42 Years - A Professional Law Corporation - Helping Asbestos Victims Since 1974


California Should Be Ashamed!

But we have reason to be proud of one Californian. Linda Reinstein, co-founder (with her husband Alan, who died of mesothelioma) and Executive Director of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, has started a campaign to revoke the asbestos carcinogen-bearing serpentine rock’s recognition as our official State Rock. She began at home, with her local city council, and we wish her success in spreading this effort statewide. The non-profit ADAO is the United States’ premiere asbestos victims’ advocacy group and has earned a worldwide reputation for its efforts. Now, for a bit of history…

On April 14, 1965, Director of the California Department of Conservation DeWitt Nelson wrote a letter to Governor Edmund G. Brown urging approval of Senate Bill No. 265, designating serpentine as California’s State Rock.

“Serpentine indirectly is of great economic importance to California. It is a host rock for the state’s newest and most rapidly-growing mineral industry – asbestos, now bringing in several millions of dollars annually… Designating serpentine as the state rock will … improve the local economy in a number of places.”

It was approved by the California Senate on March 22, 1965. Assemblyman Pearce Young of Napa County sponsored the bill in the Assembly, where it was unanimously (69-0) approved two weeks later.

By choosing serpentine as the State Rock in 1965, California became the first state in the union to pick a favorite stone. It was meant to be a symbolic act with practical significance. However, chrysotile asbestos, found in serpentine, causes diseases such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer, and has already killed hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. The timing was curious – in October 1964, the world’s experts on asbestos and disease gathered in New York for a major seminar sponsored by the New York Academy of Sciences, chaired by Mt. Sinai’s Dr. Irving Selikoff. The conference got a lot of press attention and was well attended by corporate and insurance representatives. Asbestos had already been proven to cause fatal asbestosis (by the 1930s), lung cancer (by 1955), and mesothelioma (by 1960), and industry was getting worried.

The Selikoff Symposium was published later in 1965 as a special volume of the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, and it seems obvious that California was duped as part of an industry public relations effort to neutralize these advances in medical knowledge and public awareness.

The last asbestos mine in California closed in 2002 and is now an EPA Superfund clean-up site. Asbestos mining and usage has left a legacy of death and suffering. 10,000 Americans die each year of asbestos disease; thousands of Californians have died from asbestos since 1965.

It’s long past time for another symbolic act with practical significance. It’s time to dump the rock – to remove serpentine as the State Rock of California. Such an action may serve to prevent exposure to this deadly fiber through increased attention and awareness.

Last week, the City Council of Manhattan Beach passed a resolution urging repeal of California Government Code section 425.2, which designated serpentine as California’s State Rock.

“I thank the Manhattan Beach City Council for moving quickly to pass this important resolution,” said Portia Cohen, Mayor of Manhattan Beach. This act represents the first official request to the California legislature to remove serpentine as California’s state rock. The campaign to remove serpentine was spearheaded by Linda Reinstein, who plans to take the campaign to other cities. “We have a strategic plan in place and look forward to working with other victims and political leaders in the state of California,” she said.

If California feels the need to adopt a new State Rock, my personal nominee would be Huey Lewis!

Get a Free Case Evaluation