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Asbestos in California's State Rock? Not Really

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California lawmakers are expected to vote this week on SB 624, which could demote serpentine from its lofty place as California's state rock. This is a spectacularly silly decision based on shoddy scientific evidence, and here's why. According to biologist David Lowry:


In a misguided attempt to “educate” Californians about the dangers of asbestos, State Senator Gloria Romero introduced a bill (SB624) to remove serpentine as the state rock. The result has been a widespread revolt among geologists-at least in the twitterverse under the hashtag: #CASerpentine. ...Serpentine is commonly found in the hilly areas of California. It usually has a lovely smooth green or whitish tinge and its chemical composition has other characteristics fascinating to geologists, which I won’t detail here…except to include that some forms contain a small amount of asbestos, which leads us to our current predicament.

You all remember asbestos, right? That lung cancer-causing white powdery substance that closed down your school gym as a kid for a year when they discovered it in those flame-resistant tiles (which seemed like a good idea at the time) lining the ceiling. Yep, it’s nasty stuff. We know we don’t want it around and can move on, right?

Wrong!

The truth is that most serpentine does not contain asbestos. And even for the few samples that do, someone would have to expend considerable energy crushing the rock into something that could be inhaled to come even close to increasing his or her risk for cancer.