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California State Senator Gloria Romero (no relation to the famous Fillipino actress) is campaigning to ban serpentine as California's state mineral.  (Source:

The stone is frequently made into jewelry. Only a small amount of serpentine deposits contain asbestos.  (Source: Susan Kay Jewelry)
The Golden State offers firm warning to minerals -- don't you dare have asbestos

We've covered California's environmental and safety efforts over the years, but its latest scientific stand borders on bizarre.  Californian state senator Gloria Romero's (D-East Los Angeles) bill (SB 624) looks to give the state mineral Serpentine the boot because some deposits contain a small amount of asbestos.

Romero states, "[Serpentine] contains the deadly mineral chrysotile asbestos, a known carcinogen, exposure to which increases the risk of the cancer mesothelioma."

The bill passed unanimously through an Assembly Committee on National Resources this week, garnering bipartisan support.  The bill is championed by mesothelioma support groups.  Mesothelioma is a rare and deadly form of cancer that typically results from asbestos exposure.

The bill could aid in sending money to law firms and cleanup companies by offering a public shunning of serpentine.  States Joseph Belluck, an attorney with Belluck & Fox LLP which specializes in helping victims of asbestos-related disease and their families, "California lawmakers wish to disassociate their state with a mineral that has caused disease and death for many citizens.  It’s an important reminder that all forms of asbestos are deadly."

As the stone is heavily mined in California's San Benito Mountains region, that could give legal firms ammo in their attacks on their claims against mining companies.

Geologists aren't happy though, as they say the measure is ridiculous and misinformed.  They point out that serpentine is actually a family of 20 minerals that share common structural properties.  Most of these minerals contain no asbestos -- but a handful contain chrysotile asbestos.  Additionally, so far no studies have linked exposure of small amounts of chrysotile asbestos to disease or death -- unlike fibrous asbestos, which is much more dangerous and has been clearly linked to cancer and other ailments.

John Rosenfeld, emeritus professor of geology at UCLA comments, "Serpentine is a very beautiful rock. Holding the rock is not a problem and it’s nothing you should be concerned about.  It's part of the history of California, noticed by the early settlers of this state. It's a beautiful stone and shouldn't be removed."

Serpentine is typically green, but can also be yellow, brown, gray or reddish brown.  It is frequently cut and polished for jewelery or other ornamental purposes.  It received the state rock designation in 1965, as many saw it as an ideal representation of California's mining progress.  That progress helped launch the state on its path to developing the largest gross state product (GSP, similar to GDP) of any state in the United States.

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By tastyratz on 7/6/2010 9:45:22 AM , Rating: 4
Asbestos is demonized but limited small exposure is not quite so catastrophic, sorry nannystate and tv lawyers. Content in stones, and limited quanitities in some of them at that? come on.
Its safe in insulation if its not airborne, and Fiberglass is the same way with small fibers likely to be listed as a carcinogen in the next few years.

If not small fibers then HIGHLY flammable foam (lets be honest who commercially sprays e-84 classed sprayfoam in homes).
Pick your poison.

This just in. People who breath are more likely to get cancer than people who don't!

RE: fear
By Murloc on 7/6/2010 9:55:57 AM , Rating: 3
it's NOT safe for insulation.
if the roof falls, asbestos powder will get everywhere.
Same when the house gets old, or stuff like that.
At least the builders will breath it.

These guys should just ban serpentine that contains asbestos and leave the rest.

RE: fear
By Digimonkey on 7/6/2010 10:30:21 AM , Rating: 4
His point is fiberglass is just as bad if not worse. We just have better handling procedures these days since we know the risks.

Anyways I think if the roof in your house collapsed the least of your worries would be the asbestos.

RE: fear
By Iaiken on 7/6/2010 10:41:00 AM , Rating: 3
These guys should just ban serpentine that contains asbestos and leave the rest.

I guess that would be OK, except that people are flippin' morons. Go ahead, try to tell the people behind this push that there are over 20 different kinds of serpentine of which the minority (4 Chrysotile variations) are potentially harmful to humans.

In fact, naturally occurring Chrysotile Serpentine can release fibers into the air and water around them naturally! They should expand the legislature to find and remove all of the naturally occurring Chrysotile Serpentine and send it off to the third world where it won't harm anyone who matters.

