Watch a few home improvement shows and you may come away thinking that being in style is the only criteria for selecting a countertop. Granite has been a popular choice over the last 10 years for homes in all price ranges, especially as the price for granite continues to fall. But is it a safe countertop material for allergy sufferers?
As people become more aware of what is green and sustainable for their home, does granite pass the test? If not, what is a good, safe, sustainable countertop material?
Selecting Safe Countertops
All countertops present three challenges that can affect allergy sufferers as well as anyone who uses them:
- Some materials have a degassing effect, which releases harmful emissions that may or may not subside over time
- Some materials present food safety concerns
- Some countertops are sealed with materials that can trigger allergies and have harmful environmental effects.
What Material Is Best?
There are many choices for countertop materials, but here is how four popular choices fare, according to the three criteria.
- Granite is a stone quarried from the ground, with deposits throughout the world. Taking it out and processing it is an environmental nightmare that causes lung diseases among workers, disrupts the land, and uses a considerable amount of energy to obtain, cut, and polish. Once in the home, further grinding and polishing stone can raise dust. Though it appears very smooth and solid, granite can harbor bacteria if not sealed on a regular basis. Degassing is not a problem, although some granite has recently been linked to radon gas emissions.
- Laminate countertops are made by bonding paper and melamine resins with high heat and pressure to form a plastic-like material. The material is then glued to plywood. To assure minimal degassing in your home, look for laminate and plywood that contains low VOC levels and formaldehyde-free paper. The product is safe for food preparation as it is non-porous and does not trigger allergies. The product does not need sealing, but if you use products to restore its beauty, make sure they are VOC-free.
- Wood counters are a great environmental choice if the product comes from a sustainable forest. As a natural product, there is no degassing effects except from glue if the product is fastened with adhesive. Wood does harbor bacteria, so you must clean and disinfect the area if you use it to cut raw meat and other foods. It can also warp or harbor mildew in areas around the sink that are often wet.
- Concrete is coming into its own for use in countertops and flooring and meets sustainability tests when made of eco-friendly materials. The product uses no solvents in its manufacturing and emits no dust or chemical odors once in place, but insulation and grinding can kick up a large quantity of dust. While workers in concrete plants experience rashes or other symptoms from dealing with concrete and concrete additives, it is considered non-allergic when in the home. The dyes used to color the material can be toxic, however. When properly sealed, it is food safe.
With these and many other countertop choices such as quartz, engineered stone, glass tiles, and terrazzo available for installation in your home, you can find one you like that is safe for allergy sufferers and safe to use for food preparation. To prevent counters from becoming allergy triggers, make sure to maintain and seal them per the manufacturer's instructions and clean them properly with eco-friendly products.
Reduce the allergy trigger potential of your home by replacing your furnace filter, air filter and whole house filters frequently. Consider Air Filter Buy as a convenient source for buying filters online. Just check our website or give us a call at (255) FILTBUY.