Planet Earth

Geology Fail: California Moves to Disown State Rock

DiscoblogBy Joseph CalamiaJul 14, 2010 3:22 PM

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It's an honor doled out by about half of the American states: the naming of an official state rock. West Virginia has bituminous coal. Florida has agatized coral. California has the olive-green beauty serpentine--for the moment. State legislators are moving to cast off the rock, saying it contains the mineral chrysotile asbestos. Exposure to chrysotile asbestos, according to the pending "serpentine bill," increases the risk of cancer, and State Senator Gloria Romero wants nothing to do with the once-loved rock. She sponsored the bill, which has received support from the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization and the Consumer Attorneys of California. But geologists think the rock bill is dense, Malcolm Ross a retired geologist from the United States Geological Survey told

The New York Times.

“There is no way anyone is going to get bothered by casual exposure to that kind of rock.... Unless they were breaking it up with a sledgehammer year after year.”

Geologists like Ross have hope to save serpentine's special status, given concern that the bill--as a perfect excuse for litigious jewelery owners and park visitors--could make many Californians' lives rocky. The bill recently passed the State Senate, so serpentine's fate is now up to a vote in the Assembly. Meanwhile, in "granite state" New Hampshire, the granite cliff formation "Old Man on the Mountain" continues to appear on state license plates, though the rocky visage collapsed in 2003. Follow DISCOVER on Twitter. Related content: Discoblog: It’s a Hoax! Famed “Moon Rock” Turns Out to Be Hunk of Wood Discoblog: NASA Geologist Is Sent Thousands of Rocks from Around the World Discoblog: The Latest (and Hardest) Tool for Battling Climate Change: Rocks

Image: flickr / AlishaV

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