Friday, July 2, 2010

Something Doesn't Feel Right About This: The Serpentine Issue in California

The more I read about this, the more disturbed I become. Andrew Alden gets right to the point about the very strange goings-on in the California legislature while they avoid working out the state budget. Senate Bill 624 would remove serpentine as the California State Rock, and declare in effect that serpentine is a dangerous mineral. The declaration could very well be legally binding, possibly leading to lawsuits for anyone who uses serpentine as a building stone or a classroom sample. For a short bill, it is full of inaccuracies and misstatements of fact. I wrote about this the other day, and as I have learned more, I am concerned that we are being conned in the name of a tragic disease. Somebody may be making an underhanded political move with the intention of making a lot of money. If this isn't true, the parties are welcome to respond.

First off, read the bill and the related analyses. It won't take long. Read some analysis by people who actually know something about minerals. Look at the official list of supporters:

Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization
Belkin International, Inc.
Children's Hospital Los Angeles
City of Manhattan Beach
Consumer Attorneys of California
Environmental Information Association
International Brotherhood of Ironworkers Local 433
International Union of Operating Engineers
The John McNamara Foundation
Kazan, McClain, Lyons, Greenwood & Harley
Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation
Veterans of America
Water, Kraus & Paul Attorneys and Counselors
13 individuals

Organizations related to disease I could understand. But why are lawyers on this list? Why is there no analysis from the California Geological Survey? Why haven't geologists been consulted? Or teachers?

The analysis changes the subject at the end of a paragraph which in effect implicates chrysotile asbestos as the 'bad' kind of asbestos when it is not:
...Once asbestos has been made into an insulating form, it will not necessarily release fibers into the air unless it is disturbed. Amphibole serpentine is another type of asbestos which is commonly associated with detrimental health effects including cancer and asbestosis.

Asbestos has a long history of being hazardous to human health. During the 1st century AD, Greek and Roman populations observed that slaves responsible for weaving textiles containing asbestos fibers often demonstrated pulmonary illnesses...

It comes down to this. Serpentine is a unique mineral (and rock, serpentinite) that is uniquely Californian. It has a crystalline form that is called asbestos, but this particular form is not the one that is clearly linked to mesothelioma and other diseases. Large numbers of endemic species live on serpentine soils. Serpentine is related to the rocks that hosted the gold that made California a state. It is an appropriate state symbol. And now, someone is hijacking the state designation for reasons I find suspicious.

If organizations really are concerned about educating the public about asbestos and mesothelioma, why make the state rock go away? If we keep serpentine as the state rock, and I think we should, every child doing a report on the state symbols is going to learn about asbestos and the effects it has. And that serpentine is not the actual disease-causing form.

Something is really wrong here...please consider contacting your state assemblyperson. Because this very badly written bill passed the State Senate unanimously on June 25th (correction, passed May 18th, it is now moving through the Assembly). It's almost a law.

And someone who knows about these things: how does one get on the list as opposing this bill officially? The people in the Assembly need to know that there is opposition.
Post a Comment