When is a rock more than a rock? When it’s California’s official state rock, serpentine.
State Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, has introduced legislation to drop serpentine as the Golden State’s top rock. According to the California Geological Survey, naturally occurring serpentine “often” contains chrysotile, which in its fibrous form is the most common type of asbestos. Romero says California shouldn’t be heralding a rock with ties to a carcinogen.
But last week, Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters suggested that Romero’s bill goes a lot farther than that.
Senate Bill 624 makes a statement of finding that “serpentine contains the deadly mineral chrysotile asbestos, a known carcinogen, exposure to which increases the risk of the cancer mesothelioma.” Such a flat-out statement, Walters said, could open doors to litigation against owners of land containing serpentine, even when there’s a debate about how often chrysotile is found in serpentine.
The bill is supported by the Consumer Attorneys of California; two plaintiff’s firms: Kazan, McClain, Lyons, Greenwood & Harley and Water, Kraus & Paul; health interests, labor groups and others.
J.G. Preston, press secretary for the CAOC, called Walters’ suggestion “outrageous and wrong.” Stripping the state-rock moniker from serpentine will simply send a “symbolic message” that the state doesn’t support the use of asbestos, the CAOC said in a letter of support.
“… Whether the legislature chooses to recognize a ‘state rock’ or not, and what rock is designated, has absolutely nothing to do with lawsuits over the health effects of asbestos,” Preston said in an email.
SB 624, which received bipartisan votes in committee, is awaiting a full vote in the Assembly.