The Days are Numbered for Asbestos Laden Serpentine Rock as California State Rock

Chrysotile Asbestos Common in Serpentine Rock

October 23, 2009 — On Wednesday, the Manhattan Beach City Council passed resolution #6223, "Urging the state legislature to repeal the designation of serpentine, the host of asbestos, as the official state rock, in support of world eradication of asbestos for public health." Manhattan Beach has submitted the first official request to the state legislature to have serpentine removed as the official state rock.

In 1965, serpentine was designated as the state rock of California in order to promote the then–lucrative asbestos mining industry. Serpentine rock often contains chrysotile asbestos, a curly white fiber that accounted for close to 90% of asbestos used in commercial products. The last U.S. asbestos mines—in California and Vermont—were closed in 2002, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The push for the change originated with the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization's (ADAO) "Drop the Rock" campaign, which urged statewide action to remove serpentine as California's state rock. "California has the dubious distinction of being the state with the highest recorded number of asbestos–related deaths and the death toll will continue until the United States Congress passes legislation banning asbestos. We have a strategic plan in place and look forward to working with asbestos victims and their families, the John McNamara Foundation, The Pacific Heart, Lung & Blood Institute, and political leaders—as we move throughout California to repeal serpentine as the state rock," said Linda Reinstein, Executive Director of the ADAO.

While this is another great step to publicly recognize the dangers posed by asbestos in our communities, it does little to address the health concerns asbestos poses in our everyday lives. From vermiculite–based insulation in the walls and attics of homes, asbestos wrapped pipes and furnaces, to asbestos in imported brake pads and clutches for our cars and trucks, asbestos is a very real danger. The dangers of asbestos are well known and documented, yet Congress still lacks the will to legislate an effective ban on asbestos as 40 other industrialized countries have already done.

Portia Cohen, Mayor of Manhattan Beach, thanked the city council for its support. "It is unthinkable to have Serpentine as the State Rock of California when more than 7,000 people in our state alone have died from asbestos since 2007."