Thursday, July 29, 2010

Asbestos in serpentinite

California is debating whether or not to drop their official state rock. The mineralogy community is now going batsh*t.

Personally, I’ve never had any particular use for state rocks or state birds or state whatevers. They were always just items on the list of stuff to memorize. Except for the Catahoula Leopard Dog and Petosky Stone, of course. They’re alright. However, the appeal of these items for educating people continues to elude me, particularly with all the dramatic geologic events (volcanoes, earthquakes, extinctions, climate change…) that we can discuss instead.

Still, if you decide to designate a state rock, I agree that it’s a little silly to then go through all the trouble and expense of dropping it. My understanding of the argument for de-rocking CA is that celebrating a rock that contains any amount of any form of asbestos constitutes support of the use of very hazardous materials in buildings. This argument has gotten mineralogists in a funk. Their (ok, our) main issue is this:

Some types of asbestos have been shown to be significantly less harmful than others.

The term asbestiform refers to a shape, not a particular mineral. Several minerals can take this shape (I believe there are 6 officially regulated types), and little evidence exists to suggest that the particular type of asbestos found in the CA state rock is especially harmful in most situations. The cute analogy suggested by Mary Johnson is asbestos: amphibole asbestos (the really bad stuff) as ivy: poison ivy.

No comments:

Post a Comment