I go to California all the time and before I've made it even five feet into LAX, I am greeted by signs reading "This [object/place] contains [chemical] which are known to cause cancer."

Hell, everything causes cancer these days. Being a multi-celled organism is the leading cause of cancer and I won't stand for it! Kill all complex life!

RE: fear
By FITCamaro on 7/6/2010 8:34:01 PM , Rating: 3
This is pathetic. Just idiot lawmakers passing laws.

This is like the attack on children's recreational vehicles(motorcycles and 4-wheels) because sometimes the frame or paint has extremely small amounts of lead. Because kids suck on those things all the time right?

Was nothing but an attack by environmental idiots who don't like gas burning engines.

Ya know...
By Motoman on 7/6/2010 10:43:52 AM , Rating: 2
...when people focus on something like this, there clearly just isn't enough for them to do.

RE: Ya know...
By 91TTZ on 7/6/2010 11:35:49 AM , Rating: 5
What do you expect them to do, fix their budget? That's crazy talk!

California crazies
By owyheewine on 7/6/2010 9:53:08 AM , Rating: 4
I continue to be amazed at the lunacy eminating from the land of fruits and nuts. C'mon San Andreas and move them out.

RE: California crazies
By ClownPuncher on 7/6/2010 2:16:58 PM , Rating: 2
They will be safe if they can ban earthquakes in time!

Let's keep it in perspective
By 91TTZ on 7/6/2010 10:30:15 AM , Rating: 1
Yes, asbestos exposure can cause health problems. But in comparison to other common substances (such as tobacco), it's minor.

Yearly deaths due to asbestos: about 10,000
Yearly deaths due to tobacco: about 450,000

Also, it may surprise people to learn that it's still legal to sell products containing asbestos. 20 years ago it was less common, but with increased imports from China there are more products containing asbestos since their workers aren't protected under any safety laws.

RE: Let's keep it in perspective
By niva on 7/6/10, Rating: -1
RE: Let's keep it in perspective
By 91TTZ on 7/6/2010 11:34:50 AM , Rating: 2
Lets be real here though, asbestos is a lot more dangerous than tobacco. People smoke for many years before they get sick, sometimes they don't get sick at all. You expose yourself to asbestos inhalation at the same rate and you'd be dead within the year for sure.

This isn't correct. Health problems from asbestos do not appear until later in life, often 20-50 years afterward. It's not poisonous so there aren't any immediate effects. The fibers irritate the lung tissue so you develop cellular damage decades later.

RE: Let's keep it in perspective
By geddarkstorm on 7/6/2010 2:25:15 PM , Rating: 2
Same for pretty much any fiberglass or small, inhale-able, non-degradable fiber based material. So yeah.

RE: Let's keep it in perspective
By JediJeb on 7/7/2010 12:18:41 AM , Rating: 2
Very true, even the dust from corn, wheat and soybeans can cause lung damage, farmers have problems from those after inhaling them all their lives. How about we ban those too. Looks like no more tofu for California.

nanny nanny
By Artesian on 7/6/2010 9:43:03 PM , Rating: 2
California continues to lead the world in fear of everything. What utter rubbish, and your politicians cater to it! Very sad that critical thinking has left the state for Canada.

RE: nanny nanny
By Kurz on 7/7/2010 7:54:13 AM , Rating: 2
I just hope when California declares its insolvent we won't bail them out.

By MateaMatt on 7/6/2010 8:52:09 PM , Rating: 2
Chrysotile asbestos isn't even the dangerous kind. It has thin curvy fibers that don't penetrate well into the lung. The asbestos to be worried about is amphibole asbestos with straight rigid fibers that penetrate deep into the lung and can cause a number of kinds of cancer or other lung damage.

This is serious business
By LeftFootRed on 7/6/2010 8:59:54 PM , Rating: 2
I vote that the new state rock of California be Gloria Romero's Brain.

By frank johnson on 7/8/2010 8:44:07 AM , Rating: 2
I read with interest the comments on exposure to asbestos.Perhaps some of these commentators should contact the West Australian Asbestosis Society to discover how lethal the stuff is. Children who never were in an asbestos mine environment, but their Dads were, yet the kids were diagnosed later in life with Mesothelioma simply because they inhaled the dust when dad gave them their nightly hug.It is a nasty tumour that develops on the outside of the lung and it takes about 20 years to develop and no cure.

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