According to the Associated Press, Democratic state Senator Gloria Romero of East Los Angeles is proposing dropping serpentine, a jade-green rock, as California's official state rock because it contains asbestos.
Asbestos, which causes a cancer called mesthelioma, was heavily mined in the United States in the 1960s. Though the mineral fiber is no longer mined in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2,500 Americans die from mesthelioma each year.
“We know that California has the highest rates of mesothelioma deaths in the nation and we don't think it's appropriate to be celebrating as the state rock something which contains asbestos,” Romero told the Associated Press.
Opponents of the bill contend that the rock is being unfairly criticized and that supporters of the legislation are merely using the issue as a platform to pursue a lawsuit by plaintiffs alleging their health was damaged when they were exposed to naturally occurring asbestos in serpentine throughout California.
Some, however, feel that the issue is frivolous.
“The rock is an ideal symbol for our state,” said Garry Hayes, a geology teacher in Modesto, California said. “The asbestos issue is there, but it's a small part of what serpentine is.”
The state senate has approved Romero's proposal. It now has to go through the assembly.