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Andrew Alden

Dire Threat to Benign State Rock (Updated)

By June 19, 2010

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serpentiniteA state legislator is proposing to dethrone serpentinite as California's official state rock. The Sacramento Bee's blog reports that Los Angeles Democrat Gloria Romero has submitted Senate Bill 624 to strip the hallowed status from this sexy stone.

UPDATE: The Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on it on June 21, and the bill passed on the 23rd.

What is Romero's reasoning, when the state budget is unconstitutionally overdue and the government itself is a notorious joke? She repeats the clueless claim that serpentine is actually deadly asbestos. I believe that she is doing the bidding of asbestos lawyers. Their legitimate work in redressing old injuries from the asbestos industry, unfortunately, entails scaring the public with misleading statements like this 2007 release from attorney Roger Worthington at mesothel.com: "Serpentine commonly contains chrysotile asbestos, a carcinogen listed by the EPA and a mineral that has indiscriminately claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people every year in the United States, and hundreds of thousands of people worldwide." Truth: Some serpentinite contains certain minerals which, in heavy long-term workplace exposure of powdered material, has increased the rate of lung disease in asbestos workers. Chrysotile is not one of these.

Areas of serpentinite in California have restrictions on releasing large quantities of dust. Even that tiny risk is based on statistical arguments rather than medical evidence.

I say to Senator Romero, leave the stone alone.

Other bloggers are weighing in: Garry "Geotripper" Hayes is one, and The Vug is also persuasive (although its photo of serpentinite is actually from Lake County).

About serpentinite
About asbestos
The beauty of serpentinite
Chrysotile closeup
Official state rocks
Serpentinite at Ring Mountain Preserve, Tiburon — Geology Guide photo


June 29, 2010 at 5:43 pm
(1) Geology Guide says:

The bill has moved on to the full Assembly. Geologists and teachers need to speak up.

July 14, 2010 at 10:26 am
(2) Ken Sales says:

You have got to be kidding. Chrysotile was approximate 95% of the asbestos used in this country and virtually every repected scientist, the EPA, the Surgeon General, and OSHA recogize it as a cause of lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.

July 14, 2010 at 3:31 pm
(3) Geology Guide says:

Ken, medical studies are generally lax in having materials evaluated by mineralogists; it’s much easier to avoid that complication by relying on regulatory definitions. But those are a crude instrument, and the exact minerals involved are a crucial question that is usually overlooked. “Respected scientists” can miss details that are outside their team’s training. I invite you to read this review of asbestos studies done with geological rigor.

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