A group of California lawmakers and politicians are trying to get their rock off ... off the state’s banner, that is. The New York Times reports that enraged geologists are fighting California Sen. Gloria Romero, who is championing a bill that would dethrone serpentine as the state’s official rock.
Those in favor of relegating serpentine to the ranks of other non-title-holding rocks say the olive green rock found all over the state is a morbid and antithetical representation of California’s value on health and wellness. Asbestos, which can be found in the rock, is associated with various cancers.
Geologists, on the other hand, have taken to Twitter on behalf of the rock, saying that serpentine is harmless and is simply being demonized by advocates for people with asbestos-related diseases.
According to the NY Times:
“Declaring that serpentine ‘has known health effects,’ the bill would leave California — one of roughly half the states in the nation with an official rock or mineral — without an official rock. (According to the bill, California was the first state, in 1965, to name an official rock.) Asbestos occurs naturally in many minerals, and indeed some serpentine rocks do serve as a host for chrysotile, a form of asbestos. But geologists say chrysotile is less harmful than some other forms of asbestos, and would be a danger — like scores of other rocks — only if a person were to breathe its dust repeatedly.
" 'There is no way anyone is going to get bothered by casual exposure to that kind of rock,’ said Malcolm Ross, a geologist who retired from the United States Geological Survey in 1995. ‘Unless they were breaking it up with a sledgehammer year after year.’”
J.D. Preston, a spokesman from a consumer lawyers group, said the group had nothing to do with drafting the legislation and was responding to a request from the awareness organization for a support letter. “We just thought this was a good fit in our mission of consumer safety,” Preston said. “It is certainly not the intent, and we don’t even see where it opens the avenue for litigation.”
According to Linda Reinstein, president of the awareness organization, the bill is intended to be all about education and awareness, not litigation. “We never expected such a stir,” she said.
Geologists and others in opposition of the bill are uniting under the Twitter hashtag #CASerpentine to fight for the rock’s esteemed title and reputation. Romero said she didn’t believe it was appropriate for California to have a state rock. Twitter user WestCenter tweeted, “Did you know the Golden State also has an official folk dance? State grass?”