Geology Fail: California Moves to Disown State Rock

By Joseph Calamia | July 14, 2010 11:22 am

serpentineIt’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.

But geologists think the rock bill is dense, Malcolm Ross a retired geologist from the United States Geological Survey told The New York Times.

“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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Related content:
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Discoblog: NASA Geologist Is Sent Thousands of Rocks from Around the World
Discoblog: The Latest (and Hardest) Tool for Battling Climate Change: Rocks

Image: flickr / AlishaV

  • Lady Luck

    Really? Do they not have more pressing concerns in California than State Rock?!

  • FUAG

    It’s stuff like this that make libertarians seem like the sane ones… AND THAT IS SAYING SOMETHING!!!!

  • Carl

    They should just put up signs all around the state border and be done with it:

    “Warning! The state of California contains chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer.”

  • Katharine

    Yet another senseless battle of ochlocracy versus sanity.

  • Terry

    I am a biologist and a research biochemist specializing in natural occurring (NOA) “asbestos” in California. The legislature is a day late (meaning decades late) and a dollar short (meaning, well more) and working on the complete wrong subject. ADAO is not intentionally misleading, but they as a group are misleading. Natural occurring forms of asbestos occur in all states in the ground from soft friable easily airborne to hard rock hard to blow up with dynamite. In California communities have lived on all forms of natural occurring Chrysotile “asbestos” for well over 200 years. Intensive studies of death certificates shows no excess lung cancer or any excess mesothelioma at Chrysotile sites at all. San Francisco is the most contaminated Chrysotile city on earth. Yet small communities in California, inside El Dorado, Amador, Toulomne, who have lived on Tremolite asbestos deposits for only short periods, show large quantities of excess mesothelioma. Not just in humans but in animals too. Huge levels of death from a non serpentine NOA. This news regarding Tremolite was published in the newspapers, mostly front page news, in Sacramento for 8 years straight! What do the legislators do? Why they OK “asbestos” epidemics by refusing to address the problem, and they condemn the innocent serpentine rock without even realizing what they are doing. For those who don’t know, this exact same subject has nearly killed entire communities in the United States. Groups such as ADAO focusing on Chrysotile “asbestos” to the exclusion of the far more dangerous forms of “asbestos” have lead to the communities of Libby Montana and Jefferson Parish Louisiana having enormous non serpentine epidemics of human death. The legislators could actually do something useful here, but not while they are mislead by non scientists such as ADAO.

    Let’s make fibrous Tremolite our State Rock!!


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