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Serpentine: California State Rock's Dark Side

Serpentine

State Senator Gloria Romero recently introduced Senate Bill 624 to remove serpentine as California's state rock due to the presence of carcinogenic asbestos in the rock. Romero and her staffers say asbestos—and by extension, serpentine—is a bona fide health hazard. The bill has received unanimous approval from the state Assembly’s Natural Resources Committee. But the bill does not mention the importance of serpentine to California's biodiversity. For instance, it has been estimated that serpentine-endemic plant species represent 10 percent of the California Floristic Province's endemics. If you think Senator Romero overlooks serpentine's important role in California natural history, let her know at DISTRICT 24  and also tell your own state representatives in the Assembly and Senate. (from Jake Sigg's Nature News)

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"We were the first state to have a state rock,” said State Geologist John Parish. “California leads the way.” But now some activists say that designation was a mistake. So what’s not to like about shiny green serpentine? Well, it turns out that one of the minerals in the rock is asbestos, which has been blamed for causing mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer.  That makes serpentine not just a rock but rather a political hot potato. When serpentine gets broken up—for example, during construction or excavation—asbestos particles can go into the air and become a health hazard."

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There is a lot more going on with this issue, see the Dan Walters article in the SacBee yesterday, http://www.sacbee.com/2010/07/09/2878528/dan-walters-california-state-rock.html, I think there is a bit of scandal brewing in this. Geologists are rather livid about the whole thing because there are factual errors in the bill and it shouldn't be happening. I've got a letter posted to the governor here from a geologist's point of view: http://geotripper.blogspot.com/2010/07/letter-to-governor-schwarzenegger-and.html. Thanks for your post!

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