In July, an article appeared in The New York Times that connected granite countertops with high levels of radon -- causing quite a stir among the general public. During the weeks that followed, versions of this story were picked up by various television networks and online media, further fueling consumer concerns that granite countertops can lead to lung cancer and other respiratory illnesses.

As a result of this attack on granite, the Marble Institute of America (MIA) -- as well as major stone producers around the world -- have been vehemently working to extinguish the fire by launching a campaign that separates fact from fiction. And while the source of this misinformation has been identified on several occasions -- and serves to directly benefit from bad press about granite -- promoting the truth is more important right now than pointing fingers.

To counter the negativity about granite, associations such as the MIA, Natural Stone Council (NSC) and National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) are devising plans to get the facts out about the material. In particular, the MIA has made efforts such as meeting with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and hiring expert researchers to conduct studies on a number of granites from around the world to find out the level of radon that each emits.

Those supplying materials are also looking into obtaining equipment that will allow them to test the radon level of each slab that they sell. This will allow them to put their consumers at ease by guaranteeing “safe” granite.

It is important for architects and designers to stay abreast of the situation and turn to the industry associations as a source of reliable information -- and not one-time “reports” or media outlets looking to create a buzz. By learning the facts about radon and granite, you can then share your knowledge with your clients. The more information that is shared can only help to lessen the fears that have been caused by one article that focused on one particular granite in one specific area of the country (an area known to have high radon levels).

Of course, nobody wants to use a building material that may be hazardous to our health, but granite has been a large part of many designs for centuries. Education is the key to safe building, and architects and designers are in a position to set the record straight with consumers.

Jennifer Adams