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Why Has Grand Central Station Been Described as “Radioactive”?

Margaret Lipman
Updated May 17, 2024
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New York City's Grand Central Terminal, or Grand Central Station as it's popularly known, has been described as radioactive due to the materials used to build the iconic train station. In fact, if Grand Central Station were a nuclear power plant, it would be closed down for exceeding the maximum annual permissible dose of radiation for employees. However, this doesn't mean that Grand Central Station is exceptionally radioactive but rather highlights the strict standards followed by nuclear power plants.

Opened in 1913, Grand Central Station was largely constructed from granite, an igneous rock that forms when magma beneath the earth's crust cools and solidifies. Granite, like many natural materials, contains radioactive elements, albeit at a slightly higher concentration than other types of rock.

Radioactive elements contain atoms with unstable nuclei that decay over time, releasing energy in the form of radiation. While exposure to high levels of radiation can cause acute health problems, the low levels present in Grand Central Station, just like those encountered in many other places, are considered harmless.

In fact, natural radioactivity is present in the air we breathe. The muscles, bones, and other tissues of our bodies also contain radioactive elements. A minimal amount of natural radioactivity is even found in the foods we eat, though some foods, such as bananas and Brazil nuts, have slightly more than others. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), you would need to consume around 100 bananas to equal your daily exposure to natural radiation from the environment. There is even a unit known as a “banana equivalent dose” that measures ionizing radiation exposure.

Isn’t it grand?

  • Grand Central Station is the third-busiest train station in North America, in addition to being a leading tourist attraction in New York City. It has 44 platforms, the most of any train station worldwide.

  • Outside of Grand Central Station is the world’s largest Tiffany glass clock, with a diameter of 13 feet (4 m).

  • For those awaiting their trains, you can visit the Vanderbilt Tennis Club on the fourth floor. The courts are open to the public, though securing a spot comes at a price, with hourly rates ranging from $85 to $355, depending on the time you book.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Margaret Lipman
By Margaret Lipman , Writer and editor
With years of experience as an educator, Margaret Lipman produces thoughtful and informative content across a wide range of topics. Her articles cover essential areas such as finance, parenting, health and wellness, nutrition, educational strategies. Margaret's writing is guided by her passion for enriching the lives of her readers through practical advice and well-researched information.

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Margaret Lipman

Margaret Lipman

Writer and editor

With years of experience as an educator, Margaret Lipman produces thoughtful and informative content across a wide range...
Learn more
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