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A state senator says there's something very wrong with serpentine, California's official state rock:

It's bad for your health.

Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, has proposed legislation to strip serpentine of its title because exposure to a cancer-causing mineral inside it, chrysotile asbestos, can increase risk of lung disease, she says.

"California should not designate a rock known to be toxic to the health of its residents as the state's official rock," says Romero's legislation, Senate Bill 624, which is scheduled to be heard Monday by the Assembly's Natural Resources Committee.

Because of serpentine's potential health risks, the Air Resources Board restricts its use as unpaved road surface material, according to the state Department of Conservation.

Serpentine rock typically is green but also can be yellow, brown, gray and reddish brown. It sometimes occurs as large rock masses, and massive serpentine can be cut and polished as an ornamental stone, the conservation department said.

Serpentine rock primarily is composed of one or more of the three magnesium silicate minerals: lizardite, chrysotile and antigorite, the conservation agency added.

Romero's legislation would leave California without an official state rock.

But Californians might not notice because the state has nearly three dozen other titleholders -- including an official state fish (golden trout), an official state grass (purple needlegrass) and an official state fossil (the saber-toothed cat).

IMAGE: Serpentine rock with veins of asbestos. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.


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