Serpentine, the state rock of California, facesa “rocky” future, as its role as state rock may soon come to an end. A California lawmaker isproposing that serpentine lose its official state rock status.
California named serpentinethe state rock in 1965 because it symbolized California during the Gold Rush. Serpentineis plentiful in the same areas in Californiain which gold was found. It was also named the state rock because it contains amineral, asbestos, that was used in construction materials, householdappliances and other products.
However, since 1965, asbestos, which is no longer mined inthe U.S.,has been found to cause mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is an incurable cancer thathas spawned countless personal injury lawsuits, and can be contracted whenasbestos fibers are inhaled. Defendants have paid out more than $70 billion inasbestos litigation since lawsuits began, and the average award to amesothelioma victim is $4 million. About 2,500 Americans die from mesotheliomaeach year.
Opponents of removing serpentine as the state rock point outthat few mesothelioma deaths are from exposure to naturally occurring asbestos,such as that contained in serpentine. They also point out that the EPA saysthat naturally occurring asbestos that remains underground poses no healthrisk.
The state Senate approved the law removing serpentine asofficial state rock. The Assembly is expected to vote on the measure, but itthen must be voted on by the Senate again because it was amended.