It’s an honor doled out by about half of the American states: the naming of an official state rock. West Virginia has bituminous coal. Florida has agatized coral. California has the olive-green beauty serpentine–for the moment. State legislators are moving to cast off the rock, saying it contains the mineral chrysotile asbestos.
Exposure to chrysotile asbestos, according to the pending “serpentine bill,” increases the risk of cancer, and State Senator Gloria Romero wants nothing to do with the once-loved rock. She sponsored the bill, which has received support from the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization and the Consumer Attorneys of California.
“There is no way anyone is going to get bothered by casual exposure to that kind of rock…. Unless they were breaking it up with a sledgehammer year after year.”
Geologists like Ross have hope to save serpentine’s special status, given concern that the bill–as a perfect excuse for litigious jewelery owners and park visitors–could make many Californians’ lives rocky.
The bill recently passed the State Senate, so serpentine’s fate is now up to a vote in the Assembly.
Meanwhile, in “granite state” New Hampshire, the granite cliff formation “Old Man on the Mountain” continues to appear on state license plates, though the rocky visage collapsed in 2003.
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Image: flickr / AlishaV