By Erik J. Martin, CTW Features
Recently, it’s been reported that quartz countertops pose health risks to many workers who cut and install these materials. That’s because silica, a component of reconstituted quartz slabs, can be hazardous when inhaled.
“Quartz countertops are currently coming under fire due to the dust created during the manufacturing process. Specifically, workers are being exposed to silica dust during fabrication, which can lead to serious lung diseases like pulmonary fibrosis and eventually silicosis,” explains Thomas Borcherding, owner of Homestar Design Remodel.
While quartz countertops haven’t been banned and remain popular among many homeowners, they should be aware of this known risk to fabricatorsinstallers and perhaps consider alternative countertop materials.
“Fortunately, quartz countertops are considered safe once they are installed in your home,” says Mallory Micetich, a home expert at Angi.
But some contractors or countertop fabricators may need to make cuts within your residence before installation, in which case it’s important to know what to expect out of time.
Patrick Freeze, president of Bay Property Management Group, says he would ask several key questions: “What safety measures do you employ to prevent silica dust exposure? Can you provide references showcasing safe quartz installation practices? And do you have certification or training in quartz countertop installation safety?”
Thankfully, any risk to home occupants is minimal since quartz countertops rarely release dust after installation and the material is mostly non-porous, hygienic, and easy to clean – making quartz a safe and practical choice for high-traffic areas like kitchens and bathrooms, according to interior designer Nicholas Kaiko.
“But consumers should still be aware of the ethical and health implications concerning the workers involved in the fabrication and installation process,” he says.
Borcherding notes that cuts are rarely made within homes, as all fabrication has usually been completed precisely at the manufacturer’s site.
“From our experience, countertop installers will take countertops outside if any cuts are necessary,” he continues.
Still, if you are still concerned about possible health risks associated with cutting quartz countertops in or around your home, “refrain from that area of your home for a few days while any silica dust settles, which may give you peace of mind,” recommends Micetich. “The most important thing is to be very open and communicative with your contractor. If they will be cutting the quartz on site, ask them to give you specific times you can plan to be away from your home.”
Of course, quartz isn’t the only quality countertop material worth considering. Check out some popular alternatives, including:
- Granite – a durable and highly customizable option that typically costs between $10 and $140 per square foot, per Angi, depending on the slab you choose.
- Marble – a beautiful and durable material that costs between $15 and $190 per square foot.
- Tile – which comes in a variety of patterns and colors but requires regular grout cleaning and maintenance; expect to pay between $0.50 and $40 per square foot.
- Stainless steel – a stain-resistant and durable choice that costs between $70 and $215 per square foot.
- Concrete – which comes in a variety of styles and colors but requires more maintenance than other options; expect to shell out $50-$100 per square foot.
- Soapstone – a stain-resistant and low-maintenance option that may not be as durable as other materials; count on paying between $20 and $70 per square foot.
- Wood – a customizable and unique material that requires extra maintenance; $60 and $100 per square foot is the average most homeowners pay.
- Laminate – likely the most affordable choice but a less durable one that needs to be treated carefully; expect to pay $8 to $27 per square foot.
If you feel strongly that quartz should be avoided and you are concerned about the health of quartz fabricators and installers, “you can always vote with your wallet and avoid patronizing countertop manufacturers that allow their workers to be exposed to silica dust,” advises Borcherding.