas in her house. Seems the granite contained high levels of uranium, which is radioactive and releases radon gas as it ages.
Although the article acknowledged that "health physicists and radiation experts agree that most granite countertops emit radiation and radon at extremely low levels," it also stated that "with increasing regularity in recent months, the Environmental Protection Agency has been receiving calls from radon inspectors as well as from concerned homeowners about granite countertops with radiation measurements several times above background levels [meaning that which we're typically exposed to day-in and day-out]."
Since then, the news that granite countertops may be hazardous to your health has been spreading like wildfire. I heard the story on The Today Show last Friday. It has also appeared on CBS's Early Show, on countless local TV news programs, in a number of print publications and in a slew of blogs like this one. There's even a You Tube instructional video that explains how to test for radon in your countertops.
The controversy has actually been percolating for quite some time. Last year, the Marble Institute of America was concerned enough about the growing granite brouhaha (which they blamed on their competitors) to issue a "Technical Bulletin" addressing many of the questions.
But you know what this really means? It means the days of the ubiquitous granite countertop/stainless appliance package are numbered. At least, we can only hope so; it's getting tough to tell one kitchen from the next.
In other words, it's time for the next It Kitchen Concept to catch on. What that will be in Central Oregon, I'm not sure. But here are a few possibilities:
Teak Countertops. The appeal: Teak is an extremely durable tropical hardwood that can stand up to a kitchen's tough challenges. A renewable wood product that appeals to the "green" consumer, it stores carbon, permanently removing it from the atmosphere (the teak comes from sustainably grown, legally harvested plantations, according to Proteak).
Glass Countertops. The appeal (according to Ezineseeker.com): The fact that glass is non-porous means that it's stainproof and hygienic. Glass kitchen countertops are shaped all in one piece so there are no seams and can withstand heat up to about 700 degrees without cracking.
Bio Glass Countertops. The appeal: Made from 100 percent recycled glass, Bio Glass countertops are also fully recyclable (white and light green slabs contain 100 percent pre-consumer recycled glass; brown contains 100 percent post-consumer recycled glass). Bio Glass is manufactured in Europe from recycled wine bottles, stem ware, drinking cups and water bottles. A nonporous surface, it withstands scratches and stains and can be cleaned with standard glass cleaner or soap and water.
Recycled Paper Countertops. The appeal (according to PaperStone, a composite product made from recycled paper and proprietary, petroleum-free phenolic resins made from raw materials like cashew nut shell liquid): It's durable, easy to clean, very abrasion resistant, absorbs very little water and is very fire resistant.
Bamboo Countertops. The appeal (according to styleathome.com): Bamboo grows much more quickly than hardwood yet it has a lot of the same advantages as woods such as oak or maple. In fact, according to Totally Bamboo, which produces bamboo countertops, it's 16 percent harder than maple and is the best choice for durable countertop surfaces. A grass that grows to a harvestable height between three to five years, bamboo doesn't require replanting and has an extensive root system that replenishes itself, making it one of the most renewable resources known.
Granted, these are just a few of the more recent options out there. What trends are you seeing in your neighborhood?
About the Author:
Lisa Broadwater is a Central Oregon-based real estate professional who specializes in listing
and selling homes, especially in Sisters, Tumalo, Redmond and Bend. If you'd like to learn more
about Central Oregon, please visit http://www.centraloregonhome4you.com/.