Thursday, July 24, 2008

No, Not the Granite Countertops

What will we do without Pergraniteel? What represents a gourmet kitchen more than those beautiful and expensive countertops? This was one of the most popular and sought after improvements of the flipping and upgrading side of the Great Housing Bubble. We really can not handle any more problems from the Great Housing Bubble, can we?

First the equity has evaporated. House prices are plummeting. Exotic loans are disappaering. Now we are being told that some granite countertops are giving off toxic levels of radon. In an article from the New York Times called What's Lurking in Your Counterop? delves into this topic.
Shortly before Lynn Sugarman of Teaneck, N.J., bought her summer home in Lake George, N.Y., two years ago, a routine inspection revealed it had elevated levels of radon, a radioactive gas that can cause lung cancer. So she called a radon measurement and mitigation technician to find the source.

“He went from room to room,” said Dr. Sugarman, a pediatrician. But he stopped in his tracks in the kitchen, which had richly grained cream, brown and burgundy granite countertops. His Geiger counter indicated that the granite was emitting radiation at levels 10 times higher than those he had measured elsewhere in the house.

“My first thought was, my pregnant daughter was coming for the weekend,” Dr. Sugarman said. When the technician told her to keep her daughter several feet from the countertops just to be safe, she said, “I had them ripped out that very day,” and sent to the state Department of Health for analysis. The granite, it turned out, contained high levels of uranium, which is not only radioactive but releases radon gas as it decays. “The health risk to me and my family was probably small,” Dr. Sugarman said, “but I felt it was an unnecessary risk.”
It is great for people that can easily afford to replace these expensive countertops. But with the reduction in allowance for mortgage equity withdrawals there will be many people scared and scrambling to replace these countertops.

Now lets take a look at the potential problems and remedies -

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking and is considered especially dangerous to smokers, whose lungs are already compromised. Children and developing fetuses are vulnerable to radiation, which can cause other forms of cancer. Mr. Witt said the E.P.A. is not studying health risks associated with granite countertops because of a “lack of resources.

Personal injury lawyers are already advertising on the Web for clients who think they may have been injured by countertops. “I think it will be like the mold litigation a few years back, where some cases were legitimate and a whole lot were not,” said Ernest P. Chiodo, a physician and lawyer in Detroit who specializes in toxic tort law. His kitchen counters are granite, he said, “but I don’t spend much time in the kitchen.”

Cancer or countertops? This is such another strange and fitting example of the excesses from the Great Housing Bubble. First we read that imported Pakistani marble is supporting the Taliban. Now this. Our excesses are really catching up to us in some very unexpected ways.

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