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Solid Choices in Healthier Countertops
The Homefree website now includes a “stoplight chart” for Countertops. Topping the list for healthier countertop materials is lead-free (US-made) ceramic tile, followed by solid surface products such as Corian, then engineered quartz and cultured marble. Plastic laminate and granite fall to the bottom of the ranking.
What you can do:
Consider specifying lead-free ceramic tiles in place of plastic laminate for kitchen surfaces.
If plastic laminates must be used on a project, avoid as much formaldehyde as possible by choosing a NAUF or NAF substrate.
If granite or other natural stone is slated for installation in a project, work with your supplier to find stone slabs that do not require frequent sealing.
Avoid countertops of any kind that are advertised as being antimicrobial. Antimicrobial additives are considered pesticides, and have not demonstrated any health benefit.
Surprised that granite and natural stone isn’t higher on our list? The problem is that these stones are porous and can absorb liquids, causing staining or unhygienic conditions. Most manufacturers recommend that granite and other stone countertops be sealed with a penetrating sealer before their first use, and regularly thereafter. These sealants contain fluoropolymers which are made from persistent and highly toxic compounds, similar to those used in stain-resistant carpet or fabric treatments.
Some slabs of granite and other natural stone may be more dense/less porous and therefore do not require a sealant. If stone countertops are planned for your next project, discuss the options with your supplier to select slabs that will require no or less frequent sealing.
Plastic laminate countertops are a popular choice for countertops, but both the laminate itself and the composite board it is attached to contain formaldehyde. You can reduce the amount of formaldehyde brought into interior spaces by specifying a plastic laminate adhered to a substrate with NAUF (no added urea formaldehyde), or better yet, NAF (no added formaldehyde at all). Unfortunately, the decorative laminate itself will contain small amounts of formaldehyde because the resin used in its construction is formaldehyde-based.