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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: Examiner.com)

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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