More Thoughts on the California Serpentine Debate … and Why Both Sides Should Agree to Ban Asbestos

The controversy surrounding California’s state rock is continuing to gain steam. But whether this is a good or bad thing might depend on who you ask.

Roughly half the states in the U.S. have official state rocks, the first of which was California, which gave the title to serpentine in 1965. Some serpentine rocks contain chrysotile, a type of asbestos, and can pose severe health risks when the dust is inhaled, like the development of lung cancer or mesothelioma. Given these hazards, a bill was recently introduced in California’s state legislature to strip the rock of its title.

But as the old adage goes, there are two sides to any debate. And as this New York Times article explains, this geological argument is no exception.

Last week, groups of geologists took to Twitter on behalf of the rock, arguing that the rock is harmless when undisturbed in its natural state and that this is an overreaction being spurred by advocates and lawyers who have pursued mesothelioma lawsuits on behalf of victims of asbestos-related diseases.

So who’s right here? Clearly, everyone has their own opinions. On one hand, proponents of the bill to “swap the rock” insist they had no idea their movement would gain so much traction, and feel that they have already succeeded in their larger mission to raise awareness about asbestos and mesothelioma in California. On the other hand, geologists and opponents of the initiative argue that there simply aren’t the same health hazards associated with natural serpentine as there is with occupational asbestos exposure, and all this publicity is accomplishing is “demonizing” the mineral. In short, opponents argue that since stripping serpentine of its title wouldn’t help eliminate any of the “true” causes of mesothelioma, it shouldn’t be done – especially when California is facing other political problems like budget shortfalls.

It’s easy to agree with aspects of both sides and to think there are other, more pressing issues that need handled…but in the end, the fact that this is sparking conversation and earning such widespread publicity is great for the Ban Asbestos Now! cause. After all, the fight to BAN! and squash mesothelioma weren’t previously a well-known issue. What harm does a little debate do if in the long run we keep our loved ones safe from this cancer-causing substance?

What do you think? Let us know in the comments section! Take a moment to leave your thoughts or sign our form to make your voice heard and urge Congress to Ban Asbestos Now!