The battle over the California state rock
July 14, 2010
One would think during a state budget crisis that more serious matters would be discussed in Sacramento, but a bill has been introduced calling for serpentine to be replaced as California’s official state rock. [NY Times]
State Senator Gloria Romero [D-Los Angeles] sponsored the legislation with the support of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization. The Senate approved the bill and sent it over to the Assembly.
Serpentine is an olive green rock found all over the state. However, critics say the rock is a grim symbol of the deadly cancers associated with asbestos that are contained in serpentine.
Geologists dismiss the claims, saying that serpentine is harmless. Asbestos occurs naturally in many minerals, they argue, and indeed some serpentine rocks do serve as a host for chrysotile, a form of asbestos. But geologists argue chrysotile is less harmful than some other forms of asbestos, and would be a danger only if a person were to breathe any dust repeatedly.
Other opponents of the bill are concerned that removing serpentine, which is occasionally used in jewelry, as the state’s rock would demonize it and thus inspire litigation against museums, property owners, and other sites where the rocks sit
California was the first state, in 1965, to name an official rock–more than half of the states around the country have an official rock or mineral. However, if this bill passes, California would be left without a state rock.
Gov. Schwarzenegger has taken no public position on the bill.